Top 5 Car Upholstery Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

There will be times when you need to take your car to a professional if you want to get the upholstery cleaned or repaired. Hey, life happens. Kids or animals may toss their cookies in the back seat. You might spill your coffee when someone cuts you off on the freeway. And even regular wear and tear can lead to literal tears in the fabric or leather of your upholstery. In these cases you simply might not have the expertise to get your seats back in ship-shape. But for the most part, the average car owner can clean and maintain car upholstery in the meantime, combatting the dust, dirt, grime and aging that occur naturally. And here are just a few tips to help you keep your vehicle’s interior looking new for years to come.

Set up a schedule. Just as you likely clean the exterior of your car on a regular basis (once a week, once a month, or “as needed”), you should set up a schedule for cleaning and maintenance on the interior. This will ensure that dust and dirt don’t have the opportunity to settle into cracks and crevices, that stains don’t go untreated, that leather remains conditioned, and that everything is protected from the elements.

Clear the clutter. The first step towards ensuring that your upholstery remains clean is to clear away all the junk that builds up in the interior of your car. This means tossing any trash, pulling out the pile of CDs and jackets that has grown over the last month, and vacuuming every inch of the interior. You’ll want to get down in the seats in order to ensure that every crumb of fast food is sucked up in your shop vac so it never has the chance to fester and damage your seats or create lingering odors.

Treat stains. If your car features upholstery that is synthetic fabric, microfiber, or another textile, chances are it won’t be long before you find yourself trying to treat stains. Luckily, there are plenty of options. While you can certainly shell out the money for solvents specifically for car interiors (and you may want to if you’ve got hard-to-clean fabrics like microsuede, for example), most automobile upholstery is built to last, and durable as it is, it will easily stand up to just about any cleanser you throw at it (aside from bleach). So if you’re looking to save a few bucks, try your average fabric stain remover, like Shout. It should work fine for most stains.

Condition leather. Over time, leather will crack, split, flake, and tear if not properly conditioned to keep it supple. So wash it with a soft sponge or shammy and a little bit of water mixed with dish soap to get rid of dirt, and then work in a leather conditioner. Or if you don’t mind the smell, simply kill two birds with one stone by using some saddle soap.

Protect your upholstery. Any Buick, Audi, or Mercedes dealers worth their salt will be able to steer you towards products that will help you to keep your upholstery clean. But you should also protect it from future deterioration with products specifically designed to repel dust, dirt, and liquids. You can often find such products at home improvement stores or an auto parts dealer.