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Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats

I LOVE these tips and tricks for the Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats at home. Including which household products WORK and which one I AVOID.

Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats

I never really knew what it was like to actually have a dirty car until I had toddlers. I’ve always been a naturally organized person that just constantly cleans and puts things away. Even as a kid.

Well, having 2 toddlers changed all of that. I don’t know if you know this, but those tiny humans can make a giant mess, of anything, in minutes. 😉

And, they take quite a lot of time and attention in those beginning years.

So, I almost totally neglected my car for a good 4 years, guys! I’d wash and vacuum it maybe four times a year. And, I’d frequently wash the kid’s car seat covers.

But, I never did anything about the stains, mainly chocolate milk, that were building up on my backseat and on the carpet in front of those seats. My poor car desperately needed a car seat deep clean for 4 years!

What can I say, I was a busy momma who was juggling 2 young boys, keeping our house clean, running a blog, single-handedly remodeling a house, and regularly building furniture.

I was happy to ignore my car with everything else I had going on at the time.

But, eventually my babies grew up and I had more time to focus on things like grungy car seats.

Grab this printable guide to Deep Clean Your Car Seats At Home. Easy to follow steps, tips for keeping your car clean longer, and household products that work as cleaners. Best way to deep clean car seats.
Don’t Forget to Save this DIY on Pinterest.

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And, after doing tons of research and experimenting with cleaning products and helpful tips I decided it was time to put together this big tutorial on the Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats!

How Can I Deep Clean My Car Seats At Home

This post is focused on deep cleaning car seats, but most of these steps and products can be used to clean the car’s carpet and car mats. So, I’ll cover deep cleaning those too!

Sweeping Up The Dirt

Start by removing the floor mats and shaking those out. Vacuum or dust brush all of the remaining loose dirt off the floor mats.

If your floor mats are plastic or vinyl, you can scrub them clean with a brush, rags, and something as simple as a little Dawn Dish Soap mixed with warm water. Set those aside to dry.

Then vacuum all of the dirt off of the carpeting and seats.

Quick Tip: If you’re going to use a coin operated vacuum, you can use a small dust brush on the carpet to sweep dirt out of hard to reach spots and into piles before starting the vacuum.

That’ll help you get all of the dirt vacuumed up faster and for less money.

Even if I’m using my vacuum at home, I like to always use a small dust brush to get into the hard to vacuum spots between seats and doors or under the seats in my car to get to that dirt that my vacuum can’t quite reach.

Leather or Vinyl Seats

If you have vinyl seats, you can use an all purpose cleaner with paper towels or a clean rag to clean up those seats pretty quickly.

If you have leather, be sure to use a leather cleaner on your seats. This Weiman leather cleaner and conditioner works really well.

Your vinyl or leather seats don’t need any further cleaning. If the floor has carpeting, you can use the steps in the pretreat and deep clean sections to clean the carpet.

I LOVE these tips and tricks for the Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats at home. Including which household products WORK and which one I AVOID. Printable Cleaning Guide.
My seats were incredibly dirty after years of neglect. I definitely should have used a pretreat. It would have made this clean up easier.

Pretreat Tough Stains

Now that all of that loose dirt has been removed, it’s time to pretreat tough stains on Cloth Car Seats and the carpet. Pretreat helps remove stains faster than just deep cleaning alone.

I like this popular pretreat from Bissell. It’s worked well for me on cars and carpeting in my house. But, I’m sure tons of pretreats work too! Pretreats are great for really getting a deep clean on car seats, the car carpet, and floor mats.

Be sure to cover the stain in enough pretreat to saturate it. Then let your pretreat sit on the stain according to the directions on the container.

Some people like to scrub the pretreat in with a soft or medium bristle brush. Just be sure that the brush won’t damage your cloth car seats.

You can then blot up all of that pretreat with a clean cloth to remove the cleaner and hopefully most of the stain.

Even without a pretreat, I was able to get this seat shockingly clean.

Deep Clean Your Car Seats and Carpet

Now, there are basically 2 ways to deep clean your car seats, by hand or with some sort of upholstery cleaning machine. Both can get your car super clean! An upholstery cleaner will just do it faster and with less effort.

Cleaning By Hand

There are so many upholstery cleaners out there that work. I get tons of comments on my YouTube video below from people sharing their favorite cleaners. I’m sure most of them are fantastic cleaners.

Check out the Bissell cleaning product page on Amazon, all of those products have hundreds of 4+ star reviews. So, I guess most upholstery cleaners with high reviews work pretty well. They all seem to have fans!

I really like this Woolite Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner. That Woolite Cleaner has a built in soft bristle brush that should be safe to use on any fabrics, even suede.

Work in sections applying the cleaner and scrubbing the upholstery according to the directions. Use tons of clean rags to lift any dirty cleaner and stains from the upholstery or carpet.

Be sure to apply pressure to soak up that dirty liquid. That pressure will help you remove those stains.

Grab this printable guide to Deep Clean Your Car Seats At Home. Easy to follow steps, tips for keeping your car clean longer, and household products that work as cleaners. Best way to deep clean car seats.
For around $150, this Bissell SpotClean Pro was a great buy. It makes cleaning everything in my house so much easier.

Cleaning With A Portable Upholstery Cleaner

If you are lucky enough to have access to an upholstery cleaner, I think those machines are the best way to deep clean car seats, guys!

They are super easy to use, without all of the tough scrubbing that goes with cleaning car seats or carpet by hand.

Upholstery cleaning machines can also clean deeper into the fabric and foam than a hand cleaning can usually clean.

There are tons of upholstery cleaning machines available. They range in price and size. Just read the reviews and details to pick the best one for you.

I love my Bissell SpotClean Pro. It’s very easy to set up and to clean up after use. It’s lightweight too. So, it’s not hard to carry it outside or around my house to clean something.

I’ve used that SpotClean Pro in a few of my past cleaning tutorials. including How To Clean Car Seats At Home, How to Clean Area Rugs, and How to Clean A Couch.


You can watch this video to see how quickly and easily those car seats were transformed with my trusty, handheld Bissell SpotClean Pro and Bissell Max Clean + Protect Cleaning Solution.

How to Clean Car Seats at Home using a Bissell SpotClean Pro Portable Cleaner

If you want to learn more about the Bissell SpotClean Professional, check out this post on Which Cleaners You Can Use in a Bissell Spot Cleaner, including alternative options.

FYI, this website isn’t sponsored by Bissell in any way, but I am a huge fan of their products.

Bissell makes my favorite, budget-friendly $100 Vacuum and the Steam Mop I use on my tile is a Bissell too. They just make great products!

What Household Items can you use to Clean Cloth Car Seats?

Sometimes you don’t want to buy special cleaners or run to the store. So, here’s a few options for cleaning your cloth car seats with household items you probably already have on hand.

I shared a few of these in my post on What You Can Use in a Bissell Spot Cleaner.

Rubbing Alcohol

You can use Isopropyl Alcohol at 70% strength mixed with hot tap water at a ratio of 30% to 50% alcohol to water. Alcohol is a good disinfectant and cleaner.

Spray on to lightly saturate. Then use a clean, dry towel to scrub and soak up the cleaner. Be sure to use with the car doors and windows open! Let the car air out before using.

White Vinegar

You can try a 20% mixture of white vinegar with 80% hot water to clean your cloth car seats at home. Spray on the mixture or use a saturated clean rag to apply the mixture onto the car seats.

Then use a drill brush to scrub dirt and stains out of the car seats or carpet. Use clean water to rinse away the vinegar mixture before drying the seats by applying pressure with dry towels.

White Vinegar is one of my favorite household cleaning products. It descales coffee makers, cleans windows, and works great at cleaning my shower glass doors.

Club Soda

Spray the club soda onto the dirty cloth car seats. Then use a clean rag to scrub the stains. OR these easy to use drill brushes to quickly and easily scrub away stains.

Finish by soaking up the liquid by pressing on the seat with a clean, dry towel until it’s mostly dry. Let the rest air dry.

Hot Water

If you want to skip all chemicals, cleaners, or trips to buy something at the store you can try just hot water first.

Get a clean rag wet with hot water, be sure to protect your skin. Then saturate the stain with hot water.

Hot water is great at loosening up a lot of dirt and stains. Use a drill brush with the hot water to help scrub away tough stains.

Finish by soaking up the liquid by pressing on the seat with a clean, dry towel until it’s mostly dry. Let the rest air dry.

Shaving Cream

You can use good old fashioned, dye-free men’s shaving cream (not gel) like a foam cleaner on your seats. Apply to the upholstery and rub it in to clean up dirt and stains.

Then remove the shaving cream with clean, wet rags. Let the upholstery air dry after removing the shaving cream.

Can You Clean Upholstery with Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen Peroxide can be an effective cleaner when mixed with water. But, I don’t think you should clean your upholstery with hydrogen peroxide.

It might not happen, but it could lighten your upholstery or carpet. So, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Also, if you don’t properly soak it up before sitting on it, it can lighten your clothes or leech dye from your clothes into the car seat fabric.

AND, if the hydrogen peroxide is applied to the fabric while in direct sunlight, that peroxide will have a stronger bleaching effect on the fabric.

Trust me, I loved how well peroxide and sunlight worked together on hair in the 90’s. 🙂

Don’t risk it! There’s so many better alternatives. In fact, I just shared a bunch of them in the last section.

Tips For Keeping Your Car Clean, Longer

  • I like to keep Armor All Car Cleaning and Protecting Wipes in my car. Then I can grab them while sitting in the school pick up lines, fast food lines, or just on my lunch break to give my dash and other panels a quick clean.
  • When you’re cleaning the windows in your house, run out and clean those car windows (inside and out) too.
  • If you have messy babies and toddlers, put a bath towel that matches your seats under the kids car seats. It’ll protect your seats from spills and stains!
  • Keep a protective mat across your trunk or cargo storage too. That’ll protect that carpet from grocery spills, bikes, luggage, sports equipment, etc.
  • If you have a problem with pet hair in your car, you can keep a sticky lint roller or those little portable car vacuums in the car for quick clean ups too.

Well, that’s it for the best way to deep clean car seats at home. Good luck! If you are looking for more DIY Home Cleaning videos, check out these easy DIY Cleaning Hacks on my YouTube Channel.

Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats

I LOVE these tips and tricks for the Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats at home. Including which household products WORK and which one I AVOID. Printable Cleaning Guide.

I LOVE these tips and tricks for the Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats at home. Including which household products WORK and which one I AVOID.

Tools

  • Optional: Bissell Spot Clean Pro
  • Vacuum
  • Clean Rags
  • Small Dust Brush

Instructions

How Can I Deep Clean My Car Seats At Home

This post is focused on deep cleaning car seats, but most of these steps and products can be used to clean the car's carpet and car mats. So, I'll cover deep cleaning those too!

Quick Look At The Steps

  1. Sweep or Vacuum
  2. Pretreat Stains
  3. Clean Upholstery & Carpet

Sweeping Up The Dirt

Start by removing the floor mats and shaking those out. Vacuum or dust brush all of the remaining loose dirt off the floor mats.

If your floor mats are plastic or vinyl, you can scrub them clean with a brush, rags, and something as simple as a little Dawn Dish Soap mixed with warm water. Set those aside to dry.

Then vacuum all of the dirt off of the carpeting and seats.

Quick Tip: If you're going to use a coin operated vacuum, you can use a small dust brush on the carpet to sweep dirt out of hard to reach spots and into piles before starting the vacuum.

That'll help you get all of the dirt vacuumed up faster and for less money.

Even if I'm using my vacuum at home, I like to always use a small dust brush to get into the hard to vacuum spots between seats and doors or under the seats in my car to get to that dirt that my vacuum can't quite reach.

Leather or Vinyl Seats

If you have vinyl seats, you can use an all purpose cleaner with paper towels or a clean rag to clean up those seats pretty quickly.

If you have leather, be sure to use a leather cleaner on your seats. This Weiman leather cleaner and conditioner works really well.

Your vinyl or leather seats don't need any further cleaning. If the floor has carpeting, you can use the steps in the pretreat and deep clean sections to clean the carpet.

Pretreat Tough Stains

Now that all of that loose dirt has been removed, it's time to pretreat tough stains on Cloth Car Seats and the carpet. Pretreat helps remove stains faster than just deep cleaning alone.

I like this popular pretreat from Bissell. It's worked well for me on cars and carpeting in my house. But, I'm sure tons of pretreats work too! Pretreats are great for really getting a deep clean on car seats, the car carpet, and floor mats.

Be sure to cover the stain in enough pretreat to saturate it. Then let your pretreat sit on the stain according to the directions on the container.

Some people like to scrub the pretreat in with a soft or medium bristle brush. Just be sure that the brush won't damage your cloth car seats.

You can then blot up all of that pretreat with a clean cloth to remove the cleaner and hopefully most of the stain.

Deep Clean Your Car Seats and Carpet

Now, there are basically 2 ways to deep clean your car seats, by hand or with some sort of upholstery cleaning machine. Both can get your car super clean! An upholstery cleaner will just do it faster and with less effort.

Cleaning By Hand

There are so many upholstery cleaners out there that work. I get tons of comments on my YouTube video below from people sharing their favorite cleaners. I'm sure most of them are fantastic cleaners.

Check out the Bissell cleaning product page on Amazon, all of those products have hundreds of 4+ star reviews. So, I guess most upholstery cleaners with high reviews work pretty well. They all seem to have fans!

I really like this Woolite Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner. That Woolite Cleaner has a built in soft bristle brush that should be safe to use on any fabrics, even suede.

Work in sections applying the cleaner and scrubbing the upholstery according to the directions. Use tons of clean rags to lift any dirty cleaner and stains from the upholstery or carpet.

Be sure to apply pressure to soak up that dirty liquid. That pressure will help you remove those stains.

Cleaning With A Portable Upholstery Cleaner

If you are lucky enough to have access to an upholstery cleaner, I think those machines are the best way to deep clean car seats, guys!

They are super easy to use, without all of the tough scrubbing that goes with cleaning car seats or carpet by hand.

Upholstery cleaning machines can also clean deeper into the fabric and foam than a hand cleaning can usually clean.

There are tons of upholstery cleaning machines available. They range in price and size. Just read the reviews and details to pick the best one for you.

I love my Bissell SpotClean Pro. It's very easy to set up and to clean up after use. It's lightweight too. So, it's not hard to carry it outside or around my house to clean something.

Notes

What Household Items can you use to Clean Cloth Car Seats?

Sometimes you don't want to buy special cleaners or run to the store. So, here's a few options for cleaning your cloth car seats with household items you probably already have on hand.

I shared a few of these in my post on What You Can Use in a Bissell Spot Cleaner.

Rubbing Alcohol

You can use Isopropyl Alcohol at 70% strength mixed with hot tap water at a ratio of 30% to 50% alcohol to water. Alcohol is a good disinfectant and cleaner.

Spray on to lightly saturate. Then use a clean, dry towel to scrub and soak up the cleaner. Be sure to use with the car doors and windows open! Let the car air out before using.

White Vinegar

You can try a 20% mixture of white vinegar with 80% hot water to clean your cloth car seats at home. Spray on the mixture or use a saturated clean rag to apply the mixture onto the car seats.

Then use a drill brush to scrub dirt and stains out of the car seats or carpet. Use clean water to rinse away the vinegar mixture before drying the seats by applying pressure with dry towels.

Club Soda

Spray the club soda onto the dirty cloth car seats. Then use a clean rag to scrub the stains. OR these easy to use drill brushes to quickly and easily scrub away stains.

Finish by soaking up the liquid by pressing on the seat with a clean, dry towel until it's mostly dry. Let the rest air dry.

Hot Water

If you want to skip all chemicals, cleaners, or trips to buy something at the store you can try just hot water first.

Get a clean rag wet with hot water, be sure to protect your skin. Then saturate the stain with hot water.

Hot water is great at loosening up a lot of dirt and stains. Use a drill brush with the hot water to help scrub away tough stains.

Finish by soaking up the liquid by pressing on the seat with a clean, dry towel until it's mostly dry. Let the rest air dry.

Shaving Cream

You can use good old fashioned, dye-free men's shaving cream (not gel) like a foam cleaner on your seats. Apply to the upholstery and rub it in to clean up dirt and stains.

Then remove the shaving cream with clean, wet rags. Let the upholstery air dry after removing the shaving cream.

Can You Clean Upholstery with Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen Peroxide can be an effective cleaner when mixed with water. But, I don't think you should clean your upholstery with hydrogen peroxide.

It might not happen, but it could lighten your upholstery or carpet. So, I don't think it's worth the risk.

Also, if you don't properly soak it up before sitting on it, it can lighten your clothes or leech dye from your clothes into the car seat fabric.

AND, if the hydrogen peroxide is applied to the fabric while in direct sunlight, that peroxide will have a stronger bleaching effect on the fabric.

Trust me, I loved how well peroxide and sunlight worked together on hair in the 90's. 🙂

Don't risk it! There's so many better alternatives. In fact, I just shared a bunch of them in the last section.

Tips For Keeping Your Car Clean, Longer

  • I like to keep Armor All Car Cleaning and Protecting Wipes in my car. Then I can grab them while sitting in the school pick up lines, fast food lines, or just on my lunch break to give my dash and other panels a quick clean.
  • When you're cleaning the windows in your house, run out and clean those car windows (inside and out) too.
  • If you have messy babies and toddlers, put a bath towel that matches your seats under the kids car seats. It'll protect your seats from spills and stains!
  • Keep a protective mat across your trunk or cargo storage too. That'll protect that carpet from grocery spills, bikes, luggage, sports equipment, etc.
  • If you have a problem with pet hair in your car, you can keep a sticky lint roller or those little portable car vacuums in the car for quick clean ups too.

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That’s it for the Best Way To Deep Clean Car Seats. Let me know if you have questions.

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