How To Clean Car Leather Interior For A New Matt Look

A beautiful leather interior finish is the ultimate mark of a luxury car. But a grubby steering wheel or seats aren’t just an eyesore, then reduce the value of your vehicle and can even harbour nasty bacteria. But never fear… Because we’re about to reveal the insider secrets as to the correct process for a clean car leather interior and steering wheel to restore them to their former glory.

 The Ultimate Guide to a Clean Car Leather Interior

  • Step 1: It’s never too early to begin a clean car leather interior regime
  • Step 2: The how-to process
  • Step 3: A clean car leather interior includes the steering wheel

Step 1: It’s never too early to begin a clean car leather interior regime

The most important thing to understand is that the best car leather care should begin as soon as possible. And yes – this ideally means from the moment the car rolls off the production line. Contamination from different sources and UV rays are the enemy of leather. Not only do they wear it down, but they can also cause discolouration.

The following are some of the contaminants that cause leather wear and tear:

  • Oils from human skin
  • Food and drink
  • Dust
  • Mud
  • Gum
  • Makeup
  • Beauty products, including perfumes & aftershaves, moisturiser, hair spray etc.
  • Sun damage caused by UV rays

While leather is a strong and robust product, it still requires constant care and attention to ensure it keeps its good looks. White and cream leather interiors, in particular, should be carefully looked after as they’re one of the most susceptible to stains and darkening in the areas of highest wear and tear.

Step 2: The how-to process

Cleaning a car leather interior is a 3-stage process. This is:

  • Clean
  • Condition
  • Protect

The cleaning process: This is done using a specialist leather cleaner, such as Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner – one that’s colourless and odourless so it can safely be used on any type of leather. Such a cleaner will gently ease away any contamination without affecting the colour or causing any damage to the integrity of the leather. This means it can safely be used on all-natural, synthetic, and colour-coded leather.

When cleaning a leather interior it’s recommended to use a micro-fibre cloth, as opposed to leather-cleaning brushes. This is so you don’t cause any damage to the leather itself. Spray the cleaner onto the cloth and rub over the surface. Be thorough, as a clean surface is needed before you carry onto the next step.

Be generous with the amount of cleaner you use. Once done, use a clean microfibre cloth to buff the seats. Don’t forget the arm rests and centre console.

The conditioning process: This is vital to ensure the leather remains supple and pliant. This, in turn, prevents cracking and breakage that can occur over time. In older vehicles that haven’t had the correct care, the edges of the seats – especially on the driver’s side that’s subjected to harder wear – are particularly prone to this.

Be sure to choose a high-grade conditioner, such as Chemical Guys Vintage Series Leather Conditioner. This should be applied to the leather using a microfibre applicator, as opposed to a cloth or sponge, as this will spread the cream evenly. Don’t apply too much product to the applicator and be sure to squash the cream into it so you don’t end up putting large blobs onto the leather itself.

Work the product well into every part of the seats, getting into all the creases and crevices. Continue until the product has been well-worked in and you can’t see any areas that are shinier than others. Don’t forget the headrest. Buff with a clean microfibre cloth to finish.

The leather should now look crisp, clean and in matt condition. Cheap cleaning products will make the leather appear shiny – this is not the look you should be aiming for. Good leather detailing presents a matt finish that feels soft and supple.

Protect the leather: This is done using a protective serum, such as Chemical Guys Leather Protectant Serum. This final step is especially important if your vehicle’s interior is subjected to excessive UV rays, such as convertibles. This effectively protects the leather against sun damage, as well as body oils, dirt, dust and any other contaminants.

This is the step that restores a beautiful matt sheen – the perfect look for any luxury interior finish. Use another applicator pad, apply the serum to the pad and squash it well in. Then apply to the leather itself. As well as protection, this prevents future leather cracking. It also restores that wonderful new leather smell – so is ideal for older cars as well as newer ones.

Work well into the leather and then use a separate micro-fibre cloth to buff. Voila! You’ve restored your car’s interior to its showroom glory.

If you can’t get enough of that that extra Leathery new car smell, grab some Chemical Guys Leather Scent also.

Step 3: A clean car leather interior includes the steering wheel

Don’t forget the steering wheel! This is one point of contact that’s especially important because our hands naturally transfer skin oil that can, over time, cause discolouration and damage to the leather. This leaves a greasy, shiny coating, so be sure to include this area in the leather cleaning process.

Remember to include the gear stick, handbrake and dash if they are also clad in leather.

The process is the same for both new and older cars with a leather interior. Clean your leather a couple of times a year unless you do very high mileage. To do it properly will take a good couple of hours – and longer if the leather is particularly dirty or worn.

For a more in-depth guide check out this video:

Alternatively, entrust your precious wheels to a quality car detailing service where they can do the hard work for you. You can also check out our general interior cleaning guide here.

So there you have it. The easy 3-step guide to a clean car leather interior. Remember, the inside is as important as the outside, so don’t neglect it. Your car is a high-value item, so deserves to be treated as such. Well-looked after cars not only maintain their value, but they’re also a joy to drive. And cleanliness, so they say, is next to godliness. Happy motoring…

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Car COVID Cleaning: How to sanitise your car interior

We’re now a nation of mask-wearers and hand-sanitizers. But have you considered that the interior of your vehicle can also harbour the virus? Careful car COVID cleaning can dramatically reduce the chance of lingering coronavirus being a transmission risk.

We’ve already written about cleaning the interior of your daily driver. This post discusses the best practices that not only make your car interior gleam but make it a safe haven too.

Before You Start

There are a few important points to understand before we start. The first is this: safety.

The latest WHO advice suggests that the virus can last for up to 72 hours on various surfaces, so you might want to consider wearing appropriate PPE. A mask (worn correctly) disposable apron and gloves are a must if you have even the tiniest suspicion that a person with COVID has been inside or touched your vehicle.

It’s also highly advisable to use disposable cloths. If you’d rather not, then be sure to wash them (and your clothes) as soon as you’ve finished. A hot wash at 60oC will kill any virus that’s on them. 

No matter how fastidious you are in your car COVID cleaning efforts, you can never guarantee that the car is virus free (or even that any of the methods mentioned below are confirmed to work). So you should continue to wash/sanitize your hands every time you use your vehicle, refrain from touching your face and follow all the government advice to prevent catching, and the spread of, COVID.

Car COVID Cleaning Best Practice

The following all need to be actioned to ensure the best chance of total sanitation.

Car COVID cleaning #1: Vacuum

Remove the mats. Vacuum the car thoroughly. This means using a variety of the vacuum’s utensils to reach every nook and cranny. 

Don’t forget to:

Move each seat to its furthest points to gain access to all the carpeted areas. Push the nozzle right into the creases of the seats themselves. Pull out the seatbelts and vacuum in the crevices.  Once the initial dirt has been removed, treat with an antibacterial carpet cleaner.

Clean rubber mats outside the vehicles, hoovering first and then scrubbing them with an anti-bacterial cleaner. If you don’t have the latter, then a soap and water combination will do the trick (the coronavirus has a lipid membrane that’s dissolved by soap). Carpet mats should be cleaned in the same way as the car’s interior carpeted areas.

Car COVID cleaning #2: The seats

If the material is fabric then use an appropriate antibacterial fabric product. 

For leather seats, a combination of soap and water is a safe and sufficient way to clean them. Don’t scrub hard when cleaning your leather interior, and avoid excess suds and water. Hand washing has been recommended as a primary way to protect oneself against infection by COVID-19. This is not only because soap can kill the virus, but also because the friction of washing contributes. This holds true for washing your leather interior as well. You might also consider a specialist leather cleaner to keep the leather soft.

If you use car seat covers, remove them and wash at 60oC.

Car COVID cleaning #3: Disinfect all the touch points

This is, perhaps, one of the most important aspects of a deep coronavirus car clean. Touch points are the most likely place for the virus to lie so should be thoroughly wiped with an anti-bacterial cleaner or soap & water combination. The areas include (but aren’t restricted to) the:

  • Steering wheel (see leather cleaning above)
  • Hand brake
  • Seat Belt clasps and clips
  • Hand brake
  • Gear stick
  • Indicators and the other control stalks
  • All switches and buttons
  • Central console
  • Touch screen for sat nav/media etc
  • USB sockets
  • Cup holders

Don’t forget all the areas in the rear of the cabin too. You should also clean your car keys. Although not technically the interior of the car, be sure to wipe all the car handles, bonnet release catch and boot handle as well.

Car COVID cleaning #4: The boot

Be sure to pay attention to the boot. After all, this is where you put your shopping bags after touching the trolly, bags, checkout and other areas within a supermarket. Follow the same steps as above regarding the carpeted areas and the harder surfaces.

Car COVID cleaning #5: Disposal of materials

Any cloths that you don’t want to bin should be washed at 60oC. Everything else should be bagged and binned safely. Be sure to change your clothes as soon as you’ve finished and wash them separately from your other laundry.

Car COVID cleaning #6: Other considerations

You might consider a professional ozone treatment. A professional car detail shop, will place a special machine within the car that releases ozone, just like we do. It’s known as a powerful steriliser that kills many bacteria and viruses. While there’s no conclusive proof (yet) that ozone kills coronavirus, there’s some promising research. An ozone treatment reaches into every tiny area of the car that regular cleaning is unable to get to, including inside vents and into the fibres of the seats and carpet. It also removes any lingering odours from pets, smoke or anything else.

it’s easy to overlook your car when it comes to coronavirus cleanliness. While the above methods can’t remove the risk of virus transmission completely, weekly car COVID cleaning goes a long way to reducing it. Just think of it as another step to keeping you and your family healthy during the pandemic.

Stay safe and happy motoring.


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Cleaning the interior of your daily driver supercar

Most supercars are reserved for weekend best, for special occasions or for a blast down to the south of France in the summer (like Radical Rally perhaps). They generally don’t get used for daily drivers. But we know that some of you will want to spend a lot of time in your fantastic motors. So we put together some top tips on cleaning the interior of your daily driver with minimal effort and tools for maximum impact in between visits to the detailing studio.

This is a simple guide that you can use to maintain the appearance of your car at home with the minimal effort, tools and chemicals.

This is part two of a two part series. The article on exteriors can be found here.

What’s your aim?

Most of us have little time to clean our own cars unless it’s a real passion. Life gets in the way and there is always something more pressing to do. Even at Radical Autoworks we find ourselves too busy with customer cars to lavish any attention on our own vehicles. So you have to ask yourself, is your aim to keep the car clean for your enjoyment or for other people to admire as you drive down the street? You can answer both of course, but if it’s just one of those you can save yourself a load of time.

For example if you are most concerned about keeping it clean for your enjoyment, then we’d recommend focusing on cleaning the interior of your daily driver…. After all, that’s where you sit. If it’s to look good as you roll down the street then perhaps you’re better off spending more time on the exterior. 

Preparation

If you’re going to be daily driving your supercar, that means getting in and out of it a lot more than normal. Probably with a variety of clothing, after a hard days work and with bags in tow every day. That extra wear needs to be considered. You should get a fully detail done at the outside so you start with a high standard that you just have to maintain. That should include getting a protective coating applied to your upholstery as this will save you a ton of time maintaining the interior – especially on light colours. 

You should also consider what you carry with you. For example, if you carry a laptop, consider using a soft laptop bag instead of a rough canvas one with lots of exposed buckles.

Interior cleaning method

The interior is often neglected because more commonly people spend the time cleaning the exterior. Vacuuming can be tedious and it’s fiddly work. But stick with it because this is where you spend all your time with the car, so you want it to be a nice place to be.
Before you start, make sure you are not wearing clothing with metal buttons, belt or shoes with metal fasteners on them. Trust us, you’ll thank us later.

  • Start by using soft brushes to dust out the air vents. Pay attention to all areas of the cabin where dust and debris can collect and where a vacuum may not be able to get.
  • Next up is vacuuming. Pull out the mats, do the carpets, between the seats, under the seats. Just about anywhere you can think of. Be careful with the hard end of the vacuum though and any delicate parts of the car if it is a powerful one. Pay close attention to the drivers space. 
  • Spray the detailing spray sparingly onto a clean folded microfibre cloth. Do it outside of the car so you don’t get spots of it everywhere. Then gently wipe over the plastics and vinyls in the cabin. After you do an area, re-fold the cloth to get a clean section and keep going until the whole car is complete. AVOID all glass, screens or clear plastic like the instrument cluster.
  • Grab another clean microfibre cloth and the glass cleaner. Again spray it onto a folded cloth, outside the car to avoid overspray. Thoroughly wipe all the glass and clear plastic surfaces. Pay special attention to the windshield and repeat as needed to make sure all marks are removed…. There is nothing more annoying that smears on your windscreen as you drive down the road in the sun.
  • Finally, if you so choose, use an air freshener spray of your choice (my favourite is new leather smell or vanilla) and sparingly spray onto the carpets. Avoid overspray as it can leave water marks.

Make sure to thoroughly clean your equipment after use and launder your cloths (without fabric softener).

Tools and products

We’ve tried to keep this list short and sweet and get you the best results with the minimum of special tools and products. Otherwise you’ll end up being like us with a whole workshop full of specialist gear!

Tools you’ll need:

  • A small soft brush or two
  • A vacuum
  • Selection of microfibre towels

Products you’ll need:

  • Interior detailing spray
  • Glass cleaner
  • An air freshener spray or odour remover spray

Golden rules

There are a couple of golden rules you must follow also…

  1. If you drop a cloth… don’t keep using it. Get a clean one to carry on and thoroughly wash that one later.
  2. Always clean your tools after use and put your cloths through the laundry (without fabric softener).

If in doubt, call us. We’re always happy to talk to people about cleaning their pride and joy. It doesn’t matter if  you’re in the UK or not…. just be aware we might not answer if its 3am here when you call. You can also contact us by email here.


Image by Karin de Smale from Pixabay

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Super Car and Luxury Car Detailing & Protection

Bringing the best out of your classic or supercar with paint correction, PPF, and next level detailing in Dorset and surrounding counties.

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