Leather car seats can make your car look and feel luxurious, especially when those seats look brand new. Leather is also a popular choice over fabric upholstered seats for its durability. Upholstered car seats are more likely to tear, and can be harder to get stains out of. 

Despite the longevity of leather seats, they still need care and attention if you want to keep them looking good as new. Without proper care, leather seats can crack or become discolored, which lowers the resale value of your car (and just doesn’t look as nice). Here are a few simple ways you can care for your leather seats on your own.

Regularly vacuum your car to keep it crumb-free

We’re all guilty of eating in our cars, especially drivers with young children. Crumbs are inevitable. Or maybe you live near a beach, take frequent hikes, have a dog in your car, or bring other types of debris into your car. Even dust can build up.

This is why regularly vacuuming your car seats is a good way to care for your leather interior. With debris everywhere, you won’t be able to properly wipe down or condition your seats, so it’s a necessary part of maintenance.

You can just use the handheld part of your vacuum at home, or head to your local car wash to do-it-yourself with one of their vacuums.

Clean your seats with leather-safe products

Once your seats are free of debris and dust, you can go in with a cleaning product—but not just any product will do. Make sure whatever you use is safe for leather. Harsh surfactants and bleach-based products, like Windex or Clorox, can actually stain your leather seats because of how porous leather is. Instead, use a mild soap and water mixture or a leather cleaner product.

You can get affordable leather cleaners on Amazon without having to leave home, or find them at your nearest grocery store. 

Condition your leather seats periodically

Leather is porous and can actually dry out over time, causing cracks in your seats. Conditioning products add moisture to the leather and help keep it shiny and free of damage. It can also help prevent or remove stains, and even add a UV filter (depending on the product you use) to help prevent sun damage.

How often to condition leather seats

Most experts recommend conditioning your leather products at least every 6 months, or every 3 months if you’re an overachiever. That’s really just a few times a year, and can make a big difference in the look and feel of your seats. 

How to condition leather seats at home

First, purchase a leather conditioner online at the store. Check out this list of 10 leather cleaners for cars. You’ll also want to find a soft cloth to use with it, like microfiber, terry cloth, or even an old cotton t-shirt. As we mentioned earlier, you also want to make sure they are clean first (dust free and wiped down).

To condition the seats, a dime-size amount of product for each seat and apply with the cloth in a circular motion. Most leather conditioners also have instructions on the back about how much to use. It’s easy, relatively quick to do on a weekend, and greatly helps the condition of your car. If you want to go above and beyond, you can learn how to do DIY car detailing or have it professionally detailed, too.

Natural DIY leather conditioner

If you’re looking for a natural product option, or love homemade cleaning products, you could try making the leather conditioner yourself. 

The most popular DIY option—and the easiest—is to mix equal parts olive oil and vinegar. The olive oil helps to condition the seats, while the vinegar is a natural cleaning agent. You could also add a few drops of lemon or orange essential oil for a nice scent that won’t harm the seats. For a more elaborate at DIY product, we also like Bob Vila’s concoctions here.

Veronica Camara
Veronica is an independent content strategist, writer, and speaker, partnering with global brands and agencies to solve complex content challenges. Prior to consulting work, she was an in-house content strategist at Charles Schwab. She is currently living in sunny Playa del Carmen, Mexico and works remotely with clients across the USA and Canada.

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    1. Leather seats definitely have a nicer feel (as does, for that matter, leather steering wheel covers.) This is a handy guide for keeping them clean and fresh.

    2. Vinegar? hmm…. I mean i’ll try anything once.

    3. I know leather seats are typically a luxury upgrade, however, I can only think of my skin burning on hot days. The olive oil and vinegar tip was very interesting though. Both of those seem to be magical liquids with multiple uses, so it kind of makes sense.

    4. Great article, keeping your leather seats clean and conditioned is very important. worn and cracked leather seats really make your car look old and also decrease the value.

    5. Using warm soapy water and a paintbrush to agitate the leather is a good way to clean the leather. Then you can wipe off the grime from your seats with a microfiber. Once the leather is clean, you should always moisturize and protect it with a reputable leather conditioner. I will never buy another car with cloth seats, because they are not sanitary. Once you have animals or kids, you will not want cloth again. Just be sure to clean and condition the leather seats to keep them from cracking over time.

    6. This is a must, and I’m totally guilty of neglecting my seats. I always go with Lexol brand when I do get around to treating my seats.

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