How to Steam Clean Car Seats: The Definitive Guide

By Gladys K. Connelly Updated December 20, 2020

The Easy and Effective 8-Step Rulebook for Steam Cleaning the Most Stubborn Car Seats

How to Steam Clean Car Seats: The Definitive Guide

The crumbs are stuck between the seats? And those stains you once couldn’t stand are now just part of the aesthetic?

You’ve tried vacuuming, but the results were sub-par, and it seems your car interior was meant to be left alone, isn’t it?

Well, what if I told you a secret?

I’ve tried again and again to take out the Clorox wipes, the vacuum, the soap, but steam cleaning was my knight in shining armor.

This article on how to steam clean car seats will outline the 8 steps necessary to have your car looking as good as new.

Are you excited?

Met too.

You will need:

  1. First, check the material you’re working with. Nylon, Polyester, Faux Leather, and Vinyl are all safe to steam clean, as they are either a synthetic plastic that is resistant to heat, water-resistant, and durable. Real leather, on the hand, can be shrunk over time by frequent steam cleaning so be sure to apply only when necessary
  2. A steam cleaner with a fabric steamer, soft-bristle brush attachment (no nozzles!), and the tank capacity that matches the size of your vehicle
  3. A car vacuum cleaner
  4. Microfiber cloth

Now that you have checked your seats and invested or rented a steam cleaner, it’s time to make some magic happen.

These 8 steps will show you how easily you can steam clean your car upholstery and remove the dirt and grime from your vehicle like a true professional.

1.Choose Your Steam Cleaner

Whether or renting or buying, make sure the cleaner has a brush head attachment and the tank capacity that fits the vehicle size.

2.Sunny Days or Garages Are a Must

To avoid any mold formation in the car interior after the steam clean, be sure to have your vehicle in either the sun or garage so the seats can dry. Planning ahead of time and starting your steam clean in the morning is the best way to ensure optimal steam cleaning readiness.

3.Vacuum ahead of time

Chips, candy, popcorn— it all needs to go. Be sure to vacuum and/or use a crevice tool in order to get everything out of the nooks and crannies so all that gets steam cleaned are your seats.

We don’t want to steam clean the snacks into them.

4.Be proactive with seat stains

Although steam cleaning is the best way to make everything look squeaky clean, pre-treating stains can help the process go smoothly! Check what material your seats are, what kind of stain they possess, and try doing what you can to make them as light as possible!

5.Attend to the water reservoir

Place water in the steam cleaner’s tank and follow the instructions that the cleaner comes with.

Different models will have different operative steps and the overall time it takes can range anywhere from 30 seconds to 20 minutes.

And be sure to have your soft bristle brush and steamer attachment at hand and ready to go!

6.Start Steam Cleaning When Ready

The cleaner is used much like a vacuum, and we’ve perfected the best process for the steam cleaning portion itself:

7.Wait for the vehicle interior to dry

Within three to five hours, your seats should dry. Be sure to have the windows open and to be parked within a sunny spot, if possible. If time isn’t on your side, use a fan.

8.Spruce it up

Condition leather or faux leather in order to give it that new, glossy lock, and invest in a car freshener for your interior to smell like new.

Tips and Warnings

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  • Remember to proceed with caution when it comes to leather seats. Never linger with your steamer, as excess heat or dampness can lead to damage or shrinkage
  • Keep adding water to your steam cleaner if necessary, especially if the steamer has an indicator light that goes off when the machine is almost empty
  • Clean seats in a vertical motion and overlap strokes to avoid missing any area
  • Hold the steamer and brush over areas for about 15 seconds to get the full effect
  • Be thorough and read the manual of your steam cleaner to know the best way to use it

The most important thing to remember is that the process is not one to dread.

Using my easy step-by-step manual can make steam cleaning even the most stained or dirty car seats super simple. Plus, steam cleaning is much less harmful to the car interior and much less laborious than using a sponge.

It’s also a great way to be sure your car is always spick and span.

Now It’s Your Turn…

I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to steam clean car seats. 

Now, I want to hear from you.

How was your steam cleaning experience? Did the car feel good as new? Did any pesky stains finally come out?

Let me know how your steam cleaning experience was by leaving a comment below

About the Author

Gladys K. Connelly

As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.

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