How to Clean Leather Car Seats in 7 Easy Steps (w/Photos)

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to clean leather car seats

Leather car seats have a rather luxurious aesthetic and feel. However, when neglected, the classiness and comfort it provides would decline. Failing to clean and condition them regularly can make your car’s interior unsightly and uncomfortable with accumulated filth, drying, and cracking.

If you feel it’s time to give your car’s leather seats that much-needed maintenance but have no idea how to clean leather car seats, this article will show you how.

In a nutshell, the cleaning process would require inspecting for perforations or damages, vacuuming, wiping and scrubbing with cleaner, wiping dry, and conditioning. It’s that simple.

What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial


Using the right tools can help you achieve the best cleaning results and beautiful leather seats. To clean leather seats, prepare the following tools:

1. Vacuum Cleaner

Before doing any wiping and scrubbing, dirt and debris on the car seats would have to be removed to avoid dragging them on the seats, which could be damaging. Using a vacuum cleaner would allow you to do the job quickly.

2. Air Compressor

An air compressor would come in handy if there are stubborn particles found in hard-to-reach areas. You can just blow them out with the air compressor.

3. Leather Car Seat Cleaner

Designed for cleaning leather car seats, a commercial cleaner for leather upholstery would work perfectly on your car’s leather seats. But avoid leather cleaning products that contain bleach and ammonia, as they can damage leather.

You may also make your own cleaning liquid from natural ingredients.

One way you can make a leather cleaner is by combining one part white vinegar with two parts linseed oil in a spray bottle.

Another way of making a leather cleaner is by combining in a bucket five parts warm water with one part dishwashing soap or a vegetable oil-based soap called Castile soap.

4. Microfiber Towel

A microfiber towel is a soft cloth that can work well in cleaning leather surfaces, not too abrasive but can make dirt cling on its surface.

You would need two microfiber cloths, one cleaning cloth that would be sprayed with cleaner for wiping out dirt and grime on the car seats and another dry cloth for wiping away the cleaner and dirt from the car seats.

5. Soft-Bristled Brush

Deep-seated dirt on leather seating would require some brushing. So a soft-bristled brush would be needed. Its soft bristles would be gentle enough but also effective for leather cleaning.

6. Leather Conditioner

Due to losing some of its natural oils over time, leather would tend to get dry and crack. So car owners would need to maintain their leather car seats’ essential oils and moisture with the use of a conditioner to prevent them from drying and cracking. A conditioner can also serve as a temporary protective coating from heat and abrasion.

Apart from the maintenance and protection that conditioner provides for leather seating, conditioner could also enhance colored leather’s vibrancy.

For best results, go for a conditioner that’s water-based and pH neutral. And avoid conditioners with petroleum distillates, silicone, and waxes. Also make sure to use a high quality leather conditioner, as cheaper ones tend to cling and leave a greasy finish on the leather car seats.

Step by Step Instructions


Step 1. Look For Any Perforations or Damages on the Seats to Be Able to Deal With Them Cautiously

When cleaning leather car seats, you should first check if they have perforations or damages such as holes, tears, scratches, and frays. Because perforated leather or damaged leather must be dealt with cautiously.

There is the risk of the cleaning agent accidentally seeping through the wear and tear on the leather car seats, which can damage their inner foam.

If you do find some on the seats, you should not be spraying cleaning solution directly on them. The right way to apply the cleaning solution on them would be by spraying it on a bristle brush and brushing it on the leather seats. Thereafter, wipe them with a microfiber cloth.

If ever the cleaning solution does accidentally seep in, you must immediately dry it quickly with a hairdryer and a clean cloth.

Step 2. Vacuum Out the Dirt and Debris From the Car Seats

All the dirt and debris on the car seats must be removed using a vacuum cleaner before wiping. Because those dirt and debris could be dragged along and scratch the seats when you start wiping. You also have to be careful that the vacuum cleaner doesn’t scratch the seats either.

Start by vacuuming dirt and debris that has been lodged in the crevices. If you have found that there are stubborn particles in hard-to-reach areas, you may use an air compressor to get rid of them.

Step 3. Do a Spot Test on a Car Seat

Before you move on to wiping and scrubbing your car seats with a cleaner, you would need to do a spot test. This is important, especially if you’re going to use a cleaner for the first time. This serves as a precaution to avoid ruining the leather covering on your car seats.

To do this, you would apply a little amount of the cleaner in a small inconspicuous area of a car seat. If you don’t observe any issues on the area you applied the cleaner on like fizzing up or melting, it means the cleaner is safe to use.

Step 4. Clean off the Dirt and Grime That Have Not Been Removed by the Vacuum Cleaner

Over time, a layer of dirt and grime can accumulate on car seats. Especially if you don’t clean your car seats often, surface dirt can easily be spotted on your car seats. Some of them may not be sucked off by the vacuum cleaner and left behind.

You will have to clean them with a microfiber towel that has been sprayed with the cleaner. Gently rub the soft cloth on the seats section by section to do a thorough removing stains.

Step 5. Deep Clean the Car Seat With a Soft-Bristled Brush and Cleaner

If you have deep-embedded stains on your car seat, you will need to do deep cleaning to remove stains. You would directly spray the cleaner on the car seats and gently scrub the seats with a soft-bristled brush. This would help agitate the deep-seated dirt or grease stains accumulated on the car seats and bring them out onto the surface.

Don’t scrub frantically but rather gently. Putting too much effort and pressure on the car seats can damage them. Also, be careful not to apply too much cleaner, as too much liquid can saturate the seats, which could cause a foul odor and the growth of mold.

Spraying and scrubbing leather car seats gently would effectively and quickly get them cleaned.

But if the car seats have perforated surfaces or have been worn with holes, tears, scratches, and frays, the best way to clean leather car seats is to clean them with caution.

Just spray cleaner on a brush and indirectly apply the cleaner through the scrubbing of the seats to prevent the cleaner from seeping through and saturating the seats.

Step 6. Wipe the Car Seats Clean

Wipe away the cleaner and dirt on the car seats with a dry microfiber cloth after you scrub them. Make sure to leave no residue, as leaving some behind can make the car seats sticky and smell. Wipe them until they’re completely dry, as leaving them moist and only air dry can cause the leather to warp and crack.

Step 7. Condition the Car Seats

Same as when applying cleaner on leather car seats, you would also need to do a spot test before applying conditioner. This would check if the conditioner is safe to use on your car seats.

Apply a small amount of conditioner in a small inconspicuous area and rub it in gently with a microfiber cloth. If the conditioner doesn’t discolor or damage the leather, then you can proceed with conditioning the car seats with the product.

You would put an adequate amount of conditioner on a microfiber cloth. Don’t use too much conditioner, as excessive amounts of it would leave the car seats moist and greasy. Then rub the product gently onto the leather in circular motions.

Leave the conditioner to sit on the car seats for at least an hour to allow it to soak and cure the leather. When doing so, it would be best to have your car parked under a shade, with the sun’s heat out of the way to prevent interference with the absorption of the conditioner into the car seats.

After soaking and curing the leather, give the car seats a good polish by buffing them out with a microfiber cloth. This would also help remove any excess conditioner. You would again use circular motions when buffing them out.


Don’t let your leather car seats deteriorate. Keep them looking and feeling luxurious by doing these steps on how to clean leather car seats and conditioning them for maintenance. Also, keep in mind that cleaning and conditioning them should be done regularly. Furthermore, you can learn more ways to clean other car seat materials, such as clean cloth, suede car seats, and white leather. Like this article? Sharing any thoughts is welcome in the comments. Sharing this article would also be encouraged, especially if you know people who could need this content.

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