Gettacar Best Way to Clean Leather Car Seats
There is a popular myth that keeping leather car seats clean is difficult. Well, there’s a reason to worry if you’ve not been caring for your leather coverings, and they are ridden with stains. However, if you can maintain a regular cleaning and maintenance routine, leather car seats will be much easier to deal with than cloth seats.
In this guide, we’ve prepared a step-by-step procedure on how to clean leather car seats and keep that luster for years. We’ve also followed up these cleaning tips with a guide on how to condition leather car seats to keep them in good condition for years.
Understanding Your Car Seat Leather Type
The first step towards proper leather car seat care is to understand what type of leather is used for your auto’s interior. Automotive leathers come in 3 different styles. Although the process of caring for the three leather types doesn’t vary so much, there are a few little things to know about each.
Aniline is the most coveted leather covering and the most demanding to maintain too. By appearance, aniline (also known as Natural Napa) has most of the unique characteristics of the hide it was obtained from, scars, markings, and wrinkles included.
Unlike other leather variants, aniline is only dyed to give it the desired color, but it’s not pigmented. This makes it very expensive to maintain as it has no protection from spillages, water, and sunlight. If the leather covering on your car seat absorbs water spillages almost instantly, you probably have aniline.
Semi-aniline is a slightly more durable version of aniline. Like aniline, this leather retains most of its original hide’s natural characteristics, but it has a slight pigment applied to it during processing. This pigmentation provides a layer of protection from spillages, water, and sunlight, making it slightly more durable than aniline. Unlike aniline, semi-aniline leather will absorb water drops and spillages more slowly.
Pigmented leather is leather that has been thoroughly treated with a spray coating. Although this treatment is at the expense of the hide’s rich color and natural appearance, it makes this the most durable leather variety. Compared to aniline and semi-aniline leather, pigmented leather doesn’t absorb water readily. Instead, it lets it slide on the surface.
There are 2 categories of pigmented leather:
i) Full-grain– this is leather whose upper layer is left untouched. That’s to say that it retains the natural smooth surface of the original hide.
ii) Corrected grain– as the name implies, this is leather that has been buffed and often embossed to minimize the appearance of any natural scars or blemishes.
How to Clean Leather Car Seats
What You’ll Need
- A vacuum cleaner with a soft head brush
- Leather cleaning solution
- Soft-bristled hand brush
- A pack of microfiber cloth
- Quality and trustworthy, water-based, pH-neutral leather conditioner
Step 1: Examine the Cover for Cracks and Holes
Most leather car seat covers have a protective layer on top to prevent water from seeping inside. However, this coating degrades over time, leaving the cover susceptible to cracks and holes. When water or cleaning solutions get in through these openings, it can damage the seat cushion beneath the cover or create a foul odor.
If there are visible openings or perforations, you want to ensure that the leather car seat cleaner doesn’t get in.
Step 2: Vacuuming the Seats
Before getting into the actual leather car seat cleaning process, it’s essential to vacuum the seats first. Pay extra attention to crevices, seams, and stitching. Vacuuming helps in sucking and removing most of the dust and dirt that would otherwise soak up the cleaning solution to stain the leather cover further. It also removes all abrasives that might scratch your leather during cleaning.
When vacuuming, we recommend using a soft head brush to prevent scratching the leather. If you’re using a crevice tool, avoid pressing it onto the leather cover with so much force as this may leave ugly marks behind.
Step 3: Clean Surface Dirt
Even after vacuuming, your seats will still have a thin layer of grime on the surface. To remove this dirt, spray your pH neutral leather cleaning solution onto a microfiber cloth to wet it. Spraying the cleaning solution directly onto the leather cover increases the risk of soaking the cushion either through the seams or the holes on the leather cover.
Tip: If you don’t have a commercial leather cleaner at the ready, you can make one at home by mixing three parts vinegar with one part water. Other reliable sources also suggest two parts linseed oil with one part white vinegar.
Step 4: Get the Brush to Work
If your seats are relatively new and clean at this point, you can jump to step 5 of this guide. However, if you still have dirt and grease baked onto the leather, there’s a little bit of work to do. Spray the cleaning solution onto a soft-bristled brush and scrub the grime. Use circular motions while applying mild to moderate pressure. Avoid using too much pressure as this may cause more damage.
Step 5: Wipe It Down
After scrubbing, most of the grime should have come out by now. The next step is to wipe off the grease, grime, and cleaning solution with a dry microfiber cloth until the leather cover is clean. Give the leather several hours to dry completely, and you’re ready to go.
Conditioning the Seats
Cleaning your leather car seats regularly is one part of keeping them in better condition; conditioning them is the other part. Leather conditioner for car seats creates an invisible barrier atop the leather that repels liquids.
The other importance of conditioning leather car seats is that it prevents dirt, grime, and dust from sticking onto the leather. As you can imagine, this makes the next cleaning session much more effortless.
How often should you condition your leather car seats?
You don’t need to condition your leather car seats each time you clean them. Ideally, you should condition them 2-3 times each year.
Here is how to condition leather car seats naturally:
Step 1: Test the Conditioner
Before applying the conditioner all over, test a small inconspicuous part first to ensure it has no adverse effect on your leather color.
Step 2: Condition the Entire Seat
Once you’re convinced that the conditioner is safe for the leather, apply it on a lint-free microfiber cloth and rub it in over a complete section of the seat using circular motions. Be sure to use just a small amount of the conditioner as opposed to getting the leather greasy.
Step 3: Let it Set In
After conditioning all the seats, give the conditioner at least one hour to air dry and set in before the last step. It’s much more recommendable to let it sit overnight.
Step 4: Polish
After the conditioner has dried completely, use a clean and dry microfiber to give it a good buffing. Use back and forth movements until the surface gets a desirable appeal.