How to clean different types of car upholstery

How to clean different types of car upholstery

From going to school or work, or taking a trip to the shopping mall, or picking up some groceries, you probably spend a lot more time in your car than you think. Therefore not only do you want your car’s interior look best, but also feel and smell clean. To do this you first need to recognize that different upholstery materials require different cleaning methods.

There are five distinct types of automotive upholstery, and each one has different care and cleaning needs.


Nylon usually appears as fabric and is one of the most common materials manufacturers use for car seat upholstery because cleaning it is quite simple. It is known for its durability and its ability to stand up to hard use.

Nylon is also quite porous, and that means it will pick up dirt and debris every time you drive your car. You can clean your nylon upholstery by vacuuming it to remove this debris, then use hot water and a mild detergent to do a deeper cleaning. Just dip a sponge in the hot water and detergent mixture, gently scrub the nylon surface, and don’t forget to let it dry!


Polyester is another popular automotive upholstery, and it is designed to look like suede. This soft fabric is quite comfortable, but it is also a bit harder to clean.

Start by wringing out a damp cloth, then use a cleaning solution designed for microsuede to lift out the accumulated dirt and debris. The more often you clean your polyester upholstery, the easier it will be to keep the interior in pristine condition. Alternatively, you can steam-clean microsuede polyester.


Vinyl has long been a favorite automotive upholstery, and it is one of the easiest materials to keep clean. Unlike fabric upholstery, you can generally wipe vinyl clean with a clean damp towel, as it is non-porous and pretty much waterproof.

As long as you wipe up spills timely to prevent staining, you should have little trouble keeping your vinyl upholstery looking its best.

Faux Leather

Faux leather upholstery is a popular choice for luxury cars, since it looks like leather but is way cheaper and easier to clean.

To clean your faux leather upholstery, start by using a feather duster to remove any loose dirt, followed by a vacuum cleaner to suck up anything you might have missed. For set-in stains, you can use a mild detergent, wiping with a clean cloth until the discoloration is gone.


This type of upholstery is mostly used in a high-end luxury car as it requires special care, and a cleaning product specifically designed for this natural material. Using a cheap cleaning product on leather upholstery will cause it to dry out and crack, destroying the good looks of your interior.

To clean your leather automotive upholstery, start by using a clean cloth to remove any surface dirt and debris. Continue the cleaning with a solution specifically designed for leather seats; nothing else will do.

For a practical demonstration about different types of car upholstery and how to clean them properly you can watch this comprehensive video.

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