How to Remove Stains from Car Seats [GUIDE]
June 6, 2016
Knowing how to remove stains from car seats is essential to car interior detailing. No one wants to sit on a dirty seat. So, if you are looking for tips, we can help. As professional detailers, we pride ourselves on pristine results using steam cleaning technology. Follow our guide to car seat stains and how to remove them.
Download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to learn how we do things differently:
Guide to Removing Stains From Car Seats
A few things to note before you clean the car seats. When we say “rinse” the stain, we mean dab the area with a cloth dipped in water until you remove all traces of soap or solution. It is okay to use water on stains, but only in small amounts. Avoid saturating your upholstery because it will take forever to dry. If the worst happens, see how to get water stains out of car seats.
Vacuum the Car Seats
Next, vacuum the car seats to remove loose dirt, crumbs, and hair. And once your seats are stain-free and dry, vacuum once more to finish.
Identify the Type of Stain
Different stains require different approaches. Therefore, identify the type of stain you’re dealing with – common types are drink spills, greasy food stains, oil, ink, and more. We’ll talk you through how to deal with each one – see our section on How to Remove the Most Common Car Seat Stains.
Home Remedies vs Store-Bought Stain Removers
Should you use home remedies or store-bought stain removers? As green detailing experts, we encourage the use of home remedies. Alternatively, choose the best car interior detailing products, such as an organic detailing one that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals.
Blot the Stain
For fresh spills, immediately blot the stain gently with a clean cloth to absorb as much liquid as possible. Do not rub hard because this can push the stain further into the fabric. Then use the appropriate stain remover. If your vehicle could benefit from additional cleaning, see how to detail a car interior.
How to Remove the Most Common Car Seat Stains
You can use several home remedies for blood stains, such as a baking soda solution. Follow these 5 basic steps:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 2 tablespoons water.
- Apply the solution to the stain with a cloth.
- Leave for 30 minutes or more.
- Rinse with a clean cloth dipped in water.
- Dry the area with a towel.
You can also try a saltwater solution. Liquid soap and water, hydrogen peroxide or lemon could also work. Find out more on how to get blood out of car seat.
Always use cold water for blood stain removal. Do not use steam or hot water on the stain because these methods can “cook” the stain and make it harder to remove. Worse, the stain can become permanent.
How to get ink out of car seat? You can try baking soda, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol. For tougher stains, use organic all-purpose cleaner or upholstery cleaner. Here is how to use rubbing alcohol on ink stains:
- Dampen a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol. For smaller ink stains, use a cotton swab.
- Gently dab the ink stain with the alcohol-soaked cloth.
- Don’t rub too hard, as this can spread the ink. Instead, blot and lift the ink.
- Repeat the process if necessary.
- Rinse with a clean, damp cloth and leave to air dry.
Removing bubble gum stains from car seats can be a bit tricky, but with the right approach, you can get rid of the sticky mess. Here’s what you can do:
- Place a handful of ice cubes or an ice pack in a plastic bag. Press the bag of ice against the gum stain on the car seat. The cold temperature will harden the gum, making it easier to remove.
- Wait 5-10 minutes or until the gum hardens. Then scrape it off with a dull knife, taking care not to damage the upholstery of your car seat.
- Remove residue by gently scrubbing the area with an old toothbrush dipped in white vinegar.
- It is best to lift gum residue from leather or faux leather car seats by putting scotch tape over the area. You’ll see the residue come off when you peel back the tape.
Removing stains from car seats, such as oil, requires patience and persistence. However, if you act quickly, it makes the task easier. Try this method:
- Remove oil stains by applying a small amount of dish soap to the affected area.
- Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes.
- Rinse by wiping with a damp cloth.
- Repeat rinsing until there are no traces of soap.
This final step is important because dish soap residue can cause cloth upholstery to fade prematurely. And it can cause cracking on leather or faux leather. For more tips, see our post on how to get oil out of car seat.
Before you use a stain remover, use a clean cloth or paper towel to blot the excess grease. You can also apply baking soda directly onto the grease stain. Allow the powder to sit on the stain for about 30 minutes, then use a soft-bristle brush to agitate the stain. Then vacuum the area. Now do as follows to remove grease stains from upholstery:
- If the stain is still fresh, remove it as you would an oil stain, using dish soap.
- For tougher stains, dampen a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol.
- Gently blot the stain with the alcohol-soaked cloth. This can help dissolve and remove the remaining grease.
- Dampen another clean cloth with cold water and rinse until the stain is gone.
- Leave the area to air dry.
If the grease stain remains stubborn or you’re worried about damaging the car seat’s upholstery, find a mobile car dealer near you.
Ketchup contains tomato-based pigments, which gives it a red, vibrant color. I.e., it’s very noticeable if it ends up on your car seats! First, blot the excess ketchup from your upholstery, then do this:
- Mix a small amount of mild dish soap with cold water to create a soapy solution.
- Dampen a clean cloth with the solution and gently blot the stain to break down the ketchup’s oils.
- Use another clean cloth and cold water to rinse away the soap.
- If the stain persists, blot it with equal parts vinegar and water.
- Leave it to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Wipe until you remove all traces of ketchup.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Wiping off fresh chocolate stains with a cloth or tissue is a no-no. This causes the chocolate to set deeper into the material. The best way to remove chocolate from car seat is to do the following:
- Take an ice pack or some ice cubes and put them in a plastic bag. Press the bag of ice against the chocolate stain.
- When the chocolate hardens, use a knife with a dull blade to gently scrape off as much as possible.
- Then, wash away any chocolate residue with a damp cloth dipped in water mixed with some dish soap.
- Rinse with clear, cold water and dry thoroughly.
Why is it important to know how to get coffee stain out of car seat? Coffee stains left untreated can encourage bacteria and mold growth. Moreover, the smell of old coffee creates an unpleasant odor. However, this quick fix will remove stains from car seats.
- Blot off excess coffee with tissue.
- Use dish soap and water for vinyl, faux leather, and leather car seats. Wipe the stain with the soapy solutions.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- For cloth car seats, spray the area with a water-vinegar solution. Then wipe clean with a fresh cloth and water.
If you do come across mold growth, we recommend additional steps on how to remove mold growth from car interior.
Lipstick contains oils and pigments that can adhere to fabrics, making it important to address the stain promptly. Here’s how to remove lipstick stains from car seats:
- Scrape off the excess lipstick.
- Apply some white toothpaste over the stain.
- Wipe it off with a damp cloth.
- To remove residue, dab the area with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.
- Rinse and dry.
Over time, cigarette or cigar smoke can create yellowish or brown stains on your car seats, carpets, headliner, and hard surfaces in your car. You can remove nicotine stains by doing the following:
- Use an all-purpose cleaner on the stain.
- Clean the area gently with a soft-bristled brush. Avoid scrubbing too hard.
- Place a bowl of white vinegar in the car overnight to help neutralize lingering odors.
- If the stain is still visible, we recommend steam cleaning. This method also eliminates odors.
Pick up more tips from our post on how to remove smoke stains from car interior.
If you act quickly, you can tackle this stain effectively with the right approach. Here are the steps:
- Remove as much of the solid vomit as possible.
- Then use paper towels to blot any remaining moisture.
- Sprinkle baking soda directly onto the stained area. The powder can help absorb odors and moisture. Allow it to sit for at least 15-30 minutes.
- Then wipe the area with a damp cloth and liquid detergent.
- Rinse and dry.
For best results, contact our car interior detailing service. Our steam cleaning methods remove germs and bacteria from organic waste like vomit and urine. And this deep clean will leave your car interior smelling fresh.
Put newspapers or kitchen paper towels over the area to absorb the wetness. Then follow our instructions for removing vomit. Also, you might find our tips on how to get bad smell out of car useful.
Don’t Forget the Car Carpet
Just like your car seats, stains on car carpets do happen. For example, you might notice rust stains from car tools left in the trunk. If this occurs, you’ll need a reliable car carpet stain remover. Then follow our tips on how to remove rust stains from car carpet to keep your vehicle looking its best.
Removing Stains From Different Car Seat Material
Remember, how to safely remove stains from car seats also depends on the different types of car upholstery. For example, a stain remover that is perfectly okay for polyester may not be suitable for genuine leather. Some points to bear in mind:
Polyester fabrics are durable and don’t easily stain. However, that’s not to say they are entirely stain resistant. Home remedies generally safe for this material include mild soap, vinegar and water, baking soda or rubbing alcohol.
Nylon is another common fabric car seat covering. Like polyester, it is very durable and suitable for high-stress areas of car seats. Therefore, you can use the same remedies on nylon as you would polyester.
You must be careful removing stains from car seats made from leather. You don’t want to spoil the luxurious look and feel of this high-end material. Ideally, use detailing products specifically created for leather. Or stick to a mild soap and water solution to wipe down seats. But don’t use too much water. And immediately follow up with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture. For more info, see how to get stains out of leather seats.
Another tip, use a high-quality leather conditioner can help clean and moisturize leather seats. Apply a small amount of conditioner to a clean, soft cloth and gently rub it onto the seats. Follow the product’s instructions and allow the leather to absorb the conditioner.
Synthetic leather (leatherette) material, designed to look like genuine leather, is easy to clean. Using a microfiber cloth and some dish soap and water is safe. Don’t use bleach, ammonia, or abrasive cleaners on leatherette or faux leather, as they can damage the material.
Vinyl upholstery is a dream to clean. You can remove stains from car seats with a damp cloth.
You can buy cotton covers for children’s car seats. Cotton is a comfortable and breathable fabric, but less stain resistant than synthetic materials. If you have access to a steam cleaner, it can be effective for deep cleaning cotton seats. Alternatively, seek professional help. Before you schedule an appointment, see our research on how much does interior car detailing cost?
To sum up, you can quickly learn how to remove stains from car seats by following our simple steps. Home remedies are quick and effective. But always test a stain remover on a hidden area first to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage. Finally, some stains are more challenging than others. Remember, avoid rubbing too hard and don’t use too much water.
If you’re unsure about a remedy or if your seats have significant stains or damage, our trained team can help.
Download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to find out how our technicians bring you a greener clean: