How to Care for leather interiors and leather seats in autos

Caring for the leather interior of your automobile is different than caring for leather boots or a leather jacket.  Leather interiors take abuse that other leather items do not. First and foremost, they typically have a good bit of weight on them, smothering them, rubbing against it for prolonged periods of time. The heavier the person, the rougher the treatment of the leather.  Think of what happens when a two-hundred pound driver slides into the seat, settles in, gets comfortable, drives twenty miles to work, then slides out of that seat. Then does the same thing on the way home.  Now multiply that by about 250 work days each year and that’s not counting the family trips, quick trips to the store, etc etc.   Then there’s the fact that leather interiors are also subjected to extended periods of extreme heat and cold.  Lastly, spilled coffee, soda, salty french fries, ketchup, etc, etc all fall into the category of things that just aren’t good for leather.  With all of this in mind, automobile manufacturers tend to tre

at leather interiors to be able to stand up to rough treatment.

We’ve all seen leather interiors that were not cared for.  Dried out, cracked and with large irreparable splits, these interiors started out as beautiful as any other interior but year after year of constant use and, sadly, neglect ruins them…and it can happen quickly.

One of the best leather conditioners you can buy for just about any leather (but not nubuck or suede) is Leather Honey Leather Conditioner (shown to the left).  With over 5,000 reviews and an overall rating of 4.5+ stars on Amazon, this is one of the most popular leather conditioners on the market.

Leather Honey is widely considered one of the top leather conditioners you can buy.  We use it for our interior as well as all of our analine leather surfaces.  If you are working with nubuck or suede, then this isn’t the conditioner to use but it works very well and is safe for all others.

As mentioned above, caring for automobile leather is different than other leather for a number of reasons.  Below are some considerations when caring for your automobile leather.

The first step, as always, is to ensure you know your leather.


Brush first

It’s always a good idea to brush your leather before cleaning it.  Brushing will get rid of a surprising amount of dirt and grime, allowing your subsequent cleaning and conditioning efforts a better chance of getting into the pores and fabric of the leather itself, ensuring a deeper clean and more efficient conditioning.

You’ll want to invest a bit of money in a good brush.  Buy a specific brush and use it only for your leather, not brushing the dog or knocking the dirt off of your shoes.

We use Chemical Guys Leather Cleaning Kit a fair amount on our own vehicles and it has proven itself time and time again to be well worth the money.  With over one thousand customer reviews and a very strong 4+ star rating, the Chemical Guys leather kit is a worthwhile buy.

Clean up spills quickly

No different than anywhere else – don’t let the spill just sit there.  But, use care when cleaning.  This is where it is important to understand what kind of leather you have.  Is there a protective layer?  If so, you don’t want to scrub that off or use a solvent that will damage it.

Depending on the type of leather your automobile, it may have a protective leather or it may now.  Solvents or ammonias can break this protective layer down.  The overall best bet for cleaning spill is to use warm water and a clean rag.  A strong benefit of leather over cloth upholstery is that leather resists the spills soaking in.

Let the leather air dry after cleaning – do not use a hair dryer or other forced heat as this will damage the leather

For stubborn spills, a strong recommendation is to use Ivory bar soap and clean lukewarm water.  Rub lightly, rinse with a clean rag and then let it air dry.

Blue Dye Transfer

Yes, this is real.  Over time, the dye in many jeans, for example, will rub off and discolor lighter color leather seats.  This is not a defect of the leather used for the seat. The standard advice on this is, if you get to choose, choose a darker leather to prevent this.  If you already have light colored leather seating, use care with what you wear when you drive.