Cleaning Leather/Cloth Interiors

jtrujillo86jtrujillo86 Member Posts: 300
I have a 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with a leather-wraped steering wheel and shift knob. It currently has about 30K miles on her. I am starting to see stress marks on the shift knob where the leather and the stitches meet. I was curious as to what leather conditioner on the market is the best for my use.



  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    duck and cover, buddy, everybody in the world is going to recommend their own pet product.

    personally, I use a damp cloth to get the sweat and hand oil and dirt off my steering wheel wrap, and then use 3M Refresh cleaner/protectant on all the leather (lemon for me.)

    you should find the zaino users have a religious fervor about that line.
  • jtrujillo86jtrujillo86 Member Posts: 300
    Thanks for the tip and for your recommendation. I'm now going to "duck and cover"...

  • justinjustin Member Posts: 1,918
    I have a 2003 Honda Accord. Ivory leather seats. For a few months, on the way to and from work, I would place a black leather bag on the passenger seat. The black bag has left marks on the ivory seats.

    Tried Eagle 1 leather cleaner to get the black marks off. Didn't work.

    What should I use (brands, where to buy, etc) to get the black off, but not take the ivory color off?

    The marks are on the actual leather seat surface.

    I am close to trying Simple Green at this point!

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    the usual caveat about trying a little someplace where you can't see the damage, if it would damage, the ivory leather dye applies. I have gotten a lot of ink/coating type stains off leather and vinyl with either mineral spirits or anhydrous isopropyl alcohol. and there are couple of stains left by technicians' pens that didn't come off, too, but they are little small things and I am not going to have a heart attack over 'em.

    if the black case had dyed wax or something on there like shoe polish, and it reacted with the ivory colorant in the seats' dye job, it's almost certain to not come out. a bleaching compound might get it, and might not. you'd do best to talk to a shoe repairman or a car detailer if that didn't get it done.
  • jpstax1jpstax1 Member Posts: 197
    The top portion of my '98 Regal's leather-wrapped steering wheel was peeling, so I had it replaced last month. The auto upholstery shop owner said that this is a common problem with many GM cars and some Fords too. He said that body oils in the fingers work their way into the leather and cause peeling. I asked him what to do to prevent it from happening again. He suggested using a good leather conditioner. I posted my problem in a different forum and some people suggested using "Coach Leather Moisturizer". My wife just happens to have a bottle of the stuff that she uses to clean her leather purses. However, the back label says "it is not to be used on suede, nubic, water buffalo, or on fabric and leather collections". Any suggestions?
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    go ahead, let your water buffalo chap in the sun ;)

    I have chafing on my wheel cover now in the '00 exploder. for some reason, I really sweat and dirt up the wheel cover when driving, and it's a gunky grey mess after a road trip. it's obvious to me that I didn't use enough 3M Reveal leather cleaner/conditioner to keep it worked up. my seats get a lot less grabbing and soaking, and it's kept them in good shape. It hasn't helped, I suppose, using a wet cloth to get the worst of the goo off after I get a monster killer horror buildup.

    I suppose if I wore driving gloves, it wouldn't be a problem. but then I get dry, chapped hands, and feel like lurching out of the truck in a Frankenstein-monster gait.
  • gto2gto2 Member Posts: 5
    Just bought a new Camry 2005 XLE with light gray leather seats. The car is about two weeks old.

    The leather seems to be rough to the touch and not very soft.
    My question is. Can someone recommend a product that will soften the leather and make it smooth to the touch. Thank you.
  • reneesrenees Member Posts: 10
    Hi everyone. I've got one for you. I'm looking for a 2004 Impala base model with leather upholstery and this dealer has exactly the car I want with all the right options, except leather. It's a demonstrator with just over 4,000 miles on it. They said they'd have it re-upholstered for me with leather for $1,200 to $1,500. I thought this was kind of screwy, but they said it would be cheaper than buying a different vehicle with leather and other options I don't want to pay for. Thoughts anyone?
  • bretfrazbretfraz Member Posts: 2,021
    It really depends on who is doing the work and what quality of leather hides they're using. I've seen plenty of aftermarket leather installations and almost all have been very nice. A good friend had one installed in a Maxima and the aftermarket leather was far more supple and luxurious than the vinylesque stuff the factory used.

    Have the dealer show you cars they've had done. If they don't have one on the lot have them give you the contact info of their installer and visit them to see for yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    But for that price I think you'd only be getting inserts wouldn't you? I mean, I don't see how you could do an entire car in leather for only $1,200.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    and they are indeed mostly vinyl with leather on selected seating surfaces. I bet ya that's what they're gonna do for that price level.


    unless you're buying one of those fancy imports with genuine hand-rubbed burl walnut instead of phony imitation wood food product, and oil changes cost $190 each at the dealer, you're not ever going to see leather every place you have pliant material.
  • waid10waid10 Member Posts: 21
    I recently discovered a 1.5 inch tear in the side of my driver side leather seat. Anyone recommend the best course of action to repair a tear?


  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    if it's the side, it's almost certainly in vinyl, not leather. they will cut a new piece and sew it in through the same holes, then put the cover back on the seat.
  • 4wdfun4wdfun Member Posts: 1
    My 2005 Ford Escape with the No Boundaries cloth interior has fairly severe water stains from when we got caught in a rainstorm and sat in the car. The dealer is clueless and the detailer that the dealership works with is willing to try everything he has but has never seen this problem. Anyone one else having this problem?
  • molaisonmolaison Member Posts: 1
    Have the same problem in my VW Jetta with black cloth seats. After jogging the sweat left stains in the seat. Tried everything no luck. Stain keeps comming back. I don't won't to fade coloring in the seats. Need help also.
  • nmbr1carfannmbr1carfan Member Posts: 7
    I have a 1998 Honda Accord EX V-6 with leather and I have been using Armor-all leather cleaner for 7 years now. I use it on the dash, steering wheel, doors etc. anywhere with leather. It shines and makes the leather a bit softer but I find it doesnt keep it that way for long. I have heard also that Armor-all is a bad leather cleaner and makes more cracks then prevents it. As I said before, I have been using it for 7 years now and it hasnt cracked it at all and infast hides some of the little cracks in the seats. But I would like to try another brand that would shine the leather as good as the Armor-all does, but will last longer. Any suggestions? (I have been told Lexol was good stuff but havnt heard much about it)
  • ljwalters1ljwalters1 Member Posts: 294
    I used Lexol leather cleaner and leather conditioner. I've only used it once, and I'd say the conditioner works well, but I don't know about the cleaner. With the cleaner, I was able to get out some scuffs, that'd probably come off with anything, but I couldn't remove some other dirt that my son got on the seats with his sneakers. The conditioner works nicely - gives it a lasting shine and even some "new car smell."

    QUESTION - I avoided using the leather cleaners on the doors and seatbacks b/c I assumed those portions were vinyl, not leather. Was I wrong?
  • nmbr1carfannmbr1carfan Member Posts: 7
    Alright I guess I should try Lexol because I dont really get the seats dirty I just want the leather to have the long lasting shine and would also like the new car smell! And about your question...I have some leather on the inside of the door on my Accord, but I use it on the whole door and the seatbacks because I find it gives it more of a "new and classy" look. But I am pritty sure you are right its not leather it is probablly vinyl. I know it cant hurt it though because I have been using it for 7 years! lol. Anyways thanks for your info!
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    You don't have any leather on the door, dash, or a lot of your seats on an Accord.

    On most cars, including my late 90's Cadillac and 2002 Accord EXV6, the only leather part is the seat 'inserts', meaning the center part of the seat covers. The 'bolsters' on the bottom and back, the sides, and the backs of the seats are vinyl.

    Maybe some very top of the line autos have 'full' leather seats, but I don't know which ones. Not Cadillac.

    Lexol is supposed to be pretty good, but I think it may darken light colored leathers.

    If you've been happy with Armorall for 7 years, why switch.
  • nmbr1carfannmbr1carfan Member Posts: 7
    Oh, well when I apply the Armor-All it really shines. I guess if lexol darkens the color maybe I shouldnt use it seing how the leather (or vinyl) in my Accord is light grey. Your right I have been happy with Armor-All for 7 years I just wish it would keep the shine abit longer.
  • aaronwiaaronwi Member Posts: 18
    Here's a little tid-bit about leather cleaning:

    Leather is a natural product (skin) and has to be cared for in a specific way. Just like your skin, it has oils in it that make it soft and supple. UNLIKE your skin, this oil is not replenished naturally, so you have to add it yourself. Also, since it is always looking for this moisture, it will absorb any oils and stains that touch it; and the drier it gets, the more it will absorb.

    To prevent leather from drying out, it should be conditioned (think hand lotion for your skin...BUT DON"T USE HAND LOTION!!). This will keep the leather soft and also fill up the moisture pockets and help slow down the absorption of unwanted oils (hands, grease, stains).

    When leather becomes soiled, it has to be cleaned to remove the soil (again, think of your hands when they get dirty) and then conditioned to add moisture back into it.

    When leather becomes stained, it will usually require special care to remove. Many stains, like ink, require a little practice to remove without destroying the leather.

    Here is the trouble with is a very very very forgiving surface that holds up well and hides blemishes and soil. Why is this bad??? Because by the time it shows damage (cracking, peeling, deep soil, ect) it is already SERIOUSLY neglected and damaged. Most people start asking what to do when their product is in this condition. Often, you are too late to restore it back to it's original shape. TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEATHER BEFORE IT LOOKS BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ok, now...what to use?!?!

    There are hundreds of products on the market. After years and years of research, testing, and experimenting, I have only found one product I would recommend. Leather Master Care Products.

    No, I do not sell these products. I have no affiliation with them. I do not make one bloody cent off them. Why do I recommend them? Because they are ALL we will use.

    You will need a simple kit with cleaner and conditioner. Condition your leather at least every 3 to 6 months - NO MATTER WHAT or how much you drive (sooner in hot sunny climates). Clean your leather at least ever 6 to 8 months OR as SOON AS it begins to look dull...not dark, blotchy, faded, or (eeeeeouuuch) cracked and peeling. Always condition after you clean. I have seen many cars that needed to be cleaned weekly (messy people!!!!). Oils (hand and body) can be your leathers worst nightmare! Pay special attention to an area your skin or hair touches the leather.

    If you have a specific staining issue, they have specialty products for these. HOWEVER, read read read and follow all instructions when using them. If you'd like, feel free to email me and I'll try to help you when I can.

    I hope this has been of a little help for you. Feel free to email me if you any questions.

    Aaron Steinblock
    Triple A Maintenance, Inc.

    ps. Yes, I do have a little experience in this: I have been the president of a cleaning firm for over 15 years. We specialize in high-end leather care and are often cleaning $20K and $30K pieces of leather furniture.

    Sorry for the repeat, but the first one will likely be deleted since I put my email address in it?!?!
  • nmbr1carfannmbr1carfan Member Posts: 7
    Hey man thanks I didnt know there was so much to know about leather it helped me out alot! thanks again for all of your time!
  • div2div2 Member Posts: 2,580
    I agree on the Leather Master products; a friend of mine who owns a high-end furniture store sold me a LM kit. Good stuff.
  • 4banger14banger1 Member Posts: 1
    try the cleaner called "FOLEX" i found it at wal-mart and it took all the stains off my seats including ink, and grape juice.
  • davids1davids1 Member Posts: 411
    Somebody may shoot me but I use good old saddle soap to clean my leather seats. It is made for smooth leather and if used correctly develops a good visible lather.

    Anybody want to weigh in on using mink oil as a leather conditioner. Works well on boots etc. so it should work well on leather seats. My manual says to not use any "oils" on the leather, but what could mink oil hurt??

    Just asking.
  • aaronwiaaronwi Member Posts: 18
    Boot and saddle leather is very different from a quality top-grain leather or aniline used in furniture. Saddle soap can be used (we used it for years until the better products came out), but there are much much better options out there.

    I wouldn't experiment on a 35K vehicle interior!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Mink oil is basically for waterproofing. I don't think it is an appropriate product for automotive leathers.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    Mink oil also softens leather.

    In younger days of playing (ok, showing up on the field), my conplaints of a new glove being too stiff, and taking forever to 'break in' with my low level of playing activity, I was told to use mink oil on it. And also cautioned that if I used too much, I would end up with a 'floppy' glove.

    I used it and yes, it did soften up a new, stiff softball glove.

    I'm thinking, used on auto seats, they might turn into mush....
  • ljwalters1ljwalters1 Member Posts: 294
    If you have children, waterproofing your leather mgiht not be a bad idea! ;)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Yeah but I think it would feel icky and might stain, too. If you have kids you shoulda got the optional Mexican tile interior....too late! :P
  • ekcoekco Member Posts: 1
    I have a 1997 Explorer and after a trip to Walmart where I bought some laundry detergent, I now have a huge ugly stain on the back seat where the detergent leaked. My seats are a light tan colored leather. Is there any way to inexpensively remove this without having to re upholster my seat? :cry:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Hmmm....does not sound good...detergent is nasty stuff and may have attacked the dye.

    BUT.......Okay you might try this but PLEASE try it first on some hidden inconspicuous part of the leather seat.

    First take a wringed out cloth dipped in lukewarm water and go over the stain lightly. Then sponge off the excess water and let the whole thing dry.

    Then get some Murphy's Oil Soap, apply it lightly, sponge off, then apply again. Don't rub the beejeezus out of it!

    Might help.

    Never used anything "silicone based" on your leather.
  • vans_detailingvans_detailing Member Posts: 1
    I suggest you rewash all the seats again and let it air dry...use a interior shampoo and vacuum out most of the water...then let it air dry for a day or two. It should solve the problem.
  • smithdrgssmithdrgs Member Posts: 22
    Have an 05 acura TL with dark charcoal leather seats. they were flat and not glossy. had a spot to clean on one so I use turtle wax 2001 cleaner and conditioner with UV protection. Should have spot tested it first. so the seat got all shiney, so i had to do the whole interior to match. Will this fade? How can i reverse it? what is a good cleaner/protectant with a flat finish. ? thanks
  • toyotabotoyotabo Member Posts: 13
    Hi Everyone
    I have a stain on my seat back about belt high seems to be from blue jeans . tried all types of leather cleaner , no luck . called dealer said may need to be redyed. is this my only option? thanks Bo
  • nyinjanyinja Member Posts: 10
    Hi All,

    My wife has a 2004 BMW 3-Series w/ leather interior. This morning as I was getting in my truck I accidentally (and unknowingly) pushed the remote for her car and rolled down all the windows. About 6 hours later my wife discovered this; unfortunately we live in Tokyo and are being hit by a Typhoon today! The car was completely soaked inside (the pockets in the door were filled to the top! :cry:

    She put towels on the seats and carpets to soak up what she could, but there is still plenty of water absorbed into the leather seats. It is evening now, and by morning the typhoon will pass; which means I can't do anything more until then. Tomorrow will be hot, sunny and humid so I hope to get started on drying out the car as much as possible.

    Any suggestions/recommendations/warnings you may have are greatly appreciated!

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well cows get wet after all. This isn't a great situation but you have to really dry the car out first of all and then treat the entire with leather conditioner. You may have to pull the carpets up as well! Perhaps a professional service should do all this for you, and you may be able to work this out with your car insurance.
  • taxesquiretaxesquire Member Posts: 681
    I agree with SHiftright that this is a job for professionals. You can try a wet-dry vac, but the pros would have more heavy duty stuff for the carpets and the seats. The unfortunate fact is that you may need to have your seat coverings removed to dry the cushioning underneath. Step 1 would be to remove whatever pieces you can (ex - floor mats) that might be trapping water underneath - you'll also want to keep the car ventilated (windows open, at least a little) to avoid humidity & mildew as much as possible.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    If you let the car mildew, you are really screwed, he's right.

    We can't see the car, so we can't tell you how bad it really is...but if the seat cushions are soaked through, at the very least the seats might have to come out and be exposed to sunlight after being turned upside down. If things in there are just "damp" and don't squish out water when you press on them, maybe you got lucky.

    But I agree, I'd have a professional detailer clean the car up.
  • nyinjanyinja Member Posts: 10
    Thanks for all the help. To follow up.... In the morning I took it to a local detailer who pulled the back seat and placed it upside down to drain/dry (I don't think they pulled the fronts - though they may have and something was lost in translation - they don't speak English) . They also worked on the carpets and leather for two days (they ran the heater @ 32C - 92F with the windows up rather than open the windows and expose it to the high post-typhoon humidity). The also kept conditioning the leather as they worked on the car, and recommended I continue to condition every 2 weeks.

    These past few days I have kept the windows up w/ the car parked in the hot sun and some closet dehumidifiers (pellet type) on the floors. My thought process was it would be best to leave the windows up in this high humidity. At this time the leather looks like it will recover - but I guess only time will tell.

    My biggest concern now is mildew under the carpet. I talked to a BMW dealer (not the one I bought from) who recommended pulling the carpets up. I then talked to the detail shop again who said they believe they got all the water, but will pull up the corners of the carpet today to make sure. They suggested I not take it to BMW if at all possible as it would most likely void the warranty on most of my interior parts.

    Any continued recommendations/advice are appreciated....
  • taxesquiretaxesquire Member Posts: 681
    Sounds like you're doing what you can - keep in mind that if, all-in-all, your efforts and the detailers' fail, the problem is going to be mold & mildew. This same problem arises with homes (I'm in FLA and may be more sensitive to this issue than most). WHen it does happen with homes, we have special mold remediation teams that come in and get rid of the mold b/c, unlike cars, you can't easily just junk a home.

    Anyway, if you wind up with mold, it might be worth finding a mold remediation company to see what they could do and what they'd charge.

    Lastly, I really appreciate the update, and would very much like to hear how things turn out in the end. Please continue to post.
  • benwabenwa Member Posts: 1
    I had the exact same problem. The guy that details my car came to the conclusion that the stain came from my leather belt. The detailer told me that he can't get the stain off, because it's actually the dye from the leather belt that has worn into the leather on the seat. He told me the only option I had was to have the seat re-dyed.

    If anyone has any other suggestions, please let us know.

    Also, does anyone have any idea how much it costs to re-dye a portion of a seat?
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    I know nothing about BMWs.

    But there may be several other possible problem areas in the future.

    Do you have power seats? If so, there are 2,3, or 4 electric motors under each seat.

    A Cadallic has several 'modules' under the seats also. The sensor that 'fires' the side impact air bags. Modules that runs the 'memory' seats and mirrors.

    If there are modules, and they are sealed well enough that water did not get into it, there could be various electrical connectors under there that may have future corrision problems.

    If you do not have electrical modules under there, and manual seats, if it was my car I would pull the front and rear seats and the carpets. And get them dried out somehow. There is possibly a thick sound deading pad under the carpet. You could still have lots of water in the car.
    You said the side pockets filled up with water. That seems like several inches of water. This car is bordering on being a 'flood' car.
  • nyinjanyinja Member Posts: 10
    Thanks for the info. I am concerned about the electrical components; the front seats are memory power seats and are heated - plenty of things to go wrong! Also, the guys that worked on it mentioned that these components could give me problems later on. Based on your comments, do you recommend pulling the front seats if they have all these components attached? Not sure if you are saying to "pull them if they are manual seats" or not...

    It's been 2 humid weeks (and now 2 typhoons) since this has happened. On outward appearances the car interior looks like it has recovered, and when I pulled the sides of the carpets (near the door jams) the padding beneath was dry. The dehumidifying pellets have not picked up very much water (placed in trays under the front seats) so that's encouraging.

    That said, I plan to spend some more time on it this weekend - maybe pulling the front seats out. Not sure I want to tackle the carpets if I can avoid it; it's going to be very expensive no matter what they find, and all replacement parts will have to be ordered from Germany (2-3 weeks). BMW is not the most cost-effective car to drive in Japan. Makes me appreciate my Toyota Harrier (Lexus RX-300)!

    Thanks again.
  • toyotabotoyotabo Member Posts: 13
    I had a few detailers look at my seats and all said the same,needs a redye . all gave me a price of $80 to $100. haven't had it done yet. I will never buy light leather seats :( again
  • jsnolandjsnoland Member Posts: 1
    My wife and I are getting a great deal on a BMW 5-series, but the only problem is that the driver’s side seat has a bit of yellowish-brown discoloration. The owner seems to think it was from sunscreen. Has anyone heard of this? More importantly, how would you advise we go about cleaning it?

    We are likely going to buy the car, so if it can’t be cleaned, what other options do we have? Dye? Seat reupholstering or replacement? What would the costs likely be with each of these options?

    Thanks in advance,
  • toyotabotoyotabo Member Posts: 13
    if you can't clean the seats with a leather cleaner or a mix of woolite and water (1to 5) DONT RUB HARD most likey you'll need to get it redyed (which would be the next cheapest option) because the longer the stain sits the harder it is to remove . good luck with your BMW
  • mbutler1mbutler1 Member Posts: 22
  • davids1davids1 Member Posts: 411!!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Turn your CAPS LOCK off...many of our members regard it like sHOUTING and won't speak to you :P
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