How To Shampoo Car Seats

Over time stains will build up on fabric seats to create an unpleasant discoloured look. The fabric quickly absorbs any spills, making them hard to remove if not taken care of quickly. In this guide we will look at how to shampoo your car seats, freshening them up and bringing them back to life. We will discuss using a dedicated shampoo extraction machine, as well as using microfibre cloths.

I’ve also included other articles on the site about how to clean your leather car seats and the best way to clean car seats.

Products to Shampoo Car Seats

To start with, you’ll need to select a fabric shampoo. Most all-purpose cleaners are suitable for use on fabric at certain dilution ratios. I like to use Chemical Guys Fabric Clean- it’s a high foaming shampoo, with good cleaning ability, a pleasant scent and represents good value for money.

Chemical Guys All Clean Citrus Based All Purpose Cleaner
  • ChemicalGuys.eu – CLD_101+_16, All Clean is a citrus-based, cleaning formula that cleans dirt, grime and stains from any interior and exterior…

Chemical Guys recommend using the product between 1:8 and 1:20, I’ve found using it at 1:10 to be strong enough to tackle most stains (1:10 implies 1-part product, mixed with 10-parts water.) I’ve also used Bilt Hamber Surfex HD to clean seats with great results. If using Surfex HD a dilution ratio of 1:20 will be sufficient.

Bilt Hamber Surfex HD 1 Litre
  • Powerful water-based APC (all purpose cleaner) Safe for virtually all automotive and domestic surfaces (always spot test before use) Biodegradable…
  • Item Package Length: 5.7 cm
  • Item Package Width: 10.4 cm

A carpet brush will help to agitate the cleaning solution and break apart dirt. I use a Viking Brush, which I’ve found to be both functional and durable. Some microfibre cloths will also be needed, these Exel Cloths are useful to have around.

Viking 878000 Car Interior Brush for Carpet/Upholstery
  • Non-slip comfort grip
  • Ergonomic shape
  • Stiff bristles for carpet & upholstery scrubbing power

If you are looking for a carpet extractor to deep clean your seats, the Bissell Spot Clean Pro is an affordable machine that injects water into your seats and sucks the dirty water back out again.

BISSELL SpotClean Pro | 750W Portable Carpet Cleaner | Removes Spills, Stains and Pet Messes | Cleans Carpets, Upholstery & Car | 1558E | 2.8L | Black
  • Remove stains like a pro: This professional-style spot cleaner uses water, formula and powerful suction to clean and protect soft surfaces
  • Clean anywhere, anytime: spray, scrub and lift spots and stains from carpets, rugs, upholstery, stairs, auto interiors and more
  • Large, seperate clean and dirty water tanks result in greater cleaning capabilities with less trips to the sinks

How to Shampoo Car Seats with Brushes and Cloths

Whether you’ll be using a machine or not, the first step is to mix the cleaning solution in a spray bottle. If you’re using a 1L spray bottle and the product requires a dilution ratio of 1:9, add each side of the ratio together to get ten. Then divide the volume of your bottle, in this case, 1000 ml, by the ratio number ten. This gives us 100 ml, so we add 100 ml of product to the bottle and dilute it with 900 ml of water.

Thoroughly vacuum the seats to remove dust and any loose dirt.

Next, liberally apply the carpet cleaning solution to the seat and momentarily allow to soak in.

Using the brush, agitate the cleaning solution, applying more if necessary. Using a clean microfibre cloth, dab the seat and remove any solution.

How to shampoo car seats

Turning the cloth, try to absorb as much of the moisture in the seat as possible. With this completed, leave the seat to dry. Unlike most detailing jobs, seat shampooing is something that is best done on a hot sunny day to decrease drying time.

For tough spot stains, you could use a small detailing brush, spray some solution onto the brush and agitate the stain, before wiping away with a microfibre towel.

Finally, for stains that are even more stubborn, you can use an attachment for an electric drill. These are relatively cheap to buy and work well on tough spots.

All you need to do is apply your all purpose cleaner to the seats and use the drill and pads to agitate the seats. Don’t hold the drill down for too long and keep it moving. Wipe and check your work with each pass.

How to Shampoo Car Seats with an Extractor

Using a carpet extractor allows you to clean your seats more effectively than using a brush and cloth and is my prefered method for most interior car seat jobs.

The first steps are the same- ensure the seat is thoroughly vacuumed. Then spray the cleaning solution liberally onto the seat, using the brush, agitate the shampoo.

You can add some cleaning solution into the tank of your extraction machine; however, I prefer to use ordinary water to spray onto the seat. Doing this means you’ll not be adding any extra cleaning solution to the seats, allowing you to remove all the shampoo you added in the first place.

Pull the extractor head along the seat while pressing the spray trigger, moving at a rate of about 1 inch per second. Work in a crosshatch pattern to ensure even coverage and be sure to push the extractor head into any seat stitching to pick up any hidden dirt.

After a few passes spraying water, repeat the passes without adding more water to dry out the seats as much as possible. While the extractor will not leave the seats completely dry, it will be dry quickly enough on a warm day. If it is not a warm day, leave the car idling with the air conditioning set to the hottest setting.

Remember to frequently empty the waste tank on your extractor. Once this is full the machine will not work until empty. Bissell also recommends running clean water through the extractor after use, fill a bucket with some clean water and suck the water up to flush the interior of the machine.

I hope this short guide is helpful in removing any stains you find on your car seats. Personally, I would say investing in an extractor was one of the best pieces of kit I have bought for my business. The results really are fantastic.


How to dry your car seats after shampooing?

If you have an extractor machine, try to suck up as much water as possible using the machine. The seats will not be completely dry, so if you can, park the car in direct sunlight and put a window slightly down to act as a vent. If it’s not a warm day, leave the car to idle with the air conditioning on and set to the highest heat setting. If you can leave one of the windows down slightly to allow to vent that would be ideal.

How much does it cost to shampoo car seats?

You can buy seat extractor machines from around £130, the chemicals to clean seats are usually not very expensive. If you plan to have them shampooed professionally, prices will vary vastly. It is a time-consuming process, so expect to pay between £10 and £20 per seat.

Can I use ordinary fabric cleaner on my car seats?

Yes, you can use household fabric cleaners on car seats, provided the seats are also made of fabric.

How do I clean dirty car seats?

You can use a dedicated fabric cleaner to clean car seats. This product from Autoglym allows you to spray on, agitate, and blot off.

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