Car Care: How to Care for Your Car’s Upholstery
June 2018
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Car Care: How to Care for Your Car’s Upholstery
Keep your car’s upholstery looking like new

No matter how much work you put into keeping your vehicle’s exterior looking clean and shiny, passengers are likely going to be more interested in how you take care of it on the inside. If your vehicle’s upholstery is dingy, stained or emitting some strange odor, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that your interior is looking every bit as good as your exterior. Not only will this prevent passengers from turning up their noses at you, but it will also help your vehicle retain more of its value over time, which helps if you decide that you’d like to sell it one day.

Stock up on the right supplies

Before you dive into cleaning your interior, be sure you have everything you need at your disposal. Running in and out of the house or to and from the store for cleaning tools will make upholstery care a much bigger chore than it needs to be.

YourMechanic’s Mark Vallet recommends essentials such as microfiber cloths; a soft, clean sponge or cloth; a vacuum; a bucket of warm water; and a bristled, yet soft scrubbing brush. You’ll also need some kind of upholstery cleaner, but you should take care to ensure that the product that you choose is appropriate for the material in your vehicle.

Apply care 101

Before you get into the nitty-gritty or nooks and crannies of upholstery care, it’s good to start by removing any clutter on, under or around your seats. You’ll also want to take out any floor mats to ensure that you clean the area beneath them. Once your seats and floors are bare, use your vacuum to remove dust, dirt and debris. Vallet recommends a wet/dry vacuum due to its superlative cleaning power and an extended cord and hose.

Once you are satisfied that you’ve vacuumed up as much of the dirt as you can, Vallet suggests going over your surfaces with a moist cloth and spot-testing your cleaning agent.

Refresh cloth seats

If you would prefer a more natural solution to cleaning your cloth seats, or even just a more affordable choice, you can easily concoct a home remedy that is as effective as anything you’ll find at the store. Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks suggests combining a gallon of water with a cup of vinegar and a touch of dish soap. Using a hard-bristle brush, lightly apply this mixture to your fabric surfaces and let sit for 30 minutes. Once it’s sat long enough, apply warm water and blot dry.

If you want something more fragrant, you can include a few drops of essential oils to your cleaning mixture. This provides a fresh scent without the heaviness of a chemical solution.

Condition leather upholstery

Leather upholstery requires a softer touch than fabric upholstery, which is why DIY Network recommends against using ammonia- or bleach-based cleaners. If you don’t want to invest in a leather-specific cleaning substance, you can make your own homemade solution by mixing five parts warm water with one part liquid dish soap in a bucket. Apply to a cloth and wipe down your seats and surfaces thoroughly. Use a second cloth, damp with water, to wipe clean and a towel to dry.

If your elbow grease is just not enough to renew your car’s interior satisfactorily, or your schedule is just too packed to do your vehicle justice, consider reaching out to the professionals to get the job done properly. Your vehicle is one of your biggest investments, and spending a little time or money to make sure that its interior is well-maintained is well worth the return.

This article is presented by Jannell Ford in Hanover, Massachusetts.


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