Out of all the car’s elements, the exterior is the one which is exposed the most to the damaging conditions of our environment. This doesn’t mean that cars don’t wear on the inside as well. Everything from the plastic surfaces and the floor to the seats can be scratched, stained, broken or torn. This is especially true for leather interiors which are more sensitive to damage than regular cloth ones. Knowing how to clean leather seats is a must-have knowledge any driver should possess if he wants the car to not only look new for a long time but to also feel new.
Cleaning your leather interior involves vacuuming it nicely first. You should try to remove any hard particles from the inside of your car so that you don’t damage the leather once you start rubbing it with cloths and treating it with other materials. Next, depending on the method you choose, you need to apply a cleaning agent and wipe the seats good with a damp cloth. Make sure you wipe everything clean before you move on to the final step. If you aren’t applying anything further like a softening or scent agent, let the car dry with its doors opened before you hit the road.
Leather seats are a luxurious option and often change the feel of a car entirely. However, they require more care than any other type of seats and can easily degrade. Modern cars use either Napa leather or synthetic one. Now, the discussion about which is better isn’t very one-sided as most people have different preferences. One thing is for sure – the moral standpoint is that the industry should switch to the fake synthetic leather. You will be surprised but luxury brands like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes are already implementing this into their cars’ interior.
Where To Start From
As most leather seats on the market are still with a natural origin there are a few features to them that people need to be aware of:
- Will develop stretchmarks over time just as any other skin
- Harder to clean when dealing with spillages and colored stains
- Can be sweaty and hot in warm and humid conditions
- It is expensive compared to synthetic leather
- It can lose its original coating or coloring over time, especially when exposed to sun
When cleaning your leather interior, you should keep all these things in mind. The process I will be describing in this article showcases what you do when you do a full on cleaning of the interior. Maintaining it by keeping it clean and wiping it from time to time will actually let you avoid those long cleaning and refreshing sessions, or at least make them further apart from each other. In other words, the key to having a good leather saloon is maintenance, not cleaning it well when the time comes.
Want to know how to maintain your car during winter? Check out my dedicated article on the topic by clicking here.
The First Thing To Do
The absolute first thing you should do is vacuum the interior. Clean it well so that there are no left-over foods, dust, dirt or any other particles left inside the car. That way you will have a relatively smooth and clean surface to work on once you get to the next steps.
Pro Tip: If you are using a damp cloth to wipe down the leather before you move on to the actual refreshing part, make sure the cloth isn’t super damp as too much water can damage the leather.
Now it’s time to apply the conditioner you bought. Give a few moments for your seats to dry up from the cleaning you did so far (in case it was wet cleaning) and start with conditioning the leather.
Pro Tip: Prepare towels and if you are sensitive to certain chemicals its best to wear latex gloves too.
Use the conditioner only as it is pointed out on the label by the company! Do not use more than recommended as you can permanently discolor the leather. Gently rub it in and buff it with a soft cloth towel. It is nice to use a separate towel for this process (even a couple of them).
Let the conditioner completely absorb into the leather and then move to the last step.
Use a separate towel to wipe the leather interior clean and make sure everything has spread homogeneously across the seats. It is important to let your car “breathe” for a couple of minutes before you take off in it. Leave the doors open and let it stay like that until the leather has absorbed everything you threw at it.
You can use this method for any other leathery or rubbery part of your car, as most leather conditioners work on other soft parts of your interior. Most luxury brands use leather on their door handles, steering wheel, and even wrap the dashboard in it.
Some Tips & Tricks
If you want your leather finish to last longer, make sure you apply conditioner or moisturizer at least every couple of months.
As I mentioned, every time you want to apply a certain leather conditioner clean the leather saloon thoroughly.
Another tip is to check your owner’s manual for a recommended brand of leather conditioner that is selected by your manufacturer. some brands like BMW sell their own leather treatment products which are actually quite good and people from other brands use them as well.
One very important lesson I learned the hard way is to always test out any new conditioners on a small secluded leather area of your car. Never apply it directly to your seats as it might discolor or stain your specific leather type. Once you deem it safe to use, start using it anywhere you initially wanted!
Two-in-one leather napkins are a great time saver as they have both cleaning and conditioning properties. Still, before using them, vacuum and clean the seats nicely as you can scratch them with any dirt particles.
Try getting a garage spot for your car if you have a full-on leather interior. Leather doesn’t handle sun well and might lose a lot of its properties under direct sunlight.
Never use wax, silicone or oil-based products on your leather seats as they can permanently damage or discolor them.
Last but not least, never overdose on the products. Most of them have a recommended application method and tell you how much you need to apply. Never go beyond this limit as you can damage the leather.
Check out some of the best on-board diagnostic devices on today’s market by going to my full Buyer’s Guide!
Can you use Windex to clean leather seats?
In short, yes, you can. In reality, I wouldn’t advise it. Windex is strong enough to remove any impurities from your car’s seats but also contains chemicals that can dissolve the top layer of your leather finish making it less shiny and less flexible over time. That will also leave it vulnerable to further external exposure. It might be a good idea to use it just for one hard stain you can’t remove but do not use it regularly on your seats.
How often should I clean my leather seats?
As I already mentioned, a good interval for cleaning your car’s saloon is every few months. Personally, I vacuum my car’s interior every week, and specifically do a leather cleaning session once every 2 or 3 months. In winter, I do it once every month, although I am just cleaning it during winter while keeping the conditioning still in 3 month intervals.
What home remedy cleans leather seats?
You can clean leather seats with household products such as laundry detergent or even vinegar/olive oil mixture.
The way you do it with detergent is to fill a teaspoon of it in a spray bottle. Fill out the rest with warm water. If you want your interior to have a nice scent to it, use a scented detergent. Prepare another spray bottle with warm water only.
Spray the seats with the soapy bottle and lightly scrub with a cloth. Once you are done cleaning them, rinse with the warm water bottle only and let it dry. Don’t overdo it when cleaning with water, as too much water can damage the seats.
Another way is to mix 1/2 cup of olive oil and a quarter of a cup of vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the seats and let them stay like that for a few minutes. After the time has passed wipe the seats and let them completely dry out.
Click here to learn how to clean foggy headlights!
Some Final Words
The steps to learn how to clean leather seats aren’t hard and what makes this whole thing even easier is that every conditioner and leather cleaner has a detailed guide on its label on how to use it properly. This means that even if you forget the tips I just shared with you, just remember to always check the label of the product you are about to put on your car’s seats!