How To Clean Car Seat Belts So Well You Could Eat Off Them

Last updated March 5th, 2020
How To Clean Seat Belts

What is it about seat belts. There used to be a time where cars didn’t even have them. Then it became just the driver had to wear them, then everyone in the front and in most states most passengers in the back.

US laws on seat belts have changed so much – sometimes, it’s hard to keep up.

But why are seat belts so overlooked….When reading this post, I’d like you to think of your seat belt like the backs of your ears. You’d never not wash there…right?

If you think about it, it’s one of the most used pieces of equipment in the car and yet for some reason, and I can only talk about this from personal experience, it’s just that whenever I’ve gone to a car wash, neither the guy washing the car, or me, is paying attention to the seat belts getting clean.

It’s just terrible.

And what got me obsessed onto cleaning my seat belts is that I recently bought a car from an ex smoker. And in removing the smoke smell, I realized that seat belts are one of the places in a car that actually carry the most amount of bacteria.

And no – that’s not just in a smokers’ car. It’s in all cars.

So the 2 questions I have for you are:

  1. Have you ever been to a car wash where they wash your seat belts?
  2. When you wash your own car, do you wash or clean your seat belts?

If the answer to the above questions are no – then buckle up…

When it comes to cleaning your seat belts, you have to really see what the purpose for the clean is, as some of the methods can variate ever so slightly.

But relax – it’s actually very straight forward to do, and like anything, once you know how to do it once, you’ll be like me and making it part of your car washing ritual.

My 3 Main Aims To Cleaning My Car Seatbelts

  1. To get rid of stains
  2. To get rid of germs
  3. To get rid of any smells

And smoker’s cars aside, if you also happen to be a pet owner, you may even find dog hair get stuck to the seat belts. Cleaning pet hairs from a car let alone the seat belts really helps eliminate bad odors.

So now what? Is it hard?

Actually it’s super simple. In fact it’s so simple, you may even enjoy doing it.

To clean your car seats with ease you need:

Clips For Extending Seat Belt
  1. Clips / pins – these are used to keep extended seat belt from retracting. Make life easier for yourself and have 4 handy. You don’t want to clean a seat belt at a time. That would take you forever.
  2. Some sort of vinyl cleaner or white vinegar. – Essentially you are going to be giving a good scrub to your seat belt with one of these products.
  3. A really good hard bristle brush. These are cheap, easy to find and do a great job. Not just for general scrubs but also for getting out stains.

Before I go on – I know that people can tend to skim read, so if you only take one thing away from this post – let it be this.

Drying a seat belt is as equally important as getting it clean.

Allowing it to retract and go back to its normal position without being dry will allow it to get moldy. And let’s be honest, driving around with moldy seat belts, irrespective of your age JUST ISN’T COOL.

To get your seat belts a whole lot cleaner than they are now:

  1. Extend them fully. Use your clips to keep them in place. This way you can get access to the most amount of belt possible. Do this on all 4 of your belts.
  2. Start spraying either your cleaner or vinegar on the seat belt. Don’t go crazy, but don’t be delicate. Just don’t soak it.
  3. Now for the fun bit. Get scrubbing. Do both the upper and underneath part of the seat belt with the brush. Don’t hold back. Think of someone you actually hate and put all your energy into the scrubbing. Be sure to do that on all 4 of your seats – because again that would be weird if you had one great looking seat belt and 3 really disgusting ones.
  4. Assuming you have no stains, wipe away all the cleaner using a microfibre cloth. Be sure to dry all of it. From the very top to the very bottom. Again do this on all 4 belts, because driving round with 3 wet seat belts is never going to get you any girls.
  5. Leave all the windows open, leave the belts extended and just let them dry out. You may think that your microfibre cloth has done the trick, but it hasn’t.

In the above steps, I used white vinegar as my cleaner. I found it did a good job, but the added benefit of using white vinegar is that it did a remarkable job in getting rid of the smoke smell and given that I have pets, would take their smell away too.

However, after I had done all of that, I noticed that whilst my belts were super clean (you could eat off them) thought that really would be strange. No getting girls eating fries off your belt. Despite getting that stank smell of smoke gone. I noticed that on the passenger belt, there were still a few stains.

And given I had gone to all this effort, and bought clips, white vinegar and a brush – I felt a bit defeated when I saw the stains. I could almost hear someone across the street shouting:

“You Missed A Bit!”

Ordinarily, I would have just left it. It did the job and I could live with that stain. But when I woke up in the middle of the night from having had a nightmare about that very stain, I knew that in the morning, it was time to attack just the stains. Especially given that the color of the car seats belts was beige. That stain was really noticeable and without exaggeration would probably give others nightmares too.

I did some more research and felt confident that I could tackle it.

I did try some things that I found online, which were rubbish and so I won’t bore you with them. If we happen to do another bloopers post then I may share those with you.

But to get that stain removed from the seat belts was going to require:

  1. My handy clips. Those were know very very important to me and I was planning on storing them next to my precious beer glasses.
  2. All purpose cleaner
  3. The infamous hard bristled brush. It, I and my seat belts were already good friends.
  4. A steam cleaner… – what? A steam cleaner you say…Yes and trust me, you’ll find that a steam cleaner can be used for more than just seat belts.

So, again:

  1. Get your belts extended, and pinned.
  2. Pour some of your all purpose cleaner into a bucket and just drop your brush into it. Really scrub the stained area. Scrub it like there’s no tomorrow. Scrub it so those horrible nightmares go away. Scrub it so that you never ask yourself how it even got stained in the first place – YUCK…
  3. Then get your steam cleaner ready. Set it on the absolute lowest setting. I tend to wrap my microfibre to the end of the steam cleaner so as not to disrupt too many of the fibres within the belt and worse still the integrity of the belt.
  4. Once you’ve done that dry again with a new microfibre cloth
  5. Leave your belts extended and allow it to dry.

Now your seat belts will be clean. I was so proud of myself and my showroom shiny seat belts.

Showroom Shiny

After all that work – I had left the belt buckles filthy. In fact I hadn’t even bothered wiping them down. However, these were easy to just wipe down with a wet lint free cloth and dried with something even softer. I even went so far and bought a can of this stuff just so that I could blow air into the buckle and make sure that they were dust free….

What To Avoid When Cleaning Your Car Seat Belts

  • Using products that will peel the fabric of your belt. Just play it safe and stick to the products that are safe for your belts.
  • Don’t start taking out panels in attempt to remove the entirety of your seat belt. I mean I’m OCD about keeping my car super clean and even I wouldn’t do some dangerous stuff like that.

How Often Should I Clean My Seat Belts?

If you use white vinegar as your choice of cleaner, you could keep it clean and smell free. I suggest cleaning them at least once a month. Only whip out the steam cleaner if those stains come back.