How to Clean Cloth Car Seats with Laundry Detergent

man cleaning car seat

As a car owner, you likely spend a lot of time sitting in your vehicle. Whether you’re commuting to work or running errands, your car seats can quickly become dirty and stained from everyday use. 

Fortunately, you can clean your cloth car seats with laundry detergent and a few basic supplies. 

In this article, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to clean cloth car seats with laundry detergent, along with tips for maintaining clean car seats.

Let’s begin.

Why It’s Important to Clean Cloth Car Seats Regularly

If you’ve ever spilled a drink or dropped a snack on your car seats, you know how easily stains can set in. Over time, dirt, dust, and grime can accumulate on your car seats, leading to a dull and dingy appearance. 

Additionally, bacteria and other germs can thrive in the fibers of your cloth car seats, which can be unpleasant and potentially harmful to your health

By cleaning your cloth car seats regularly, you can maintain a clean and hygienic environment inside your vehicle.

Preparing the Car Seats for Cleaning

Before you begin cleaning your cloth car seats with laundry detergent, you’ll need to prepare the seats by removing any debris or loose dirt. 

Start by vacuuming the car seats with a soft-bristled attachment to remove any crumbs, dirt, or debris that may be lodged in the fibers. 

Next, use a brush to scrub the car seats gently, loosening any dirt or grime that may be stuck to the fabric. 

Finally, choose a laundry detergent that is safe for use on cloth car seats. Look for a gentle, non-toxic detergent that is free of harsh chemicals and additives that can damage the fabric or cause irritation to your skin.

Cleaning the Car Seats with Laundry Detergent

Once you’ve prepared the car seats, it’s time to start cleaning them with laundry detergent. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Dilute the laundry detergent in water. Fill a bucket with warm water and add a small amount of laundry detergent. Stir the mixture until the detergent is fully dissolved. 
  2. Apply the solution to the car seats. Dip a soft-bristled brush or cloth into the detergent solution and apply it to the car seats. Work in small sections, starting at the top of the seat and working your way down. Be sure to apply the solution evenly, so that all areas of the car seat are covered.
  3. Scrub the car seats with a brush. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the car seats, working in circular motions. Focus on any areas that are particularly dirty or stained. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this can damage the fabric.
  4. Let the solution sit on the car seats for a few seconds to a minute. After you’ve scrubbed the car seats, let the detergent solution sit on the fabric for a few seconds. This will allow the detergent to penetrate the fibers and lift any dirt or stains.
  5. Rinse the car seats with clean water. Using a clean sponge or cloth, rinse the car seats thoroughly with clean water. Be sure to remove all traces of detergent, as any leftover residue can attract dirt and cause the car seats to look dull.

Drying the Car Seats

After you’ve finished cleaning the car seats with laundry detergent, it’s time to dry them. Here are a few options:

  1. Towel dry the car seats. Use a clean towel to blot the car seats and remove excess moisture. Be sure to change the towel frequently, as it will become saturated with water.
  2. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove excess moisture. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, you can use it to remove excess moisture from the car seats. Simply run the vacuum over the seats a few times.
  3. Allow the car seats to air dry. Finally, allow the car seats to air dry completely. Roll down the windows or leave the car doors open to promote airflow and speed up the drying process. Avoid using a heater or other heat source to dry the car seats, as this can shrink or damage the fabric.

Things to Consider:

While cleaning cloth car seats with laundry detergent can be an effective way to remove dirt and stains, it’s important to exercise caution when using this method. Here are a few warnings to keep in mind:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning. Before using any cleaning method on your car seats, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions and warranty information. Some car seats may require specific cleaning methods or products to maintain their appearance and function, and using the wrong cleaning method could damage the fabric or void the warranty.
  2. Test the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area first. Before applying the cleaning solution to your entire car seat, test it on a small, inconspicuous area first. This will help you determine if the solution is safe for your car seat’s fabric and if it will cause any discoloration or damage.
  3. Avoid using too much water or detergent. When cleaning your car seats, avoid using too much water or detergent, as this can saturate the fabric and make it difficult to dry. Use a damp cloth or sponge to apply the cleaning solution and avoid soaking the fabric.
  4. Allow the car seats to dry completely. After cleaning your car seats, it’s important to allow them to dry completely before using your vehicle again. Failure to do so could result in mold or mildew growth, which can cause unpleasant odors and potentially damage the fabric.

Tips for Maintaining Clean Car Seats

To keep your cloth car seats looking clean and fresh, here are a few tips to follow:

  1. Regularly vacuum the car seats. Make it a habit to vacuum your car seats regularly to remove dirt, dust, and debris before it has a chance to build up.
  2. Use a protective spray to prevent stains. Consider using a protective spray on your car seats to repel spills and stains. Look for a spray that is designed specifically for cloth car seats and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.
  3. Clean up spills and stains as soon as possible. If you do spill something on your car seats, be sure to clean it up as soon as possible. Use a clean cloth to blot the stain, working from the outside in to prevent it from spreading.


Cleaning your cloth car seats with laundry detergent is a simple and effective way to keep them looking clean and fresh. 

By following these step-by-step instructions and tips for maintaining clean car seats, you can enjoy a hygienic and comfortable ride every time you get behind the wheel. 

Remember to choose a gentle laundry detergent, prepare the car seats properly, and allow them to dry completely before using your vehicle again. 

With a little effort and regular maintenance, you can keep your cloth car seats looking like new for many years to come.

Are you looking for more car DIY cleaning tips? Read How to Use Toothpaste to Clean Car Windshield.

Thanks for reading.

-Baking Soda Guy

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels