How to clean black cloth car seats
I am a sucker for cars with an all-black interior—sleek, sophisticated, and… very easy to get dirty. Every mess a normal person makes in their car seems magnified on a black interior. Morning coffee? Spill stains. Wife and daughter? Long strands of their beautiful locks are everywhere. Taking the dog to the park? Fur and dander. Riding with the windows down? Dust, pollen, debris; and the list goes on. So, what can you do to keep those black cloth car seats clean? And, more importantly, if the damage is already done, how can it be reversed?
There are a few preventative measures you can take to keep the inside of your vehicle in tip-top shape, but if the mess is already there, not to worry! I have some tips for you to get your seats back to mint condition.
Cleaning Black Cloth Car Seats
There seems to be a million ways your black cloth car seats can get dirty or stained. However, you do not have to sacrifice the appealing look of a black interior or the comfort of cloth seats; in reality, you can treat all cloth car seats the same. Black seats just need a little extra attention because they tend to show their mess sooner than other colors.
First things first: vacuum. If all you are dealing with is debris—pet hair, dust, etc.—this may be your first and last step. If you don’t own a car vacuum or handheld vacuum, I spot vacuums at most of the do-it-yourself car washes I drive by. If you find some spots you missed later on, grab a lint roller and finish up the job. Quick, easy, good as new.1
However, if you have vacuumed and find there are more issues than you originally thought, such as ground-in dirt, ink spots, grease and oil, spilled coffee, or vomit stains (gross!), there are simple remedies to get your cloth seats looking flawless again.1
For dirt, you can simply mix one-part water and one-part dishwashing soap in a spray bottle, then apply to the affected area. Gently scrub the area with a soft-bristle brush and wipe down with a warm, damp cloth. If you are still struggling with a stubborn spot, you may want to consider renting a steam cleaner.1
Ink stains can be removed with… you’ll never guess… hairspray! Just spray the hairspray onto the stain, then blot with a clean, damp cloth until the ink is no longer visible. You must be careful during this process, or instead of removing the stain, you’ll just spread the ink around.1
Getting out grease and oil can be a bit trickier, but it isn’t impossible. In a cup, mix a small amount of paint thinner and an equal amount of water. Test this mixture on a tiny spot of your cloth car seat to be sure there are no negative reactions. There shouldn’t be, but always better safe than sorry! Once you’ve determined the mixture is safe to use, grab a cotton cloth and rub this mixture into the stain. You will then need to sprinkle on cornmeal or salt and let it sit, preferably overnight. Finally, vacuum it up the next day and you’re done!1
If you spill your coffee on cloth car seats, it is best to treat right away. If possible, as soon as the spill happens, dilute the spot with cold water and blot it with a paper towel. If you aren’t able to get to it instantly, or the stain did not go away, the next step is to scrub the spot with dishwashing liquid, then rinse with warm water. Once again, blot with a paper towel, and finally, dry the wet area with a hair dryer (not too close though or you’ll burn the cloth!).1
Vomit—it happens. You take the family to a movie, allow the kids to upgrade to a large popcorn and get a box each of their favorite candies. Then, of course, they need a slushy to wash it all down. Next thing you know, little Jimmy starts crying about his tummy hurting on the drive home. You pray to the deity of your choice that Jimmy holds it until you get home, but your prayer goes unheard and suddenly, movie theatre snacks are upchucked all over the car seats. The grossest, unavoidable part is going to be cleaning up as much of the vomit as you can before you attempt to treat. Once that part is over with, and you’re done dry heaving yourself, wash the stain with mild soap and warm water. Then, pour club soda on a cloth to blot up the stain.1 Better yet, make Jimmy do it.
Keeping your Car Interior Clean
One option for keeping your car’s interior clean is using car seat covers. You may have just rolled your eyes at the thought of covers, wondering why on Earth I would suggest a solution that makes the interior of your car more hideous than the dirt and stains. Hear me out! Car seat covers have come a long, long way over the years. Plenty of brands offer functional, fashionable choices now that will not throw off the aesthetic of your vehicle. Car seat covers can be removed and washed any time you notice, for instance, that the kids decided to use the seat as their napkin instead of the napkins provided by McDonalds, or that, because your significant other insisted Sprinkles come on the family road trip, there is now cat hair everywhere. Not only practical, there are car seat covers on the market that will match a black interior beautifully.2 That being said, car seat covers may not be the right fit for you, but fear not, there are other ways to keep your interior fresh.
A newer, alternative option to keeping your black cloth interior clean is to use a fabric protecting spray on your seats. This type of spray is used to protect any cloth materials from soaking up liquids, creating an impenetrable barrier. Make sure you read the label and instructions very closely before using a fabric protector on your car seats.3 As an extra precaution, I recommend choosing a small, less noticeable area on your seats to do a test run on before spraying down the entire car.