Upholstery Detail

The following article provided by Autopia. always use at your own discretion. -M.Gladstone

Regular vacuuming and dusting of your car's interior is the best way to keep it looking good. However, surface cleaning alone is not enough. Two to three times a year you will need to detail the upholstery to keep it looking its best. This article addresses how to best detail fabric, vinyl and leather upholstery.

Detailing Fabric Upholstery
Fabric is the most difficult upholstery to detail. Unlike vinyl and leather, fabric upholstery easily soils and stains. You should expect to spend 2-3 hours detailing a sedan with fabric upholstery, a little less time for a truck or two-seater.

There are two basic methods and product choices to clean fabric:

1.  Spray-On/Wipe Off Cleaner (foaming or non-foaming) - These cleaners penetrate and lift dirt and stains to the surface where you can wipe them away.

2.  Shampoo - A sudsy soap solution that requires agitation with a brush or sponge and rinsing.

For quick spot cleaning, I recommend the spray on/wipe off type of cleaner. These cleaners are strong, and get deep into the soil or stain to thoroughly clean. However, for a complete cleaning, I prefer good old soap and water cleaning. Before using any product on your car's fabric upholstery, test for color fading (colorfast) by cleaning a small, inconspicuous area. Do not use the product if it adversely changes your fabric's color or texture.
If there is any "detailer's secret" to shampooing car upholstery its in the rinsing. If you don't rinse, the dirt and soap remain in the upholstery. Rinse water must be removed with a vacuum. Use a shop wet-dry vacuum, a coin-op car wash vacuum, or a carpet wet-dry machine rented from your local grocery store. Make sure you have the vacuum before you get started. Follow these easy steps:

1.  Spray spots and heavily soiled areas with a good spot remover. I recommend Eimman Fabrik Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner or Eagle One Zap.

2.  Mix two ounces of car shampoo with warm water in a 3-gallon bucket. P21S Bodywork Shampoo, Pinnacle Bodywork Shampoo and Eimann Fabrik Power Wash+ all work pretty well.

3.  Use an upholstery scrub brush and a sponge in a circular motion to agitate the upholstery. Use the suds from the top of your bucket, and apply as little water as possible.

4.  Wipe away the suds with a sponge or a damp terrycloth towel.

5.  Empty your bucket of soapy water and refill with warm water.

6.  Rinse your upholstery with clean water by wiping with a damp terrycloth towel. Rinse the soap from our towel often and wring it out. Use as little water as necessary to rinse thoroughly.

7.           Vacuum your upholstery to extract the remaining rinse water.

8.  Use a hair dryer to complete the drying process. Be careful not to scorch the fabric by holding the dryer too close.

9.  Allow the fabric to dry overnight before using. If possible, keep your windows open slightly to allow the moisture to escape.

To keep your fabric upholstery looking factory fresh for many years, consider using a fabric protectant. My favorite is 303 Fabric Guard blocks the sun's damaging rays and repels water, oil, grease and dirt. Use a fabric guard only on new or just-cleaned upholstery. Your upholstery must be dry. Simply spray it on (two light coats is better than one) and let it dry.

 Detailing Vinyl Upholstery
Vinyl is the most durable upholstery, but it is not the easiest to keep clean. Unlike cloth or leather, the surface of vinyl generates static, which attracts dust. As a result, vinyl can quickly become grimy. The good news is, vinyl is the easiest upholstery to clean.
Do not use regular household soap and water on your vinyl upholstery. Detergent will permanently remove the sheen from the vinyl. Choose a cleaner made specifically for vinyl. My favorites are Pinnacle Vinyl & Leather Cleaner and Eimman Fabric Spot Remover. Another excellent choice is XENIT.

Follow these easy steps for the perfect vinyl interior:

1.  Spray vinyl with your favorite cleaner.

2.  Work the cleaning solution into seams, edges and seat backs using an upholstery scrub brush. If necessary, use an old toothbrush to get into the small crevices.

3.  Rinse the vinyl thoroughly with a bucket of clean water and a terrycloth towel.

4.  Dry the upholstery with a clean, dry terrycloth towel.

5.  Finally, apply your favorite vinyl dressing to restore the sheen.

A quick word about vinyl dressings: they're not all the same. Choose a dressing that gives you the look you want (flat to shiny). Pinnacle and 303 create a matte to satin finish. Zymol is satin to shiny. Lexol Vinylex is shiny. Another thing to consider is protection from the sun. Pinnacle, 303 and Lexol Vinylex all offer good ultraviolet light protection.

Detailing Leather Upholstery
There are two cleaning related factors that can cause your leather to prematurely wear. The first is dirt and the second is oil from your skin. The oil from your skin is actually the most damaging to your leather. This is particularly true if you wear shorts or a tank top, and have recently applied lotion or a sunscreen to your skin. Take this into consideration when determining your cleaning schedule.
Unlike fabric or vinyl upholstery, leather should be cleaned one section at a time. This means, when you have applied your cleaner or conditioner to one area, fully wipe down that area then proceed to the next, and so on. Work on an area no larger than 2-3 square feet at a time.
There are many different leather cleaners available. Based on my testing, I only recommend two products: Pinnacle Leather & Vinyl Cleaner and Lexol Leather Cleaner. They both work equally well, but the Pinnacle smells much better and does not leave as much residue to wipe off as the Lexol.
If you have a dark colored leather interior, I recommend cleaning twice a year. Light colored leather will need cleaning more often, even as much as every three months, depending on how easily the dirt is revealed. In between cleaning your leather (every other time you wash your car), use a clean damp towel to wipe down the surface completely. This removes the dust and light dirt so it won't have a chance to work into your leather.

Follow these steps to clean your leather:

1.  Apply the leather cleaner of your choice one section at a time and work the solution into a nice lather with a sponge. If your leather is heavily soiled, use an upholstery (interior detailing) brush.

2.  When finished scrubbing, be sure to remove all soap from the surface with a damp towel.

3.  Rinse and wipe several times, then dry the leather with a fresh, dry terrycloth towel.

By the way, water will not hurt your leather. Most leather is actually made (tanned) in water.
After the your car's leather has dried, apply the leather conditioner of your choice. Choose a leather protectant that gives you the look you want (flat to shiny). Pinnacle and Connolly Hide Food create a satin finish. Lexol is shiny.
Just like cleaning, apply leather conditioner one section at a time using a foam wax applicator. Work the conditioner in thoroughly. Allow the conditioner to sit (soak in) for a minute or two, then buff off the excess with a dry terry cloth towel. It's important to buff off the excess. If you allow the excess to stay, your seats will be slippery. After a few minutes of soak time, your leather has taken in all the moisture it can. The remainder will simply evaporate, leaving that nasty film on the inside of your windows.