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How To Clean Leather Seats In Cars

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

How To Clean Leather Seats In Cars

Geza Csuros
February 20, 2014


A determination of how to clean car leather stains will depend upon the type of stain and the extend of the blemished area. If you like the look and feel of leather in your automobile, chances are likely that the coverings on seats will gradually lose the new car look and feel. Often there are stains that are present. While almost anything that would stain the material inside the home can also affect vehicle upholstery, the same cleaning methods and products can apply on car upholstery as on items in-house.

Some basic principles apply when cleaning natural materials. For example, you should address any spills and stains as quickly as possible following the incident. This will reduce the damage that can be done when the staining substance has time to soak into the surface. If it is liquid, an absorbent paper or cloth will soak up the unwanted substance quickly. For solid or semi solid products, especially greasy ones, picking up the unwanted substance quickly will also reduce the time of exposure.

Clean the surface regularly as a way to keep it in best condition. Dust the surface to remove surface dirt. Use saddle soap for regular maintenance type cleaning. There are products which will help to prevent absorbency occurring.

If you are treating a particular stain, it is important to know what type of substances has stained the surface. You would treat berry stains differently than grease spots, for example. Even water spots will leave marks on the upholstery if not treated correctly.

When the spill is liquid, there are tips to reduce the size of the spot and the level of damage done. Leather tends to absorb liquid, so it's important to work quickly. Blot from the outside of the spill toward the center. Don't scrub at the spot, since that will spread the damage and may even damage the surface cells. Once you have removed as much of the liquid as possible, spread talcum powder liberally over the area and let it set overnight.

Finish the process by gently brushing away the talcum powder. The area should not be scrubbed, as that will force the spill back into the surface of the leather.

A homemade recipe for cleaning other types of spots from leather uses 3/8 cup of distilled water, 1/8 cup of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon white flour and 1 tablespoon baking soda. Because some products are not color fast, try any cleaning product on an out-of-the-way area first. Dip a clean cloth into the paste and dab or pat it onto the stained area. Don't scrub. Let the cleaner do the work. Pat the distressed area dry with a clean cloth and allow it to dry completely before retreating. Many stains require more than one application.

There are other homemade products which are effective in removing stains. You can try equal parts of water and white vinegar, equal parts of lemon juice and cream of tartar, or one part of vinegar to two parts of linseed oil. In each instance avoid scrubbing at the spot, work with the grain of the leather and allow the treated spot to completely dry before proceeding.


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