How to clean car upholstery: liquids, water-based spills or oil stains?

Article by Christian A., on August 23, 2018

Spills are almost inevitable to happen inside your car, especially if you or your passengers are fond of eating and drinking in the cabin. These spills could include drips from your burgers and other saucy foods, coffees, chocolate drinks, juices, milks and other liquids.

Any spill, if left unattended, could possibly ruin your upholstery. Ultimately, you may have to replace them if they got damaged or have become an eyesore. The best way to avoid any spill inside the cabin is to avoid eating or drinking – but that would be too much to ask as many people consider their cars as their second home.

Thus, if you wanted your car’s upholstery to look fresh while free from dirt and damages, do your part and know how to clean it. Of course, how you clean your car’s upholstery depends on the substance spilt on it.

1. Liquids

When cleaning spilt liquids, you need cloth or paper towels as well as warm water.

First, use clean cloth or paper towel to absorb the liquid as soon as it is spilt. Just loosely place the cloth or paper towel over the wet area. Let the moist on surface of the seat be absorbed into the cloth or paper towel.

Then, apply some pressure on the cloth or paper towel to absorb the soaked-in liquid and blot the wet area. Continue applying pressure until the dampness of the seat has become steady. If the substance isn't water, don’t rub the wet spot to avoid staining the seat.

If there are light water-based stains, moisten the cloth warm water and blot the stained area, thereby drawing out dyes and natural colors. Don’t use water to remove oil-based liquid as the stain may spread in the upholstery.

2. Water-based spills

When cleaning water-based spills, you will need clean cloths, soft-bristled brush, baking soda, upholstery cleaner and vacuum

While the spill is still wet, you should spray upholstery cleaner onto it, making sure that the cleaner penetrates enough to reach the spill.

Next, brush the spill area to lift the stain from the surface. Then pat the area with a clean cloth, soaking the cleaner and the stains. Apply pressure to the cloth on the seat to further absorb any wetness that reached deep into the cushion.

Then, you should let both the fabric and the cushion to dry. If needed – when the stains or spill has remained -- re-apply cleaner and soak the stain after drying.

Allow the cleaner to sit for 10 minutes. Again, brush the spill area, and pat it with clean cloth to soak the stains. Then, allow the upholstery to dry.

After drying, apply baking soda to the dried spill area and rub it gently a cloth or a soft brush. The baking soda can absorb and neutralize odors left behind by the spill.

Let the baking soda sit on the spill area for up to three days. Then, remove the baking soda with a vacuum.

If odor persists, re-apply the baking soda until it is neutralized.

3. Oil stains

When removing oil stains from your seats, you will need warm water, dish soap, soft brush and clean cloths.

First, you need to blot the oil stain out of the fabric using a clean section of the cloth. Continue to blot until the spill doesn’t transfer to the cloth.

Next, you need apply to the oil stain a dime-sized drop of dish soap, which grease-cutting character can trap the oil particles and haul them out. Then brush the oil spot with the dish soap, thereby agitating the area. Do this until the borders of the stain are gone.

Now, moisten the cloth with warm water and blot the soapy spot, forming suds in the process. Rinse the cloth and blot the soapy spot until it doesn’t produce any sud.

Let the seat dry. The drying time depends on the area covered by the cleanup.

Repeat the process as needed until the oil stain is fully removed.

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