What Is The Best Way To Clean Leather Car Seats?

What Is The Best Way To Clean Leather Car Seats - Featured ImageIf your car has leather seats, you’re probably accustomed to a higher standard of luxury than other cars. But that standard comes with consequences: you’ll need to keep your leather nice and clean if you want it to keep looking shiny and plush.

Clean leather retains its suppleness, and it also looks a lot better. Unfortunately, leather has a big reputation for being hard to clean and easy to damage. This reputation is largely true to life, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a dirty leather upholstery set in your car.

In this article, we’ll evaluate a few of the ways you can safely clean your leather car seats so that you’ll be able to retain the cleanliness and quality leather that you deserve.


The simplest way to clean leather car seats is to vacuum them with a hand vac or the type that they have at the carwash.

Vacuuming leather is good for:

  • Rough dust particulates
  • Animal hair
  • An abundance of regular fine dust buildup

On the other hand, vacuuming leather also comes with the following risks:

  • Scratching
  • Insufficient cleaning
  • Scraping
  • Drying out the leather

This means that you’ll need to do your leather vacuuming carefully. You’ll find that vacuuming is the most effective when performed on the cracks in between your leather upholstery rather than on the leather itself.

While most materials don’t stick to leather, which might make it seem suitable for vacuuming, the risk of scraping or scarring the leather with the tip of the vacuum nozzle is very substantial. Even vacuum nozzles which are covered in a brush can sometimes cause a little bit of damage.

If you’re very gentle, it should be fine.


Wiping down your leather seats with a cloth is the second easiest way of cleaning your leather car seats.

Unlike with vacuuming, wiping with a towel easily picks up all manner of dirt and dust, and carries no risk of scraping or any other problems. So long as the towel is dry, you can do a great job of general cleaning of your leather.

The downside is that the wiping won’t improve the health of the leather alone.


Certain grades of car leather are suitable for brushing with a leather brush.

To be clear, the leather brushes are more for buffing the leather than they are for really removing the big clumps of dirt. Think of the leather brushes as a way to make the leather a bit shinier after another cleaning method has been implemented.

You can use the brush method in isolation if you want, but as with wiping, you’ll find that you get better results when you combine it with a leather treatment or leather cleaning chemical.

Cleaning Chemicals

Cleaning chemicals are the deepest way to clean your leather. Cleaning chemicals will permeate through the surface of the leather and into the interior, which means that they can reach areas the other cleaning methods can’t.

Unfortunately, the leather cleaning chemicals also have a reputation for being risky. Leather might not recover from an incorrectly applied cleaning chemical. This means that you should very carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the cleaning chemical application process at all times.

There are a few different leather cleaning products which are helpful when cleaning your car leather:

  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Petroleum based cleaners
  • Silicone-based cleaners
  • Organic cleaners

You should probably avoid petroleum and silicone cleaners, as they can cause the leather to ooze afterward and appear to be very shiny and moist.

In absolute terms, they are not necessarily bad for the leather, just that as a cleaning product they will leave your car seats looking different and being somewhat less usable in comparison to before, even if the leather is healthier.

Organic cleaners can include those made from vinegar and linseed oil which you can make at home. To make a basic organic cleaner, dilute one part of vinegar with two parts of linseed oil. This will give your leather a gentle cleaning.

If you dislike the smell of vinegar, do not attempt to clean your seats with this solution.

You should be sure to clean your car seats with one of the methods above before applying any of the chemical leather cleaners or leather treatments.

Once you have a leather surface which is devoid of large dust particles, it’s time to apply the cleaner.

When applying the cleaner:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions at all times
  • Apply a small amount of the cleaner to an area of the leather where it is not very visible to check for discoloration and quality of the cleaning product
  • For foaming cleaners, apply only a small amount of foam until you get the feeling for how quickly it dissipates
  • Activate the cleaning chemical with a cloth wetted with a little water, if necessary
  • Rub the chemical around the area you’re cleaning with a cloth until it’s fully covered
  • Break out a leather cleaning brush to do a deeper clean of areas which are very dirty or stained
  • Use a microfiber cloth or an old towel to dry up all of the cleaner and buff the surface
  • Let the car air out for a couple of hours before driving it anywhere

After you’ve mopped up all of the cleaning chemicals, you should let it fully dry for a few hours, then return to take a look at the results. If you still see any areas which are blatantly dirty, you should repeat the cleaning process but scrub more aggressively with a brush.

Likewise, if you find that the results are good, you can repeat the cleaning process as frequently as you desire.

After cleaning the leather, it’s often good to refresh the leather with some new nourishment, especially if the cleaning was harsh. Many products are on the market which can fill this function for you.

If you find the right leather preservative or leather nourishment product, you can clean and maintain your leather car seats for years to come without any worry about it stiffening or dissolving.

Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.