How to Remove Stains From Car Seats

Updated April 17, 2017

Car maintenance involves the occasional car wash and tire cleaning, but internal cleaning is also an important part of keeping your car free of dirt. Despite regular car cleaning, stains and spills are inevitable. To fully protect your car from damage from food spills and other types of stains, you should be aware of the several ways in which you can remove stains while maintaining your car's interior.

For liquid stains from food, you should blot the spill immediately using cloth or paper towels. Gently press the cloth into the spill, and use as much cloth to absorb as much liquid as you can.

Apply upholstery cleaner, making sure to read the label before applying it to the stain. Also make sure to test the cleaner on a discrete area to check if it damages your car seat's material or colour. Window spray cleaner can be used as an alternative to upholstery cleaner. Spray a small amount of your choice of cleaner on the spill and let it sit for a few minutes. Use a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain and dab it with a clean cloth to remove bubbles and other residue. Go over this step until the stain fades and the drying cloth no longer shows the stain colour. Shaving cream can also effectively remove smaller stains.

Never rub ink stains, as this causes the stains to spread. Gently blot the stain to remove excess ink and spray a minimal amount of hairspray. Let it sit for a few minutes and blot it with a clean, dry rag or cloth. Do not use the same stained rag, to avoid soiling. Use rubbing alcohol as an alternative to hairspray, and wet cotton with alcohol before dabbing it on the stain. Then use a clean, dry cloth to remove any remaining residue.

For lipstick stains, rub white, non-gel, non-bleaching toothpaste gently into the stained area. Wipe away the excess residue with a damp, clean cloth until the stain disappears.

Use a paste of baking soda and water mixture to remove battery acid stains. Rub the mixture into the spot immediately and let it sit for at least two hours. Wipe off the substance with a damp cloth and repeat the process until stains are completely gone. Use commercial upholstery cleaner to remove any excess residue. To make an alternative cleaner, you can mix ½ teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with a quart of warm water and produce suds by beating it with a mixer. Take only the suds from the mixture and carefully apply them to a small area at a time. Avoid spotting by overlapping areas and make sure to change the rinse water to prevent further soiling. Be sure to allow the area to completely dry.

To create a cleaning agent for gasoline stains, mix a teaspoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of mild dishwashing detergent in a quart of warm water. The vinegar works to remove the odour while the detergent removes the stain. Use a clean cloth and dampen it with the mixture before blotting the stained area. Let it dry before gently brushing the area with a clean toothbrush. If the stain isn't gone by the first application, repeat the process.

To remove crayon marks, scrape off the crayon chunks with a dull knife or spoon before spraying the area with WD-40. Let it stand for a few minutes before gently working on the stain with a small, stiff-bristled brush. Wipe the area with paper towels to dry before applying another layer of WD-40. Apply dishwashing detergent and brush it in. Remove excess residue with a damp sponge. Repeat this process if necessary for stubborn stains.

Easily remove mould and mildew stains with regular upholstery cleaner. Make sure that these products use or contain peroxide and detergents, as these effectively remove stains and odours as well. For those who opt to use a citrus cleaner as an alternative, spray it on the soiled area and let it soak in for five minutes. Blot the area with a dry, absorbent cloth and press for 30 seconds without rubbing the area. Repeat the process until stains and odours are gone. For alternative cleaning mixtures, combine ¼ teaspoon of colour-safe bleach and ¼ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Use a clean cloth to apply the mixture by gently rubbing the stain until it disappears. Rinse off the area using clean, warm water, and dry it thoroughly.


Make sure to use clean cloths or towels when applying cleaning agents. Also make sure to use clean cloths or towels when cleaning and blotting stained areas. Baby wipes serve as first aid for sudden stains. Be sure to keep a box in your car for emergencies. Regularly clean your car to avoid mould and mildew build-up, especially during cold months.


Be aware of cheaper and more accessible alternatives to cleaning agents like those that can be found around the house. Always read the label on upholstery cleaners and other cleaning agents before applying to your car seat or any delicate surface areas.

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