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How to Remove Stains From Cloth Car Seats

How to Remove Stains From Cloth Car Seats

How to Remove Stains From Cloth Car Seats

We’ll show you how to remove stains from car cloth seats if your car interior is not looking its best. Cloth seats are absorbent, so they quickly soak up spills and stains. Moreover, liquids can get deep into the fabric, making cleaning cloth car seats a bit trickier than other types of seats, especially if you don’t clean them right away. However, our expert tips will help you achieve the best results.

Our technicians at DetailXPerts deliver top car care. Download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to learn how we guarantee a greener clean:

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Cleaning Cloth Car Seats

Your car interior detailing kit and kitchen cupboard should provide you with everything you need for cleaning cloth car seats. Also, you may want to wear gloves to protect your hands while you carry out this car interior detailing task. This is what you’ll need:

  1. Vacuum cleaner
  2. Stain remover or high-quality upholstery cleaner (see our guide to best car interior detailing products)
  3. Microfiber cloths
  4. Soft-bristle brush
  5. White vinegar
  6. Baking soda
  7. Steam cleaner for cars (optional)
  8. Protective gloves

Before applying any stain remover, test it on a small, hidden area of your cloth car seat to ensure it won’t cause discoloration or damage.

Vacuum the Cloth Seats

Removing personal items and child seats if you have them makes it easier to focus on the stained area. Then use your car vacuum cleaner to get rid of loose dirt and crumbs from the seats. If your car vacuum comes with attachments, an upholstery brush will help agitate the stain and loosen dirt.

Identify the Type of Stain

What kind of stain are you dealing with? For example, chocolate, coffee, and ink can all leave their mark on your cloth car seat and may require a specific stain removal. However, whatever the type of stain, avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach as this will damage the fabric.

See our comprehensive guide on how to remove stains from car seats. Not sure what type of stain it is? Follow our general tips on how to remove stains from cloth car seats, see below.

Apply Stain Remover

If you’re using a store-bought stain remover, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, the steps are as follows:

  • Apply the stain remover to the stained area. For most stains, you’ll need to blot, not rub, to avoid spreading the stain.
  • Use a soft-bristle car wash brush or an upholstery brush on the stain. Be careful not to brush too hard to avoid damaging the fabric.
  • Rinse the area with a microfiber car cloth dampened in water. Blot the area to remove the stain and surplus cleaning solution. Repeat this process until the stain is gone.

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How to Clean Cloth Car Seats With White Vinegar

Some stains may become set in the cloth seat fabric if you don’t get a chance to clean them immediately. In contrast, vinyl and leather are less prone to staining and are often easier to wipe clean. So, if you have some stubborn stains, you could use a vinegar solution as follows:

  • Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
  • Apply it to the stain with a clean cloth. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Then blot and rinse (see below).

Get Rid of Oil Stains on Cloth Car Seats

Oil-based stains are a bit easier to identify. For instance, they tend to have a shiny look about them. You may even get a greasy or petroleum-like smell from the seat. In this case, try our quick tip using a common kitchen ingredient:

  • Sprinkle baking soda onto the stain to absorb the oil.
  • Leave for 30 minutes or overnight if you’re not using your car.
  • Vacuum the car seat.
  • If necessary, use a stain remover, following the steps as before.

For more tips, see how to get oil out of car seat.

Rinse After Using Stain Remover

Always rinse the stained area with clean water after using a stain remover (shop-bought or a homemade remedy). Do this by dipping, not soaking, a clean cloth in water. Then use the damp cloth to wipe away the remaining stain and any traces of cleaning product.

Be careful not to oversaturate cloth car seats because excessive moisture can lead to mold or mildew. If mold becomes a problem at some point, see our guide on how to remove mold from car interior.

Leave Seats to Dry

Lastly, open the car doors and windows for proper ventilation and faster drying. Ensure the cloth seats are completely dry, otherwise you could end up with a stale, mildewy smell. If this happens, see how to get mildew smell out of car.

Download Eco Auto Wash Benefit Guide_Car Interior Cleaning

Steam Cleaning Cloth Car Seats

Learning how to steam clean car seats is one of the easiest and most effective ways to remove stains. Additionally, the steam will sanitize your cloth-covered upholstery to ensure a germ-free car interior. If you are confident using a steam cleaner, here is how to clean cloth car seats in a few steps:

  • Start applying steam to the stained area of the car seat.
  • Hold the nozzle a couple of inches away from the stain and keep it moving.
  • If you have a brush attachment, gently agitate the stain.
  • Afterward, blot the area with a clean, dry microfiber cloth to absorb any remaining moisture and residues.

The high temperature and moisture of the steam loosens and breaks apart the bonds that hold the stain to the fabric. This makes it easier to remove stubborn or set-in stains when you are cleaning cloth car seats.

But if you don’t own a steam cleaner, you could hire one. Alternatively, why not save yourself the time and trouble and contact a reliable car interior detailing service that specializes in steam cleaning methods.

Protect and Maintain Cloth Car Seats

After removing stains from your cloth car seats, it is a good idea to apply a fabric protector or upholstery sealant to help prevent future staining. Likewise, regular vacuuming and maintenance can keep the seats in good condition. See our tips on the best way to detail car interior.

Remove Odors From Cloth Car Seats

Cloth seats tend to absorb odors easily. For instance, spilled liquids and food particles can get into the fabric of your seats, leading to unpleasant smells. If this happens, or you notice your car isn’t smelling as fresh as you would like, see our tips on how to get bad smell out of car.


To sum up, knowing how to remove stains from cloth car seats will keep your fabric clean and smelling fresh. The steps are straightforward; just be sure to use the appropriate cleaning product for the stain or a general-purpose stain remover that tackles a variety of stains. Additionally, dab rather than rub to prevent the stain from spreading.

Also, it is easier to clean fresh stains than old stains that have become deeply embedded in the fabric, so prompt action is advisable. For the toughest stains, steam cleaning is your go-to for cleaning cloth car seats. Equally important, this environmentally friendly method doesn’t need chemicals or cleaning agents to dissolve the stain. And it uses a minimal amount of water.

To find out more about green cleaning techniques, download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide:

Download Eco Car Wash Benefit Guide_Interior Car Detailing Prices


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