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Leather seats can add class and style to any car. But they invariably get dirty. And when they do, cleaning leather can be intimidating. Luckily, cleaning your leather car seats does not have to be complicated: here’s the simple way to complete this car maintenance task yourself.

Can you clean leather car seats with soap and water?

Most leather car seats are actually leather coated in a clear vinyl. Because of this you want to clean them much like vinyl seats: look for a leather/vinyl interior cleaner to take the best possible car of your car.

Gloved hand spraying cleaner on a leather car interior.
Car cleaning | Towfiqu Barbhuiya via Unsplash

A small amount of soap and water will not damage your vinyl-coated leather seats, and can be a great way to clean off a surface stain. But to make certain you have vinyl-coated leather seats, try some soap and water on a hidden part of your seat, let it dry, and see how it looks.

According to DIYer Chris Fix, the best way to care for your leather seats is a dedicated upholstery cleaner. This product will not only clean your vinyl, but will help protect it. Then, you want to coat it in a vinyl/leather conditioner to strengthen that vinyl layer. This will actually help your leather seats last longer.

What is the best way to clean leather seats in a car?

You would hate to grind dirt and dust into your leather seats as you clean them: the absolute best way to clean your leather seats is to thoroughly vacuum them first. Then you both a leather/vinyl cleaner and finally, a leather/vinyl protectant.

Closeup of a hand with a microfiber towel cleaning a car interior.
Car cleaning | Blocks Fletcher via Unsplash

The seams in your leather seats tend to collect dust and dirt. It is critical you clean these out for a proper cleaning. Take a vacuum and vacuum the surface of your seat. Then press the vacuum into each seam and stretch the cushion so the seam lays flat. Finally, use a toothbrush with a little of your vinyl/leather cleaner to pull the last of that dirt form the seam.

Once you have all the dirt and dust cleaned from the seams of your leather seats, you can start in on the main surface. Pour more of your vinyl/leather cleaner on a microfiber towel and rub it over the surface of the seats. You can even let it sit for a minute and soak up dirt. Then use a clean towel to wipe the chemical off the leather.

How can I make my leather seats look new?

After you have cleaned your leather seats, you can use vinyl/leather conditioner to make them look new. This treatment will condition the leather and build up the vinyl protectant sealing its surface.

Clean car interior with vintage leather seats.
Leather car interior | Pietro De Grandi

If you want to make your leather interior look professionally detailed, you need to re-condition it. First, do a thorough cleaning of your car interior. Then, use a steam cleaner to heat up your leather seats.

Because leather is animal skin, it still has pores. To deeply condition your leather seats, you want to open up the hide’s pours, and nothing works better than steam.

After your seats are warm to the touch, use a microfiber towel to wipe any excess moisture off the surface. Then, wipe on the vinyl/leather conditioner. You can let this product sit on the seats as long as you like: the leather should continue soaking up more conditioner until it cools down.

Finally, wipe off the excess conditioner and admire your new-looking seats. Want to see step-by-step seat cleaning instructions? Just check out the video below:


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