How To Clean Leather Car Seats

by Albert Varkki updated 08-14-2023

Table Of Contents

orange leather car seats

Whether you drive a timeless classic or a modern SUV, leather car seats give your interiors a designer feel.

They are luxurious and opulent, a symbol of prestige, but like most leather goods, they need careful cleaning to keep them looking their best.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explain how to clean leather car seats effectively and protect them against everyday wear and tear.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Leather Car Seats

What You'll Need

cleaning products in car

If you have invested in a car with leather seats, investing in quality cleaning products makes sense to maintain your car’s leather interiors.

Here’s what you'll need:

  • Leather Cleaner: It sounds simple, but not all leather cleaners are created equal. Choose a pH-neutral leather cleaner specifically designed for car seats and avoid those with harsh chemicals.
  • Leather Conditioner: This is the most important step in your car seat cleaning routine. Much like hair conditioner, leather conditioner restores natural oils and prevents leather upholstery from drying out and cracking. We prefer this Premium Leather Cream.
  • Distilled Water: Regular water from the faucet may stain your leather car seats, especially if it is high in minerals, so use distilled water instead.
  • Microfiber Cloth: Microfiber cloths are gentle on leather surfaces and less likely to cause scratches.
  • Vacuum Cleaner with Brush Attachment: You’ll need this for cleaning the crevices between your leather car seats.

Now you have everything you need to clean your leather car seats, here’s how to do it in five simple steps:

1. Vacuum

man vacuuming leather car seats

The first step in cleaning leather car seats is vacuuming.

Using the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner, gently work across the seating surface, down the back panel, and deep into the crevices where crumbs typically accumulate.

Your seat surfaces must be debris-free before you start cleaning, as any dirt or dust left on the seat could cause scratches when applying leather cleaner.

2. Leather Cleaner

leather cleaner and cloth

Spray your leather cleaner onto your microfiber cloth, and use it to remove dirt from your leather seats.

Always test your leather cleaner on an inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire seat, and if in doubt, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check the manufacturer's instructions for applying the leather cleaner too, just in case it differs.

Which cleaner is best?

If you decide on a store-bought cleaner, choose one with natural ingredients and avoid those with chemicals, heavy fragrances, and essential oils that could stain your car seats.

Alternatively, you could make a leather car seat cleaner with ingredients you have at home, such as distilled water and white vinegar or saddle soap.

3. Microfiber Cloth

After applying leather cleaner to your car seats, use a damp microfiber cloth (wet with distilled water) to remove any excess cleaner from the surface.

Then use a second, dry microfiber cloth to remove all traces of moisture and prepare your seats for the next step.

4. Leather Conditioner

Leather conditioner plays a vital role in protecting leather car seats, so this is one step you should never skip.

Apply a thin layer to your freshly cleaned seats using a microfiber cloth and massage gently in circular motions.

Allow it to absorb for 1-2 hours minutes before removing any excess conditioner with a microfiber cloth.

We recommend this Premium Leather Cream.

5. Air Dry

sports car leather seats

You should let your freshly cleaned leather car seats air dry for at least three or four hours, or even overnight, before sitting on them.

This allows plenty of time for them to absorb the protective ingredients of the leather conditioner and fully dry out.

Cleaning Leather Car Seats: Do’s & Don’ts

  • Do not use too much water or cleaning products on your leather car seats. Doing so could cause damage to the seams or lead to a build-up of mold or mildew.
  • Do not use chemical cleaners, bleach, or ammonia-based detergents on leather upholstery.
  • Do not use scrubbing brushes, scouring pads, or harsh fabric cloths on leather car seats, as they may scratch the surface.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions as listed on your leather cleaners and conditioners, and always conduct a spot test on an inconspicuous area before applying it to the seat.
  • Do clean your leather car seats regularly, and always apply leather conditioner.
  • Do let your leather car seats dry completely, preferably overnight, before heading out for a drive.

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modern leather car seats

If you still have questions regarding cleaning leather car seats, find your answers here in our FAQs:

Is it safe to use baby wipes on leather car seats?

No. While baby wipes are typically safe on sensitive fabrics, they often contain oils, chemicals, and fragrances that could damage your leather car seats.

Stick to leather cleaning products specifically made for the job.

Is olive oil a suitable alternative to store-bought leather conditioner?

No. While some DIYers recommend using olive oil to condition leather car seats, we do not.

Its greasy formula could tarnish your upholstery and clothes, and olive oil can go rancid, particularly when exposed to natural light.

Save the olive oil for your salad and use leather conditioner instead.

How frequently should I clean my leather car seats?

Regular cleaning will keep your leather car seats in perfect condition for longer.

We recommend cleaning leather car interiors every three months, more often if you use your vehicle as a mobile office.

Clean up spills immediately and remove stains before they penetrate the leather surface.

Can I use a hairdryer to dry freshly washed leather car seats?

No. Any direct heat could dry out your leather car seats and cause them to crack. Let your interiors air dry, preferably overnight, for the best results.

How should I treat tears or cracks in my leather car seats?

While you could attempt to repair a small tear with a leather repair kit, we recommend having any tears or cracks repaired immediately by a professional leather repair company.

Leather car seats are expensive, and attempting to fix them yourself could lead to costly repairs later on.

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We hope you enjoyed our article on cleaning leather car seats.

If you have any questions or comments, contact us at, or leave them in the comments.

Want to read more? Check out our Leather pages.

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Author: Albert Varkki

Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you.

We always aim to have the highest editorial standards, and only publish accurate information on our website.

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