Cleaning Car Upholstery

Car upholstery can get really dirty from daily use. This is a guide about cleaning car upholstery.

A woman cleaning out the interior of her car.
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I have a 2007 Ridgeline and the seats look "nasty". This is mainly from when we went swimming. The kids were wet, which left stains. Then the grandbaby's bottle has also leaked. I have tried to wash it with just a damp cloth and also tried upholstery cleaner. Now they are even worse looking. I know they're clean, but just look bad. How can I get the stains out?

By Linda from Harriman, TN

AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

Back when I was in the US, I went on fishing trips with my kids often, the car used to stink bad when we came back. I used to take my car for professional detailing with used to love the fresh smell the car had after the detailing was done.

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How can I remove stubborn stains on upholstery in my car?

By Jan from DeRidder, LA


Cleaning Dirty Car Upholstery

I once got mud all over the car seat and didn't know what to use. It then occurred to me to use Oxi Clean carpet cleaner (you know the kind you spray on carpet mud stains and such). The stain came out immediately!
It is worth a try and even if it does not work it will still work on carpet!
It depends on what kind of cloth you have so test first! Spray then blot out with white rag/towel to see if any is coming off (easier to see on white). The bonus: it is only 3-4 dollars for a big bottle. (11/30/2009)

By caeridwen

CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes


I have cloth seats in my Accord and they are very dirty. I have tried washing them with soap and water, but the stains keep coming back up. Can someone help?

Richard from Charlottesville, VA


Cleaning Dirty Car Upholstery

I would bite the bullet and get it professionally detailed, maybe check in your local area and offer a trade. Sometimes it is just worth it; mine came back looking brand new, and it was 5 years old and 120,000 miles.(05/09/2006)

By camo_angels

Cleaning Dirty Car Upholstery

Rather than having my son's used car detailed professionally when he got it, I bought a small Bissell carpet cleaner from Actually it may be an upholstery cleaner, because I know it has a hand-held device that's easy to use inside the car on upholstery and carpet. For the same price, I can do this myself whenever I want and I have the machine to use inside the house if I want. (05/11/2006)

By Carol in PA

Cleaning Dirty Car Upholstery

I use to get cloth seating and upholstery in cab of my big truck really dirty with grease. To get it all out, I use one part water with two parts of ammonia and a sponge not a cloth. Put on by dabbing do not rub into upholstery. If you have done that already keep washing with dabs. It may take some time, but it will he be restored like new. It will come out. Ammonia is super great for removing residue. Keep the sponge damp and keep cleaning sponge while doing this.

Annie (06/04/2006)

By Annie

Cleaning Dirty Car Upholstery

I use my carpet steam cleaner with the hand attachment. After my two very active little boys have been in the car everyday I have just about everything left on the fabric seats. I clean the car twice a year in the spring and fall unless there has been a major mess. The steam cleaner has worked every time. (08/25/2006)

By Judy

Cleaning Dirty Car Upholstery

I would try to clean it yourself before having it professionally detailed. I just bought a used car and the person I bought it from paid $150 to have it detailed. The seats and headliner are still stained and the car smelled. I got rid of the smell easily using Febreze and plan on trying Folex for the carpet and headliner. Clearly it was $150 wasted. (09/17/2007)

By Karen

CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
Home and Garden Cleaning AutoDecember 31, 2012
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