How to Clean Leather Car Seats Naturally

If you are lucky enough to enjoy leather seats in your car, the last thing you want is to see stains, dirt, and dust ruining them over time. At the same time, a trip to the local detailing shop can end up being quite expensive! Luckily, some DIY methods will leave your seats clean and conditioned with minimal effort.

So, how to clean leather car seats naturally? Start by vacuuming them to remove debris that can scratch them. With a microfiber cloth, rub a solution of water and vinegar or oil onto the seats. Once dry, apply a DIY conditioning solution made from beeswax or baby oil. Remember to spot test the substances.

Sounds easy, right? Let’s have a look at everything you need to know to get your seats to shine naturally and without having to pay a penny!

Products to Naturally Clean Leather Seats

Now that you are sure that water will not be a threat for your leather seats let’s have a look at what products that are already in your pantry, you can use to get them to shine. Keep in mind that, if you are trying to get rid of stubborn stains, it might be preferable to consult your local detailer. However, if you just need to eliminate superficial debris, you can proceed with the methods below!

  • Talcum powder – talcum powder is an absorbent that will draw all the moisture away from the leather. By allowing it to rest on a stain for a few minutes, you will be able to get rid of greasy or damp spots in your upholstery.
  • Cornstarch – it is another natural oil-absorbent substance that can work miracles on newer or still-moist stains. Even in this case, you should opt to let it rest on the dirty spot for a few minutes before wiping it clean.
  • Vinegar – with a pH of 2.4 (on average) white vinegar is an efficient, yet gentle and natural acid that can help you clean pretty much anything in your house. Leather is no different! However, we are going to have a look at how to use it properly in the next section.
  • Olive oil – is another excellent alternative that can be used in combination with other substances, such as vinegar, to treat more resistant stains.

What products to avoid

So we have seen that your pantry is practically full of all the ingredients you need to get your leather seats clean and tidy. These substances, however, might not be as efficient as you think in all situations. If this is the case and you have not seen the results you wanted, you should avoid falling for the temptation to use much stronger chemicals!

Substances as the once before can ruin and stain the look of your leather in a matter of minutes!

  • Petroleum-based agents
  • Silicone
  • Waxes
  • A brush with stiff bristles

Spot testing

Independent on how you have decided to clean your leather, do not skip this step! Not all leathers and upholstery types will react in the same way to similar substances. Applying such blends on the surface without checking them beforehand can end up in hundreds of dollars of damages!

To make sure that you are not about to ruin your leather seats forever, create the mixture that you are about to use to clean and rub it onto a hidden part of the surface. Use the same procedure as you would if you were cleaning the whole seat. Wipe the area clean and wait for it to dry. If you cannot notice any difference between the tested spot and the rest of the surface, you are good to go!

How to Naturally Clean Leather Seats

Now you are all ready to start! Here is the most effective and safest way to clean the whole of your leather seat. However, other substances such as cornstarch and talcum powder are great for cleaning determinate stains on the upholstery. 

What you’ll need

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Distilled water
  • Vinegar
  • A spray bottle
  • A clean microfiber cloth (ideally a new one)

Method

  1. Vacuum the seats – this is an essential step, and you should avoid skipping it. Indeed, even if your car seats look entirely free of debris, even the smaller grain can scratch the leather during a rubbing movement. Since you will need to massage the solution into the leather, vacuum the area clean before starting.
  2. Check for holes – if you tend to spend quite some time in your car, you might be aware of some holes in the cover. In any case, you should inspect your vehicle for other tears. If you proceed to clean the seats and moisture penetrates in the leather, it might ruin their interior.
  3. Create the solution – in your spray bottle, add three parts of vinegar and one part of distilled, lukewarm water. This step is essential to dilute the vinegar, which would otherwise be too acidic. Avoid spraying the solution directly onto the leather! Instead, pour some onto a new, clean microfiber cloth.
  4. Distribute the solution on the seats – rub the microfiber cloth on the upholstery and massage the blend into the surfaces. Remove any moisture in excess instantly to avoid staining the leather.
  5. Remove the solution in excess – using a different microfiber cloth, dry the moisture, and product in excess from the seats. 
  6. Allow the seats to dry – it is important to avoid rushing this step. Park in the shade, open the doors and let the leather to dry for as long as necessary. Make sure your car is in a secure place!

How to Naturally Condition Leather Seats

Once your seats are dry and fresh, it is time to condition the leather. Indeed, everyday use, dirt, body oils, lack of moisture, and UV ray damage can cause the leather to crack. In this situation, you might struggle to get your seats to look like new again! However, regularly conditioning your upholstery is a quick solution that can salvage them in minutes!

There are different natural products that you could use to create a leather conditioning at home. Depending on what is in your pantry already, there are four various viable alternatives.

  • Baby soap  – add a tablespoon of baby soap into lukewarm water and add a couple of drops of oil into the solution. Use only natural baby soap.
  • Lemon essential oil – potentially the easiest, ready-to-use leather conditioner out there is a lemon essential oil. You won’t need to add another ingredient to it to see its effects!
  • Beeswax – if you love using natural products to take care of your car and household, you will love this conditioner made of wax. To create this solution, mix soap with cocoa butter and almond oil. Stir the three ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat. Once the ingredients have melted and blended, allow them to cool down on the side for at least 30 minutes. 
  • Olive oil – diluted – the dilemma of whether to use oil-based conditioners on leather is controversial. However, when mixed with vinegar and linseed oil, it creates a blend that is great to condition and cleans the leather at the same time. 

Method

Independently on what natural product you have selected to condition your car seats, the process of applying it is similar.

  1. Make sure the seats are dry – if you have just finished cleaning the leather with one of the methods we have seen above, you should wait for the leather to dry before continuing. Applying a conditioner while the upholstery is still wet can trap detrimental moisture in them. Once the seats are dry, you can proceed!
  2. Apply the product on microfiber cloth – pour a little of one of the conditioning solutions you have just created into a clean microfiber cloth. Gently massage the conditioner into the leather, making sure that the blend is evenly distributed and uniform. Dissipate any lumps before they settle on the leather. 
  3. Wait for the conditioner to penetrate the leather – once the conditioning covers the entire seat, allow it to sit on the seat’s surface for at least one hour. This timeframe will ensure that even the mildest natural product can condition the inner layers of the leather.
  4. Wipe the seats clean – with a new, clean microfiber cloth, wipe the entire surface of the leather seat until there is no more conditioner in excess on it. This step is crucial! Leaving such substances on the upholstery for too long can cause stains and marks

Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Leather Seats

You are almost a pro of cleaning leather seats now! But there is a little more that you should know. Below, there is a quick recap of all the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before starting to clean your leather seats.

What not to do!

  • Don’t spray your chosen product directly onto the leather. Instead, pour it onto the microfiber cloth.
  • Avoid leaving any wet or damp solution to sit on the leather. If it dries, it will leave stains and marks. Use your microfiber cloth to massage it on the surface until absorbed.
  • If you are not sure if a solution or product works for your seats, ask a professional detailer.
  • When rubbing the product onto the leather, avoid using brushes, especially the ones with stiff or hard bristles.
  • Do not pour large amounts of cleaner onto the cloth. The moisture can ruin the seats and penetrate through holes and perforations.
  • Avoid waxes, petroleum, and silicone products.

What to do

  • Ensure you have spot-tested every product you wish to use on the seats. You can do so in a hidden area of the car. Remember, not all leather reacts in the same way to agents!
  • Clean your leather regularly, but avoid conditioning it often. This treatment should happen only once every six months. 
  • Vacuum the seats thoroughly before starting to clean them with a cloth. Any grain or sand can be fatal for your seats!
  • Work your way through the sections one area at a time.

Tips for Cleaner Leather Seats

While all the products and methods seen above can help you enjoy like-new leather seats without having to pay exorbitant prices, they might not be as efficient with stubborn stains. In this case, you would have to speak to your detailer immediately to avoid damaging the leather even further. That is why there are some maintenance tips that you should follow to avoid having to deal with such eventualities.

  • First of all, you should clean your leather seats regularly. If you are not sure how much is enough, you should stick to wipe the seats with adequate leather wipes twice a week. Then, once a month, you should clean the leather thoroughly with the methods seen above. Conditioning instead should be an occasional treatment every three to six months. This simple process ensures that you will never have to deal with stubborn stains.
  • Taking care of your care does not only mean driving carefully but also looking after it when its engine is not on. UV rays can be extremely detrimental for the wellbeing of your seats and dashboard. They can also harm the paintwork. Instead, try to park in the shade of your garage every possible time. 
  • Clean up a stain as soon as you see it! It is incredibly easy to remove a fresh stain from any leather seat, as far as you do so promptly! Moisture can be extremely dangerous for the wellbeing of the leather, but it won’t be so much so if you are ready with a wipe. Opt to keep leather wipes in your car at all times.
  • Leather needs proper ventilation! Especially if you are dealing with an older car that shows holes and scratches, well-ventilation can avoid you having to deal with mold and mildew later on. Even in the case of newer cars, you should allow enough air to flow through regularly. Take your vehicle for a drive during a hot summer day and open the windows! Mind, you should avoid polluted areas for this trip!

Leather Seats and Maintenance

Leather seats are some of the most luxurious, lavish, and elegant types of car upholstery. While loved and enjoyed by millions of drivers, they are also a little trickier to clean than standard fabric seats. Indeed, if you have a leather couch, you know how difficult it can be to bring it back to its original look and form!

However, the biggest threats to leather seats are poor maintenance and everyday wear and tear. Bringing your car to a detailer every so often can help you keep them in check, but not many car owners are too happy about paying exorbitant bills! Cleaning and conditioning your seats regularly at home can be a simple solution to keep them in check.

There are several types of leather seats on the market. The type of material used can make a difference in the products you are going to use to clean and maintain your seats. These are:

  • Aniline Leather – not as in fashion as it once was, this type of leather is one of the most excellent materials used as car upholstery. Aniline leather does not boast any kind of protective coating, and the natural texture of it is visible on the surface. Also, this material is one of the most delicate types of leather. It will absorb water as soon as it gets in touch with the surface.
  • Semi-Aniline leather – just as exceptional as Aniline Leather, this type of material boasts a protective finish that preserves its beauty. The coating makes it more resistant to scratches and spills than Aniline leather.
  • Full-Grain Leather – still highly luxurious, this leather is not corrected, and the marks of the hide are still visible on the surface. Full-grain leather boasts a protective layer that increases its lifespan.
  • Corrected Grain Leather – while still beautiful, this type of leather looks and feels more uniform. It boasts a protective coating, and the marks of the hide are corrected to remove imperfections. It is one of the more resistant types of leather on the market.

Identifying the type of leather in your car is essential to treat it properly. Indeed, Aniline leathers boast a weak resistance to water. By trying to treat them with a water-based solution, you might end up staining them instead of cleaning them.

Final Thoughts

Leather seats are unique pieces of upholstery that can truly make your car look lavish and luxurious. However, they do need a little more maintenance and care than standard fabric seats or even than vinyl seats. If you are not dealing with stubborn or old stains, you can create a cleaning and conditioning solution with the ingredients in your pantry.

To clean the leather, opt for a mixture of vinegar and water. For the conditioning process, instead, lemon essential oil and beeswax are great options. Remember to spot-test any product you decided to use in advance in a hidden area of the seat. You will be ready to enjoy and show off your car in no time!

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