How Do You Clean Cloth Car Seats?

March 8, 2019

Car care concept - detailing of driver seat using professional tools and cleaners

A dirty car seat is frustrating! Driving around trying to find a car steam cleaner isn?t always easy and it is time-consuming. Many of them don?t work or leave your seats too wet. Then you have the smell of mildew and mold to deal with the next day. Most of the time, the easiest way to clean the seats in your car is by doing it by yourself. Hard stains may take a few tries or different methods to remove the stain. It is important to attend to a stain as soon as possible, so it doesn?t set in and become a harder issue. There are different methods for cleaning your seats. The right one depends on your preference, what you have available, and how dirty the area is.

So, how do you clean cloth car seats? You can clean cloth car seats is by using things like detergent, vinegar, banking soda, club soda, and even baby wipes for emergencies.

Keep reading for tips and tricks for using each of these household products for cleaning your cloth car seats.

Have These Supplies Available for Cleaning Your Car Seats

Having supplies ready makes it easy to clean messes as they happen. You should have supplies to clean instant spills handy in your vehicle. Dry towels, baby wipes, paper towels and a spray bottle with club soda or just the bottle of club soda can prevent a stain from drying and becoming something, you must work on later. 

Have some standard cleaning supplies ready for car wash day. Include spray bottles, detergent, cleaners, old toothbrushes, an interior/fabric brush with soft bristles, microfiber towels, baking soda, and vinegar in your supply kit. If you prefer fabric cleaners and carpet/seat cleaners that work well, have those available for cleaning your seats too. 

Tip: Make sure you vacuum your seats before cleaning them! 

Fabric Cleaners

There are several fabric cleaners on the market. These cleaners are great for stain removal and hitting spots instantly. To use a fabric cleaner on your seats, get a microfiber cloth and an interior brush for your car seats. You can also use a soft bristle toothbrush for spots. 

Don?t soak your car seats with the fabric cleaner, as it may mold if it seeps into the seat. Spay the cleaner a few times and use a brush to lightly scrub at the seat. Once the suds are dirty, wipe them up with the microfiber cloth. Do this one area at a time until the suds aren?t dirtying any longer. This way is easy, and your car will look and smell great when you are done. If the fabric cleaner you have isn?t working, laundry detergent is the next best thing. 


Laundry detergent is usually more fragrant than fabric cleaners, so you have a fresher smelling vehicle after you wash the seats. Use a spray bottle and mix the detergent with hot or warm water. Then get a sponge or your soft bristled brush and scrub the seat after a few sprays. If you don?t have a spray bottle, dab the mixture on with the sponge and scrub with a light brush. Wipe away the mixture with a microfiber cloth after scrubbing. Repeat this until the seat is clean. 

Vinegar Solution

Vinegar is a popular cleaning product that works well on car interiors. A solution of vinegar with dish soap and hot water can clean seats and leave your car looking and smelling fresh. One cup of vinegar with a gallon of water and a few squirts of dish soap is the solution most people use to clean car interiors. When you use it on the seats, follow the same instructions as the detergent and the fabric cleaner. Dab or spray it on the seat, scrub and wipe away with a soft cloth. Air out your vehicle after the seats are done to get rid of some vinegar smell if you don?t like it. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda works wonders for tough stains and odors. If there is a strong odor in your vehicle, try baking soda first. Mix baking soda with water to make a paste. Scrub the baking soda into the area that is stained or has an unpleasant odor. Sometimes covering the baking soda paste will activate it to draw out the smell faster. After thirty minutes, wipe the baking soda paste away with a cloth and see if the area is still dirty. You may need to repeat this process or leave the area covered if the odors are bad. If you just want to clean the seats and don?t have odors or stains, mix ? cup of baking soda with a cup of water and use a thinner solution for standard cleaning. Scrub the solution in and check it after 30 minutes, then wipe it dry. Be careful not to soak the seats. A damp surface is all that is necessary for a good clean. 

Club Soda

Club soda works well for spots. Keep a bottle in your car for spot cleaning on the go. Dark stains are easily removed from your car with club soda and a microfiber cloth. A spray bottle will always work better. If you don?t want one leaking in your vehicle, keep an empty spray bottle, a bottle of club soda and water in your trunk. You can mix the solution on the go! This is one of the cheapest ways to get a great clean for your seats. Club soda is great for hard stains from grass, dirt, grape juice, or milk. 

Baby Wipes for Spills and Emergencies

Busy people love quick solutions. A box of baby wipes will help keep emergency spills soaked up, and they are easy to scrub spots with. They are handy to have in the back seat of a car for many other things too. Even if they don?t do the whole job, you can quickly maintain the area until you get to a spot to detail the stain or spill. These are a great part of a cleaning kit in a family van or truck with animals in the back seat. Baby wipes will also help you stay on top of the mess during the week. If you clean your car on the weekend, you will have a head start! 

Preventing Dirty Seats

It is important to keep your car organized and clean. This will help you save time and keep you and your passengers safe from things flying around. Bins and baskets are available for trash and organizers are available for the trunk and backs of seats. Installing some items to keep you and your passengers organized can help everyone avoid spills as well. 

If you have regular passengers or children, rules can help keep your vehicle cleaner. These rules can be no eating or drinking in the car or take your trash with you when you exit the vehicle. Families spend a lot of time in the car commuting, so it is hard to have a mess-free vehicle. Teaching everyone how to keep the seats clean can lessen the work you have to do yourself. Using seat protectors for car seats and floor mats that easily wash off are a great solution to big messes. 

Vacuum and check your car?s interior regularly for stains, scuffs, and smudges. Staying alert to the cleanliness in the whole vehicle helps you plan the time you need to dedicate to detailing it when it is time. Using a schedule to maintain your vehicle will help it stay in decent shape on the inside and outside. An hour or two each month might seem like a lot, but you will probably always be in a clean car! 

Whether you use a mixture you make yourself or a fabric cleaner, it is best to include washing your seats as they get dirty, so you spend less time all at once. If you have help, this can cut your time in half too. Cleaning your vehicle is as important as cleaning your home. Having the right supplies, rules and schedule will keep you driving a nice vehicle and boost your pride in ownership.

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About The Author



I've been detailing cars for years. I love cars but more importantly, I love clean cars. I created this blog to share all of my knowledge around keeping cars as clean as possible.