Leather seat cleaning

Brett Dikeman brett at cloud9.net
Tue Dec 12 20:44:00 EST 2006

On Dec 11, 2006, at 8:14 PM, Eric Huppert wrote:

> Need to clean the ECRU seats on my new (to me)96 A6 Avant... Going  
> to play
> "flip that car" and need to get it cleaned before I dig into the  
> mechanical
> stuff. Searched the archives for leather cleaning, but not too many  
> hits!
> The cleaner/conditioner isn't doing such a great job at removing  
> the crud.
> Owners manual says mild detergent and water. A friend just told me  
> that a
> car detailer he knows uses a mix of simple green and white ammonia.
> Will try the soap and water deal tomorrow, but figured I'd poll the
> collective masses!
> Thoughts, any BTDT???

1.Vacuum the seats.  Use the brush attachment and one of those light- 
colored-bristle paintbrushes to help get dirt/sand out of cracks and  
the stitching.

2.Get yourself a WHITE terry wash cloth, wet it with very warm water-  
ring it gently. You want enough water to mix with the lexol and foam  
pretty liberally.

3.Spray the seat with a few squeezes of Lexol's cleaner.  Work up a  
foam with the terry cloth, and go over the entire seat at least  
once.  If you notice the cloth getting really dirty- wipe the seat  
down immediately with a large bath towel, rinse your terry cloth, and  
repeat.  This keeps crap from soaking into the leather with the  
cleaner.  You may need more water and cleaner, especially if the seat  
hasn't been treated in a while.

4.Quickly wipe down quickly with a clean absorbent white bath towel.   
If it comes back anything except clean- you'll need to clean some  
more.  If you can't get to some seams, grab the shop vac and run  
along the seams carefully (don't scrape against the seat) to pull the  
water out of the cracks and seams.

5.Let the seat dry and inspect the seams etc closely; on my car,  
there was a fair bit of old conditioner in/around the stitching.   
Spot treat by using a small container of lexol w/water added and a  
second paintbrush, only this one with all the bristles cut about half- 
way (scissors work best.)  Toothbrushes are not recommended.  Don't  
let the cleaner sit and soak in; wipe after brushing, look for dirt,  

6.Wait an hour or two for the leather to dry up, or take the car on  
an errand and set the heater on high if it's cold.  Get the entire  
interior of the car nice and toasty warm.  If it's the summer time,  
just park the car in the sun.

7.Apply lexol conditioner.  Use the bottle on the fine mist, and mist  
the entire seat, then wipe down- I find a palm-sized chunk of that  
cheap yellow car-wash-sponge stuff works really well.  If the stuff  
seeps in over the course of a few minutes, apply more.  The headrests  
and anything facing windows tend to dry out and soak up the conditioner.

8.Make sure the application is even, and then just walk away and  
leave it for a day or more.

9.Come back . Seats are super-sticky, most likely; there may even be  
a little bit of sticky dried goo on them in spots.  That's fine.  Re- 
apply a light amount of the conditioner, and then after a few  
minutes, buff the seats with a large bathtowel.

The seats will continue to be sticky for perhaps 2-3 days, but after  
that, they'll be looking sharp provided they were not damaged.   
You'll also have overspray on all sorts of trim pieces- do the  
leather first, and worry about the overspray when you wash down door  
panels, center console, etc.

This will not remove leather STAINS, and no amount of magic will help  
a seat with cracks or a damaged surface.  Stains are a whole other  
problem, one with no real solution that won't do more damage.  DO NOT  
under ANY circumstances use chemicals like ammonia, like one lister  
suggested.  For dirt and grime around the stitching- it may take 2-3  
cleanings, but it will eventually disappear.

When doing a car interior that is in tough shape, I first vacuum  
EVERYTHING, then clean the leather, then condition it, then clean all  
the trim panels/pieces, carpet, etc.  I find Lysol disinfecting  
concentrate, mixed with distilled water, to be very effective at  
degreasing/cleaning and deodorizing carpet...just vacuum very  
thoroughly first.  Don't be afraid to really spray a lot on and let  
it sit for a good 10-15 minutes before wiping down- and do REALLY  
wipe/dry it with lots of towels.


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