Luxury cars usually have one thing in common: beautiful, pristine leather seats, which need care and protection. One way to upgrade your vehicle in a more cost-friendly way than buying a new Lamborghini is to install leather seat covers from a manufacturer who designs and installs them specifically for your vehicle. Once they’re on, no one except you will be able to tell the difference, and you can experience a more luxurious, comfortable, and aesthetic driving experience.

However, accidents and spills happen. Driving in a car is a naturally bumpy environment, and drinks, kids, or guests in the vehicle can all contribute to spots or stains on your seat covers. Don’t panic! Luckily, leather seat covers clean well and can easily be restored to their pristine, like-new condition.

Where to Begin?

Leather is one of the oldest materials humans have used for clothing, recreational items, and utility purposes. Because it has been valued for its resilience and beauty for so long, there are fairly well-understood methods to clean leather and make sure it stays spotless. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so try to prevent spills by not eating or drinking anything without a lid or sealable cap in your vehicle, especially while driving. However, accidents do happen, so let’s look at some of the best ways to make sure your leather seat covers don’t get tarnished or stained indelibly.

To begin with, try to vacuum or use an air blower to remove any hair, lint, or other debris on the seats. If you don’t have access to these tools, at least wipe the seat covers off with a dry rag, as applying moisture and pressure without doing this can cause abrasive damage. Also, before trying any cleaning mixture besides just water, you should test it on a small, non-visible spot to make sure it doesn’t damage your leather. Once you’ve done that, try these solutions:

Warm water and dish soap

This combination is useful for many household stains and spills and can be used on leather car seats as well for most basic messes. Use a ratio of approximately five parts water to one part soap, and use a rag to wipe or scrub the spot until it fades. Be sure not to soak or saturate the leather, as this will adversely affect it.

White vinegar and water mixture

If the dish soap and water mixture was unsuccessful, try a mixture of white vinegar and water at about the same ratio. Let the mixture sit on the leather for a few minutes, and try wiping it off again.  Vinegar is especially good at dissolving mineral deposits and dirt, so could be useful if, for example, some kids after soccer practice got dirt stains on the seats.

Lemon juice and cream of tartar mixture

If the stain is proving to be resilient to the first two options, try mixing lemon juice and cream of tartar into a paste and letting it sit on the leather to break down and absorb stains. The lemon juice can have a bleaching effect, so this mixture is best for light-colored leather.  

Rubbing alcohol

Like the lemon juice, rubbing alcohol can have a bleaching effect, so use it sparingly. Try dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and swabbing or lifting the stain, then finishing off by wiping with the warm water and soap mixture.  If at first it doesn’t work, you can always try swabbing the spot again or letting it sit slightly longer.

Baking soda

Baking soda works well for removing oil or grease stains from leather. Start by sprinkling it on the spot and rub it in with a wet cloth. Let it sit overnight or for a few hours, then follow up with a cloth and warm water. This should remove some stains that water itself can’t break down like motor oil or stains from greasy food.

Other Options

Of course, you could also go the route of using a manufactured leather seat cleaner, such as those found on this list from Forbes.  While these work well, it’s often a good idea to try and use DIY solutions first using household items you have sitting around, as they will often work just as well or even better. One benefit, however, of using specifically-designed leather cleaners is that they will often contain a leather conditioner, that will help keep your leather supple and comfortable, and often provide a protective sheen or coating on it. Part of caring for your leather seats is making sure you apply leather conditioner regularly before spills happen and after performing these cleaning routines.

Leather seats bring many benefits of comfort and style, but they also come with added responsibility to maintain and care for them.  If you follow this advice, almost any spill or stain should come out of your leather, leaving you with the pristine and smooth leather you’ve always wanted.

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