How To Clean Vinyl Car Seats

How to clean vinyl car seats

Vinyl car seats first became popular during the sixties and are still used today. In fact, synthetic leather, also called faux leather, leatherette, eco leather or vegan leather, increasingly gains market share as the modern sustainable “real leather”-alternative. Contrary to popular belief, quality vinyl or polyurethane car upholstery is very durable. It’s easy to maintain and recyclable too. 

Over time however, vinyl car seat upholstery can get dirty and stained, which can make your car’s interior look shabby. 

In this guide, we will walk you through some easy steps to clean and restore your vinyl car seats and get them looking like new again

Products and tools you’ll need to clean vinyl car seats:

Step 1: Before cleaning your car seats, make sure they are vinyl, not leather!

To make sure your car seats are vinyl and not real leather, check our post “How To Tell The Difference Between Real And Fake Leather”. In this comprehensive guide, we explain how to know the difference between vinyl and leather. If they turn out to be real leather, then check our post “How To Clean Leather Car Seats”. If you’re sure they are vinyl, continue:

Step 2: Vacuum your car seats

Before you start cleaning your vinyl car seats, it’s important to first remove any dirt, debris, crumbs,… that may be on the surface of the seats. This will ensure that the vinyl cleaner will be able to effectively penetrate and lift the dirt from the vinyl upholstery. 

To do this, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to thoroughly vacuum the seat surface. To vacuum recessed areas like seams, crevices, and any other areas where dirt may be hiding, a crevice nozzle works best. If the nozzle’s end is rough, put some tape around it to prevent scratching your seats.

Step 3: Clean your car seats with vinyl cleaner

Once the seats are vacuumed, it’s time to clean the vinyl. To do this, apply vinyl cleaner: simply mist on and wipe off with a clean microfiber towel. No need to get the material soaking wet. You’ll notice your towel getting dirtier with each swipe. Grab a fresh one and repeat the process if needed. It doesn’t get easier than that! 

For stained or heavily soiled areas, moisten an applicator sponge with vinyl cleaner and work it in till the dirt dissolves. For seams and places where your applicator can hardly reach, use an upholstery brush soaked in vinyl cleaner. 

Step 4: Dry your car seats

Use a dry microfiber towel to dry the seats. You wanna remove any excess product from the seams and crevices.

Great job, your car seats look all fresh, revived and ready to enjoy!

By following these simple steps, you can easily clean your vinyl car seats and keep them looking like new. Be sure to use the right tools and products, and take your time to make sure that your seats are thoroughly cleaned. When you  regularly maintain your vinyl seats, they will continue to look great and provide a comfortable ride for years to come. The vinyl cleaner will protect your car seats from UV too.


Can I use a multi-purpose household cleaning product to clean my vinyl car seats?

Yes you can. But by using a specialized product you are sure that the product was tested and formulated for maximum efficiency and that it won’t harm or discolor your car seats or clothing when you sit on them. A good vinyl cleaner also leaves an invisible UV protectant film, a household cleaner doesn’t.

How often should I clean my vinyl car seats?

For a daily driver once a month should do, but it all depends on intensity of use and what your car is used for. You may have to clean your vinyl car seats more often if you have pets or small children for example. 

Can I use vinyl cleaner for my leather car seats?

Although some vinyl cleaners are safe to use on leather car seats, it’s best to use a leather cleaner and conditioner to clean and nourish real leather car seats.  

How can I tell if my car seats are vinyl or leather?

Modern vinyl upholstery is very difficult to distinguish from real leather, even for experts. There are several telltale signs and differences however. You can find an in depth explanation in “How To Tell The Difference Between Real And Fake Leather”. 


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