The Ultimate Guide To Removing Stains From Car Seats

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The kids accidentally spilled their cherry slush in the back seats of the car, and it stained the cloth seats. How do you remove stains from car seats? You know that maintaining a car well isn’t just about changing the oil and the tires. It is also essential to keep the inside of the car clear of debris and stains. A nasty stain on a seat or carpet can make your car’s resale value plummet. What is the best way to remove slushie residue from the seat of a car?

The Ultimate Guide To Removing Stains From Car Seats 1 1 The Ultimate Guide To Removing Stains From Car Seats

Table of Contents

How do you remove stains from car seats?

The best way to remove stains from car seats involves the following:

  • Vacuum the seat
  • Spray a foaming cleaner onto the stain
  • Blot or scrub the stain gently into the stain
  • Allow the area to dry
  • Vacuum the seat to remove the stain

If you own a car, you know that mishaps always occur. Soda spills, or the ketchup flies, or a can of soda explodes because the 12 pack spilled out of the cart. There isn’t much we can do to prevent those things from happening, but we can clean up after them. Removing stains from seats doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration. The more diligent you are, the less the fibers on your seat wear down and the longer they last. 

So we have all things stains and can walk you through the process of what it takes to clean these funky seats. Just read on to find out how simple it truly is to keep your car’s upholstery clean. 

What Kind of Interior Upholstery do You Have?

There are a variety of seat upholsteries used in automobiles, from leather to nylon polyester or cloth. What are the differences between them? (For more information about cleaning carpets, see the article on cleaning Jeep carpets at


Leather is found in reasonably expensive vehicles, usually as a seating upgrade. It is durable and wears well under the punishing daily use most owners put on their cars. While leather can wear down like any fabric and stain from some compounds, it is easier to keep clean than other seat options. You can damage leather if you use the wrong cleaner.


Leatherette is made of synthetic materials designed to look like leather. These seats have a durability of about ten years before they begin showing signs of aging. They can be pretty easy to maintain, and usually, regular maintenance is required with a damp cloth. 


This type of seat covering is found in many classic cars. Vinyl is a hard plastic that is made to be durable and can be easy to clean. If exposed to the sun, it can break down. 


Microsuede seats are mostly found in furniture, but can sometimes make their way into automobiles. The fabric stains easily and is difficult to keep clean. 

Nylon Fabric – Cloth

This seat is used as the primary alternative for seating options in many cars. If your car is older or a base model, chances are you have this kind of seat. They stain reasonably easily and require regular maintenance and attention. 

The Ultimate Guide To Removing Stains From Car Seats The Ultimate Guide To Removing Stains From Car Seats

How to Remove Stains From Cloth Car Seats

Depending on the material that makes up your seat, here is an essential routine when cleaning stains off of seats. 

1. Vacuum The Seat Thoroughly

The chances are that when you first look at the seat, it has been the recipient of all kinds of crumbs and tiny debris. (If you have kids, I guarantee this is the case). Use this opportunity to remove all the old coke lids or weird stuff that cars collect and throw out the trash that your car has accumulated. Vacuum the seats to pull any loose debris from the cushion, and make the surface of the seat as clean as possible. 

2. Spray a Carpet – Upholstery Cleaner Directly on the Stain

Spray the cleaner directly onto the stain and allow it to sit. (Make sure you read the instructions on the back of the can). Allow the cleaner to sit to loosen any surface stains before blotting with a clean cloth or scrubbing the cleaner further into the stain (depending on the instructions). Spray the entire seat and scrub the cleaner into the fibers of the seat. 

3. Allow the compound to dry, and then Vacuum up again.

You need to allow the compound to dry (from 15 – 45 minutes) and then vacuum the seat again. If the stain is still there, you will need to reapply the treatment or turn to a steam cleaner that can wet the stain and then suck dirt particles up along with the water molecules that helped break down the stain. Keep applying and repeating the process until the stain is gone. 

Please note – If you saturate the seat too much or scrub too hard, you can break down the seat’s fabric. Be careful not to make matters worse by wetting the seat so much that the cushion underneath becomes saturated. If you feel this is the case – back off and let the seat thoroughly dry before continuing. 

How to Clean Stains off of a Leather Seat?

Leather seats are made of animal skin and can stain pretty easily. Should you need to remove a stain from the leather material, we recommend buying a leather cleaner made exclusively for this cleaning. 

While there are homemade options, like a combination of olive oil, white vinegar, and water, this doesn’t necessarily work on all stains. Another remedy involves toothpaste and cornstarch, but because of the additives in toothpaste, they can also leave permanent stains if not used sparingly. 

1. Vacuum the seat thoroughly.

Remove the excess debris by running the vacuum over the surface. 

2. Apply a little bit of cleaner to a small area of the stain

Follow the instructions on the back of the tube or container. You can even safely use common household products to clean your car seats. By working on the stain a little bit at a time, you can assess whether the product you are using will help remove the stain. Remember that slow is the better approach here. If you scrub too hard or use a toothbrush or a non-absorbent towel, you will only worsen matters. 

How to Remove Stains from MicroSuede Fabric

It is essential to use a microfiber cloth when cleaning up stains on this fabric. 

1. Vacuum the surface

This action should be the first step in any seat cleansing process. 

2. Spray cleaner onto the surface of the microfiber cloth

Microfiber is often treated with anti-absorbent agents, so spraying it with cleaner doesn’t often work well. Spray the cloth and blot the damp cloth onto the stain. Work the cleaner into the stain. 

3. Blot the cleaner onto the stain thoroughly

Blot the stain firmly to try and loosen the stain.  

4. Blot up the moisture with a clean microfiber cloth.

Using a new microfiber cloth, blot the moisture and remove the stain. 

5. Repeat the procedure until the stain is gone.

You may have to repeat the process several times. Don’t be discouraged if the stain seems reluctant to come out. The molecules of the stain will eventually break down.

How To Clean Leatherette or Vinyl Seats

1. Vacuum the seat

This activity is the first requirement for cleaning your seat surface: debris and dust build-up. So, get the vacuum out and get to work. 

2. Wash with a warm water solution (Baby shampoo works well)

A solution of warm water and essential baby shampoo works very well. There are compounds that one can purchase at the auto parts store. 

3. Rinse with a fresh cloth, and then wipe dry

Dip a new microfiber cloth into clean, warm water (no shampoo), wring it out, and wipe-rinse the seat. 

4. Continue to maintain these seats with regular maintenance

Maintain both leatherette and vinyl seats with regular care. Prevention is the key to keeping things clean.