Using a Car Upholster Cleaner: 7 Steps to Car Upholstery Cleaning

March 7, 2012

Some stains can't be removed with a car upholstery cleaner. Learn how to apply upholstery foam, and when to use alternatives like baking soda or ammonia.

Applying Car Upholstery Cleaner

If you're like most car owners, you probably have more than a few stains inside your vehicle and need to use a car upholstery cleaner. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get rid of upholstery stains, and a bad stain can ruin the look of a car's interior. Here's how to keep your car interior clean and get rid of even the most persistent upholstery stains.

Vacuum Your Upholstery
Before anything else, be sure to thoroughly vacuum your car's upholstery. This will remove any loose dirt and dust and help simplify the rest of the cleaning process.

Wipe Your Car Seats
If your car has vinyl seats, wipe them down with a wet cloth sprinkled with baking soda. Rinse the baking soda off with a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water. If you have leather seats, it's best to clean them with commercial leather cleaner. Be sure to test the cleaner on a hidden spot on the upholstery before starting, as some cleaners tend to leave stains. Using a soft cloth, rub the cleaner into one section of upholstery at a time, and let it dry before applying conditioner. Again, be sure to test the conditioner on a hidden spot of leather before using it on the entire car interior. Apply the conditioner in the same manner as the cleaner.

Remove Stains with Water
Carpet and fabric stains can be removed with a mixture of hot water, dish detergent and white vinegar. Scrub the mixture into the fabric using a hard bristle brush for carpets and an upholstery brush for fabric seats. Let the cleaner sit in the upholstery for 30 minutes, and then blot the upholstery dry with an absorbent towel or rag.

Remove Greasy Stains with Thinner
Paint thinner is effective at removing greasy upholstery stains. Simply rub the paint thinner into the stain with a cotton rag. Be sure to test the thinner on a discrete area of upholstery first, as it may remove its color.

Remove Vomit Stains with Soda
Vomit stains can be removed with a mixture of baking soda and water. Club soda is an effective alternative.

Brighten the Color of Carpet
If the color of your carpet has begun to fade, applying a mixture of one-half cup of clear ammonia and a pint of water will brighten its color. Test the mixture on a hidden corner of the carpet first, and check its effects. If it doesn't have any ill effects on the fabric, apply the mixture to the rest of the carpet with a sponge mop. Don't use this mixture, though, if you have wool carpeting.

Paint Your Carpet with Resin
Painting your carpet's seams and edges with liquid resin will stop them from fraying. Most craft and fabric stores sell a resin appropriate for this.

It's important to know a thing or two about car interior cleaning. A clean car exterior and shiny paint job will be perfectly accented by clean car upholstery. The above tips will be sure to help you keep your car's upholstery as spotless as possible, to match your car's exterior.

Related Questions and Answers

What's the Best Way to Clean Sheepskin Car Seats?

Sheepskin car seats are similar to leather in that sheepskin is animal hide. However, because of the wool, they need to be cared for differently than cow hide leather. The wool should be brushed on a regular basis to prevent tangles. Additionally, regular vacuuming is necessary to keep grit from tearing the material. For dirt and stains, a washcloth dipped in a quality detangling shampoo should be rubbed into the area that needs cleaning. Repeat as necessary until clean. Remember, use water sparingly, as too much will ruin the sheepskin.

Where can I Buy Automotive Upholstery Foam Cleaner?

Automotive upholstery foam cleaner can be purchased locally from any of the large auto parts stores such as Autozone and Pepboys. Additionally, Ace Hardware sells a popular foam cleaner called Blue Magic. Woolite sells a quality foam upholstery cleaner, and it can be purchased from Woolite directly and, or it can be found locally at the large chain grocery market stores. Online purchases can be made from SMARTER and Moreover, Amazon sells a fabric foam carpet and upholstery cleaner from Dakota.

What Type of Upholstery is Most Common in a Luxury Car Interior?

Luxury car interior seats are typically made from leather. Although, some manufacturers will use a high quality and durability fabric for their seats. The leather can be very expensive, and is usually soft and pliable. The fabric seat is comparable to the quality of fine living room furniture, except it is capable of survival inside an automobile. Average vehicles seats are often times made from high-density foam, topped with a durable fabric. In some instances, the seat is finished with various types of micro-fiber material that look and feel like real fabric. Moreover, some manufacturers make use of vinyl as their material of choice for seat top finishes.

What Type of Fabric Requires a High Density Upholstery Foam for Cleaning?

High density upholstery foam is an indication of the type of material used as a base for the car seat. This type of foam has tightly packed air pockets that are very small. It gives the material the ability to withstand the harsh environments of automobiles, while providing firm and comfortable padding for the seat. Moreover, the density of the foam allows it to be easily cleaned and cared for. Foam type cleaners are needed to clean seats covered with micro-fiber materials. Micro-fiber is a man made fabric that is more durable, and is easier to clean than fabric made from natural materials. Moreover, micro-fiber material looks and feels like fabric made from natural products.

What Type of Car Interior Fabric is the Easiest to Remove Stains From?

The type of car interior fabric from which stains are most easily removed is based on a polymer such as nylon or orlon. The reason it is easy to remove stains from this fabric is that it presents a very tight chemical bond or defense against staining. Since it is manmade, the weave factor of either type of fabric is very high, so that stains will tend to ride on the surface and not penetrate the fabric itself. In contrast, a cotton or naturally made fabric tends to have an open weave, and is absorbent. A stain will not only penetrate the more open weave of the fabric, but also the fabric itself.

What Type of Car Interior Trim Finish Lasts the Longest?

As they used to say on a television show, this question is really a toss-up, because there are two types of car interior trim which have the greatest longevity. For sheer long life, the best interior trim finish should be a combination of leather upholstery, with a velour-style interior door trim and vinyl instrument panel. The leather, which must be maintained correctly (cleaned and sealed at least once a year), will last the longest, since it is leather. However, if you fail to keep after it, you will find that ultraviolet rays beating on it constantly will cause the leather to crack and age prematurely.

What Comes in a Car Interior Protection Kit?

A car interior protection kit consists of all of the products you need to clean your car properly. For example, it contains all of Meguiar's top-selling Goldline products, such as liquid wax and high-gloss gel. As well as a special bright microfiber mitt that lifts and traps dirt and grime, and helps to restore the finish. That finish is also enhanced by Meguiar's clay products and applicator that helps to lift off old dead paint and restore the paint to a new shine. This is also known as wet sanding a vehicle because it removes scratches and some dings. At the same time, this kit contains a product called ScratchX, a product that removes surface scratches and imperfections. Then there's Tire Protectant and sealer, as well as interior and trim cleaner and sealer. There's also a chamois cloth to dry and leave your vehicle streak-free. This is available at Amazon or one of the major retailers for about $50.

Is a Cheap Car Interior Tougher to Clean?

Yes, a cheap car interior is tougher to clean. This is because it was likely that the vehicle was used very hard by its former owner who may have had dogs, kids, and who knows what else in the seats. All of the stuff they generate goes somewhere, and it always lodges in places that seem to take three times to clean. Dogs, especially if they have been wet, are a real treat, as they leave an odor that is almost impossible to get out of the vehicle, and there's hair everywhere. Usually, the engine is pretty nasty, as well as the wheels and rims.