How to Clean Car Seats With Laundry Detergent in 7 Steps

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to clean car seats with laundry detergent

Cleaning car seats is easy and can be done at home if you know the proper way. But what if you don’t have an upholstery cleaner for automobiles? In this case, removing dirt and stains from your vehicle seats may seem like an impossible task.

Fret not! We know the best way on how to clean car seats with laundry detergent and other tools available in your home.


Detailed Steps to Clean Car Seats With Laundry Detergent

What you’ll need

You don’t have to go to a car wash or buy costly seat cleaners because you can clean car seats with household products.

  • Laundry Detergent – You can use any store-bought laundry detergent, but check the ingredients first and make sure to avoid detergents with harsh chemicals (we’ve listed some ingredients below).
  • Microfiber Cloth or Clean Towels
  • Brush With Soft Bristles – Only use soft bristled brushes to clean car seat stains to avoid damaging the fabric.
  • Warm Water

Step #1: Vacuum Your Car Seat


First of all, you must clean car upholstery by vacuuming your car seats. We have to remove all the debris and particles large enough to be collected through vacuuming.

If your car seat is not that dirty, you can also dust away any dirt or remove the trash without vacuum. But if you want to deep clean your car seats, we suggest you not skip this step and vacuum the entirety of your car seats including the nooks and crannies.

Step #2: Create Your Cleaning Solution


First, use laundry detergent to create a solution to clean car seats. Get your laundry product (both liquid and powder forms are okay) and mix it with some warm water to create an automotive upholstery cleaner. You can add a small cap of detergent, just enough to make a soapy solution.

Step #3: Soak And Wring Your Towel


Grab your clean towel and soak it for a few seconds in your soap solution. Distribute the solution on the towel evenly.

Fabric car upholstery should not be drenched, so before the next step, you have to wring the towel.

Step #4: Get Stain Out Of Cloth Car Seat


Using your towel, gently dab the solution on the seat and start removing the car upholstery stains. You can also use other methods, such as wiping the fabric until the dirt and stains are lifted.

If your towel dries out during the wiping process, you may repeat step 3 and apply the soap solution to it again. Remember to wring out excess water whenever you repeat the step.

Step #5: Remove Stubborn Stains


Some fabric car seats stains can be quite stubborn, so removing stains from car interior can be tricky.

For this kind of problem, you can just whip out an old toothbrush with soft bristles or any soft brush you have lying around, and mildly scrub the stubborn dirt.

Helpful Tip: You can also add baking soda to a few drops of water and let the resulting paste sit on top of the stubborn dirt. Just leave it for a few minutes, and you can gently remove stains from car seats.

Step #6: Rinse With A Clean Damp Cloth


Once the car seats are free from stains and dirt, you can wipe them once or twice using a clean damp cloth.

You must use a different towel from the one that you used in steps 4 and 5. We want to remove all dirt and soap residues, and using just one cloth will be counterproductive.

In the event that you accidentally soaked your car seat during the cleaning process, you can get a dry towel and blot the affected area until the water is absorbed.

Step #7: Dry Your Car Seats


Leave your car to air dry naturally for two hours or longer.

We also suggest you park your car in a sunny area and leave it there. This is an effective way of drying without leaving water stains, since the excess water will evaporate.

Even if you have grey cloth car seats or tan fabric car seats, on which stains may be harder to see due to the dark colors, you should do this step anyway. After all, why clean your vehicle just so it looks dirty again?

Is Laundry Detergent Safe for Car Interior?

You can definitely use laundry detergent as a home remedy for cleaning the car interior, but you’d better check the ingredients first before proceeding.

Laundry detergent on car MUST NOT have bleach, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. These powerful chemicals can damage your fabric and interior if not carefully used.

Can You Clean Upholstery With Laundry Detergent?

Yes, you can. Powdered or liquid laundry detergent can be used in cleaning your car’s fabric and even leather car seats. Just choose a mild laundry detergent and make sure to not soak your vehicle interior with the solution.

What is the Best Thing to Use to Clean Fabric Car Seats?

Laundry detergent and baking soda are some of the common home items you can use to clean your car seats. They are cheap and available in almost every household.

We also recommend you use special car seat cleaners that are designed to work on automobile seat materials. Although these products may cost you a bit, they are pretty versatile (Read more about some in-depth cleaning guides on leather, suede, and more).


Dirt and grime are some of your car seats’ worst enemies. But worry not, because once you learn how to clean car seats with laundry detergent, you can easily remove these contaminants.

With just the items available around your home, your car seats can be spotlessly clean again!

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