Make Your Leather Last!
If you’re driving around in a car with leather seats, odds are you will want to take good care of those seats to ensure they live as long as the rest of your car. Most people have no idea how to clean leather car seats, which is essentially the same regardless of the application (i.e. jackets, wallets, seats, etc.). Most professional cleaners liken leather to human skin since leather itself is cow skin. Mammal skin acts and functions the same way—it requires moisture to stay soft and flexible and has pores so that it can ‘breathe’ in order to remain fresh and malleable.
As human beings, we all know that general cleanliness (showering) and the application of moisturizers are essential for maintaining healthy, happy skin. These principles also directly apply when you clean leather car seats—general cleaning and application of leather conditioner will keep your leather looking great!
First, let’s begin this lesson with how to clean leather car seats. Cleaning is much simpler than most people would think and doesn’t require any expensive tools or shampoos. To clean your leather, you simply need a mild cleaning detergent and a gentle bristle based brush. Some people use everyday cleaners like Pinesol or Mr. Clean and if you choose to go down this path, simply be sure to dilute the cleaning solution with ample water (usually two parts water to one part cleaner will suffice).
Simply dip the brush in the solution and gently scrub the entire surface of your car seats. This will loosen all the dirt and grease that has been accumulating throughout the months (similar to how a loofah works on the human body). Once that’s done, simply take a damp clean cloth and wipe the seats down thoroughly. If done correctly, the clean cloth should pick up all the grease and dirt off of the seat and will look relatively dirty with black streaks here and there. The seats should look dull, not shiny, and the leather will once again be able to breathe.
Once you have finished cleaning the seats, the next step in the process is to condition them. This is similar to applying lotion to your own skin; if the leather seats aren’t moisturized, they will soon dry out from the sun and heat and may even begin to crack or rip after a period of time. The key thing to note is that the higher quality the seat condition you use, the better.
There are a bunch of good brands out there that will get the job done, but also a few cheap ones that you will never want to use. My best advice here is to go to a detail shop and ask them what brand they would recommend. Personally, I use Car-brite, as it always does a phenomenal job of keeping my leather moisturized. Using a simple home-cleaning sponge, apply the condition liberally throughout the seats and massage well. Be sure to apply a generous amount of conditioner, as the seats will continue to soak it in over the course of the day even if it seems as though the leather is saturated.
Leave the car in the shade overnight and you will see by the next day that all the conditioner has been taken in by the seats. Give your seats a quick rub with a soft dry cloth and you will be on your way. I recommend repeating this process at least once every six months. Enjoy!
Jack on September 25, 2010:
My new Chevy Silverado LTZ has an ebony leather interior and I was wondering what I should be doing to care for it. However, upon reading the owner's manual, I learned that only warm water and a mild soap solution (if necessary) is all that is requird. And, to air dry. In fact, the manual actually says that using leather cleaners/conditioners may permanently change the feel and appeance of the leather.
patz on August 30, 2010:
This is very bad advice. Scrubbing the leather can damage it, detergents will destroy the finish. Leather does not need waxes or oils - needs to be cleaned gently with water based leather foam