How to Clean Leather Car Seats: What’s the Difference vs Cleaning Cloth?

July 24th, 2023 by

There’s a lot to consider when you’re purchasing a new vehicle. Upholstery is often an afterthought, but it’s important to consider the type of seats you select. Leather and cloth upholstery both have their own pros and cons. Consider your options carefully and review the cleaning regimens below to determine which is the best fit for your needs. You’ll need to commit to the appropriate care for the upholstery you choose to keep your car clean and comfortable.

What Seats Are Better?

white leather seats in an SUV

Leather seats are typically associated with a greater sense of luxury, but this doesn’t make them the unequivocal winner when it comes to comfort and convenience. Leather upholstery can get dangerously hot in the summer. A car left in full sun can easily reach temperatures of 160 degrees Fahrenheit inside. Dark leather seats will soak up this heat and can actually burn your skin if you slide into the car in shorts. If you have leather seats, you’ll need to diligently cool down your car before getting in or use a towel or seat cover to protect your skin.

Cloth upholstery is typically the more comfortable option. It’s breathable, so you can enjoy comfortable temperatures in summer with no fear of burning the backs of your legs. Cloth upholstery is also a bit cozier in winter, whereas leather seats will give you a chilly welcome.

What Options Won’t Tear as Easily?

Leather is a bit more durable than cloth. It doesn’t tear as easily, making it more desirable if you’re dealing with pets or children. However, you should keep in mind that leather will harden and crack if it’s not cared for properly, which can lead to uncomfortable seats. Cloth, meanwhile, stands up better to families who don’t have the time for frequent cleaning, conditioning, and maintenance care.

What Seats Are Easier To Clean?

Leather seats are less porous than cloth, so they don’t absorb spills and stains as easily. You can often wipe up spills with minimal effort and keep your leather looking good. When it comes to spot cleaning, leather is the winner. However, leather needs more care in terms of long-term maintenance and cleaning.

How To Properly Clean Each Type of Seat

Both leather and cloth car seats need regular care to stay in prime condition. The more traffic your car seats see, the more often you’ll need to clean them. If you have children or pets in the car, you may want to consider covering your seats to simplify the process and preserve the upholstery. If you take this route, you will still need to remove the covers for regular laundering. If you have leather seats, they’ll require routine conditioning, even if they’re covered.

How To Clean Leather Seats

Leather seats require a careful maintenance routine and specialized cleaning products. You should clean your car’s leather upholstery at least once every three months to prevent cracking and fading from sun exposure. If your car sees a lot of traffic or kids, you should increase the frequency to once a month. To keep your leather seats clean, you should follow these steps:

  1. Wipe down the seats with a clean, damp cloth to remove large pieces of debris and the top layer of film, oil, and dirt.
  2. Vacuum the upholstery to pick up fine crumbs and other messes.
  3. Use a microfiber cloth and leather stain remover to tackle any stains on the upholstery. Scrub gently using circular motions.
  4. Apply a leather cleaning solution to the seats using a soft-bristled brush. Work the cleaning solution into a lather and work in small sections for a deep clean.
  5. Wipe away excess cleaning solution with a soft, damp towel. Follow this with a dry microfiber towel to remove any lingering moisture from the upholstery.
  6. Apply leather conditioner to the upholstery in small circular motions using a clean cloth. Allow the seats to air dry for at least an hour before using the vehicle again.

Check your vehicle’s manual for more detailed information on cleaning and caring for the upholstery. It will tell you exactly what type of leather you’re working with and provide tips on selecting the appropriate cleaning products.

How To Clean Cloth Seats

Cloth seats hide crumbs and absorb stains more easily than leather upholstery. If you want to keep your car seats looking pristine, you’ll need to clean them every few months. Families with children or those who eat in the car may need to vacuum more frequently to keep crumbs under control. To clean cloth seats, you should follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum the seats thoroughly.
  2. Apply a stain remover to any noticeable stains using a scrub brush. Follow the directions on the cleaning solution packaging. Most will need to sit for 10 to 15 minutes for the best results.
  3. Spray an upholstery cleaner onto the seat surfaces. Scrub with a soft brush. Rinse the brush regularly to remove the dirt coming off the seats. If you don’t have a specialty cleaning product, laundry detergent diluted in water will typically work for most types of upholstery.
  4. Press an absorbent microfiber towel to the surface of the seats to soak up excess moisture.
  5. Allow the seats to dry for two to three hours before driving the vehicle.

Since cloth seats can soak up quite a bit of moisture, it’s best to clean them on a dry day when you can roll down the windows and allow them to dry effectively. Humid days will make it difficult for your seats to dry properly, which can lead to mold or mildew growth.

Complete Your Vehicle Maintenance at Cochran Buick GMC Youngstown

For optimal performance and comfort, your vehicle requires regular maintenance both inside and out. Bring your car to our service center at Cochran Buick GMC Youngstown for routine care such as oil changes, tire changes, and tuneups. We’ll make sure your stellar upholstery job is perfectly complemented by outstanding tire care and top-notch service under the hood to keep your vehicle running smoothly.

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