Leather car seats add elegance and luxury to any vehicle. They give you a good first impression. Try to think about the last passenger in your car – what did they notice first? Right! They commented on the beauty and comfiness of your car seats! And since they come with hefty price tags, it’s only natural that you want to keep them in their best condition.
To achieve that purpose, you have to be aware of everything there is about caring for leather car seats, from cleaning to conditioning to proper maintenance. How to do it? Below is a complete guide to help you out.
Caring for Leather Car Seats: A Complete Guide
What’s the best way to clean leather car seats? It all starts with knowing the type of leather your car seats are made of. Below are the four general types of leather that are used for car seats, in no particular order.
Types of Leather Seats
As with any type of material, you need to know what you’ll be working on so you can use the right tools and materials. Leather, as beautiful as it may be, is highly sensitive. Use the wrong cleaner, and you might end up discoloring portions of your car leather seats. Use the wrong tool, and your leather seats might tear and crack prematurely. Both instances can lead to costly replacement.
1. Aniline Leather
Decades ago, aniline leather was used for most car seats. Aniline leather comes from the best hides and very lightly painted with natural dyes, that’s why the natural creases (and scars) of the animal are still very visible. It’s soft and luxurious to the touch. Think of suede. But because it’s very expensive, auto manufacturers have ceased using it. Of course, you can have aniline leather for car seats, but you’ll have to have them customized.
2. Semi-Aniline Leather
Semi-aniline leather is mostly used for luxury cars today. It’s not as soft as aniline, because aside from undergoing the dyeing process, it’s also coated with a thin finishing layer to make it more resistant to staining and spilling. It has a more even color than full-aniline leather. It slightly retains the marks and scars of the hide. Scratch it a bit, and you’ll find a mark left behind.
3. Pigmented Leather
This is the most popular leather used for car seats nowadays. It undergoes buffing to remove scars and other marks; coating to give it a uniform look; and embossing, to provide it with a leather-like appearance. Of the three, this is the most economic option. It’s very durable too. If you scratch its surface, you won’t see any mark left behind.
4. Faux Leather
As it name implies, this is a material that’s made to look like leather. It’s far cheaper than the three we mentioned above. However, faux leather doesn’t have the same luxurious look and feel of its natural counterpart. It’s more resistant to stains, scratches, and discoloration.
Now that you understand the leather in your car seats better, it is time to start cleaning them. But first, you need to gather all the tools and materials for cleaning car leather seats
We suggest putting all of your tools and materials in a movable organizer tray or cart so you save time and effort from not going back and forth to get what you need.
Here’s another tip – always clean your leather seats in a covered area to prevent cleaning products from drying up sooner, as this may lead to ugly marks that can prove difficult to remove.
Tools for Cleaning Car Leather Seats
There are many interior detailing tools for your vehicle, the question is, which should you use for your leather car seats? Here’s a few:
You’ll need a steam cleaner to lift dirt and other contaminants faster and more effectively as you won’t need stiff brushes for the process.
An auto detailing air gun is recommended for the areas under the seats and the troublesome area where the seat and the backrest meet. It will blow away dust, food crumbs, and similar stuff, making the cleaning process easier for you.
A car vacuum cleaner is a must-have for removing dust and dirt from the surface.
Other items you will need are microfiber cloths, leather cleaner, leather conditioner, and auto detailing gel.
How to Clean Leather Car Seats
Now, we go to the gist of this post – how to clean leather car seats. You’ll find that the process does not involve rocket science. However, you will need the right tools and materials to clean your seats like a pro.
1. Remove All Visible Contaminants
To do this, you can use a soft-bristled brush or a vacuum cleaner. Make sure that all seats are devoid of any contaminants – leftover food, sand, hair, and so on – as these can scratch your seats. You can use leather wipes for this purpose.
2. Apply Leather Cleaner
Some people use dish washing liquid diluted in some water to clean leather car seats. We advise against this as dish washing liquid contains oil removers that can remove the natural oils in your leather seats. For best results, use a leather cleaner. Make sure you follow product instructions carefully. Alternatively, you can make your own homemade leather cleaner.
Apply the leather cleaner with a clean scrub pad or microfiber towel. Only use a scrub pad if your car seats are very dirty. Do not use a sponge because it absorbs all the dirt and spreads it to other areas.
Rinse the surface with a towel dipped in a bucket with clean water. Make sure you don’t over saturate the surface to prevent water from seeping into the cushion. Dry thoroughly.
Here’s how to condition leather car seats: Put just the right amount of leather conditioner on a clean towel. Make sure you cover all areas by working one section at a time. Leave to dry. Wipe off with a clean microfiber towel.
Here’s a short video to show you how our expert detailers do steam cleaning and conditioning leather car seats, the DetailXPerts way:
What If You Have Perforated Leather Seats?
Some manufacturers use perforated leather for car seats to provide ventilation. This is actually good, because when leather is ventilated, it will stay beautiful longer.
However, it can be a pain to clean if you don’t do it properly. You might end up with clogged holes that when not attended regularly, can lead to product accumulation, defying the purpose of ventilation.
We suggest using a detailing gun to blow away dust and dirt from the perforations. Also, among the many car wash brush types, we recommend using separate paint brush style detailing brushes for applying the cleaner and conditioner. The brush’s bristles can penetrate the other side of the seat, thus preventing clogging.
Stay away from leather conditioners that come in gel or cream form as they can get stuck in the pores.
What If You Have Light-Colored Seats?
To some, light-colored leather car seats are a joy to behold. They look clean and pristine. However, maintaining their beautiful appearance is not that easy.
The key here is in choosing the right product. If you think adding some bleach into a soap and water solution will work, think again. Bleach will not only discolor your seats; it can also remove natural oils that can cause leather to crack prematurely.
Look for specialized leather cleaners for light-coloured leathers. One product we can think of is Leather Master Leather Barrier. It may be pricey at almost $30 a bottle, but it effectively cleans light-coloured leather and prevents dye transfer.
So you now have clean car seats. Then you notice a few stains here and there. How do you get those stains out? Read on.
How to Get Stains out of Car Seats Made of Leather?
Stains – they look very unsightly on leather car seats. Worse, some stains have a way of seeping deep into the leather fibers, making them very difficult to remove. The best time to get stains out of leather car seats is as soon as possible.
How do you remove stains from car seats? Different types of stains require different kinds of tools and techniques. You can create your very own stain removers from the items in your kitchen, bathroom or garage; or go for store-bought ones.
How to remove chocolate stains from car seats? Apply some ice on top of the stain. This will harden the stain, making it easier to remove with a blunt knife. Even a spoon will do. Apply some leather cleaner on the spot, rinse, and dry thoroughly. The same process works when you need to remove melted crayon from car seat.
On the other hand, you can remove blood stains with homemade remedies like saltwater solution, baking soda solution, meat tenderizer paste, a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, or a dab of a freshly sliced lemon.
How to remove ice cream stains? A simple soap and water solution carefully applied on the trouble spot will do. Wipe off with a damp cloth until all soapy residues are removed. Dry thoroughly.
Oil and grease stains, on the other hand, can be removed by first scraping off grease and blotting the stain; steam cleaning the affected area (you can also use hot water); cleaning the stain with an all-purpose cleaner; rinsing and drying off the area thoroughly.
Recommended Products for Caring for Leather Car Interior
There are so many products out there, all touting to be the best for caring leather car interior. But which is the best? Take a look at the list below:
Adam’s Interior Detailer – All Purpose Cleaner & Dressing for Auto Detailing
Adam’s Interior Detailer cleans, protects, and restores using the Microban technology. Thus, body oils, dirt and grime can be removed effectively. It works well on porous surfaces like leather. Simply put some product on a towel, dry, then buff off with a clean microfiber towel. It also protects your car seats against UV rays. This costs $12.74.
Adam’s Complete Leather Care Kit
Now, if you’re not one to shop for individual products, Adam’s Complete Leather Care Kit is a good option. It has everything you need for all your leather car seat needs. The kit contains a bottle of leather conditioner and leather interior cleaner. It’s easy to use and effective for removing minor scuffs and stains. Priced at $28.89.
Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant
As its name implies, Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant cleans and protects at the same time. It contains UV-blocking substances, thus protecting your leather car seats from the harsh rays of the sun. It’s very handy for quick clean-ups since you just wipe it on and off.
Shine Society Interior Detailer
If you want a leather cleaner that doesn’t leave an oily residue, then, Shine Society Interior Detailer might just be the product for you. It also removes and repels dust and grime. It’s a bit pricey, at $17.98 for a bottle of 18 oz. However, it comes with a microfiber towel you can use for cleaning your car seats and anything in between.
Chamberlain’s Leather Milk
Want your leather car seats to gleam and shine like the first time you brought your car out from the showroom? Then Chamberlain’s Leather Milk might just be the product for you. It’s a mild concoction of water, alcohol, and other non-alkaline substances that gently but effectively gets rid of stains, spills, or spots. A bottle of 6 oz costs $11.95.
NOTE: whether you choose store-bought or homemade cleaners, make sure to test it on a hidden area in your car seat. Then check the surface for discoloration.
Seats Beyond Cleaning?
Let’s face it – accidents do happen, both man-made or brought about by natural calamities. Both can cause your car seats to tear in some places, fade or discolor.
If this is your case, then your car seats need reconditioning, not detailing. Detailing only improves the appearance and lengthens the life of your car seats. But for cracks, fading or discoloration, your seats need car leather reconditioning.
The process requires proper preparation, reconditioning, and sealing and finishing. It also involves binding the leather, filling the cracks, and coloring. If you have advanced DIY detailing skills, then yes, you can do this on your own. Otherwise, we suggest taking your vehicle to experts to avoid damage that can translate to costly repairs later on.
Consider Nipping the Issues Right in the Bud
Car leather conditioning can be an expensive process. So why not try to protect leather car seats early on so they will look beautiful and last longer?
First, protect them from the harsh rays of the sun, as it can fade and discolor your seats. That’s why it’ll be best to park your car in a shaded area or if possible, in a garage. If you don’t have these options, you can buy a sun blocker or better yet, a car cover to keep sunlight away from your car.
Condition your car seats regularly. You can use a product that contains UV blockers for this purpose.
Finally, address issues early on. A small crack can get big in a short time, so mend it up as soon as you can. Makeup, food residues, and other contaminants can cause stains, so clean them up as soon as you can. Sometimes, all you need is a leather wipe to do the job so always have a pack handy in your car.
Not too keen on caring for your leather car seats on your own? Then, schedule an appointment with DetailXPerts to have your car professionally detailed – inside and out.
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