When is the Best Time to Use a Fabric Protectant

January 27, 2012

If you want to keep the interior of your vehicle clean and looking new, a quality fabric protectant is just the answer. That's assuming your seats and other parts of the interior are cloth and not all made of leather or vinyl. Quality fabric protection will help keep your seats, carpet and other cloth or fabric areas clean by creating an invisible barrier between the dirt and grime and the fabric itself. It achieves this by going into the very fibers of the material itself and preventing contaminants from settling and permanently staining the fabric.

Types of Fabric Protection and When to Apply

Generally speaking, there are two types fabric protection available for modern vehicles: water based protection and solvent based protection.

Water based products are designed to be used on water safe materials, and are effective at repelling dirt, oil and water contaminants away from the treated fabric. Once you clean your car, fabric protection of this type is usually a DIY project that you can easily complete yourself.

Water based treatment can be purchased at a local auto parts store and can be applied any time the fabric in the vehicle has been thoroughly cleaned. If you apply this type of treatment yourself, always allow it to dry at least 24 hours before sitting on the seats or touching other fabric covered areas.

The other type of fabric protection product that is commonly used is a solvent based protection system. This is the type of new car fabric protectant that is most often chosen by car dealerships when treating fabric for customers. You might often hear to the product referred to as "Scotch Guard" treatment; however, there are many other brands that are used.

A solvent based protector provides high levels of protection against many types of contaminants, both dry and wet, and is effective at preventing stains that can be left by most spills. This type of protection is usually applied on new cars (before they ever leave the dealership). However, like water based products, it can be applied any time the fabric is clean. You should make sure the fabric is dry before applying solvent based protection, as water from wet fabric may cause the solvents in the treatment to be less effective.

Which Treatment Type Is Better

When applied correctly, no one treatment type is really better than the other. However, there are a few things that you should know:

  • Water based treatments are effective, but they will need to applied much more often. On the other hand, they are much less expensive than solvent based treatment products.
  • If water based products are not allowed to dry completely before using the vehicle, seats may stain easier than usual. Stains created while the protectant is still drying may be difficult to remove and may actually bond with the fabric fibers.
  • Although solvent based treatments are much more expensive, they can provide protection against contaminants, dirt and spills for many years.
  • If you are cleaning fabric or seats that have been treated with Scotch Guard or other type of solvent based product, take care not to use too much water. If wiping seats to clean away dust or dirt, only use a damp towel. Using too much water will cause the solvent protection to eventually break down and lose its ability to repel contaminants or dirt.
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