Clean car upholstery image courtesy of Pixabay

By Donna Scott

Car maintenance goes way beyond the basic and commonly known repair and fuelling. It also involves car cleaning, particularly upholstery cleaning. Several people frown at the thought of doing the upholstery perhaps, because of what they have heard from their friends who claim that cleaning the interior of the car is not only difficult but also almost impossible for just a car owner to do. Therefore, most people will simply stick to vacuuming which never does it well as it should be done. After vacuuming your car, you are likely to leave behind tough stains of spills, since this only gets rid of dust and nothing more. The problem comes in if you leave these stains for longer periods; they become impossible to remove without damaging your car upholstery. Surprisingly, cleaning the interior of your car cannot get that tough if you know what to do. It is very important that you clean the inside of your car as often as you can because not only won’t you have to deal with problems of tough stains from spills, but also you will boost your car resale if you wish to dispose it and get a new one. Below is a guide on how to clean car upholstery.

Things you might need

Dealing with spill stains requires immediate attention, but this is almost impossible while driving. It only means they will stay for some time and become tough stains. When cleaning your car upholstery and dealing with tough stains, you will need more than just soap and water; you will have to gather all the tools you can get so as to simplify the cleaning process entirely. Here are some of the things you might need in the process;

• Vacuum

• Microfiber cloths

• Soft, clean sponge or cloth

• Bucket of water

• Soft bristle scrubbing brush

When cleaning the interior of your car, you need something that will give you excellent performance and desirable results. Well, it is important that you be aware of why you need these kinds of cleaners. You need them because you may not get a better job done without the help of one. For instance, if you get these cleaners on the job, you are sure to get a deep cleaning of all seats, including back and headrests, the carpet plus the boot areas. You will need both the general and heavy-duty Car and upholstery cleaners to help you clean the car seats, carpets and the full interior of your car without leaving any stone unturned. This is because general, and heavy-duty upholstery cleaners, such as Meguiar’s all-purpose cleaner, 3D upholstery and carpet shampoo, among others are products are specifically meant for cleaning and maintaining car interior and upholstery. Moreover, you will do the cleaning and sanitize all the door panels, pillars, and dashboards.

Image of clean car seats courtesy of Pixabay

Cleaning spill stains

Just like mentioned earlier on, for a successful spill stain cleaning, you need to act on it immediately. This is because if left for longer periods they turn out to be tough stains you cannot get rid of in one wash. If you want to deal with spill stains immediately; blotting is the way to go because it will help you pull the stain out of the fabric. But if it is a stubborn stain, here is how to go about it:

Step 1: Take your upholstery cleaner which you had picked earlier on. In most cases, the car upholstery cleaner you have will be multi-purpose; it can work both on carpet and upholstery, so expect it to do a good job on the spill stain.

Step 2: Apply the cleaner on the spill stain. Well, to do this, shake the cleaner properly and then hold it upright as you spray evenly on the spot. Use a damp cloth to scrub clean the stain if need be upon which you can wipe it using a dry piece of cloth and voila!

Cleaning Dirt and grime 

If you want to get rid of dirt and grime stains from your upholstery, then consider going through the following steps:

Step 1: Test the product. Above everything else, test the product if you are using it for the first time on your upholstery because it might stain your fabric or even worse discolor the fabric. Do this on an inconspicuous area just to make sure it is right for use without any unnecessary damages on your fabric or leather. 

Step 2: Apply the product. After testing and you are sure it is fit for use on your fabric or leather, apply it using the directions provided by the manufacturer and let it soak for a few minutes.

Step 3: Scrub the stain. Using a microfiber cloth, scrub the stain with water. But if the stain persists, consider using a microfiber cloth or soft bristled scrub brush, as this will help you eliminate the stubborn stains.

Step 4: After scrubbing and cleaning, use water to rinse the spot. Ideally, be sure to use a clean microfiber cloth to remove debris and the entire cleaning product.

Cleaning grease or oil stains

Cleaning grease and oil stains will prove a bit of a challenge to most people. This is owed to the extent of damage and also because they are just never easy to handle. But with the following options, all the grease and oil will be gone in no time.

Alternative A: Use paint thinner. Add paint thinner to two equal parts water to clean the greasy and oily spots. Use a clean cloth to apply the solution on the stain spot. To help pull out the stain, dab the solution using a piece of cloth on the greasy or oily stain. Once the stain is all gone, clean the spot again using water to remove excess paint thinner solution and debris. Remember to test the solution on an invisible area to ensure it is appropriate before use.

Alternative B: use of detergent. This involves the use of readily available household detergent to help clean the greasy spot. Apply a few drops of the detergent to the oily spot to help loosen the greasy spot. Let it sit for a few minutes before cleaning. Finally, apply the blotting technique to help pull up the oily spot and clean thoroughly using water.

General cleaning

Maintaining a clean car with spotless upholstery require regular general cleaning of the car’s interior.
Especially the seats, here is how to go about it:

To clean leather seats

Cleaning leather seats require a special type of cleaners which are available on the market. Similarly, if you are a DIY enthusiast, you can choose to go for a home-made leather cleaner which involves mixing one part vinegar and two parts in-seed oil. Whichever leather cleaner you choose, here is how to use it to clean your leather seats:

Step 1: Spray the solution. Once you have tested and are sure, the solution won’t do damage to your seats, spray the solution directly on the seat.

Step 2: Use a soft wet piece of cloth to apply the cleaning product on the leather and let it sit for a while before scrubbing.

Step 3: Use a soft brush to give the leather a deep cleaning to remove all sorts of dirt and stains.

Step 4: Use water to wash off the cleaning product at this point because the seats will be clean. If not, re-do the procedure from the first step.

Step 5: After you have ensured the seats are spotlessly clean, use a conditioner, which is pH neutral to help keep the seats soft.

Do not forget to clean the seams of the seat using a soft brush to leave the whole seat cleaned.

To clean fabric seats

Cleaning fabric seats are also as simple as cleaning the leather seats. Again here, you can choose to either buy the cleaning products or only use the ones you can easily find at home; both will work just fine! With all the cleaning tools ready, clean your fabric car seats in the following steps.

Step 1: Vacuum up the seats to remove all the dirt that might get into the seats while washing them. This you can do using a soft brush or your household vacuum cleaner.

Step 2: Add your household detergent into a bucket of hot water. Using a sponge or soft piece of cloth, soak it in the bucket of hot water and detergent to scrub the seats. Be careful not to make them too wet.

Step 3: Once your seats are evenly moistened and are spotlessly clean, dip a clean microfiber cloth in cold water and use it to remove excess dirt and detergent from the surface of the seats. The seats should be clean by now; if not, repeat the process again for better results.

Cleaning your car’s interior doesn’t have to be difficult if you do it frequently. Ensure that you have it cleaned as often as possible. And most of the time, try to keep food and drinks out of your car to reduce the chances of stained car upholstery.


How to Upholster a Sofa Cushion or Chair Cushion

Nothing screams “amateur upholsterer” more clearly than a cushion sewn with uneven seams. While the best way to learn how to sew a chair cushion evenly is by spending time practicing on the sewing machine. The learning curve can be minimized by using tools that attach to your sewing machine. Use a heavy-duty or industrial sewing machine for upholstery work because they sew straighter and make stronger stitches on heavy fabrics.

The things you will need to sew a cushion evenly:
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Ruler
  • Heavy-duty or industrial sewing machine
  • Seam guide
  • Welt foot
  • 2 squares of upholstery fabric cut to 1 inch larger than the cushion top
  • 1 long skinny rectangle cut 1 inch taller than the foam, boxing fabric to go all the way around the outer edge of the cushion. The boxing fabric will normally be the same kind of fabric as the top and bottom of the cushion. Boxing is a term used to describe the location of the fabric on the cushion.
  • 2 strips of welt, also called welt cord, the same length as the boxing
The steps you need to follow when sewing a cushion so the edges are straight:
  1. Using tailor's chalk, mark the corners and the center of each side of both the top and bottom pieces of fabric. Fold the fabric in half and hold the corners together to find the center.
  2. Use the ruler to measure the distance between each mark on the top and bottom pieces and use the dimensions to make marks on the long upper and lower boxing edges. The boxing is the piece that covers the cushion edges.
  3. Prepare your sewing machine by attaching the seam guide and installing the welt foot. The seam guide is a T-shaped piece of metal that screws to the sewing machine. The welt foot is a thick sewing machine foot that has a tubular guide that holds welt, or welt cord, in place and positions the machine's needle correctly when sewing.
  4. Sandwich the fabric layers of the cushion top and boxing together, with the right side together and the welt cord in the center. Check the tailor's chalk marks and make sure the pieces are lining up. Sew all the way around the cushion.
  5. Position the bottom piece of cushion fabric along the other edge of the boxing strip, lining up the marks. Place the ruler vertically across the boxing, lined up with the marks, to make sure the marks are lining up on the top, bottom and boxing. If they are not lining up, you will need to pull on the shorter piece while you sew or your cushion will not be sewn evenly.
  6. Sew all the way around the bottom of the cushion; leaving a gap on the back edge large enough to install the cushion foam, all but four inches of the full length of one end is best. Hand-sew the gap closed after you have inserted the foam.

Straight Upholstery Sewing Tip

If you are making cushions that do not have welt, or welt cord, use only the thread guide and skip the welt foot.


How to Hand Sew a Small Rip on a Car Seat's Seam

Simple Upholstery Repair Job

Sometimes a car seat will get a small rip in the seam - or basically the threads in the seam will rip. This is an easy repair to do at home - and much cheaper to fix than hiring an upholsterer.

The materials needed are:
  • a curved needle
  • heavy thread in a color that matches the upholstery
  • a thimble if the person sewing is comfortable wearing one
The seat does not need to be removed from the vehicle as long as the rip is small and all of the fabric is still there.
Steps to repair the loose seam of the car seat:
  1. Thread the needle with about 18"-24" of thread. Any more will be likely to get knotted.
  2. Make a firm knot in the end of the thread.
  3. Run the needle under the fabric to the start of the opening in the car seat upholstery fabric seam. Try to come up a stitch or two behind the tear so the new thread will catch the old seam.
  4. If the needle does not slide easily through the fabric - push with the thimbled finger.
  5. Do a hidden stitch to close the entire rip in the seat.
  6. Secure the end with a couple of tiny stitches.
  7. Cut the thread close to the fabric without cutting the fabric or the securing stitches.

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