How to clean car leather seats

You finally decided that it is time to clean your leather seats or interior? You must be extremely careful if you don’t want to damage your interior leather. As a car detailer, I have few helpful tips methods that I will describe in this article.

First method: Steam cleaning

This is probably the best method to clean leather seats. Although it’s costly, professional steam machines are rather expensive. The machine I use is Karcher SGV 6/5. You can use smaller household steam machines. The cleaning process goes like this:

  1. Cover your work area with a clean microfiber cloth, this is to make sure you don’t damage the leather.
  2. Use the steamer and rub your microfiber cloth, don’t forget to turn over your cloth after it gets dirty.
  3. Now when the leather pores are open, it’s a good idea to take a soft bristle brush and work the area using your favourite APC (all purpose cleaner). Just make sure that your cleaner doesn’t clean the leather color.
  4. Wipe off your cleaned are with a clean microfiber cloth.
  5. Now apply your favourite leather conditioner. This step is extremely important if you want to keep your leather interior looking good and fresh.

Second method: Brush and microfiber cloth

This is a method which I still use a lot. Sometimes when the interior is not that bad, a soft bristle brush, all purpose cleaner and a nice soft microfiber cloth is all you need. It’s absolutely the same as the steamer method, just without steamer.

  1. Spray your APC (all purpose cleaner) to the work area.
  2. Agitate your cleaner using a soft bristle brush. Personally, I prefer natural hair brush.
  3. Wipe off the remaining cleaner using clean microfiber cloth. Don’t forget to turn over your microfiber cloth ensuring that you are not wiping cleaned surface with a dirty cloth part.
  4. Touch the seat and make sure that you are not leaving any APC cleaner on the leather. If you can feel some kind of stickiness it means that there are still some human slime or APC left on the seat.
  5. When the leather looks matte and it feels nice and clean you are ready to apply your leather conditioner. I prefer conditioner with natural beeswax. Normally you will have to apply/spray your conditioner, let it flash for few minutes and polish it off using clean microfiber cloth.

I have made a quick video when I tried a new leather seats cleaner/conditioner, feel free to watch it.

Can you clean old leather seats?

Yes of course! Just be sure to use a good leather conditioner afterwards. Some people are afraid of touching older leather interiors. You can always test your method on a small and less visible area. In fact, old leather interiors are quite often a lot more durable than the ones in brand new cars. I have never washed any color out of older interior, but it already happened few times with a newer car interior.

Is the leather conditioner necessary after cleaning?

Yes, absolutely. Unless you’re using a special leather cleaner that has some conditioner in it already. But the truth is – the best cleaners and conditioners are separate products. A cleaner must lift up all the dirt and grease while a conditioner must cover the seats with a protective layer that, in a way is a little bit like grease. Therefore I believe that using 2in1 product to clean and condition your leather is not ideal.

What kind of brush should be used for cleaning leather interior?

You can save some time by getting a professional leather cleaning brush. They are rather well adjusted for quick results and preservation. But you can save some money by buying soft boar bristle brush. Brush and try to feel if the brush is not too “scratchy” if it is alright for your hand, it will be fine for your car interior.