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How to Wash Car Seats Properly: 8 Expert Tips

Do you offer a hand detailing service of vehicle interiors at your wash? Are you thinking of adding one to your car wash operation?

Interior seats present a special challenge as they often are pretty dirty. You don’t want to know what researchers at the U.K.’s Aston University discovered about the interior of regularly used vehicles. Mud, dust, kleenex, tobacco products, bodily fluids and hair, spilled food and wrappers, dirty clothes, gum, doggy dirt and slime – you name it, it’s in the car.

That’s why you must know how to expertly wash car seats and leave them squeaky-clean even if they have a year’s worth of accumulated debris. Fortunately, if you follow these eight tips, you and your staff can develop an expertise in this area and provide customers with professional car seat cleaning services they’ll love.

8 Tips for Washing Dirty Car Seats at Your Car Wash

Here’s the best way to clean car seats.

1. Assess the Seat Material and Condition

Car seats are made from a range of materials, which require different cleaning routines. These seat materials include: 

  • Nylon
  • Polyester/microsuede
  • Vinyl/faux leather
  • Leather
  • Alcantara

Before washing and detailing car seats, establish the exact material the seats are made of so you can apply the appropriate car seat cleaning solution and method.

For instance, when cleaning Alcantara or leather car seats, you should use a soft detail brush, warm water, and a white terry cloth to avoid ruining the unique texture of the seat material. You can’t steam-clean Alcantara car seats, and if you use a washing machine to wash Alcantara seat covers, you shouldn’t spin-dry them.

If you’re unsure about what you should clean a car seat with or how to clean the seats of a particular car model, locate the manufacturer’s sticker on the side or foot of the seat shell. Then use this information to search online for the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. 

2. Vacuum To Remove Loose Dirt, Dust, and Debris

One of the best places to start cleaning car seats is vacuuming. If you’ve already invested in top-quality car wash vacuums from a trusted car wash equipment supplier like NCS, the job is halfway done.

The secret to perfect vacuuming is accessing the smallest nooks and crannies of the car seats. This ensures you reach even the microscopic debris, like dust particles, food crumbs, and loose hairs, in the tiniest openings of the car seat. To make vacuuming easier and more efficient, utilize vacuum attachments such as crevice tools, extension wands, and upholstery tools.

3. Apply a Pretreat Solution To Tough Stains

To easily clean deep-set stains like coffee splatters, pretreat them with white vinegar or a suitable commercial solution. Regardless of the solution you use to clean car seats, you’ll first want to apply it to a microfiber cloth or soft detail brush and then work it onto the stained surface. 

Spraying the pretreat solution directly onto the stained area may oversaturate the section and discolor cloth car seats. Once you’ve lathered the stain, give it at least 10 minutes before you start deep-cleaning.

4. Select a Cleaning Solution That’s Appropriate for the Car Seat Material

Car seats are made from different materials, so you can’t use the same car seat cleaning solution in all of your customers’ cars. Although multipurpose upholstery cleaners exist, they won’t do as good a job as a purpose-built cleaning solution for leather, nylon, vinyl, polyester, or cloth seats. 

5. Use Gentle Cleaning Techniques and Tools

With interior car seat cleaning, your car wash tools are as valuable as your techniques. Especially when you’re washing top-of-the-range vehicles with expensive fabric car seats, the wrong techniques can damage the fabric and cost you dearly.

For instance, when using a microfiber cloth to clean stains, you should apply gentle pressure on the cloth and repeatedly apply the cleaning solution and mild soap in small amounts until the stain is gone. Then use a separate damp cloth to rinse the car seat surface until all the soap and cleaner remnants disappear. 

To avoid soiling the foam cushion underneath the fabric car seat, use water, soap, and the cleaning solution minimally but strategically. If you overapply water or the cleaner, there’s a chance the stain will spring back after some time. 

6. Perform a Spot-Cleaning Test on a Small Area

Here’s one that is always recommended, but often skipped in haste. Test your method and solution on a small, less visible area or spot.

Spot-cleaning helps you minimize widespread fabric car seat damage in case you don’t have the correct cleaning solution. It also shows you what the entire car seat will look like after you’re done cleaning. Spot-cleaning is particularly useful when you’re deep-cleaning and detailing car seats. 

You can imagine the damage you would cause to a car’s interior if you, for instance, deep-cleaned leather seats with an incompatible solution. But with spot-cleaning, you’ll notice any issues early so that you can switch to the correct cleaning solution. Ideally, you should do a spot-cleaning test on the less conspicuous areas of a car seat. 

7. Rinse With Clean Water and Let the Seat Air-Dry

Depending on your cleaning techniques and the outside temperature, car seats can take as long as five hours to dry. When it’s hot outside and enough direct sunlight reaches the car seats, they’ll take less time to dry. 

8. Pay Attention To Seat Belts and Buckles

Seat belts and buckles accumulate germs over time due to their constant usage. As a professional car seat cleaner, you shouldn’t disregard seat belts and buckles. Pull the seat belt all the way out, apply the cleaner to the brush, and scrub the seat belt top down. 

Enhance Your Car Wash Business With Top Industry Solutions

At NCS, we supply the car wash industry with every kind of equipment and consultation, including car wash detailing products and services.

National Carwash Solutions can help you find the right car wash equipment, chemicals, parts and maintenance services to meet the needs of your business. We provide tailored solutions that set you up for success and optimize operations. To learn more about how we can elevate your car wash business,  fill out our contact form today, and our customer service team will contact you to see how we can be of service.

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