How to Deep Clean Cloth Car Seats – Easy Care Guide

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to deep clean cloth car seats

Sometimes when the stains in the seats of your car are too much and too stubborn, you would need to do more than vacuuming, scrubbing, and wiping. So this article will show you how to deep clean cloth car seats. It may seem overwhelming, but it’s just easy if you follow the steps carefully.

You have two options for deep cleaning seats. It would either be to clean your car seats with the use of a carpet cleaner or a steam cleaner. But before using either, you would have to first vacuum the seats and pretreat the stains on them.

What You Will Need to Follow this Tutorial


For a job that requires a thorough cleaning, deep cleaning car seats require many tools. These tools will help make the job easier, quicker, and more efficient.

1. Vacuum

A vacuum would be the first thing you would need when deep cleaning seats in cars. You would use this for getting rid of dirt, crumbs, and debris.

2. Pre-Treat Stain Remover for Car Seats

A pre-treat stain remover would help get rid of tough stains. They work particularly well on food, drink, grease, and mud stains.

3. Scrub Brush


Along with the pre-treat stain remover, a scrub brush would also be needed for getting rid of tough stains before cleaning with a carpet cleaner or steam cleaner. You would also be needing this if you are cleaning with a carpet cleaner that doesn’t come with a brush in its nozzle for agitating hard to remove stains.

4. Oxygen-Based Bleach

Oxygen-based bleach would be needed when your car seat has dye-based stains. You would be making a pasty substance with this by adding to it a few drops of water.

5. Car Seat Cleaner

A good car seat cleaner can clean car seats effectively. You would be pouring this into the carpet cleaner reservoir along with hot water to dilute it.

6. Hot Water


Hot water would be used for diluting the car seat cleaner. Compared to water at normal temperature, hot water is more effective for deep cleaning your car seats.

7. Carpet Cleaner or Extractor

A carpet cleaner or extractor helps make cleaning very dirty car seats easier. It blows the cleaning solution and hot water onto the car seat, which would work to clean the stains. Then it would suck the moisture back in to not get the seat completely soaked.

8. Steam Cleaners

Steam cleaners aren’t as powerful as carpet extractors but they are still capable enough of doing deep cleaning on car seats. Two advantages to this machine are that it can remove mold, bacteria, and unpleasant smells as well as not bring too much moisture on car seats since it’d only be applying steam on the seats.

9. Microfiber Cloth

A microfiber cloth works effectively in getting rid of stains. It can be used for rubbing off stains in hard-to-reach areas when using a carpet cleaner or for when cleaning with a steam cleaner.

10. Spray-On Fabric Protector

A spray-on fabric protector would help keep your car seats in good condition by adding a layer of protection from dirt and stains so that they would not settle on the seats. This also makes future cleanings easier.

Step by Step Instructions


Deep cleaning car seats may seem like a big task. Often, people would take their car to a detailer for that. But if you have the time, patience, and mindfulness in following step-by-step instructions, you can do it yourself with ease.

Step 1: Vacuum the Car Seats


Before you wash cloth car seats, you need to vacuum the car seats well, making sure you get rid of all the dirt, crumbs, and debris. You should also work the vacuum into the seams. You can separate the car seats’ seams and stick the vacuum’s nozzle into them.

Step 2:  Pre-Treat Any Prominent Tough Stain You Notice


To ensure that tough stains are eliminated, you would have to pre-treat them first. For food, drink, grease, and mud stains, you can pre-treat them by applying a bit of car seat stain remover or upholstery cleaner on the stained area and scrubbing it with a scrub brush.

Then you should let the upholstery cleaner work for at least 15 minutes before doing the overall cleaning.

If dye-based stains have transferred or bled color on your car seat, you should:

  • Dampen the stained area lightly.
  • Create a paste mixture of dry oxygen-based bleach and only a few drops of water.
  • Spread the paste over the stain and let it work for at least an hour.
  • Vacuum the paste out.
  • Repeat the steps if necessary.

Step 3: Deep Cleaning Options: Cleaning With a Carpet Cleaner or Steam Cleaner

For the next step, you have two options. It’s to clean fabric car seats with either a carpet cleaner or steam cleaner.

Option #1: Cleaning With a Carpet Cleaner or Extractor

If you’re going to clean car seats using a carpet cleaner, you would first have to add the cleaner and hot water as per product instructions into the carpet cleaner or extractor’s reservoir. Afterward, you can start spraying the diluted seat cleaner for car on the car seat and sucking up the moisture along with the accumulated stains.

You must do the spraying and sucking on a seat one section at a time. Just keep doing it until the section is finally clean.

You shouldn’t let the cleaning solution soak on the car seat longer than a few minutes as it may soak into the seat too deep for the carpet extractor to suck out.

Give the carpet extractor nozzle a light push into the section you’re cleaning to achieve a strong suction. Some carpet extractors come with a brush on their nozzle that can help to agitate very stubborn stains. But if your carpet extractor doesn’t have one, you may use a separate brush.

For areas that are hard to reach, you can hand clean them with a rag sprayed with a bit of solution.

Option #2: Cleaning With a Steam Cleaner


If you opt for steam cleaning car seats, the first thing to do is to pour water into the steam cleaner’s reservoir as per instructions. Then let the steam cleaner heat up, which would take about 20 minutes or longer depending on your steam cleaner’s model. You can find the exact amount of time for heating your steamer in its manual.

When the steam cleaner has finally fully heated up, slowly run its hose attachment on a car seat in vertical strokes starting from the top down to the bottom one section at a time. Make sure that there are no missed areas when steam cleaning by making your strokes overlap.

You should hold the hose attachment over stained areas for 15 seconds. This helps loosen stains from the car seat. But this should not be done on leather seats, as excessive moisture can damage leather.

After applying steam, rub off the car seat stains with a microfiber cloth as needed. If some stains remain, add more steam onto them and rub them off again. After cleaning the car seat, wipe away the moisture on the seat with a microfiber cloth.

Step 4: Let the Car Seats Dry


When you finally have clean auto upholstery using a carpet extractor or steam cleaner, the seats would still be wet despite the sucking or brushing due to the saturation of the cleaning solution. So you would still have to let them dry. You should always make sure to let the car seats dry before using your car for another drive.

Air drying the car seats would usually take around two to three hours but faster on warm days with low humidity. If possible, park your car in an area that’s exposed to the heat of the sun and leave your car’s windows and doors open. If you want to speed up the drying, you can vacuum the car seats once again, this time to get rid of the saturation.

Step 5: Add Protective Coating on the Car Seats

When your car seats are all finally clean and dry, you can do an extra step for keeping them in good condition, which is to spray a fabric protector on them. With this, you would no longer have to worry about dirt and stains settling on your car seats. It would also make car seat cleaning much easier for you next time.


There are two options for how to deep clean cloth car seats. Both are equally effective. But if you have problems with mold, bacteria, and smells, a steam cleaner deep cleaning would be more suitable for you to keep your cloth car seat and interior clean.

Whatever option it is you go with, you’re sure to get excellent results as long as you carefully follow the instructions provided in this tutorial. If you liked this tutorial, give it a like. If you think your car owner friends also need a guide on deep cleaning their car seats, please share this article.

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