You left the car window down or the sunroof open and there's a water stain in your car's leather seat. . . . or your girlfriend spilled here red wine in your leather car seat on a night out on the town. . . . or your kids decided they were a soon to be artist and tried their techniques out on your leather car seat with a pen, arrggg. Got kids myself, so feel your pain. Stain removal in leather seats can be tough, here's a few tricks to help get you going.
As a professional leather repair specialist I'm here to tell you that there are not to many products that can be used on a leather car seat that won't remove the finish before removing the stain. Most leather in todays cars is a finished leather with a water borne urethane leather dye applied to it and is pretty susceptible to chemicals and can be removed pretty easily with a solvent cleaner. So when in doubt call a professional.
Water stains in Leather Seat. . . . this is a pretty hard one to get rid of. I recently had reader send me an email on how he could get the water stains out of his car after leaving his sunroof open. This part is kinda for him considering I think I lost his email with pictures, I did get to see them though, so not all was lost. The pictures showed a crease that ran along the middle of the leather seat where the water had puckered the leather. In this type of situation there are two things we could do, one is sand the crease out and with some fillers and dye make the seat new again, this is where a leather professional comes in to play, or replacement of the section that is creased, that's where an upholstery shop comes in. In these type of situations there aren't any leather conditioners or cleaners in the world that will remove a creased or puckered leather, what happens is the actual structure of the fibers in the leather have been altered and what you see is what you have.
If the water hasn't puckered the leather and has just left a stain, a little trick I learned from my good friend Dwain Berlin with Leather Craft Secrets, and you go to your bread box in the kitchen for this one. Take a piece of bread and roll it up into a ball and rub and blot the area with the bread ball, works pretty good. Dwain has a lot of great advice for leather care, and if your interested in some great fun with leather go check out his book, it's quite impressive and I myself learned a few things.
Most of the time water will just evaporate and with no problems and the stains will disappear. If your car leather gets wet dry it as best you can with a towel and then condition it with your Lexol Conditioner. One way to dry the cars leather is by leaving the windows down and setting it in the sun to dry, or crack the windows and turn your car on with the heat on full blast and let it run for about 30 minutes. I'm not real hip on that one cause it's a waste of gas but it does work to dry things out better. But always condition, some rain waters are pretty dirty and harsh and the leather needs those extra nutrients to keep it soft.
If the stains are just too bad then new leather dye is the only way to bring it back then call your local leather professional like me to come and make it new again.
Mold Stains in Leather Seat. . . . Or mildew which ever. This one kinda goes along with the water stains. Take and mix a cup of water and a cup of rubbing alcohol and mix them together, take a towel and rub a small amount of the solution onto the stained areas, until the spot is gone, again watch for dye lift, this trick works pretty well and usually removes the mildew pretty quick without dye removal.
Food Stains in Leather Seat. . . . This one can be an easy one if you just don't eat in your car, but I'm just as guilty as most and eat on the run. A mild dish soap and warm water with a rag or scotch brite pad will do the trick in most cases. Most automotive leather is finished and food stuffs usually will wipe right off. If you run into a stubborn one though try a little all-purpose degreaser on a rag, don't rub too much or dye may lift. If the stain on your leather car seat from food doesn't come up with this then the dye from the food has penetrated the fibers of the leather and has dyed it, so it's time for a professional leather dye job.
Aniline leather or NuBuck leather is a different story though, thats the soft stuff you see as an inserted piece usually in the middle of the seats. You can use the soapy solution but water spots sometimes show up, so a special cleaner works best for this kind of leather. One I suggest is from the guys over at Leather Magic, they have a NuBuck Leather Care Kit that is the answer to all your NuBack needs. This kit includes cleaners and conditioners for the soft stuff, this type of leather is delicate and should be treated as such. Don't use your usual leather cleaners and conditioners on this type of leather due to fact of the oils in them will damage the look of the leather, then no more soft feeling NuBuck, so definatly check out Leather Magics NuBuck Kit.
Ink, Marker, and Crayon on Leather Seat. . . . Urgent!!! Get to it as soon as you can! If the ink is fresh you have a better chance of removing it from the leather then not. Rubbing alcohol, with a little bit of acetone added will sometimes get it. I've heard of hairspray, tried it with not much luck. Usually when an ink pen and leather come together they marry and don't split to easily. Ink is a dye and is made to penetrate whatever it comes into contact with. Most ink spots I've ran into I've usually had to dye the leather to cover the spot.
Crayon on a leather seat can be a booger if it's melted in the seat, you can try this but be careful not to burn or pucker your leather. Take an iron and a paper towel and lay the paper towel over the crayon and with a low heat rub the iron over the paper towel over the crayon. The crayon will melt into the paper towel, move the towel around to clean spots until the crayon is gone, a little of rubbing alcohol should remove the remaining. This trick works on carpet and cloth too. If they're just marks on the leather seat a little soap and water should do the trick or even a little rubbing alcohol on a towel works good to. If all fails there is a product from Protective Products Corp. that is all natural with no solvents that will remove crayon and lipstick it's called Solv-It, but just like anything try a spot in an unsuspecting spot to see if it removes dye.
One last trick that I've read about around the net and am in the process of testing it, but it the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, they do work around the house, so why not the car too. I've removed crayon and marks on my walls before with them, I do notice it take a little paint with it though, but they do work. If you use one, be careful and don't go ape sh$#, rub it then look, rub it then look, they will remove dye, so when using it take your time and check it as you go.
Sweat Stains in Leather Seat . . . . Salt stains from sweat can be pretty gross looking, but there is a little trick. Take and make a solution of 3 parts vinegar and one part water and wet a towel and rub the area clean, the vinegar breaks down the and helps to remove the stain.
Paint on Leather Seat. . . . Paint removal on a leather car seat, well that ones a hard one. If it has dried it's probably there to stay. If it's a water color, just use soap and water to remove it. Latex house paint, you can try a little Goof Off but keep in mind this is a solvent and can damage the leather seat and remove dye. I have in the past been able to take my pocket knife and scrape it off. Wet the area first with a little water and lightly try to lift the paint off with your knife or even a razor blade, but don't cut the leather. Mostly though this really doesn't work without removing the dye underneath, but I have had luck sometimes. If its car paint, try a little paint reducer on a rag, but just wipe lightly and don't soak the area with the reducer. Solvents and leather seats just don't mix.
My best advice to all when it come to stains in your leather car seats, and that is to be conscious of what you do, try to keep our little Picasso's pen free, keep our food out of our cars, roll the windows up and sunroofs closed, and always remember to treat the leather with your Lexol Conditioner on a regular basis, this helps to keep the leather car seats protected and soft and makes it easier to get the spills and accidents from turning into disasters.
But always remember that we leather repair professionals are here to save those leather car seats and bring them back to there original state. If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact me for all your leather repair needs.
About the author:
The Interior Guy, LLC. , Automotive Interior Repair
I've been in the business for a long time and know a lot of the ends and outs of repairing interiors, from leather and vinyl repair to plastic repair and dyeing of all interior trim parts including carpet and cloth. Need some advice or a tip to fix your automotive interior, I've put together some really helpful material with some great products I recommend and use in my repairs. Visit theinteriorguyllc.com for more articles just like this one.