Question and Answers
Q -Do I really need to clean my leather car seats?
A -Yes. Cleaning leather car seats is critical for two things: appearance and preservation. Regular and consistent cleaning is the most critical part of car leather preservation. Experience has shown me over and over that people generally are fixated on conditioning their cars leather, before they even consider cleaning it; this is a big mistake. Often what happens is people get so concerned with conditioning the leather that they apply layer after layer of leather conditioner, directly over the dirt layers already present. So what people create for themselves is actually the direct opposite of their original goal, and now they have a greasy build-up of dirt and leather conditioners that actually deteriorate the leather beneath.
Q -What cleaners are safe when cleaning leather car seats?
A -This depends. What are you really asking here? Do you want to know what is safe, or do you really want to know what actually works. Any of the name brand car leather cleaners you would find at the retail outlets will be safe. And most will be effective for general, light duty cleaning and maintenance. When it comes to heavy dirt, or when you have neglected your cars leather for years, most traditional leather cleaners will be ineffective at best.
Q -How often do I need to clean my cars leather?
A -Car leather interior needs consistent and regular cleanings. Like most materials in this world, keeping them clean is the biggest part of the battle. I think the industry has done much to confuse us consumers, and many of us stand overwhelmed by all the many variables of leather care to the point we end up doing nothing. Monthly cleaning of your leather is both ideal and appropriate. But before you get spun-out and dismiss he idea of monthly leather cleaning, simply wiping your cars leather down with a cloth dampened with cleaner will suffice.
Q -Is car leather like other leathers?
A -No. Cleaning leather car seats should really start by stating that "Car leather is car leather, not your other leathers." Within today's world, leather exists in many forms; wallets, boots, shoes, bags, equipment, etc. Because of modern advances in tanning processes and protective processes of leathers used within auto construction, things like ph levels, leather conditioners, leather oils, etc. are not an area of concern like days of past. Most car leather is made with clear protective coatings that make care and cleaning much more simple and easier than ever. What this also means is that traditional leather conditioners and dressings are ineffective for anything other than visual enhancement.
Q -Is there any special techniques of cleaning?
A -Yes. When it comes to cleaning leather car seats, one thing we need to learn which is counter to what we have been taught, is that leather is much more durable and resilient than most think. The industry with its misleading marketing and advertising has lead us to believe that car leather is this ultra delicate, and requires exotic blends of cleaners and conditioners. The byproduct of this is a consumer base frozen with fear to the point where most people do nothing.
Darren, Can You Just Show Us How to Clean Car Leather and Just What Car Leather Cleaners Work
Follow along as I lay out some really good leather cleaner for car seats, along with techniques of cleaning the leather in your car that are taken straight from the world of professional auto detailing.
The dirty seat from above is from a 2006 Chevy Corvette that had never been detailed in the 6 years of use. As you can see from the dramatic photo, cleaning the leather in your car can produce dramatic results with the right products and techniques.
General Leather Cleaning Maintenance
Use a terry cloth towel dampened with your favorite leather cleaner from below, and aggressively wipe down all your leather upholstery. You will most likely be amazed at how much dirt can be seen on your cleaning rag when cleaning leather car seats simply using this method.
Light Duty Leather Cleaning
For any of your car leather cleaning duties past general maintenance, you will have to employ some additional help in the form of scrub brushes. Just as you would scrub your hands clean with a scrub brush, the same technique is a must if you plan on getting acceptable results when cleaning car leather that has been allowed to accumulate dirt past the very basic.
Experience has shown that most people are fearful of using any type of scrub brush on their car leather, and this is where a big part of the problem starts. Car leather is much more durable than we have been lead to believe as consumers and car owners. Not only is this scrub brush safe, but will take any leather cleaner you may use to the next level of performance. Getting professional results with your car leather cleaning will be 30% product choice, and 70% technique. So give your efforts an added boost by using an effective vinyl and leather brush.
Heavy Duty Car Leather Cleaning
When cleaning leather car seats and the job before you is thick and dirty, your leather cleaning technique will need additional techniques to deal with these additional levels of dirt!
Cleaning Leather Car Seats Before and After
As you can see from the before and after of the car leather from this '06 Corvette, results can be dramatic and if you have been using traditional methods of cleaning the leather in your car, you most likely have been unable to get this level of results. But keep reading as I show you how you can get these professional level of results.
What You Need:
For heavy duty cleaning leather seats in cars, the combination of the above tools and product will be your ticket for success. The problem with most retail car leather cleaners is they have too much of that "idiot factor" built into them; companies have to dumb their products down to the lowest common demoninator of society. What this means is that we end up with products that are completely mild and ineffective for any level of "real" dirt! This All-purpose cleaner (APC)from Meguiar's is an ideal product to have around as it can be used to clean anything from car leather, to degreasing engines; all you do is customize the dilution to fit your specific needs.
Cleaning Leather Car Seats Summary
Let's summarize what we have learned before I take you into my specific steps I use professionally to clean leather car seats from foreign exotics, to kiddy haulin' family vans.
Follow this tips I use professionally to get maximum results when cleaning the leather in your cars interior:
Darren's Cautions for Cleaning Leather Car Seats
Cleaning Leather Car Seats and Leather Conditioners
Many of you at this point will be now questioning the use of leather conditioners and/or leather dressings. What most people do not realize is that most car leather is made with a clear protective coating that helps prevent the absorption of dirt and spills. This is mostly a good thing, but also means that traditional leather conditioners become ineffective and strictly a superficial treatment. If you feel better about using some form of leather conditioner, by all means use them. But if you want my opinion based on professionally experience, I never use actual leather conditioners. I may choose to use a superficial dressing for visual purposes after cleaning leather car seats, but this is strictly for visual enhancement only. I have found that your car leather can last a lifetime by simply keeping the car leather clean from the beginning.
The product by Stoner above is what I use professionally to create a light sheen to car leather or other vinyl interior pieces. You can control the amount of shine by either spraying directly onto surfaces and let alone, or wipe with a micro-fiber afterwards to break down level of gloss.
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