How to Clean Car Interiors: A Guide to Leather Cleaning and Disinfecting

In the midst of a global pandemic, there likely isn’t much you haven’t cleaned lately. But there’s one thing you may have missed in the disinfecting frenzy: cleaning your car interior. Especially if your car sat off the road for a while, cleaning the interior may have slipped your mind. 

But car and truck interiors are known for getting grimy during normal times; these days, your car is likely the first thing you touch immediately after you’ve been in public. And that means in addition to sanitizing your hands before you get into your vehicle, it’s a wise move to learn the basics about how to give your vinyl, leatherette and leather a car detailing-level of cleaning. 

How to clean leather car interiors

If your seats are genuine leather, you’ll want to take significant care: strong disinfectants, including the isopropyl alcohol and Lysol wipes that are commonly used to kill the COVID-19 virus, can also significantly dry out the leather, which can cause cracking and fading.  (In fact, it’s wise to spot test anything you plan to use to clean your leather car interior in a discreet area first.) 

For leather seats, leather steering wheels, and anything else leather in your car, it’s best to use a mild cleaner like Leather Honey leather cleaner. This leather cleaner is strong enough to clean your leather thoroughly, but gentle enough to protect it from overdrying. Start by vacuuming your interior to remove loose dirt, dust and crumbs, then gently wipe down the leather seats with the diluted cleaner and a lint-free cloth. 

After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the car and allowed the leather to dry completely, you’ll want to apply leather conditioner, which will restore leather with the moisture that it naturally loses over time and protect the leather from dirt, spills and dryness. 

How to clean and and disinfect faux leather and vinyl car interiors 

Faux leather seats — made from vinyl or leatherette material — and plastic doors and dashboards shouldn’t be harmed by a disinfectant, such as isopropyl alcohol or Lysol wipes, so it’s fine to wipe them down gently as needed. However, avoid using bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your car interior, as both could damage the color significantly. (Again, it’s a good idea to spot test before you move forward with cleaning all over – no one wants a bleached car interior, even if it’s clean.) 

When you don’t need to disinfect you can use a mild leather cleaner to remove any stains or normal dirt and grime. This will serve to gently clean the car interior, without having to regularly use overpowering disinfectants. 

Finally, don’t forget to gently wipe down any touchscreens, electronics and buttons with an alcohol or Lysol wipe, to kill germs on those high-touch areas. 

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