How to Wash Cloth Car Seats: A Comprehensive Guide

Car seats are an essential part of your vehicle’s interior, and their cleanliness reflects the overall hygiene of your automobile. Cloth car seats, in particular, can accumulate dirt, stains, and odors over time, making them look unsightly and uninviting. However, with the right tools and techniques, you can wash your cloth car seats and make them look as good as new. Here’s how to do it:

Gather Your Supplies

Before you begin, you’ll need to gather the necessary supplies. Here’s a list of items you’ll need:

  • Bucket
  • Microfiber towels
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Water

Vacuum the Car Seats

The first step in washing your cloth car seats is to vacuum them thoroughly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to remove loose dirt, crumbs, and debris from the seats, paying special attention to the crevices and seams. This will make the cleaning process more manageable and prevent the dirt from spreading or staining the seats during cleaning.

Spot Clean Stains

If your car seats have visible stains, spot clean them before washing the entire seat. Apply a small amount of upholstery cleaner directly to the stain and use a soft-bristled brush to work the cleaner into the fabric. Let the cleaner sit for a few minutes, then blot the area with a microfiber towel until the stain disappears.

Prepare the Upholstery Cleaner

Next, prepare the upholstery cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some cleaners require dilution with water, while others come in a ready-to-use formula. Be sure to read the label carefully and follow the instructions to avoid damaging the fabric or leaving residue behind.

Apply the Upholstery Cleaner

Once the cleaner is ready, apply it to the car seats using a clean microfiber towel or a soft-bristled brush. Work the cleaner into the fabric in a circular motion, making sure to cover the entire surface of the seat. Be careful not to oversaturate the fabric or let the cleaner seep into the seat cushion, as this can damage the foam and cause mold or mildew growth.

Let the Cleaner Sit

After applying the cleaner, let it sit on the seats for a few minutes to allow it to penetrate the fabric and loosen dirt and grime. The length of time will depend on the type of cleaner you’re using, so refer to the label for specific instructions.

Scrub the Seats

After the cleaner has had time to sit, use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the seats gently. Work in a circular motion, paying special attention to any areas with stubborn stains or dirt buildup. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this can damage the fabric or leave brush marks behind. If needed, rinse the brush with water periodically to avoid spreading dirt or residue.

Rinse the Seats

Once you’ve finished scrubbing the seats, it’s time to rinse them clean. Fill a bucket with clean water and use a clean microfiber towel to wipe down the seats, removing any remaining cleaner or dirt. Be sure to wring out the towel regularly to avoid oversaturating the fabric.

Dry the Seats

After rinsing the seats, use a dry microfiber towel to blot the excess water from the fabric. Be sure to press firmly but gently to avoid damaging the fabric or leaving watermarks behind. If possible, leave the car doors open or park the car in a well-ventilated area to allow the seats to air dry completely. Avoid using a hairdryer or other heat source to speed up the drying process, as this can damage the fabric or cause shrinkage.

Repeat the Process if Needed

If your car seats are heavily soiled or have stubborn stains, you may need to repeat the cleaning process several times to achieve the desired results. Be patient and take your time, working in small sections and being careful not to oversaturate the fabric or damage the seats in any way.

How Often Should You Wash Cloth Car Seats?

The frequency with which you should wash your cloth car seats depends on several factors, such as how often you use your car, how many passengers you have, and whether you have pets or children. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to wash your car seats at least once every three months or more frequently if they’re heavily soiled or stained.

Can You Wash Car Seat Covers in the Washing Machine?

If your car seats have removable covers, you may be tempted to wash them in the washing machine. However, this is not recommended, as the agitation and heat of the washer can damage the fabric, cause shrinkage, or warp the foam padding. Instead, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the covers or take them to a professional cleaner who specializes in car seat upholstery.

Can You Use Household Cleaners on Car Seats?

While it may be tempting to use household cleaners such as bleach or ammonia to clean your car seats, these products can be too harsh for the delicate fabric and may cause discoloration, fading, or damage. Stick to cleaners that are specifically formulated for car seat upholstery and follow the instructions carefully.


Washing your cloth car seats can be a time-consuming task, but the results are worth it. By following these steps and using the right tools and techniques, you can keep your car seats looking clean, fresh, and inviting. Remember to be gentle with the fabric, avoid oversaturating the seats, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results. With a little effort, your car seats will look as good as new!

Related VideoHow to Wash Cloth Car Seats: A Comprehensive Guide