How to Clean Car Seats

Updated on January 25, 2019

Before Cleaning

Cleaning Cloth Seats

Recently, I looked into the interior of my sons F-150, and what I saw shocked me. I was the original driver of this vehicle and remembered the constant challenge of cleaning and maintenance of the light grey cloth seats. So, after closer inspection of the dirt and stains, I took it upon myself to find a solution and or concoction that would return the light grey fabric to its original look.

After visiting a selection of local car washes and auto detailers for recommendations, I decided to combine what I'd been told and combine window cleaner and liquid dishwashing soap into one super-solution. The application of this solution along with the proper brush and a wet/dry vacuum will return your cloth seats to the cleanest condition you've seen in a very long time. Follow the instructions below, and you too will enjoy these results.

You'll need:

  1. Window cleaning solution w/ammonia (in a spray bottle)
  2. Liquid dishwashing soap (I like Dawn)
  3. Small brush (stiff, but not too stiff)
  4. Wet/dry vacuum (as powerful as possible and with a tapered nozzle)
  5. A lot of clean cotton rags
  6. Bucket with warm water

Before applying:

  1. Unscrew the spray top of the window-cleaning solution and add one 1/4 teaspoon of dishwashing soap per 32-ounce bottle of window cleaner.
  2. Return the spray top and shake for about 15 seconds.
  3. Next, vacuum the seats.
  4. Move the seatbelts out of the way or place a plastic bag over the buckle to keep them from getting sprayed.


  1. Shake solution before applying.
  2. Spray cleaning solution liberally, so the seat is noticeably soaked. It's best to concentrate on one seat at a time.
  3. Use a scrubbing brush to lather the cleaning solution. Don't be afraid to apply more cleaning solution to scrub out difficult stains.
  4. Let the solution sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Fill a clean bucket with warm water.
  6. With a clean cotton cloth, rinse seat with warm water while scrubbing the seat again. Don't be afraid to squeeze water onto the seat and re-rinse.
  7. Wipe the seat and soak up the water with clean, dry rags. Wring out the rags and dry the seat fabric.
  8. Clean the nozzle of the wet/dry vacuum and remove anything from the tip that could transfer onto the fabric.
  9. Vacuum the water out by dragging the nozzle slowly over the fabric, nozzle face down. Notice the color change as you vacuum and remove the rinse water. Continue to vacuum until you feel the cushion is dry but damp.
  10. Let the seats dry overnight. Make sure the windows are lowered enough for good air circulation.

Hooray, clean seats again!

Remember to mark the container of window spray to show that it contains dishwashing soap. Believe me, I've made the mistake of not marking the container and used it to clean my windows, which made them horribly streaky.

Now that you've spent the time to refurbish your car interior and increase its resale value, I highly recommend a final application. Consider applying a fabric protector such as Scotch Guard with UV protection. This will protect your like-new cloth interior from future stains and from the sun.

After Cleaning

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers


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      • AmyEliza profile image


        7 years ago from Toronto

        I am going to have to try this. I have a brand new car and I have already dirtied it up by accident. I hate looking at it every time I get inside.


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