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How To Get Stains Out Of Car Upholstery

how to get stains out of car upholstery

In this article, we explain how to get stains out of car upholstery including stubborn stains such as coffee, soft drink and blood. As well as techniques for how to clean stained car upholstery, we also discuss the best stain remover for car upholstery whether homemade and storebought.

One of the most common issues that any car owner faces, is having to deal with stains on the car upholstery. If maintaining your car is important to you, then you will need to know just how to get the stains out properly.

How to Get Stains Out of Car Upholstery

What You Will Need to Clean Upholstery

Before you get started, you will need to make sure that you have the following items:

  • Gloves
  • Old Toothbrush
  • Spray Bottles
  • Paper Towels
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Upholstery Cleaner
  • Optional Steamer
  • Optional Carpet Cleaner

Steps for Removing Stains from Automotive Upholstery

Once you have all the materials you need to properly remove the stains, it’s time to start cleaning.

Step #1 – Pretreat the car upholstery

It’s always important to pretreat the upholstery before you begin cleaning it. The first step in the cleaning process is to remove any dirt, dust, or sand that is inside the vehicle. Even if you are working on a seat or a headrest, you want to make sure that there is no dust, sand, or dirt that could otherwise contaminate the area.

Regardless of whether you use a shop vac or a handheld cordless vacuum, take the time to thoroughly vacuum out the inside of the car. There should be no visible residue left anywhere on the floors, seats, or even in pockets.

Step #2 – Apply Stain Cleaner

The next step is to start applying the cleaner. You have two options to choose from when it comes to cleaners, you can either use a store-bought option or make a homemade cleaner. Store-bought cleaners are generally more effective because they are stronger. As a result, special care must be taken to ensure that you do not damage the car upholstery.

To clean the stained car upholstery, start by checking whether the cleaner will affect the fabric of your upholstery in any way, by applying a small amount to an area that cannot be easily seen. Try the cleaner on the inside of the seat cushion between the seat and the center console. If there are no adverse effects, then you can begin cleaning.

You will generally want to use a toothbrush to scrub the area gently in a circular motion. Spend about ten minutes gently massaging the stained area with the toothbrush, working the cleaner in, and brushing the residue away.

Step #4 – Air Dry the Car Upholstery

After you have thoroughly scrubbed the area with the old toothbrush, it’s time to let it dry out naturally. You do not want to use any form of heat source such as a blow-dryer as this can actually damage the car upholstery or even bake in the stain. Instead, either open up the doors or roll down the windows to allow the air to flow through the car. You may also use some paper towels or a microfiber towel to blot off any excess moisture which will help speed up the drying process.

Choosing the Best Stain Remover for Car Upholstery

There are a number of products that are available today to help treat and get rid of stains in car upholstery quickly. When choosing a car upholstery stain cleaner, there are three important things to take into consideration. The first and most important is whether it will affect the color of the upholstery in your car.


Colorfastness refers to whether a specific cleaner can damage the dyes used to color your car’s upholstery. Certain chemicals can cause the dyes to run and bleed, and this can discolor the fabric. Be careful when choosing a commercial cleaner, as some of the cheaper stuff available may use harsher chemicals. Most homemade cleaners will not adversely affect the color of the upholstery.


Application is also important when it comes to choosing a stain cleaner for car upholstery. Whatever cleaner you choose, you will want to make sure that it also includes a manual or instructions that are easy for you to follow. Commercial cleaners should use easy-to-press nozzles and ergonomically designed bottles that require minimal scrubbing. Most homemade cleaners will require a little more elbow grease to work effectively.


The brand is also very important when it comes to choosing a commercial-based product. Do not simply choose a product because it is the cheapest. Make sure that the brand offers some form of warranty, as this will give you some peace of mind when using it. Also, take the time to research online to see what other people say about the particular brand. When all else fails, you can always choose a homemade stain cleaner on your car’s upholstery instead.

HOMEMADE Stain Cleaners for Car Upholstery

When it comes to removing stains from car upholstery, you have two different types of cleaners to choose from. The most common is to use a homemade solution, that will provide you with just enough stain-fighting power, to get the job done. Commercial-grade car upholstery stain cleaners, on the other hand, tend to use harsher chemicals, which makes the job easier but may also damage some fabrics.

How to Get Stains out of Car Upholstery using Homemade Cleaners

There are several different homemade cleaners that are commonly used today, including vinegar, laundry detergent, baking soda, and even club soda. Here are some of the best:

Option 1: Vinegar, Water, Mild Soap

This particular homemade car upholstery stain cleaning solution is composed of vinegar, water, and mild soap. You will need several containers, and a spray bottle to make this solution. A funnel will also be helpful when it comes time to transfer the solution to the spray bottle.

To make this homemade stain remover, in the spray bottle, start by mixing vinegar and water in a ratio of 1 to 2. Then add a single tablespoon of mild dish soap. Carefully mix all of this together and let it sit until all the foam and bubbles pop. Then using the funnel, transfer the mixture into the spray bottle and shake it well to ensure that all of the ingredients are mixed.

Wait until the bubbles subside, then spray the cleaning solution directly onto the stain. Make sure that you do not add too much of the solution to the area, and give it about 3 minutes to soak. With the help of your used toothbrush, gently scrub in a circular motion to ensure that you scrub every single fiber in the affected area. Continue to scrub for about ten minutes.

Once you have finished scrubbing, use your paper towels or a microfiber towel to blot the fabric and remove any excess moisture. Once the moisture has been removed, simply let it dry.

Option 2: Detergent & Water

Simplicity is the key when it comes to this homemade stain cleaning solution, suitable for car upholstery. You will be using a pure mix of water and powdered laundry detergent. Make sure that the water is warm, and mix the two together thoroughly. Just like you did with the vinegar, water, and mild soap solution, use the funnel to transfer it to the spray bottle. Follow the same exact steps for applying, scrubbing, and drying.

Option 3: Baking Soda & Water

Most people have baking soda laying around the house. It is excellent for removing deeper stains on your car upholstery caused by soft drinks and coffee. You will meet with warm water to make this solution. Slowly add the hot water to the baking soda, creating a paste-like mixture. Because you want this stain removing mix to be thicker, you will not be using a spray bottle. Instead, you will be applying it directly using your old toothbrush.

Once applied, follow the same instructions as the other homemade cleaners, by gently scrubbing in a circular motion for up to 10 minutes area then gently blot the area to remove excess moisture and let it air dry.

For more instruction, have a look at the video ‘How to Remove Horrible Stain in Carpet or Cloth’ by iHeart.Paige below.

Option 4: Club Soda

One of the oldest methods for removing stains from fabric is to simply use club soda. You see it all the time in movies, where somebody stains their shirt and they use some club soda to clean it. It’s perfect for removing lighter stains from car upholstery. Simply spray on the club soda just like you would with any other cleaner, and gently scrub it using the toothbrush. After about 10 minutes, blot the area and let it air dry.

Other Options for Removing Stains from Car Upholstery

For those who do not want to scrub, or are worried about using harsh chemicals, here are several other excellent options for getting rid of stains from car upholstery to choose from:

Car Upholstery Steam Cleaner

A steam cleaner is the preferred method for cleaning car upholstery. After you have thoroughly vacuumed out the car, you will need to use a steam cleaner to scrub and clean out any dirt, grime, or residue. You should be able to find steam cleaners for rent from your local grocery store. Not only is it great for removing stains, but it will also remove any stubborn odors as well.

To see how auromotive upholstery steam cleaners work and for some extra motivation to get your filthy car seats cleaned up, check out the video ‘How The Dirtiest Car Interiors Get Professional Cleaned’ by Insider Art below.

Carpet Cleaning Machine

Just like a steam cleaner, a carpet cleaner can also remove stains from car seats. Carpet cleaners can also be rented locally for affordable rates, and there are a wide range of cleaning chemicals available. Just as you would with a steam cleaner, you will be able to quickly and easily remove both stains and odors.

Final Thoughts on HOW TO GET Stains out of Car Upholstery

If stubborn stains are plaguing your car upholstery, then the best method ultimately for getting rid of those stains is using a specialty car upholstery steam cleaner. However, these devices can be pricey, especially considering that you may only use them a couple of times. If this is the option you want to go for, then it may be worth checking to see if there is anywhere that rents car upholstery steam cleaners in your local area, instead.

Alternatively, it is possible to use a carpet cleaning machine, or a simple stain remover solution on your car upholstery combined with some good old elbow grease. When choosing the best stain remover for car upholstery, the main thing to look for is color-fastness. The main problem with many stain removers is their potential for staining your car upholstery, and it is well worth testing the stain removal product on a small patch to ensure it doesn’t adversely effect your car fabric. You’d be surprised how even some natural and innocuous-seeming liquids can cause the color on certain car upholstery to change.

Now that you’ve learnt how to get rid of stains on your car upholstery sections, next how about giving your upholstery a general shampoo and clean over? In this article we explain how to clean car upholstery the right way.