Keep your car leather seats in brand new condition with these DIY cleaning tips and eccentric stain-removing hacks

How to clean leather car seats is a popular topic because, although leather car seats add a touch of luxury to your car, they’re pricey. But car leather will last a lifetime if taken care of regularly. Here are a few simple household products we recommend for cleaning your leather car seats that will keep them looking great and last a long time.

First carefully vacuum the leather to remove dirt and debris from the crevices. Next, apply a simple all-purpose cleaner to clean light to medium levels of dirt. Do not use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners as they can damage the leather. If you don’t have a cleaner on hand you can make your own:

  • Mix warm water (we recommend filtered water) and liquid dishwashing soap together in a bucket. Use a ratio of 5 parts water to 1 part soap.
  • Dampen a cloth with the solution and wipe down the seat surfaces. Be careful not to saturate the seats. Excess water can seep into the cushions and stain the leather.
  • Dry thoroughly with a towel.

Dirt and natural oils from the skin do the most damage over time if left alone. Instead of spending money on expensive cleaners this eco-friendly cleaner does an awesome job at refreshing your car’s leather interior.

What you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 drops of lemon or orange essential oil

Spray on soiled upholstery and rub with a clean cloth or a leather and upholstery scrub brush. Scrub brushes produce the best results regardless of the chosen cleaner. After spraying the car’s leather interior, aggressively scrub the dirt and grime. Without the use of some form of a scrub brush, unless the interior isn’t all that dirty, you’ll never clean it with acceptable results. Most people think car leather is delicate and fragile. It is actually very sturdy and can be scrubbed very aggressively. However, when in doubt, simply go easy and work your way into it.

The best way to keep car leather seats clean is to prevent stains; however, accidents happen. When they do, wipe up spills as soon as they hit the seat. Then grab one of these simple household items and get to cleaning.

More Interior Detailing Video from Sunset North Car Wash


Dab non-gel toothpaste on the soiled area. Use a toothbrush to gently scrub away the stain. Wipe the area with a clean cloth when finished, then dry with a towel. Toothpaste will also remove scuffs.

Lemon Juice and Cream of Tartar

This recipe can have a bleaching effect. So we recommend only using it on light colored car leather. Mix equal parts of juice and cream of tartar into a paste. Apply to soiled area and let sit for 30 minutes. Use a damp sponge to remove the paste.

Nail Polish Remover or Rubbing Alcohol

Blot a stain with a cotton swab of nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol. Once the stain has lifted, clean the area with a mild solution of liquid dish soap and warm water. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is good for removing oil and grease stains. Sprinkle on the soiled area and rub it in with a damp cloth. Leave it for a few hours or overnight. The soda will absorb the oil. Wipe off the powder with a soft cloth. Follow with a damp cloth to remove residue, and dry with a towel.

Once your seats are clean, apply a leather conditioner that contains sunscreen to keep them from cracking and fading. You won’t need a super fancy car leather conditioner. It just makes the leather resistant to future stains and gives it a nice shine.

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  1. Rebecca Gardner May 29, 2020 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    I’m glad you mentioned that leather car seats can last a lifetime as long as they’re properly taken care of. My husband wants to buy an old sports car with leather seats, but they’re a bit damaged and would need to be repaired to restore their original condition. Thanks for helping me see that using a professional leather repair service for the seats would be a good investment!

    • SunsetKid May 29, 2020 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      We are so glad to hear you found this information useful, Rebecca. Working in this industry has been a real learning experience. A couple of months ago I heard, for the first time, to never used Windex on car windows because there’s a good chance you’ll damage after market tinted windows!

  2. Suzi Fena November 16, 2020 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    I’m writing to ask a question about the foggy headlight restoration. Do you guarantee the outcome? If yes I’ll make an appointment!

    • SunsetKid November 17, 2020 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Thanks for getting in touch Suzi! Yes we do guarantee the outcome. Once in awhile our detailers will encounter headlight lenses that are beyond restoration and they let the customer know up front. And customer satisfaction is our guiding principle. You’ll notice that we are probably the only full service, all hand car wash in SLO County with full-time Quality Assurance Managers on duty!

  3. clearcoat nz supplier December 1, 2020 at 3:47 am - Reply

    I am so happy I found your blog and I absolutely love your information about how to clean leather car seats and the tips you have shared are awesome. I liked and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us! Thanks a lot for this amazing blog!!

    • SunsetKid December 1, 2020 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Thanks for your kind comments! We’re working on some more tips and content this week!

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