Home » How to Quickly Clean Car Seats with Baking Soda

How to Quickly Clean Car Seats with Baking Soda

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Our vehicles take on some of the most wear and tear in our  everyday hustle. You car gets dirty on the outside as you are driving it. In addition, your car seats can be prone to stains, weird smells, and crumbs.

When you need to clean your car’s interior (and some of the exterior too), you can skip the pricey store cleaners and opt for something natural and affordable. Learning how to clean car seats with baking soda is an easy task. You can clean up stains and help with odors.

How to Clean Upholstery Car Seats

Cleaning your car seats can seem like a challenge. We are going to break it down for you with some easy-to-follow steps, so you can make your car seats look like new again.

  1. ​First, you need to empty your car. Take out car seats, trash, and any large items so you can see your seats. Don’t fuss over crumbs. Those will be taken care of next.
  2. Second, you will use a vacuum to pick up as much dirt, dust, and crumbs as you can. A cordless vacuum comes in handy for cleaning your car. It allows you to move about without dealing with cord tangles or restrictions.

Now you are ready to deal with cleaning your car seats. Make sure to look them over and take notice of any stains on the upholstery. You will want to treat stains before you clean the entire seat.

Woman holding a bag of baking soda

Best Product to Clean Cloth Car Seats

​Baking soda may just be the best thing to clean car seats, thanks to its multi-action stain treating and odor absorbing properties. You may have sprinkled baking soda on your carpet for cleaning.

For your car seats, you will instead be mixing the baking soda with warm water to make a spray which will penetrate your cloth seats for a better clean.

What Will You Need?

​For cleaning car upholstery with baking soda you are going to need:

  • ​An empty spray bottle
  • ​An unused toothbrush
  • ​A clean towel

These tools will help you hold the baking soda solution, help administer it, and blot it dry. You could use a larger scrub brush for the stain removal step on your upholstery seats. We prefer using a toothbrush so you can get concentrated scrubbing without damaging your cloth seats.

For the baking soda stain fighting solution you will want to mix:

  • ​¼ cup of baking soda
  • ​1 cup of warm water

The warm water helps the baking soda fully distribute and dissolve so you have a full mixture instead of water with dry chunks of baking soda.

How Do You Remove Stains?

​Remember this step is only for cleaning stains. If you don’t have any visible stains on your car seats then you can skip down to the next section for full seat cleaning.

Learning how to clean cloth car seats with baking soda is really easy. Since baking soda is great for removing stains, we suggest using it for stain treatment and removal.

Follow these steps in order to clean the stains on your car’s upholstery seats.

  1. Spray the stained area with the baking soda and water mixture.
  2. ​Use a brush or toothbrush to gently scrub the stain. We suggest making small circles with the scrubbing brush to best agitate the stain and help the cleaner begin reacting.
  3. Let the solution sit on the stain for 30 minutes. During this time you can clean a few other areas in your car.
  4. Use a damp towel to blot at the area to pick up remnants of the baking soda or stain.
  5. ​Now use a dry towel to blot up any excess liquid.

You will want to dry your seats as much as possible before the next step. This is because you will want to avoid over saturating your seats. If you keep pouring liquid onto your seats, it will begin to soak through the seat. A deep soaking like that can make drying your car seats very difficult and can potentially create a cool wet atmosphere that mold likes to thrive in.

How Can You Clean Car Seats?

​Now that you have treated the stains, you can move onto giving your entire car seats a good refreshing. This is something you should strive to do a few times a year when the weather is nice. That way, you can leave the windows down for the seats to finish air drying.

Cleaning your car seats helps them maintain a clean and fresh look. It also can get rid of any discoloration in the seats due to stains and dirt smears.

There are a few different products for cleaning your car seats. While baking soda was perfect for stain removal, you may want to opt to use a vinegar cleaning solution for the entire seats. This is because vinegar provides a strong cleaning power along with helping deodorize and eliminate bacteria. White distilled vinegar is not a certified disinfecting product, but it is able to kill 93% of bacteria and germs as well as take care of mold and mildew in fabrics.

A great car seat cleaning mixture is:

  • ​1 cup of white distilled vinegar
  • ​1 cup of warm water
  • ​A few drops of Dawn dish detergent

This mixture really is cleaning magic. It gives you a powerful foaming cleaner that will give your fabrics and upholstery a great overall clean without costing an arm and a leg at the store, plus, you may already have all these ingredients at home.

You will also want to have a bucket of clean water along with a small handheld towel for blotting afterwards.

Woman using a baking soda cleaning solution to clean her car seats

To clean your car seats you will want to follow these easy steps:

  1. Spray the vinegar mixture over your entire car seat. Get it wet enough to feel it without soaking it or causing puddles in the contours of the fabric.
  2. ​Scrub the mixture into the seats. Use a circular scrubbing motion. This tends to be gentler on fabrics while also getting them cleaned from multiple angles instead of moving too hard back and forth. You can use the toothbrush again, but for this step we recommend a larger brush like the OXO Good Grips All Purpose Scrub Brush.  
  3. ​Let the foaming mixture sit on your seats for a few minutes. It can fully work on lifting any dirt by giving a little extra cleaning power to stubborn stains.
  4. Next, you will want to use a damp cloth to blot away at the seats. This will rinse the dish detergent from the seats.
  5. Finally use a dry cloth or paper towels to blot the seats in order to pull up as much moisture as you can. This will help your seats dry faster.
  6. Leave the windows down and let your seats dry for a few hours. Boost your drying speed by parking your car outside on a warm sunny day. The heat and sun will help accelerate the drying process. Just be mindful of the sun possibly fading dark seats.
  7. When your seats are dry, you can run a handheld vacuum over them. This extra step picks up any dirt or debris that was pulled out of the fabric while you were cleaning. Vacuuming can also restore the texture of your car seats.

You may notice a strong vinegar smell from this cleaning product. It will fade as the seats dry and over a few days. If you aren’t too crazy about the smell of white vinegar, you can keep your windows down while you are riding to help air it out. Or, you can add in a drop or two of essential oils to the cleaning solution to help cut the vinegar smell.

This vinegar cleaning solution works great on cleaning leather car seats as well. You will just want to skip using the scrub brush on your leather surfaces. Instead opt for a microfiber cloth to rub your leather seats down.

Cleaning your car seats is a great way to cut down on the wear and tear that your car deals with. You can start a car cleaning routine to help you better cut down on the mess in your car. Implement a spot cleaning schedule to keep your seats in like new condition for years to come.

Bonus: You can clean a lot in your car with vinegar, like your car battery and engine block. Don’t stop at just cleaning the seats!

How to Clean Child Car Seats with Baking Soda

If you are giving your own car seats a good scrub down and cleaning, you don’t want to forget about giving your little ones a clean seat as well.

Cleaning a kid’s car seat has a few different steps, but can be executed fairly easily.

  1. First, you will want to run the vacuum over the car seat before you remove the top padding cover. This will allow you to pick up as many crumbs and debris as you can before washing.
  2. ​Spray the car seat cover with the above mentioned baking soda mixture (¼ baking soda & 1 cup warm water). This will work to start deodorizing your car seat as well as break down any visible stains.
  3. ​Next, you will carefully take off the car seat cover and put in in the wash on the gentle cycle. Use a mild detergent so it doesn’t agitate sensitive little skin. You should also toss a little white distilled vinegar in with the car seat cover. This will work to clean any stains, keep the car seat’s color bright, and sanitize any hidden bacteria.
  4. While the car seat cover is washing you will want to work on the base. Turn the base upside down over a large trash can or out in the yard where you won’t mind Cheerios and crumbs being dropped. Shake the car seat or tap the bottom for a minute or two to help dislodge as many crumbs as you can.
  5. Use a vacuum to get into the crevices and pull up any leftover debris and dirt.
  6. By this time the car seat cover should be close to finished. Pull it out of the washer and hang it up to air dry.
  7. Use a wet wipe or a damp cloth with the baking soda mixture on it to wipe down the entire exposed car seat surface. You will also want to spray the straps liberally with the baking soda mixture and rub them with a cloth or toothbrush.
  8. Once the base and car seat cover are completely dry, reassemble and place them in the car.

There are quite a few steps for learning how to clean child car seats with baking soda, but the two separate surfaces can be cleaned at the same time thanks to the washing machine.

Cleaning Other Parts of Your Car with Baking Soda

While learning how to clean car seats with baking soda is a great way to get the sitting surfaces of your car fresh and clean smelling, you may be struggling with how to clean other parts of your car.

Keep the baking soda close by because you can use it in a few more places inside and outside your car to help it look and smell fresh.

  • ​Use a wet sponge and sprinkle baking soda on it to scrub around the outside of you car. This will scrub away dirt while also restoring shine to your license plate, wiper blades, head lights, tail lights and your side mirrors. Just rinse with water after you have finished scrubbing.
  • ​Sprinkle baking soda in your floor board to help loosen any dirt as well as absorb odors. Use a dry brush or your hand to work the baking soda into the floor mats evenly. Let it sit at least two hours if not overnight. Then vacuum the baking soda up.
  • ​Keep a box of baking soda in the car to not only help keep it smelling fresh day after day, but also for any fresh spills. Sprinkle baking soda on any new spilled liquids, it will absorb the liquid and allow you to simply vacuum it up once you arrive home.


Baking soda is a great product to work into your everyday cleaning and health routine thanks to its many benefits and powerful cleaning abilities. It is also super cheap so you can afford to keep a few extra boxes around the house.

Learning how to clean car seats with baking soda is a great and natural way to clean your car without using expensive products or using harsh chemicals on your car’s interior.

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.