How to Clean Car Upholstery
Most of us keep a clean home, but many of us harbor a dark secret - a messy car. With so much on your plate and a whole house to keep clean, your automobile is often the last thing you think about cleaning.
If you’ve got a long commute home from work, the only thing you want to do when you finally get home is get in the house and relax. You don’t want to think about going back outside to clean your car.
If this is you, pick a day over the weekend to clean the upholstery.
Cleaning the Upholstery in Your Car:
The upholstery of your car really takes a beating. If you’ve got kids, you’ve also got food spills, mud from sneakers and cleats and probably some unidentified substances lingering on the upholstery. Without driving yourself crazy, you can keep your car clean and your upholstery looking neat.
Clean Up Spills Immediately:
- The faster you get to spills, the better your chances of getting them out of the upholstery before they turn into stains.
- Keep paper towels, napkins, or a rag in your car for any spills that happen. Being prepared will make the difference between a spill and a stain.
Vacuum the Seats Regularly:
- If you allow dirt, dust and debris to sit on seats and floor mats, it will find its way deeper into the fibers and make the car look dirty and dingy.
- Move your child car seats around regularly. Infant and child safety seats can wreak havoc on your upholstery. If you can rotate the location of the car seat on a regular basis and be sure to vacuum underneath them when you do, your upholstery will look good longer.
Limit Food and Drink:
Limiting the amount of food and drinks consumed in your automobile will help keep the upholstery looking its best. Although this can be tough for many people, if you keep the food and drinks to a minimum, you will head off much of the cleaning before the stains even happen.
Upholstery Stain Removal:
If you find that your car’s upholstery is stained and looking worse for wear, there are things you can do to clean it up and bring it back to life. Depending on the stain, you should take different courses of action:
Ground in Dirt:
For dirt that has taken root in your upholstery, try a dry brush before vacuuming or introducing any moisture to the upholstery. This works especially well for salts and mud.
If your like many and drink your coffee in the car on your way to work, you know that these spills happen frequently. To clean coffee spills on the car upholstery:
- You should first blot the stain with a paper towel or a napkin that you have stashed in the glove box.
- Then get some cool water on it as soon as possible and blot up with a clean cloth or paper towel.
- Treat the upholstery stain the way you would a carpet stain. Blot, clean with carpet cleaner and then vacuum.
It’s gross, definitely, but it happens. One of your children gets sick and vomits in the car. Stomach acids; if left to sit on upholstery or carpets, could cause a permanent stain.
- Clean up as much of the vomit as soon as possible.
- Use the shop-vac to pick up any remaining solids.
- Mix 1/4 cup ammonia to 1 cup warm water.
- Use a clean washcloth or a clean sponge to wipe down the stained area. Dipping and re-rinsing the cloth or sponge as needed.
- Sprinkle baking soda generously over the area and rub it in. Let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum up. This will help to absorb some of the vomit odor.
- Using another clean cloth, give a final rinse with warm water only. Blot up any excess water with dry cloth.
- It also couldn't hurt to leave the windows down while the interior is drying. Maybe put a couple of dryer sheets in the car to help freshen it up or put coffee grounds in a nylon stocking to help absorb the odors.
The best way to keep a stain from happening is getting to it right away. Remember with blood, use cold water, not hot water or you may permanently set the stain.
- Blot (don't rub, you don't want to spread the stain) as much of the blood up as you can using a clean cloth that is dampened with cold water.
- Using a spray bottle, mix 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing liquid with 1 tablespoon ammonia, then fill the bottle with cold water.
- Spray the solution on the stain and gently rub with a clean cloth working from the outer edge in.
- Rinse with cold water, let dry, then vacuum.
If you have leather seats in your car, cleaning is a little different. While leather upholstery is very durable, it is also prone to staining and getting dirty just the way cloth upholstery is.
If you have leather upholstery, clean up spills immediately and use a leather cleaner made specifically for keeping your seats clean, protecting them and helping them look their best and to protect against future stains.
For regular cleaning, mix 3 to 4 drops Ivory dish washing liquid to a bowl of warm water. Use a clean cloth to wipe down interior seats, then dry with another clean cloth.
If there are any stains you notice after washing the seats down, try a mixture of ammonia and water (1:4 ratio) and use a soft bristled brush until stain is removed.
Dry the seats off and add a layer of protection using appropriate vinyl products.
Whatever kind of material you have for the interior of your car, it’s important to protect it to keep it looking fresh and clean. Choose a product that will repel stains and even freshen the fabric for the best results.