The Details on Car Detailing: How to Clean Leather Seats

November 02, 2017
Interior view of car steering wheel and dashboard with light streaming in through window

If not cared for, the same leather seats that make your vehicle feel luxurious can also leave it feeling old and worn out. To prevent cracking, fading, and dirt buildup, drivers need to clean leather car seats (and condition them) periodically. Luckily, keeping your leather seats clean and soft isn’t difficult.

What to Use to Clean Leather Seats

The process of cleaning leather seats begins with the right product. Dish-washing liquid, carwash and multipurpose cleaners can damage seats by stripping the oils that give leather its softness and shine. Most auto-supply stores sell lotions, sprays or wipes that can clean and condition leather car seats in one simple step. Once you’ve chosen a leather-cleaning product, it’s time to get to work.

How to Clean Leather Seats in 7 Easy Steps

1. Use a vacuum cleaner with a narrow attachment to reach crumbs and debris between the seats.

2. Clean surface stains, streaks and messes with a water-dampened cloth to wipe the seats on all sides. Never use a soaking wet cloth, since too much water can damage leather.

3. Always test your leather cleaner to ensure it won’t cause discoloration or damage. Do this in an inconspicuous spot, such as the side of the passenger’s seat.

4. Follow product directions. Apply the cleaner to your leather car seats one section at a time so it won’t dry or set unevenly.

5. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the cleaner. Repeat as needed.

6. For stubborn grime accumulated in the leather grain, use a soft-bristled toothbrush dipped in leather cleaner. Then wipe away with a clean cloth.

7. For cleaner remaining in seat crevices, perforated holes or in seams, give the areas a final pass with the vacuum.

Fine detailing bonus tip: You can use the same leather cleaner on other leather surfaces, such as the dash. Simply apply it to cotton swabs to clean those hard-to-reach crevices.


Cleaning your leather seats every 3-4 months can help protect the interior of your car. To protect you and your passengers, talk to a Nationwide agent about an auto insurance policy.

For more info on keeping your car looking brand spanking new, check out these 10 car detailing tips.

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