DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner Recipes for Cloth & Leather Seats

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

diy car upholstery cleaner

Creating and using a DIY car upholstery cleaner, is a cheaper alternative to using a commercial car cleaner and even more so to sending your car to a detailer. It also eliminates driving to a detailer, and if you lack an ingredient or tool, it can be bought at any nearby store.

And compared to a commercial cleaner, a DIY solution is a more natural car upholstery cleaner without harmful chemicals.

Creating a DIY solution is as simple as combining a few ingredients found at home. And they can be easily applied with a spray bottle, toothbrush, cloth, or towel.


Step by Step Instructions


If you don’t want to have a long drive to an auto shop to buy a car seat cleaner homemade is the way to go. Below you can find the steps for creating and using a homemade car seat cleaner. But before cleaning with your solution, don’t forget to do the very important step mentioned first.

Important Step to Do Before Applying Solution: Vacuum Clean the Seats

Vacuum cleaning your car seats is important, as it would get rid of all the dirt and debris that would get in the way of applying the solution on the seats and make removing stains easier. And particularly for leather seats, if dirt and debris are not removed first, they would be rubbed into and scratch the seats.

What You Will Need to Follow Each Tutorial

These ingredients and tools for creating and cleaning with a DIY car seat cleaner can be found mostly in your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. But if you lack something, you’re sure to find them in the nearest store.

Spot Cleaning Fabric Car Upholstery

  • Baking Soda and Warm Water: When baking soda is combined with warm water, the result is an effective stain remover.
  • Bowl: You need this for combining and containing your solution.
  • Toothbrush: A toothbrush would work well in working the spot remover on specific stained areas.
  • Cloth: A cloth would be needed to blot the stains and solution away.

Step 1: Combine Baking Soda and Warm Water.

Create a spot remover by combining ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup warm water.

Step 2: Apply the Spot Remover on Stained Areas and Scrub.

Using a toothbrush, apply the spot remover on the stained areas and scrub gently.

Step 3: Let the Solution Sit For 30 Minutes, Then Blot Away.

Allow the spot remover to penetrate and take effect on the stains by letting it sit for 30 minutes. After the 30 minute-soak, blot away the stains and spot remover. If some stains remain, repeat steps two and three.

Cleaning Fabric Car Upholstery


  • Vinegar: Vinegar is an excellent ingredient for creating a homemade car seat cleaner with its gentle and effective cleaning as well as antibacterial properties.
  • Dish Detergent: Dishwashing soap is a gentle and refreshing ingredient for cleaning car seats. It’s capable of removing grime and grease.
  • Warm Water: Warm water can help loosen up dirt and stains.
  • Spray Bottle: This would be needed for applying the solution.
  • Stiff-Bristled Brush: A stiff-bristled brush would work best for scrubbing stained cloth car seats, especially those with tough stains.
  • Towels: Towels would be needed to wipe away moisture from the seats.

Step 1: Combine Vinegar, Dish Detergent, and Warm Water.

In a spray bottle, combine ¼ cup of vinegar, a few squirts of dish detergent, and warm water. Thoroughly shake your homemade car upholstery cleaner and allow it to sit for five minutes.

Step 2: Spray the Solution on the Car Seats and Scrub.

Apply the solution on the car seats. Start by working on the seats in the front, then moving on to those at the back. And with a stiff-bristled brush, gently scrub the seats.

Step 3: Let the Solution Sit For 15 Minutes.

Leave the solution on the seats for 15 minutes to let it work its magic. After 15 minutes have passed, wipe away the moisture with some towels.

Step 4: Let the Car Air Out.

The solution may leave a smell on your car. Let some fresh air in to clear out the cleaning smell. Leave all the doors and windows of your car open for the rest of the day or until there is no longer any smell.

Spot Cleaning Leather Car Upholstery

  • Non-Gel Toothpaste: Using non-gel toothpaste is the easiest, effective way to remove stains on leather seats.
  • Toothbrush: A toothbrush would be the best means of scrubbing out stained spots with toothpaste.
  • Microfiber Cloth: This would be used to blot away the stains and toothpaste.

Step 1: Locate the Stains on Your Car Seats and Apply Non-Gel Toothpaste

On each of the stains on your leather car seats, dab a small amount of non-gel toothpaste. Then using a toothbrush, gently scrub the stains.

Step 2: Blot Away the Stains and Toothpaste

After scrubbing the stains, dampen a microfiber cloth and use it to blot the stains and toothpaste. Redo the process if there are any stubborn stains left behind.

For Cleaning Leather Car Upholstery

  • Vinegar: Effective in cleaning stains and killing bacteria, vinegar makes a great ingredient for car seat cleaning.
  • Olive Oil: Using olive oil hits two birds with one stone, as it’s capable of breaking up stains in the leather seats as well as conditioning the seats.
  • Lemon Essential Oil: Lemon essential oil can disinfect leather seats. And like olive oil, it can also condition leather seats with its moisturizing capability. It also adds a nice lemon scent.
  • Bowl: You would need this for creating and holding your solution.
  • Towel: This is what you will be using for applying the solution.
  • Paper Towel: You need this for drying the seats.

Step 1: Combine Vinegar and Olive Oil, Then Add in Essential Oil.

First, combine the ¼ cup vinegar and ¼ cup olive oil. After they are combined, you can incorporate ten drops of essential oil.

Step 2: Do a Spot Test. If Safe, Proceed to Clean With Your Solution.

Do a spot test on a seat first to check whether it’s safe to use on your car seats and won’t ruin the leather’s dye. Take a towel and dip it into the solution and in a small, inconspicuous area, apply a little bit of the solution. Once it dries and you don’t see discoloration, then you can proceed to clean with your homemade cleaner.

Apply the cleaner on the seats one section at a time. You should do it gently in circular motions. Then wipe down excess moisture with a dry paper towel.


Through DIY car upholstery cleaning, money and time can be saved and the harmful effects of using a commercial cleaner can be avoided. Plus, homemade cleaners are pretty easy to make.

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