How to Clean Different Kinds of Car Upholstery

Think about it: you and your family spend a great deal of time in your car – probably a lot more than you might think! From taking the children to school, going to work, taking a trip to the supermarket, you’ll be sitting in your car for circa one hour per day. That’s why it’s so important to always keep your car seats clean and protected.

There are several different kinds of car seat upholstery, so before starting your cleaning frenzy, it’s best to first check what your car seats are made of before you start your cleaning regime. The cleaning methods and materials you’ll need to use can differ. What’s more, some upholstery material have particular cleaning agents especially concocted for that specific material.


Nylon usually appears as fabric, and is one of the most common materials used for car seat upholstery. It’s a very hard-wearing fabric, but also very absorbent. Use a vacuum to pick up loose dirt and dust from your car seat. Afterwards, add some mild interior cleaner into a bucket of water (the temperature won’t make any difference) and mix it in. Avoid making bubbles while mixing. Immerse the sponge into the hot mixture and use this to scrub the car seat surface. Once you’re done, dip the second sponge in cold water and scrub off the detergent from the fabric surface. Finally, let the seats dry.


A soft fabric that’s similar to the suede leather in texture, making it very comfortable. Polyester is probably the most commonly used fabric (after nylon) as car upholstery in the form of micro suede. This quality also makes micro suede polyester a bit more problematic to clean. Not only is the material permeable, but its texture also makes it susceptible to stains and dirt. Still, it’s a fairly easy cleaning job. Use a wrung-out damp cloth, wash the micro suede with a specific cleaning agent. Be sure not to get the material too wet, as micro suede tends to get water stains. Alternatively, you can avoid this altogether by opting for a steam-clean.


Yet another common car upholstery material, unlike fabric upholstery, vinyl can usually be wiped clean with a clean damp cloth, since it’s non-porous and practically waterproof. You’ll only ever need a specialised cleaner for stubborn residue.

Imitation Leather

Like vinyl, faux leather is waterproof and takes minimal effort to wipe clean. Use a feather duster to take off loose dust and dirt, and then follow-up with the vacuum. Mix the detergent into the water, taking care not to make bubbles. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture, wring out the water, and then wipe down the surface. Then use another damp cloth, immediately wiping off the detergent, and then just as quickly wiping down the wet surface with a dry cloth.

Real Leather

Leather must be cleaned with care and the right products, unlike other materials. So, don’t be stingy with this clean-up job. If you use just any cleaning agent unsuitable for leather could strip the leather of its natural oils and cause it to dry up and crack.

First remove any lingering dust or oils that may be present on the leather surface. A clean cloth should be enough. Ensure that the leather is completely dry before applying any upholstery conditioner.

You can even use upholstery conditioner, just apply it cautiously and as evenly as you can. Be sure to really rub it into the leather, all the oils are absorbed. Make sure you don’t leave clusters over any area. When cleaning leather, spray on leather cleaner and rub in using a leather suitable brush. Wipe off with a damp cloth, then apply a pea sized amount of conditioner onto an applicator pad, and rub into the leather.

Always remember that as a rule of thumb, whenever you’re using any cleaner, be sure to use it according to the amounts directed on the instructions’ list. If used in large quantities it will actually damage the quality of the car’s seating and overall upholstery.

Luckily for you, if you feel that cleaning your car’s upholstery and seating seems too much of a time consuming and tedious task, you can always leave it with us at Portughes Car Detailing. What’s more, we have a range of Autobrite car cleaning products which will help you maintain your car’s cleanliness and sparkle. To book your appointment, or for more information about the products we offer, click here.

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