How to Fix Water-Damaged Leather Car Seats

Many of us have done it—left our car windows or sunroofs open in the rain.

And, let’s face it, many people don’t keep expensive leather cleaner or leather conditioner products on hand for when it happens.

The good news is that a little bit of water, if cleaned up quickly, isn’t likely to hurt your leather. If you take the right approach and use the right products—many of which can be found around the house—your car interior will stay safe and dry. Let’s dive in!

First rule: Act quickly to avoid lasting water damage

Most car leather has a protective layer that will help prevent immediate damage.  This coating is designed to give you enough time to clean up a small drink spill or rain before it soaks into your leather.  So, if you quickly go outside to roll your windows up after the start of a rainstorm and wipe your seats off with a dry cloth, you should be fine.

Water damage to light leather car seats.

Water damage to light leather car seats.

But letting it sit for very long may result in water stains and can make your leather seats stiff.  The same can happen to wet leather when you spill liquid on it and don’t clean it up quickly or leave it exposed to direct sunlight.

If this happens, massaging—or ‘milling’—the leather is the best way to soften it up if it’s become stiff from water damage.  Unless the damage is severe, adding natural oils and kneading it should soften up your leather interior.

How to clean up liquid spills in the car

For small water spills, wipe up all excess water and let your car seat air dry. If you spill a liquid on your upholstery that isn’t water, it can quickly lead to discoloration or even further damage. Thankfully, there are a few homemade cleaning solutions that you can try out:

  • Mild dish soap applied with a damp cloth works best for light stains
  • White vinegar is tough on stains while simultaneously being gentle on leather
  • Baking soda can lift stains by covering the entire affected area, leaving it to sit for 15-20 minutes, then using a vacuum cleaner to suck up the baking soda

It might take some experimentation depending on the severity of the water damage. Try these home remedies, or there are a large variety of dedicated leather cleaners on sites like Amazon.

Of course, Fibrenew is always here to assist with leather damage and staining that is simply too advanced for any DIY methods to fix.

What to do if your car gets flooded

When water has flooded your car and your leather seats, a whole new problem arises – the contaminants in the flood water can damage the seat’s interior and leave a foul odor. This usually means the seat’s cushioning needs to be replaced. 

That can be a large expense. 

However, if the seat doesn’t smell bad after you allow it to dry out, chances are good that you can get a leather professional to repair the damaged leather for a reasonable price.

Post any additional questions in the comments, and we’d be happy to answer them for you!


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