Deep-seated stains and spills on auto upholstery fabric may be difficult to remove. Resorting to car upholstery repair and cleaning services may be costly.
What you can do: learn to treat common minor stains on your own. Aside from keeping your car in tiptop shape, regular cleaning helps keep the value of your car. Damaged and stained car upholstery puts a dent on your car’s value if you sell it.
Regular cleaning of the car interior, say once a week if you use your car every day, can do wonders for your upholstery fabric. By taking the time to vacuum and wiping the car seats regularly save you money in the long run. Minor stains are readily removed while they are fresh.
When you go ahead and do your cleaning, always vacuum first. This gets rid of loose dirt and dust. Next, wipe the car seats. For vinyl seats, use a wet cloth sprinkled with baking soda. For leather upholstery, use commercial leather cleaning products. A lint-free cloth must be used to wipe down leather.
Dealing with common stains
If you can remove stains with water, then do so. Use chemical cleaners as a second option. A mixture of liquid dishwashing detergent, white vinegar, and hot water almost always does the stain-removing trick. Rub the homemade stain-cleaning mixture against the car upholstery fabric and let it sit for half an hour. Blot with a towel or a rag afterwards. Stains from beer and alcoholic beverages must be cleaned on the spot using cold water.
For greasy stains, paint thinner is the recommended stain remover.
For vomit stains, a baking soda solution is the most effective.
Blood stains can be eliminated by a pasty mixture concocted from laundry starch and cold water. Blood stains will set if hot water is used to treat them, so always use cold water.
The two most common car upholstery materials used today are leather and cloth.
For cloth upholstery, here are some stain-removing tips.
• Lipstick stains can be removed by rubbing white toothpaste against the stained area; take note to use only the non-gel kind of toothpaste. Wipe with wet cloth afterwards.
• Battery acid stains can be cleaned by leaving on a pasty mixture of baking soda and water for two hours. If the stain is still there after a couple of hours, then that’s the time you resort to a commercial cleaning product.
• Eliminate crayon marks by scratching with a blunt knife edge or metallic spoon. Use alternately liquid dishwashing soap and the cleaning product WD-40 until the crayon stain goes away.
• As for ink stains, do not rub them to prevent the ink from smearing. Blot the stained area carefully, and spray hairspray on it. After a few minutes, wipe with clean dry towels. You may also use rubbing alcohol to clean ink stains.
• Stains and bad odors from mildew and mold can be easily removed by a diluted solution of color-safe bleach.
• Gasoline stains pose a more challenging problem. Treat first with a mixture containing white vinegar, liquid dishwashing soap, and warm water. If the gasoline stain remains, then try a dry cleaning solvent to clean it off the car upholstery fabric.
For leather upholstery, you may not want to DIY. Use commercial car leather cleaning products instead. There are products designed to keep the leather shiny, slippery, and even keep the texture sticky. Leather conditioners, cleaners, and cleaner-conditioner combinations are sold in different brands and strengths. Car upholstery leather, although it is long wearing, is easily damaged and scratched. So, when you vacuum leather upholstery, take care not to scratch it.
Choosing car upholstery cleaning products
The commercial cleaning product that you use depends on the type of the upholstery material. Most car upholstery fabrics are pre-treated to render them waterproof. The thumb rule is to simply read the product label carefully to check if it is a match to your car upholstery. For example, suede or velvet upholstery fabrics have specific cleaning products designed just for them.
Many car upholstery products can also double as car carpet cleaners. It is certainly wise to take time and to pick the most efficient product. That way, you do not have to buy an entire car cleaning line just to maintain a spotless interior. The most basic cleaning arsenal consists only of a handheld vacuum cleaner, an effective stain remover (either homemade using color-safe bleach, baking soda, white vinegar, liquid detergent, etc. or commercial car cleaning products), a brush, a couple of white lint-free rags, and knowledge about removing common stains.