How to Clean a Car Seat

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 27, 2022

Cleaning your car seats is essential to have a nice time driving around in your car. Dirty car seats are uncomfortable and can even cause health issues or accidents. Cleaning a car seat shouldn’t be that hard. Mostly, all you need is some mild cleaning products, water and a soft towel to clean your car seats.

Types of Car Seats for Children

There are several types of car seats. Depending on the age group, a particular type of car seat may be appropriate: 

  1. Rear-facing-only or rear-facing-convertible. Infants and toddlers should use these seats until they grow out of them in weight and height. Consider placing your child in these types of seats for about two years. 
  2. Forward-facing-convertible or forward-facing seats with a harness. These are mostly used by toddlers and preschoolers. If your child has outgrown their previous seats, consider getting any of these seats for them until they surpass the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  3. Booster. Booster seats are convenient for school-aged children. Booster seats are important if the seatbelt does not fit your child. 
  4. Seatbelt. These seats are designed for anyone who fits the seat belt. For safety, always use the shoulder and lap seat belts.

Cleaning Car Seats

Driving in a clean car can brighten up your mood, especially if you cleaned it yourself. If you're planning on cleaning your car seats, it’s best to pick a warm, sunny day.  

Here are some steps to help you clean your seats:

  1. Go through the manual. Read the washing guide manual. Most car seat manufacturers will have washing manuals for their seats. Find out if the manufacturer has specified what cleaners to use. If you don’t have one prescribed, general cleaning guidelines may apply.
  2. Gather your cleaning supplies. Car seats don’t need harsh cleaners. Consider making your cleaning solutions at home. If your car seats have greasy stains, use a homemade all-purpose cleaner to clean them. To make the cleaner, add a 1/2 cup of soap into a mixture of one gallon of hot water and a 1/4 cup of lemon juice.
  3. Hand wash or machine washable seat covers and padding. If you're using car seat covers and padding, try handwashing them and then hang them to dry. To increase their durability, it’s recommended that you hang paddings to air dry rather than using a dryer.
  4. Spray and scrub car seats. Start with spraying your car seats but take care not to soak them. After spraying, pick out a soft bristle brush to scrub your seats. Gently scrub the dirtiest and greasy spots first. When scrubbing these areas, dirt and soap will foam. Clean this foam with a microfibre cloth and repeat with a dryer microfiber towel to dry excess water. 
  5. Cleanse the areas surrounding your car seat. If there’s dirt on the plastic areas of your car seat, use soapy water to dampen the dried stains. Water and soap are also convenient for cleaning your buckle straps.
  6. Let it dry out. Damp seats should not bother you if you picked out a sunny day. Give them some time to dry out. 

If your seats have a foul smell, consider using a homemade air freshener after cleaning. To make an air freshener at home, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to two cups of hot water and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray your car seats. 


Most seatbelts are sensitive to harsh soaps and detergents. Consider using mild soap and water to clean seat belts. Using harsh detergents or disinfectants may weaken your seat belts. A weak seat belt can be hazardous to your safety in the event of a crash.

Sometimes, buckles get sticky and clogged. If they are sticky, dip the buckle in warm water. If it’s clogged or jammed, shake the buckle while pressing the red button until it unlocks. Never use lubricants on your buckle. 

If all your efforts to clean your car seats are futile, consider replacing your dirty car seats with cleaner ones.

Why You Should Clean Your Car Seats

You should clean your car seats due to:

  1. Health safety. You should clean your car seats regularly to avoid getting infections
  2. Re-sale value. If you’re looking to re-sell your car, you will want your buyer to find the car in the best condition possible. Most people are keen on car interiors when looking to buy a car. Having stainless seats might help you impress buyers or land a better deal. 
  3. Comfort. You may feel more comfortable and at peace in a cleaner environment. Clear any dirt or trash on the car seats.
  4. Driving safety. Dirty car seats might distract you when driving. Clutter or empty cups and bottles can cause accidents if left to accumulate.

Tips on How to Remove Stains From Car Seats

Stains on car seats can be irritating. You can use a homemade solution to remove stains from your car seat. The most common stain removers are vinegar, baking soda, laundry detergent, dish soap, and isopropyl alcohol

Here are other tips that might help you:

  • Dab any stains with a wet cloth as soon as possible to make it easier to remove them. 
  • Clean drink or coffee stains using store-bought cleaning solutions or homemade solutions. 
  • If you are dealing with ink stains, consider applying isopropyl alcohol on a piece of cloth and dabbing it instead of scrubbing them to avoid spreading the ink. 
  • Use water sparingly to avoid water-ring spots. 

Cleaning Other Car Interiors

Your car’s interior needs attention too. Other delicate areas to consider when cleaning include:

  • Carpet. Consider using a steam cleaner for your carpet. If this option is unavailable, use a spray-on carpet and a hard brush to clean the dirt. Take care not to excessively soak the car carpet when cleaning.  
  • Leather. If your interior has leather trims use a leather cleaner, saddle soap, and a soft, damp cloth. Use a dryer cloth to remove excess soap from the leather seats. 
  • Hard surfaces. To clean hard surfaces like your dashboard, using a household cleaner will do the trick. Use the spray bottle and cloth to also clean air vents, radio buttons, the glove compartment, ashtray, and panel seams. 
  • Windshield. For your windshield and interior side of windows, use a glass cleaner. Spray the cleaner directly on the cloth to avoid blotching your windows.

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: "Car Seats: Information for Families." "Transportation During COVID-19: Keeping Kids Safe in Cars & Other Vehicles."

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center: "How to Clean Your Child’s Car Seat."

Consumer Reports: "Detailing your car’s interior." "The Ultimate Stain-Removal Guide."

Mississippi State Department of Health: "Green Cleaning: Healthy alternatives for day-to-day cleaning."

Newgate School: "Dirty Car Upholstery? Clean It in 4 Steps."

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info