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Cleaning and care of fabric upholstery, roof-linings and seat repairs in your car

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  1. Cleaning and care of fabric upholstery, roof-linings and seat repairs in your car

Seat upholstery should usually last the whole life of the car without being replaced. Fabric upholstery and roof-linings are easier to maintain in a good condition when cleaned regularly. How to do it correctly? Is it worth it to impregnate the material? And how to deal with damage to upholstery and seat mechanisms?

The condition of the upholstery in a car says a lot about the extent of its wear and tear and usage. Clean seats, door sides, and roof-linings are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also health-friendly. Dirt which has accumulated over the years often contains mites and bacteria, especially harmful for people prone to allergies. What’s more, seat dust increases window fogging, which annoys drivers all year long. On top of that, neglected upholstery tends to stink, that can even transfer to your clothing. Who wants to travel like that?

The condition of the upholstery in a car says a lot about the extent of its wear and tear and usage. Clean seats, door sides, and roof-linings are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also health-friendly. Dirt which has accumulated over the years often contains mites and bacteria, especially harmful for people prone to allergies. What’s more, seat dust increases window fogging, which annoys drivers all year long. On top of that, neglected upholstery tends to stink, that can even transfer to your clothing. Who wants to travel like that?

It is worth doing, because it is much easier to remove stains while they are still relatively fresh. Also, cleaning some items, especially the roof-linings, is best done by yourself, as you will see the results while you proceed.

What and how to clean the fabric upholstery in your car: products, aplication

Even the basic upholstery cleaning equipment – consisting of a vacuum cleaner, the appropriate product and microfibre cloths, and if necessary a brush – will be an effective way to remove the vast majority of dirt and renew the fabric in the interior of your car.

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For example, our widely used and readily available car care products, which have an excellent price-to-quality ratio, will work well here. Strictly for cleaning upholstery there are foam and spray products. The foam is perfect for refreshing large surfaces, and the dedicated brush fitted onto the can’s cap allows you to remove dirt from materials such as floor mats, carpets or velour. Spray, on the other hand, is more precise, just right for smaller areas or parts with a more challenging shape/profile. Both products successfully remove not only dirt and stains such as from ice cream, coffee, chocolate, sauces or drinks, but also unpleasant smells.

Moreover, they can be used not only for fabric upholstery, but also for increasingly popular alcantara and similar suede-like microfibre materials.

First, however, we should start by carefully and thoroughly vacuuming the upholstered surfaces. It is best to straighten the recesses of the upholstery with the palm of your hand and, if necessary, use a narrow nozzle to pull the dirt out of the nooks and crannies as well. By the way, it’s worth vacuuming the insides of shelves, pockets and storage compartments, the space under the seats (watch out for “long lost items” – it’s better to look there before with a flashlight, so that valuable items do not end up in the vacuum cleaner), as well as the crevices next to the seats.


Vacuum the upholstery well before cleaning. It is a good idea to stretch the material to reach any nooks and crannies. Don’t forget to vacuum all upholstered surfaces, as well as storage compartments and your gear stick cover.

Caution! Use a soft-bristled nozzle in areas where the vacuum comes into contact with plastic; some types of plastic are very delicate and prone to scratching (for example luggage cover). On the other hand, in very narrow gaps, such as the frame around the gearshift lever, a can of compressed air along with an applicator would be handy.

For surfaces you haven’t vacuumed in a long time, it’s a good idea to tap the seat with your hand or hit the floor with the nozzle and see if there’s any dust/sand coming from the surface. If so, repeat the vacuuming process.

It’s time for the essential cleaning. If using foam, it’s best to apply it directly onto the surface and rub with the handy fitted brush. This solution will work especially well for car mats, as well as for the floor covering (which should also be cleaned) and also the one in the boot. We recommend vacuuming surfaces thoroughly once again after cleaning.


The fitted brush allows you to effectively spread the product and remove dirt from the recesses. On the right an effective way to wash car seats and door panels: upholstery cleaner in combination with a microfibre (you can also use a soft bristle brush).

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The trigger spray cleaner should be used in a different way. It is best to apply on a clean microfibre cloth with soft, medium fibres or, if the surface is heavily soiled, on a soft bristle brush. The product should not be applied directly to the upholstery because you may overspray on the surrounding area, causing extra work for yourself.

With a microfibre or brush moistened with the upholstery cleaner, clean the surface using short, straight movements in only one direction (preferably from the centre of the seat outwards) with proper pressure (but without over rubbing!). Regularly, turn the microfibre side over and re-spray with cleaner. If necessary, the procedure can be repeated; make sure to “treat” the entire surface, including the edges. Finally, the cleaned material should be re-vacuumed.

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To enhance the effect, you can immerse the microfibre in warm water and squeeze it carefully, then spray with the cleaner.

Such cleaning is both effective and safe for your upholstery. Home remedies using detergent, although common, can do more harm than good: first of all, carpet washing liquid foams a lot and is difficult to remove from the fabric. Additionally, may leave a strong chemical smell and a slippery or even sticky film. Too much water is unfriendly for your seats, door panels and delicate roof-lining.

That’s why cleaning the roof-lining is especially challenging – even experienced car detailers do it by hand with a dedicated product and a soft, clean, dry microfibre cloth. This is because the headlining is easy to get wet, which can lead to local sagging.

Therefore, start with vacuuming your roof-lining then clean gently, using the same method as for the fabric seat upholstery: applying a small amount of the product to a soft, clean microfibre cloth and wiping the surface gently and evenly in one direction. It is better to do it even twice than to soak the material – which can cause sagging and discolouration.


Cleaning of the headlining should be done very gently. Instead of Upholstery Cleaner, you can use an multi-purpose car interior cleaner. It’s always a good idea to have them handy – wipes removes stains quickly and refresh the fabric.

Alternative ways to clean upholstery

For cleaning fabric car upholstery, instead of dedicated products, you can use Autoland’s multi-purpose car interior cleaner . This is useful, especially for those who don’t have a lot of space to store car care products, or are looking for a “all-in-one” product. It is suitable for cleaning fabric, plastic as well as glass. It is used the same way as upholstery trigger spray – by applying it onto a microfibre.

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For removing unexpected stains while traveling, such as when you face a spilt liquid, ice-cream, chocolate or even pet paw prints on your seats which need to be removed, upholstery wipes are the best solution. Their adequate large size is very efficient to clean a big area. The foam created on the fabric penetrates and softens dirt, effectively removing it, leaving a pleasant fragrance – it is always a good idea to keep them handy.

Pro tip: to remove dog or cat fur from upholstery, we recommend using a clothes cleaning roller – they are very effective, especially on flat surfaces and also on upholstery where vacuum cleaner nozzles don’t work.

Protection against stains: upholstery impregnation

The vacuumed and cleaned upholstery can still be waterproofed. Water repellents form a hydrophobic film on the surface of the fabric which repels liquid – so spilt drinks or sauce can be easily removed without staining. This is good especially for families traveling with children.

Removing unpleasant odours in the car interior: ozone treatment

It is worth mentioning ozonizing – an additional, effective way to remove unwanted odours in your car. Initially, make sure the whole interior: windows, upholstery, cockpit and plastic have been cleaned, with rubbish thrown away. If that doesn’t help, and the unpleasant odour isn’t coming from a malfunctioning air conditioner, moisture build-up in the cabin, or a unchanged dust filter, than an ozone service could help. This treatment removes bacteria and fungi, disinfecting the car interior getting rid of unwanted aromas.

Damaged car seats: misshaped sponge and loose seat guides

Many even relatively new and little used cars can suffer from an irritating defect from excessive play on car seat guides. Play is usually manifested by rattling on bumps, the seat moves back and forth when accelerating and braking, or by an annoying squeak. You can do it yourself if you are skilled enough, useful tips are available on the internet. It is best to visit an experienced specialist if you are unsure.

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