By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

August 31, 2023

Can Glass Cleaner Really Clean Car Seats? 

Key Takeaways

  • Glass cleaner may not be best for cleaning car seats: While glass cleaner can effectively clean glass surfaces, there are better options for car seats due to the different materials and finishes used in upholstery.
  • Remember, glass cleaners are formulated to remove dirt, grime, and streaks from glass surfaces. Aim for non-ammonia versions if you intend to use them on car seats.
  • Ammonia-based glass cleaner can damage upholstery materials, cause discoloration or fading, and leave behind residue or stickiness.
  • You might have seen the latest trend on social media or TikTok on using foaming glass cleaner to clean seats. The truth is that it can clean your chairs. However, you must ensure that the chemicals you use are safer for your car seats.

    As an expert in auto detailing, I have been asked numerous times about using glass cleaner on car seats. In this article, I will provide my expert opinion on whether glass cleaners can clean car seats and shed light on this approach's potential benefits and risks.

    Fabric car seats are definitely more forgiving than leather seats. Leather seats are treated or coated with colors to provide your vehicle's interior color. 

    Ammonia and alcohol are the main ingredients in glass cleaner and can act like a solvent and bleed the colors from the seats. Fabric seats are typically made of synthetic fibers and don't have the same risk. 

    However, it is good to test a section first before your use it on the entire seat. I recommend an area behind the kneecaps on the front of the seats. From your seating position, you won't typically see this section. 

    Another section to test is the seat bolters. 

    How does this work?

    Glass cleaner is formulated to remove dirt, grime, and streaks from glass surfaces. It works great because it typically contains ammonia, alcohol, and surfactants that help dissolve and lift away dirt. Surfactants allow the foaming action to help lift dirt and grime away. 

    The cleaning action can effectively remove dirt and stains on fabric car seats since it helps loosen and dissolve stains. 

    The BIGGEST challenge is the ability to remove the dirt from the surface without smearing and driving the dirt further into the fabric. You must use an absorbent microfiber towel or paper towels to help soak up the liquidity of the cleaner.

    Better yet, it is better if you are able to use a portable extractor. 

    The most popular extractor is from Bissel, called the Little Green Machine. It's gotten great reviews as well. 

    However, it is not required to use this, but it is a more thorough process. 

    You can also use a wet-dry vac if you don't have an extractor. However, using a few microfiber clothes to help mop the moisture goes a long way in drying time.

    Common Risks of Using Glass Cleaner on Car Seats:

    As mentioned earlier, using glass cleaner on car seats can have several risks and potential effects. It can cause damage to upholstery materials, such as discoloration, fading, or even deterioration of the material over time. 

    Residue and stickiness may be left behind, especially if you don't mop up or extract the cleaners from the surfaces. As a result, the cloth feels uncomfortable and rough to the touch. 

    For example, one time, when I over-saturated the fabric and did not mop up or use water to help dilute the cleaner, the seats felt dirty.

    However, they looked clean. A week later, the soap and chemicals were extracted using just hot water and the Green Machine, and the fabric dried soft and supple. 

    What If You Don't Have a Glass Cleaner or an Extractor? 

    A diluted mild soap or carpet cleaner can work as an all-purpose cleaner (APC).

    The same approach should be used, and you should aim to remove as much dirt and chemicals as possible. 

    The cleaner TUFF STUFF is a popular alternative to glass cleaners.

    This is formulated for fabric and interiors to be safer than glass cleaners. 

    Another option is to use dedicated upholstery cleaners specifically designed to clean and protect car seats.

    These products are formulated to effectively remove stains, dirt, and odors without causing damage or leaving behind any residue.

    Can Glass Cleaner Really Clean Car Seats? 

    As a pro-consumer detailing expert, I typically look at new methods and tricks in the cleaning space. As a detailing expert, the answer is yes, but not that great. 

    Adding ANY liquid to a stain can help loosen dirt and lift the stains. However, some cleaners work BETTER than others, depending on the application.

    While glass cleaner may be effective for cleaning windows and mirrors, it is unsuitable for DEEP cleaning car seats. Deep cleaning car seats may require a different chemical to treat organic material and help neutralize odors.

    There are several reasons why glass cleaner is not suitable for car seat cleaning:

    • Chemical Composition: Glass cleaners are specifically formulated to remove dirt, grime, and streaks from glass surfaces. They typically contain ammonia or alcohol, which can be too harsh for car seat materials. These chemicals can strip away protective coatings.
    • Less Effectiveness on Upholstery: Car seats are made of various materials, such as fabric, leather, or vinyl. Glass cleaner is not designed to effectively clean these materials, especially if they are seriously stained or soiled. 
    • Unpleasant Odors: Glass cleaners often have strong chemical odors that can linger in your car's interior. This can be particularly bothersome if you spend significant time in your car. This is especially true for ammonia-based cleaners. 

    How Products in Glass Cleaners Work to Clean

    Fun Fact: Did you know that the first glass cleaner was invented in the early 1930s? Since then, it has become indispensable for keeping our glass surfaces pristine and sparkling.

    What are the Ingredients in Glass Cleaner?

    The ingredients in glass cleaners may vary depending on the specific brand and formulation, but some common ingredients are typically found in glass cleaners. Here are the main ingredients you can expect to find:

    1. Ammonia: Ammonia is a powerful cleaning agent that helps to dissolve dirt, grease, and grime on glass surfaces. It provides streak-free cleaning.
    2. Isopropyl Alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is another common ingredient in glass cleaners. It helps to effectively dissolve and remove fingerprints, smudges, and other marks from glass surfaces.
    3. Detergents: Glass cleaners often contain detergents to help break down and remove tough stains and residues from glass surfaces.
    4. Fragrance: Some glass cleaners may contain fragrance to provide a pleasant scent when using the product.
    5. Surfactants: Surfactants are used in glass cleaners to help the solution spread evenly on the glass surface and improve the cleaning effectiveness. This is used for Foaming Glass Cleaners.
    6. Water: Water is the main component of glass cleaners and serves as a solvent for the other ingredients.

    It's important to note that some glass cleaners may have additional ingredients or specific formulations for specialized cleaning purposes. 

    NOTE: Always read the label and instructions on the glass cleaner product to know what are the actual ingredients contained.

    Today, glass cleaners have evolved to include a combination of effective cleaning agents and specialized formulations for different types of glass surfaces.

    Is it Bad to Use Glass Cleaner Car Seats?

    Cleaning car seats can seem only left to the professional, but with a few steps, you can also get great results. 

    While it is not ideal to use glass cleaner, you can use it in the pinch. The key ingredient is moisture. You want to avoid the stains to set in as they dry. 

    Water: Plain water works great, too, but the chemicals in glass clean can help cut through grease and organic material.

    Again, be sure to mop up and soak up as much water and moisture as you can.

    Additional Potential Risks of Using Glass Cleaners:

    Due to the alcohol content, you might end up losing some waterproofing qualities on your fabric. Some car seats have a waterproof or water-resistant coating to protect against spills and stains. However, using glass cleaner can strip away this protective coating, exposing the seats to potential damage from liquids.

    Remember, glass cleaners are specifically formulated for cleaning glass, not upholstery. Chemicals like Folex are a popular choice in the automotive detailing space. 

    Unlike Folex, glass cleaners may not effectively remove stains to lift the stains.

    Tips for Removing Stains and Spills on Car Seats 

     Removing stains and spills from car seats is simpler than you think. With the right approach and products, it can be accomplished effectively. 

    Here are the steps to follow:

    1. Act fast: It's important to take immediate action when you notice a stain or spill on your car seat. The longer the stain sits, the harder it will be to remove.
    2. Blot the stain: Use a clean cloth or paper towel to blot the stain gently. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can cause it to spread and penetrate deeper into the upholstery.
    3. Pre-treat: Depending on the type of stain, you can use a pre-treatment solution specifically designed for car interiors. Apply the solution to the stained area and let it sit for a few minutes to loosen the stain.
    4. Scrub gently: Using a soft brush or sponge, gently scrub the stained area in a circular motion. Be careful not to scrub too aggressively, as this can damage the upholstery.
    5. Rinse and remove residue: After scrubbing, use a clean cloth dampened with water to rinse the area and remove any remaining residue from the stain-removal process.
    6. Dry thoroughly: Allow the seat to air dry completely before using it again. You can mop up the excess water to help shorten the drying time. 

    When to Use Steam

    If you are dealing with dried stains, a steam cleaner can help remove them more effectively. The steam helps relax the fabric, rehydrate the stain, and allow for easier extraction of the dirt. 

    One thing to note is that the dirt or solids should be vacuumed to avoid messing the fabric. 

    How to Avoid Discoloration or Fading

    Discoloration or fading is a potential risk when using glass cleaner on car seats. Here are some factors to consider and tips for preventing discoloration or fading:

    • Chemical reaction: Glass cleaners contain ingredients that may react with the materials used in car seats, such as leather, vinyl, or fabric. This reaction can result in discoloration or fading.
    • Sensitivity of materials: Different car seat materials have varying sensitivity levels to cleaning products. When exposed to glass cleaner, some materials may be more prone to discoloration or fading.
    • Concentration of the cleaner: Using a glass cleaner with a high concentration of chemicals can increase the risk of discoloration or fading. Consider using a cleaner specifically formulated for car seats or a diluted glass cleaner.
    • Testing on a small area: Before using glass cleaner on the entire car seat, perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area. This will help you assess how the cleaner interacts with the material and prevent potential damage.
    • Gentle cleaning technique: Avoid scrubbing or rubbing the material aggressively when using glass cleaner on car seats. This can cause friction and increase the risk of discoloration or fading.
    • Proper rinsing: Ensure you thoroughly rinse the car seat after using glass cleaner. Residual cleaner left on the material can contribute to discoloration or fading over time.
    • Regular maintenance: Regularly cleaning and maintaining car seats can prevent the buildup of dirt and grime, which can ultimately contribute to discoloration or fading.

    A friend used a glass cleaner on her leather car seats without realizing the risks. After a few applications, the seats looked cleaner, but she started noticing discoloration and fading on the seats. Unfortunately, the strong chemical stripped the coating and interacted with the leather dye. 

    She had to invest in professional leather restoration services to restore the seats to their original condition. This experience taught her the importance of using products specifically designed for car seats and performing patch tests before applying any cleaner.

    Alternative Cleaning Methods for Car Seats

    Other cheaper and more affordable options to clean your vehicle's interior use products you have at home. 

    DIY at Home Upholstery Cleaners

    When it comes to cleaning car seats, there are several DIY upholstery cleaning solutions that you can try. These solutions can help remove stains, eliminate odors, and keep your car seats looking fresh. 

    Here are some effective DIY upholstery cleaning solutions:

    1. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the stained areas of the car seat and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, scrub the area with a soft brush or sponge. Finally, wipe away the solution with a clean cloth.
    2. Create a paste by mixing baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stains on the car seat and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then, scrub the stains with a brush or sponge. Rinse the area with water and pat it dry with a clean cloth.
    3. Dish Soap and Warm Water. You can solve stubborn stains by mixing dish soap and warm water. Apply the DIY Upholstery Cleaning Solutions to the stained areas and scrub gently. Rinse with water and blot dry.

    DO NOT USE Hydrogen Peroxide:

    I would AVOID any mixture with hydrogen peroxide and water. It can bleach fabric and should only be used on white fabrics. 

    Remember, with any solution, always test any solution on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn't cause any damage or discoloration. 

    Regular Maintenance and Prevention

    Regular maintenance and prevention are crucial for keeping car seats clean and in good condition. 

    Here are some essential steps to ensure that your car seats stay clean:

    • Engage in regular maintenance: Schedule regular maintenance sessions for your car seats to prevent dirt and stains from accumulating. This includes vacuuming loose dirt or debris and utilizing a mild upholstery cleaner to eliminate surface stains.
    • Avoid eating and drinking in the car: Limit the consumption of food and beverages in your car to prevent spills and stains on the seats. If necessary, use spill-proof containers and promptly clean up any spills.
    • Engage in regular inspections: Regularly inspect your car seats for any signs of damage, such as tears, loose threads, or worn-out areas. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent further damage and expensive repairs.
    • Take proactive measures for stain removal: Clean up any spills or stains on your car seats immediately. Blot the area with a clean cloth or towel to absorb as much liquid as possible, and then use a mild upholstery cleaner to eliminate the stain. Prompt action can prevent the stain from setting and becoming more difficult to remove.

    By incorporating regular maintenance and prevention practices, you can extend the lifespan of your car seats and keep them looking clean and fresh for years to come.

    Final Thoughts on Glass Cleaners on Car Seats

    While using foaming glass cleaner might be popular, I suggest diluting the chemical on a pre-moistened seating surface. You want to avoid discoloration and other damage from the ammonia. 

    In addition, there are better options for deeper cleaning, but it can be useful in a pinch.  

    There are better choices for cleaning seats, especially leather ones. 

    So, next time you're faced with a dirty seat, opt for a cleaner specifically designed for upholstery to achieve the best results and keep your seats looking fresh and new. 

    FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

    Is the Dollar Tree glass cleaner hack safe to use on car seats?

    While the Dollar Tree glass cleaner hack has shown positive results, handling the cleaner with caution is important. Avoid breathing in the cleaner and never mix it with bleach, as the combination can create deadly fumes.

    Additionally, certain fabrics may be damaged by ammonia, so it is advisable to perform a spot test before applying the cleaner to the entire seat.

    What are some alternative methods for cleaning car seats?

    In addition to the Dollar Tree glass cleaner hack, there are several other methods for cleaning car seats.

    These include using dish soap and water for routine cleaning, incorporating Borax for deeper cleaning, steam cleaning for the BEST results, and gentle leather cleaners specifically designed for leather seats.

    How can I remove specific stains from my car seats?

    For spot cleaning and removing specific stains, there are various methods you can try.

    Hairspray or rubbing alcohol can be effective in removing ink stains, salt, and dish soap can tackle grease stains, glass cleaner can lift coffee stains, and a combination of cold water and dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent can help get rid of smoke stains.

    How can I clean floor mats effectively?

    To clean floor mats, you can create a cleaning solution with water and scrub the mats using a soft bristle brush.  

    I recommend using upholstery cleaner like TUFF STUFF to help lift the stains. Be sure to remove the dirt and debris before spraying.

    More Articles Worth Checking Out:

    Key TakeawaysLife Happens - Carvana's delivery delays are often due to uncontrollable factors like weather, logistical issues, mechanical problems discovered during final

    Read More

    Does Carvana Change Oil or Tires? (The Truth About Vehicle Prep)Key TakeawaysCarvana does not routinely provide oil changes or tire replacements as

    Read More

    When buying a used car online, I've often asked, "Just how comprehensive is Carvana's 150-point inspection?" We all know peace of mind

    Read More

    Do Carvana Cars Come Detailed?My Experience with Carvana Before delving into the details of Carvana's level of advertised detailing, let me share

    Read More

    Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

    About the author

    I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

    {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Get Your Free Guide:
    Top 3 Rules to Buying a Car