The Ultimate Guide to Clean Leather Car Seats

The Ultimate Guide to Clean Leather Car Seats

Having a car with leather upholstery feels great but what really keeps the owner bothering is its cleaning and maintenance. No matter whether you have a family car, luxury vehicle or a high-end performance car, you will feel embarrassed to let anyone in if your car seats are not clean and carry stains.

Getting visible stains of water, juice, oil or other fluids on your car seats is quite possible especially if kids ride in there, you don’t need to fret out as anybody’s car can get dirty if not cleaned on a regular basis. For cleaning car seats, there are various products and techniques but nobody wants to put it in risk.

So before you choose any method and apply it on your car seats, you need to know the type of leather your car seats have.

Types of Leather in Cars

Before getting all set to clean your car seat, you must also know the basic information that many car seats’ leather is coated with synthetic fiber that means it’s easy and safe to remove stains. But if your car has pure leather seats, you should know that there are four leather types that your car seats must be wearing on. These include:

  • Aniline
  • Semi-Aniline
  • Full-Grain
  • Corrected Grain Leather

So knowing which leather type your car seats have is an important step before you learn how to remove leather car seat stains.

Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is a very finest and natural looking leather kind with clear patterns i.e. scars and marking however it has been outdated and is not used much anywhere. In the past decade, it was used extensively but in the last two decades, it’s use has seen a prominent decline. Since Aniline leather is pure and rich in color, it doesn’t contain protective coating and layer. Due to which, it may get stains and experience wear and tear easily in comparison to other leather types used in cars. The good thing is present day cars don’t have Aniline leather but, if you have an old car having Aniline leather upholstery, it needs great care.

Semi-Aniline Leather

Semi-aniline leather is more lucky to get colored dyes than aniline leather. Once the coloring process is over, a protective coat is also applied to the aniline leather that makes it resistant to wear and tear. Due to the coating, the texture of the car seat looks neat and smooth. That’s why aniline leather is known as ‘unfinished leather’ while semi-aniline leather is called ‘finished leather’. Thanks to the protective coating, the semi-aniline leather fights off scratches, other kinds of friction and wear. Mostly the high end and luxury cars have this leather type on their seats.

Full-Grain Leather

The full-grain leather or Napa leather is tanned, gets coating but still keeps the genuine leather texture. It is the finely finished leather type that you will find in exclusive luxury cars. The most attractive attribute of this leather is that it keeps the original marking and natural pattern giving a more luxurious feel. Since it’s finely finished, it’s more durable, long lasting and resistant.

Corrected Grain Leather

Corrected grain leather has the least natural attributes of all types and this type of leather is usually found in the lower to medium end vehicles and mainstream vehicles that either use corrected-grain leather or overprinted leather. How is it actually prepared?

The grain surface is passed through different processes to remove imperfections and then the surface coating is applied. Moreover, to enhance the look and feel a decorative grain pattern is labelled into the surface. Since it is not comparable with aniline and other leather types, it is suggested if the vehicle is being made for families with kids and pets.

How to Identify your Car Seats Leather

The easiest way to know your car leather is to visit the manufacturer’s website and read car features. Most automobile manufacturers reveal the type of leather used in car seats. In a case, the manufacturer has not disclosed, you can try this quick test to identify your car leather type.

  1. You can add a drop of water on your car seat and observe the absorption behavior.
  2. If it’s aniline leather, it will absorb the water immediately once you drop it on the seat surface.
  3. If it’s semi-aniline leather, it will take some moments to slowly absorb the drop.
  4. In case of full grain, corrected grain and other pigmented leathers, the water drop will not absorb into the surface instead it will slide away. This means cleaning stains on this kind of leather is simple and easy.

Having a Car with Leather Seating

Now talking about the car with leather seating and removing stains from it sounds a hectic job but there are many professional cleaning methods that provide the feasible solution.

In this guide, we will talk about safe methods to remove stains on leather car seats and also the type of stains and their specific method of removing.

Here we will give some crucial Do’s and Don’ts of leather cleaning that also describe why it’s tricky to remove stains from leather car seats. Using warm water or a cleaning agent to get rid of stains may not help so we will also provide you with some easy DIY cleaning ways to clean your leather seats.

Tough Stains on Leather Seats – What You Should Know About

Having a genuine and pure leather seating feels great and it smells nice. But leather needs care and cleaning the leather wrapped on the steering wheel, shift knob and seats is compulsory to enjoy that feel and comfort of a fresh and clean car. The dirt, oil and fluids spilled on car seats will not make it look untidy but will give a bad impression to others. Where having genuine and pure leather seats are a symbol of luxury, elegance and exclusiveness, cleaning them is that difficult. It is because the natural leather absorbs the water and other liquids deeply if not cleaned immediately. In the worst case, the stains become so tough that they are impossible to remove.

Here you might be wondering why it is so difficult to remove leather car seat stains. Let us tell you about this.

Why is it Difficult to Remove Leather Car Seat Stains?

As you know leather is obtained from animals’ skin i.e. cow, snake, buffalo, eel and alligator and the same is used to make cover for automotive seats, steering wheel and shift knob. These high-end leather is made after passing through a series of procedures and treatments. The car seat leather is different from ordinary fabric and it’s more complex. It has more absorbing capacity even though it is highly treated and dyed to make it less absorbent. Thus, any liquid whether it is oil, water, or grease it soaks into the leather seat cover. In order to prevent this, it is highly advised to clean it with a dry towel which is made with microfiber. With this, any detergent, dish wash liquid or household cleaning agent should not be used to avoid damage to the leather.

If the leather cover gets wet, it spreads the stain and it will penetrate deep into the surface and you will find it more hard to remove. The general rule of thumb is to remove the stain with a dry cloth.

Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Leather Seat Stains

In order to clear all stains out of your leather car seats, you need to be a bit careful. Also when you spill liquid on your car seat, and you want to clean it at the spot, you need to know some do’s and don’ts. By following it, you can easily prevent the liquid absorbing deep into the cover and can keep your car’s interior neat and clean.

Do’s of Cleaning Car Seat

  • When you accidentally spill something on your car’s seat, take a clean and dry cloth to blot it. The best cloth is a dry microfiber cloth as it is amazingly absorbent and it’s excellent material to remove wet stains immediately on the car seats. Thus you should keep a microfiber cloth in your car so you can blot the stain until it becomes 70-80% dry; the rest will dry with sunlight and stain will also be light.
  • If you are going to clean the old stains on your car seats, the first thing you need to do is to vacuum the car’s interior. This way all the dirt and harsh particles will be removed from the cover and cleaning will become easier.
  • While you are cleaning the stain, do it slowly to prevent any friction and scratching. You can choose a small area and remove the stain by moving the scrub or cloth in circular motion. You can pick a brush that is specifically made for super gentle cleaning with the horsehair scrub brush. Once you are done on one section you can move to the other_this way you can decrease the impact of discoloration.
  • If you pick car cleaning products, make sure they are of good quality and are from authentic sellers. However, the best way is to use natural non-toxic cleaning agents. You should also avoid applying chemical cleaners on your leather car seats as if the chemical goes wrong it can ruin the real leather.

Don’ts of Leather Seats Cleaning

  • You might want to polish your car’s leather seats to make the surface shiny however don’t use wax-based conditioners and petroleum as it will damage your seats. These products leave a residue on the car seats surface, affect its original color and ultimately make it look dull.
  • If oil, grease or water spill on your car seat surface, don’t let it dry as it will eventually be hard and you may not be able to remove it ever.
  • When you want to do deep cleaning, don’t use hard brushes on car seats as it will damage the coating. Instead, using soft material brushes such as toothbrushes or horsehair scrub will provide good results.
  • Having pure leather seats, don’t be conscious about saving a few dollars. Instead you buy cheap quality cleaning products from third party agents, you should directly contact the real manufacturer and get the genuine products.

Tips and Tricks to Remove Stains from Leather Seats

For removing stains from leather car seats, you will find many methods that are proven and work best on most car seats. However, considering all stains the same is not wise as each stain is different in its nature. In reality for each stain, you need to follow its proven method to avoid negative chemical reaction. In short, you need to be very careful while dealing with types of stain. For your guide, here we will talk about common car stains and their best technique of cleaning.

Types of Common Car Seat Stains:

Clean Water Stains

Out of all stains that your car seat can get, the stain of clean water is the simplest to remove. You don’t need to apply any cleaning liquid on it. Just take a dry cloth and put it on the affected area and gently press so it can absorb all the moisture. As mentioned earlier, a soft microfiber cloth or dry towel will work the best. And if you leave the water stain to dry naturally, know that the water stains on your car seat may leave a stain that will look untidy. So whenever water spills on the car seat, dry it with a soft cloth by moving the cloth in circular motion.

Stains of Grease

Your car seats are more likely to get grease stains when you eat oily food such as pizza, fries, crispy chicken and others while sitting in your car. Grease stains are quite visible on car seats and look bad so if your car seat has grease stain, you can remove it by following these steps.

Make Available Supplies

To remove grease stains, you need to do the same as water and wipe them off. Using the same microfiber cloth or cornstarch made up of soft material, wipe off  as soon as you get them.

Do Blotting on Stain

Blot the grease stain with a clean microfiber cloth and make it dry. A dry towel will also work best and it will absorb the maximum liquid and thick residual. Avoid using rubbing spirit or alcohol as it will damage the car seat cover.

Apply Cornstarch

Next thing that you need to do is to apply some cornstarch to the stain. It will act as a drying agent so leave it for at least 10-15 minutes on the impacted area.

Vacuum Clean

Now it’s time to clean the cornstarch. Take a vacuum cleaner and use it with care on the leather seat in the affected area. The cornstarch there will be saturated with grease so use a vacuum nozzle straight opposite to a soft material brush attachment. In the market, you will find some good quality leather cleaner agents in spray bottles.  However, there are situations where you would need help from a professional car detailer to obtain optimum results.

Ink Stains Removal

If you accidentally leave your ink pen open without a cap, and some ink spilled on the seat don’t regret as it’s not impossible to remove. However, the thing that you should never do is using hairspray or any alcohol-based rubbing solution. Also never use an abrasive cleanser as it may damage the leather too.

The safe way to remove ink stain from your leather seat is to use a dry cloth so it may absorb the most of ink. After that, you can use an ink remover pen that is made for a specific ink type. If not, you can get commercial stain remover that has acidic properties and is specifically designed for leather car seats. First test the small amount on the lower or hidden place of the car seat and then apply if it works.

DIY Solutions to Clean Leather Car Seats

You may feel it is simple to use a DIY method to remove stains but know that DIY repair and household cleaning products have a difference. If you think of using a low cost homemade solution to remove stains on leather seats, it’s not recommended. The reason is that if your experiment goes wrong you may turn the fresh temporary stain into permanent. Therefore, you need to be cautious with DIY approaches of stain removal, but if you are so willing to try one of those DIY methods, we will suggest leather cleaners and conditioners that are formulated for cleaning stains of similar category.

Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Water Solution

The mixture of vinegar, olive oil and water is one of the proven DIY methods that you can try to remove hard stains. However, you need to take each ingredient in the right quantity for the right results. For that, you need to take  ¼ cup of pure vinegar, ½ cup of olive oil and a little

quantity of water (depends how much you want to dilute the solution) and mix it in a spray bottle. After that, you need to spray over the area from where you want to remove the stain, let it absorb for 5-7 minutes and then wipe with a clean cloth. This method is good for corrected grain and full grain leather types but we will not recommend it for aniline and semi-aniline leather seats.

Baking Soda or Toothpaste

As doing spray on leather car seats is not advised you may try another method and that is baking soda or toothpaste. Yes you might have already heard of using these household items for cleaning purposes so it is better for cleaning car seats rather than spraying. But how are you going to do it?

You need to apply a small quantity of toothpaste or baking soda powder on the stain and clean it by using a soft microfiber cloth. If the stain is tough, you can gently rub the cloth or also damp the cloth with the solution and then apply to the leather seat. Wait for some hours and once it is dried, you can remove the residue with soft cloth and can also vacuum up.

However, the biggest flaw of this technique is that toothpastes and baking sodas have slightly and it may leave its stains on the car seat. In order to cater to this issue, you can apply leather conditioner on the affected area to prevent it from cracking, fading or other frictional damage.


We have talked about the best practices and methods of cleaning car seats. You can pick any depending on your car’s leather type and stain nature. However getting professional good quality products is highly advised so you don’t compromise on maintenance of your car’s interior. If you find trouble cleaning stains by yourself, you should get help from a professional detailer and auto expert.

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