How to Clean Vinyl Car Seats? – Car Upholstery Cleaning

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to clean vinyl car seats

Cleaning the vinyl seats in your car regularly will make them pleasant to look at and sit on. There are a couple of techniques on how to clean vinyl car seats that you can do for easy, effective, and efficient vinyl seat cleaning, which you can read in the latter part of this article.

But in a nutshell, it requires vacuum cleaning, cleaning with distilled water if it’s not too dirty, and using DIY or commercial cleaners for cleaning and spot cleaning. If you’re cleaning old vinyl car seats, it would be best to use a commercial vinyl cleaner that’s also a softener.

What You Need to Follow This Tutorial


The use of the appropriate cleaning tools and products will allow you to effectively clean your car’s vinyl seats without causing damage to them. So make sure to get the right ones for the job for a thorough and safe cleaning.

  • Soft Cleaning Tools – You should use only soft cleaning tools such as soft cloths, soft sponges, and soft-bristled brushes.

Also, avoid abrasive and sharp cleaning tools like steel wool, as they can scratch or tear the vinyl car seats in the cleaning process.

  • Vinyl Seat Cleaner – If your vinyl car seats aren’t that dirty, even just distilled water would suffice for cleaning them. But if the condition of your vinyl car seats would require more than that, the use of dishwashing soap and water would do the trick.

The best way to clean vinyl car seats would be to use a specialized commercial vinyl seat cleaner. This type of cleaner is specifically formulated to clean vinyl seats, making them effective and safe for cleaning your vinyl car seats.

But if you’re dealing with old vinyl car seats, you can use a commercial vinyl cleaner and softener. Such cleaner is specifically formulated not only for cleaning vinyl surfaces but also for softening and restoring them.

  • Spot Cleaners for Vinyl Car Seats – Stubborn stains on the vinyl car seats that would require a spot cleaner. Thankfully, you can make one with the use of some household items. Below, you can find three options for a spot cleaner that you can create along with their needed ingredients.
  • Baking soda paste – three parts of baking soda, one part of water, and five to ten drops of dishwashing soap.
  • Ammonia mixture – a tablespoon of ammonia, ¼ cup or 59 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide, and ¾ cup or 177 milliliters of water.
  • Bleach mixture – a one-to-one ratio of bleach and water.

Step by Step Instructions


Here, you’ll find how vinyl car seat cleaning is generally done. Nevertheless, it’s still advisable to also consult the car care and maintenance guide provided by your car manufacturer. But for a more comprehensive guide on the cleaning process, you can read the instructions below.

Step 1: Consult the Manufacturer’s Car Care and Maintenance Guide

Vinyl car seats can differ from each other. And there may be some specific techniques for cleaning your vinyl car seats in the car care maintenance guide for your car.

There, you might find recommended cleaning products and methods as well as advice for dealing with hard-to-clean areas.

Step 2: Vacuum Clean the Vinyl Car Seats

Before cleaning vinyl car seats with any cleaner, you must get rid of the dirt and debris on them first. This preparation step will prevent the dirt and debris from scratching the vinyl.

Step 3: Try Cleaning the Vinyl Car Seats With Distilled Water

Using a cloth or sponge dampened with distilled water, gently wipe the vinyl car seats to clean the surface. Afterward, dry the vinyl car seats using another dry cloth or sponge.

Step 4: If the Distilled Water Method Didn’t Work, Try Cleaning With a Cleaner

Try cleaning again using a DIY cleaner or commercial cleaner. But whatever cleaner you may be using, you should work in one small section at a time to prevent it from drying out and running off the vinyl car seat’s sides.

In case you opt for the DIY method using dishwashing soap and warm water:

  • First, prepare the cleaning solution by squirting a bit of mild dishwashing soap into warm water and mixing them until suds are created.
  • Then dip a soft-bristled brush in the soapy water, scrub the vinyl car seats clean, and finally, rinse them using a damp cloth.

But a much more effective and powerful cleaning solution would be a specialized commercial vinyl cleaner. How to use it will depend on the product instructions.

  • Usually, it would be sprayed onto the vinyl car seats’ surface
  • Then rubbed into the surface using either a soft-bristled brush or towel.
  • And the surface would be wiped dry with a cloth.

Step 5: Clean Serious Stains With a Spot Cleaner

As mentioned earlier, there are three options for a vinyl car seat spot cleaner: baking soda paste, ammonia mixture, and bleach mixture. Just choose one spot cleaner, prepare it as instructed below, and like how you would clean with the DIY or commercial cleaner, also work in one section at a time.

Baking Soda Paste

The baking soda paste is a popular and effective DIY cleaner.

  • You can create by mixing three parts of baking soda, one part of water, and five to ten drops of dishwashing soap.
  • After preparing the paste, apply a bit of it onto the stubborn stain, leave it on the stain for a few minutes.
  • Then scrub the stain with a cloth to lift it out.
  • Finally, wipe the residue off the vinyl car seats using a towel dampened with hot water.

Ammonia Mixture

In case you prefer the ammonia mixture:

  • Make it by combining a tablespoon of ammonia, ¼ cup or 59 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide, and ¾ cup or 177 milliliters of water.
  • Once the ammonia mixture is prepared, scrub the surface of the vinyl car seats with it using a soft-bristled brush or sponge.
  • Then wipe the vinyl car seats dry with a cloth.

Bleach Mixture

The bleach mixture solution can be created by mixing a one-to-one ratio of bleach and water.

But you have to be careful when using it by first testing it out on an area that’s hidden before actually cleaning with it to see if it would cause discoloration. To check, dip a paper towel into the mixture, wipe it on a small hidden surface, and see discoloration.

Only proceed to clean with the bleach mixture if there was no discoloration when you did the spot test.

  • To clean the vinyl car seats with the bleach mixture, dip a cloth, sponge, or brush into it
  • Scrub the vinyl car seats
  • Then dry them thoroughly with a cloth.


Keeping vinyl car seats well-maintained with these steps on how to clean vinyl car seats can contribute to the aesthetic and comfort of a car’s interior.

Taking good care of them will also keep them in good condition for several years and help increase the resale value of your car if you’re planning to sell it in the future. Some quick tips & tricks that you should learn more about, such as how to clean interior of car with household products,  car headliner, and your car touch screen.

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