How to: remove stubborn stains from your car seats

How to: remove stubborn stains from your car seats

Cleaning stubborn stains from your car’s seats can be difficult. If you’ve got children, the chances are your car will have had numerous little fingers rubbing sticky stuff into the upholstery.

While car manufacturers work tirelessly on developing more ‘life-proof’ interiors and fabrics, there’ll always be a substance that manages to find its way into your car’s cabin, smudging into the seats to create a glaring stain.

Don’t fear, however. Here’s our guide on how to make those unsightly interior stains vanish from your seats.


First of all, don’t rub it. Mud, chocolate, whatever it is, just let it dry first. If you rub the substance it will smear the stain deeper into the upholstery making it more difficult to remove later.

If you let it dry and harden where possible, you stand a better chance of chipping it off later, reducing the extent to which the mucky substance can penetrate the fabric.


If it’s a particularly bad spillage, such as coffee or Ribena on a light colour cabin, the stain ideally needs to be dealt with immediately.

That means blotting the spot where the substance has been spilt, rather than rubbing it. Dab it dry with some paper towels, tissues, kitchen roll, a clean rag – basically anything you have to hand.

Think about then patting it with a damp cloth to dry and draw even more of the stain out of the upholstery before you try and blitz the affected area altogether.


There’s an industry that makes car care its business, and a significant proportion of that is devoted to vehicle interiors.

All sorts of upholstery cleaners are available, some are priced at the budget end of the market, some a little higher, while some cater for certain types of stains. Take your time to take your pick and weigh up what will be best for the job in hand.

Remember, these products can also be specially designed for certain colours of interior, too, but always test it on a hidden spot first to check it won’t damage the leather or cloth.

Think about taking the seats out if it’ll make the cleaning job easier and more thorough, too.


Prevention is better than cure, or so the saying goes. Special sprays and upholstery protection such as Scotchgard can help reduce the impact stains have on your car interior.

These products form a sort of barrier – think of it as a bit like polishing a car – that allow foreign bodies, sticky handprints, and any other mucky mess to be wiped off with ease.


Depending on what material your seats are made from depends on what products and methods you should use.

Normal cloth will take a good scrub and most upholstery cleaners, but leather is more delicate. That’s why it’s advisable to use a leather-specific shampoo and a leather conditioner or cream to restore the upholstery’s shine and moistures when you’re finished.

If you don’t, the chemicals used to clean the area affected may dry out the leather, leading it to become cracked over time. This won’t match with the rest of the car and can look as bad as a bit of discolouration in some instances.


Whatever you do, always read instructions for the product. All cleaners are different, and while most can be left to dry, some need rinsing off.

If this is the case, a wet sponge is usually adequate, or a light misting of water. Don’t go crazy though – the fabric will already be wet and you don’t want to over saturate it. Just enough water to remove the soapy trace of chemicals should suffice.


The type of cloth or sponge you use is almost as important as the cleaning product, too. Fabric seats will stand up to a stiff brush or a firmer, netted sponge, but as we’ve mentioned, leather is more delicate.

Don’t use anything too strong and don’t be too vigorous with it, as it could crease or even rip in bad cases.


Finally, think about running a vacuum cleaner over the spot in question once you’ve finished. This will remove any last loose residue of the stain, stopping it being smeared into the seat again when the next person sits on it.

You can even make this your first step, too, just to remove any excess already there and make your job slightly easier.

We want to know what you think are the best methods for removing stubborn stains from car seats, so why not leave us a comment below, tweet to us @twwwhiteandsons, or join in the debate on our Facebook page.


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