How To Clean Car Upholstery The Right Way

How to Clean Car Upholstery The Right Way


Maintaining a clean and fresh car interior is essential for both comfort and aesthetics. One of the most significant aspects of a car’s interior is its upholstery. Over time, car upholstery can accumulate dirt, stains, and unpleasant odors. Cleaning car upholstery may seem like a daunting task, but with the right techniques and products, it can be done effectively. In this article, we will guide you on how to clean car upholstery the right way, ensuring a spotless and refreshed interior.

1. Preparing for the Cleaning Process

Before diving into the actual cleaning, it is important to prepare the necessary supplies and create a suitable environment for the task:

1.1 Gather the Supplies

  • Vacuum cleaner with upholstery attachments
  • Soft-bristle brush or upholstery brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Mild upholstery cleaner or fabric cleaner
  • Stain remover (if needed)
  • Bucket of lukewarm water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Optional: Odor neutralizer or freshener spray

1.2 Remove and Empty the Car

To clean the upholstery thoroughly, it is recommended to remove any items from the car, including trash, loose papers, and personal belongings. This will allow you to access all areas and ensure a more effective cleaning process.

1.3 Vacuum the Upholstery

Using the upholstery attachment or a handheld vacuum cleaner, vacuum the seats, carpets, and any other upholstered surfaces. This will remove loose dirt, crumbs, and debris, making the subsequent cleaning more efficient.

2. Cleaning Different Types of Car Upholstery

Car upholstery can vary in materials, such as fabric, leather, or vinyl. The cleaning method may differ depending on the type of upholstery:

2.1 Cleaning Fabric Upholstery

  • Blotting the Stains: If there are any visible stains on the fabric upholstery, use a clean, damp microfiber cloth to blot the stain gently. Avoid rubbing, as it may cause the stain to spread or set deeper into the fabric.

  • Using Upholstery Cleaner: Prepare a solution of mild upholstery cleaner and lukewarm water, following the instructions on the cleaner. Dip a soft-bristle brush or upholstery brush into the solution, and gently scrub the fabric upholstery in circular motions. Pay extra attention to stained or heavily soiled areas.

  • Removing Persistent Stains: For stubborn stains, you may need to use a specific stain remover suitable for fabric upholstery. Apply the stain remover according to the instructions, and allow it to sit for a few minutes before blotting or scrubbing the area again.

  • Rinsing and Drying: After cleaning, dampen a clean microfiber cloth with plain water and gently wipe the upholstery to remove any residue from the cleaner. Following that, allow the upholstery to air dry thoroughly before using the car again.

2.2 Cleaning Leather Upholstery

  • Using a Leather Cleaner: Choose a leather cleaner specifically formulated for automotive use. Apply a small amount of the cleaner onto a microfiber cloth, and gently scrub the leather upholstery in circular motions.

  • Conditioning the Leather: Leather upholstery needs conditioning to keep it soft and prevent cracking. After cleaning, apply a suitable leather conditioner following the product instructions. Buff the upholstery with a clean microfiber cloth to ensure even distribution of the conditioner.

  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: To prevent discoloration and damage, park the car in a shaded area or use sunshades when the car is exposed to direct sunlight.

2.3 Cleaning Vinyl Upholstery

  • Wiping with Mild Cleaner: Dilute a mild all-purpose cleaner or a mixture of dish soap and water in a bucket of lukewarm water. Dampen a microfiber cloth in the solution, and wipe the vinyl upholstery thoroughly. Avoid using abrasive cleaners that can damage the vinyl surface.

  • Rinsing and Drying: Rinse the vinyl upholstery with a clean cloth dampened with plain water, ensuring the removal of any residue from the cleaner. Finally, dry the upholstery with a clean microfiber cloth.

3. Dealing with Odors

Unpleasant odors can linger in car upholstery, particularly if spills or accidents have occurred. Here’s how you can eliminate odors effectively:

3.1 Odor Neutralizer Spray

  • Choose an odor neutralizer spray specifically designed for automotive use.
  • Spray the neutralizer on the upholstery, focusing on areas with odors.
  • Allow the neutralizer to dry completely, ensuring that the odors are eliminated.

3.2 Freshening Tips

  • Place an open box of baking soda or charcoal inside the car overnight to absorb odors.
  • Use fabric fresheners or odor-absorbing sachets in the car to keep it smelling pleasant.


Keeping your car’s upholstery clean not only enhances its appearance but also contributes to a healthier and more comfortable driving experience. By following the right techniques and using appropriate cleaning products, you can easily maintain spotless and fresh upholstery. Remember to choose the suitable cleaning method based on the type of upholstery and address any stains or odors promptly. With regular cleaning and care, your car interior will stay inviting and enjoyable for years to come.