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How to Care For & Clean Your Car's Leather Seats

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

Getting custom leather seats installed in your car is an exciting upgrade. If you're thinking about having seats installed or just took the plunge to re-imagine your interior, your next step is to learn how to take care of those leather seats. After all, they are an investment that improves the look and the comfort of your car. We want to teach you the best way to clean and care for your leather seats so they remain like-new for longer.

Vacuum First

Start by vacuuming up any debris that has collected in the seats' crevices. Otherwise, these materials might get pressed into the leather or roughen the surface during the next stages of cleaning, which can affect the leather's texture and durability.

The best type of vacuum to use is a Shop-Vac or the heavy-duty vacuum cleaners available at a carwash. Use the hose attachment to get deep into the seat cracks to ensure you remove everything. Some people choose to use a brush attachment for ground-in dirt. Be careful using a brush attachment, because you don't want to press too hard and push the dirt deeper into the leather.

Choose Cleaning Supplies

Before you pick out a leather cleaner, look up what type of leather your car seats are made of. Check your owner's manual if the leather came with your car, or check with us for the type of leather we used on your aftermarket leather seats. Some leather cleaners are formulated to work better with different types of leather.

Seek out a commercial leather cleaning solution that does not contain bleach or ammonia. You can find cleaners at your favorite automotive store. Some car owners choose to create their own leather cleaner instead of purchasing one. Before you go the DIY route, make sure you understand which substances are and are not compatible with your custom leather car seats. Common DIY leather cleaner options include:

  • Water and dish or Castile soap, at a ratio of 5 parts water to 1 part soap.

  • Vinegar and linseed or olive oil, at a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil.

  • Vinegar and water, at a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water.

You may see homemade cleaner recipes containing lemon juice; be mindful that lemon juice may bleach your leather seats.

Wipe With Microfiber

Microfiber is an important choice because it will not damage your seats. Before you start cleaning your seats, remember two things:

  • Spray the cleaner on your microfiber cloth and not directly onto the seats.

  • Spot test your leather cleaner in an area that's out of the way to ensure the cleaner won't discolor or damage your leather.

Get your microfiber cloth damp (not dripping) with the cleaner and gently scrub your leather seats. Do your best not to get the leather too wet, because leather takes time to dry. Focus your scrubbing on any problem areas, but do clean the entirety of each seat. If the microfiber cloth can't remove dirt or stains from a specific spot, try a soft-bristled brush, using the same gentle cleaning motions as with your microfiber cloth.

Remove Stains

Your seats may have stains that do not come out during the above step. To tackle tough stains, invest in a leather cream specifically formulated for removing stains from interior car leather. Using a microfiber cloth, rub the cream into the stain in soft, circular motions. You will need to let it sit for a few minutes.

Next, take a clean, soft brush (like a paintbrush or a soft toothbrush) and go over the stain again with a circular motion. Check frequently to see if the stain has lifted. If you are comfortable, a leather scouring pad may be helpful for stubborn stains, but be careful you don't press too hard and damage your leather.

Dry the Leather

Take a clean and dry microfiber cloth and wipe your leather seats dry. Your seats may be slightly wet even after this step; leather seats can take anywhere from an hour to a day to dry completely. Focus on removing as much moisture as you can; leaving your seats damp can cause mold.

Condition Your Seats

You don't need to condition your seats every time you clean them. Typically your leather will need to be conditioned 2-4 times a year. Conditioning keeps your leather from cracking, tearing, or bleaching in the sun, and helps it stay shiny and beautiful.

Start by finding a commercial leather conditioner. If your seats have custom colors, you'll be able to find conditioners formulated for those colors to help keep your seats vibrant. Use a clean microfiber cloth to rub the conditioner into the leather seats in circular motions. Make sure you get the conditioner on evenly, and rub it in well to maintain that coveted leather shine.

Once you've conditioned the seats, they'll need to sit for 4 to 6 hours before you can take your car out for a spin.

Repair Small Cracks and Tears

This last step in leather car seat maintenance is only for those who have some experience taking care of leather seats. Don't try small repair jobs if you aren't comfortable; we can handle all your leather upholstery repair needs.

If you're skilled, a leather repair kit will contain the items you need, including leather filler, leather glue, a small knife, sandpaper, and some coloring. The coloring goes onto the filler and is meant to match your leather seats, so choose with care. The larger the damage is, the more difficult the repair job is. The best way to deal with small cracks and tears is to prevent them in the first place by cleaning and conditioning your leather seats on a regular basis.

Did we answer your questions about caring for and cleaning your car's leather seats? Give us a call or drop us a line if you'd like to refurbish your upholstery or install something new. We're excited to customize your leather seats and make your car's interior stand out.

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