How To Clean Cloth Car Seats At Home

The other day my wife had somehow convinced me that it was that time of the month (no not that one), it was the time of the month to go and see her parents. As always, we would stop to collect some Chinese Food and head over to theirs. And yes, if you’re reading an article called How To Clean Cloth Car Seats At Home, then you can already tell where this story is going.

Yes, that’s right, I parked up outside the restaurant whilst my wife ran in to collect the order that we had placed on the phone. She opened the back door, placed the food in the car and off we headed to her parents.

It’s only when we get to her parents house did I hear the gasp. OMG!!! She had, for some stupid reason, not put the food on the floor behind her seat, but on the actual backseat. I mean, c’mon, amateur hour or what? I just couldn’t believe it. Between the oil, the MSG and whatever else was in that delicious sauce, I could just see it spreading.

If we didn’t work on this quick, it was probably going to get worse and I needed to make sure that we hit it right away. Cloth seats aren’t as strong as say something like vinyl roofs. Soft top car roofs have been built using materials that can allow grime, mold, algae and even bird poop to fester, however the material is thicker. If you clean a convertible car after months or years, you can get all the stains out. However with cloth seats it’s a different matter. If you leave it too long, like say more than a couple of days – you’re going to seriously have your work cut out.


How To Clean Cloth Seats With Household Products

Now, if I was home, I don’t think I would have been so stressed because I’d have all my cleaning equipment handy. But we were at her parents house and I just wasn’t even sure what they’d have. Initially, I tried to convince my wife to just let me go back home and clean the car. I leveraged the fact that it was her fault and thought I could guilt her into letting me off going into her parents house.

However, as you can imagine, that didn’t work.

Don’t laugh, you’ve been there too.

At best, she was going to let me clean the car at her parents house. Now this wasn’t ideal. I rummaged around the garage looking through every drawer and cupboard for things that I could use. And when I say I came up short, I literally mean that. I managed to find a spray bottle and a wet/dry vac. No brush, no cloths, no fabric cleaners – NADA!!!!

Well, I had to make do. Still, it got me out of eating dinner with her parents and more importantly, gave me the opportunity to start cleaning the cloth seats.

How To Clean Cloth Seats With Household Products

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Firstly, I needed to make my own fabric cleaner. I ran some hot water through the tap and filled up my spray bottle. Once it was nearly full, I put a little bit of dish soap in there and really gave it a good shake.

After a minute or so, once the liquid had settled, it was time to start spraying it all over the back seat. I really went for it. If spraying back seats was an Olympic sport, I was destined for a gold medal. I soaked the hell out of it, with my home made car cleaner.

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The theory was to really soak the seat and loosen the fabric, so that the oil and dirt would come to the upper layers of the fabric making it easier to clean.

The theory sounded great in my head, but was it going to work? I had visions of potentially making it worse, and having the car smell worse than smoke, instead of permanently smelling like Chinese food. I hadn’t even read my fortune cookie yet. Maybe it was going to say:

Confucius says your wife’s car gonna smell like Chinese food forever.

Oh dear!


After waiting for about a minute for my homemade mixture to really do its work and after having finished visualising the worst case scenarios, I decided to start using the wet/dry vac. I cleaned the nozzle thoroughly, so as to not transfer any dirt from the last time my in-laws had used it (perhaps in their brains).

Anyway, I started vacuuming the whole seat, simply working in straight lines. I moved the vac up and down very slowly making sure to cover the whole seat and suck all the water out. The last thing I needed was to have stained and damp seats. I mean the smell would be horrendous. And cleaning that would be even harder than removing pet hairs and odours.

First round down and I could see a major difference in the seat color. So much of the oil and stuff had come out of the seat and I was beginning to get super excited. This was really working. But, it was only nearly done, not fully.

So I decided to redo the whole exercise again. Spray, wait, vac. This time even more came up. And whilst I was at it, I thought I may as well clean both the back seats. Anything to keep me from going into the house and conversing with my in-laws.

Periodically they’d come out to see how I was doing and I’d shout back things like “Phase 1 nearly done!” or “It’ll just be a while longer!”

However, after having done this whole exercise 4 times, it had worked. It had totally worked. In fact, I couldn’t believe how simple it was, and perhaps how unnecessary it may have been for my to pull out my arsenal of cleaning products.

Warm water, dish soap and a wet/dry vac and it did the job.

After I had packed everything away and returned it all to the garage, I reluctantly walked back into the house to have dinner. After a delicious meal, but average conversation,  it was time to reach for my fortune cookie. And of course, the message couldn’t have been more ironic on a day like today:

“Keep up the good work. You will be rewarded”

Brilliant.  Does that mean, I no longer have to go to my in-laws house I wonder?