5 steps to clean and condition your car’s leather upholstery
Leather seating is luxurious and practical. Its buttery softness is paired with rugged durability. If taken care of, it can continue to remain soft and flexible as it ages. But if neglected, it can stiffen and crack.
Refreshing your car’s interior extends the life and value of your vehicle. According to Kelley Blue Book, well-maintained leather-appointed vehicles sell for considerably more than those with cloth interiors.
Even if you’re not planning to sell your car anytime soon, maintaining the integrity of your leather upholstery can help make every drive more comfortable and luxurious.
Before you clean your car’s interior, you first have to choose the right cleanser for your upholstery. A cleaner that might bring cloth upholstery back to life could damage leather — and vice versa.
Here’s how to properly clean and preserve your leather upholstery:
Step #1: Vacuum
When vacuuming up any dirt or debris from your seats, be careful not to scratch leather upholstery. Your best bet is to have a vacuum dedicated to car care.
Our favorite powerhouse vacuum made for the job is the ThisWorks portable car vacuum. It’s lightweight, has a HEPA filter, and even plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt outlet for quick charging. Keep it in your car for easy, on-the-go cleaning.
Step #2: Apply leather cleaner
Spray your leather cleaner of choice onto a soft horse-hair brush. We recommend using Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner. Removing dirt and grime not only freshens the look and feel of your interior, but it also primes the leather to soak up any conditioner you use after clean-up. Pro tip: Always wear gloves to protect your skin when working with cleansers.
Step #3: Create a lather
Using the brush, gently scrub the leather to activate suds. This will create a rich lather.
Step #4: Wipe off dirt and excess suds
Using a white or lightly colored microfiber towel, clean off dirt and any extra cleaner. The lighter the towel, the easier it is to see how much dirt you’ve pulled out of the leather. This is especially helpful when cleaning dark upholstery.
Step #5: Protect with leather conditioner
Applying a layer of leather conditioner adds a barrier between it and any future dirt or spills. It also acts like sunscreen, guarding against sun damage. Apply the leather conditioner with an applicator pad or microfiber cloth, being careful to spread it evenly over the surface. Let it dry naturally or wipe it with a clean cloth.
You can use this same easy process to clean and reinvigorate any leather surface in your car, including door panels or the steering wheel.
Schedule leather upholstery care into your monthly cleaning routine. For quick cleanups in between deep cleans, keep leather conditioning wipes handy in your glove compartment or center console.