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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.

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.

Call your friendly neighborhood Fibrenew professional

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. 

We got your back.

When all else fails—actually, honestly, before that happens—find someone to get the job done right.

And when you’re so impressed that you’re inspired to want to get involved, we welcome you with open arms!

Let’s talk.

Wet Leather Car Interior FAQ

If your leather car seats have been exposed to moisture or have gotten wet, it’s essential to take prompt action to prevent damage and maintain their appearance. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to guide you on what to do if your leather car seats get wet:

What should I do immediately if my leather car seats get wet?

If your leather seats get wet, act quickly to remove excess moisture. Use a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towels to blot the wet areas. Do not rub or scrub the leather, as this can cause damage.

What is the most common cause of leather car seats getting wet?

The most common causes of leather car seats getting wet include rainwater seeping in through open windows or sunroofs, spilled beverages, or accidents involving open windows during car washes.

Can I use a hairdryer or heat gun to speed up the drying process?

It’s best to avoid using heat sources like hairdryers or heat guns, as excessive heat can damage leather. Instead, allow the seats to air dry naturally at room temperature.

How long does it typically take for leather car seats to dry naturally?

The drying time depends on various factors, including the extent of moisture and the ambient humidity. It may take several hours to a day or more for the leather to completely dry. Be patient and avoid sitting on wet leather.

Will wet leather car seats develop a foul odor if not dried properly?

Yes, if leather is not adequately dried, it can develop a musty odor due to the growth of mold and mildew. It’s essential to prevent this by ensuring thorough drying.

Can I use a vacuum cleaner to help remove moisture from wet leather seats?

While a vacuum cleaner may help remove loose surface moisture, it’s not as effective as blotting with absorbent materials. Avoid using a vacuum cleaner with strong suction directly on the leather, as it may damage the surface.

Should I use leather conditioner after the seats have dried?

Yes, it’s a good idea to apply a leather conditioner after the seats have dried completely. This will help restore moisture and keep the leather supple. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the conditioner you choose.

What should I do if mold or mildew develops on my leather car seats?

If mold or mildew has formed, use a leather cleaner designed to remove mold and mildew. Follow the product’s instructions carefully and consider seeking professional help if the issue is extensive.

How can I prevent my leather car seats from getting wet in the future?

To prevent your leather seats from getting wet, be cautious when leaving windows or sunroofs open, especially during rain. Use window visors or rain guards to minimize rainwater infiltration. If you spill liquids, clean them up promptly.

Can professional leather cleaning and restoration services help if my leather seats are severely damaged by water?

Yes, professional leather cleaning and restoration services can often repair extensive damage caused by water exposure. They have specialized processes and expertise to treat and restore leather seats effectively. Keep us in mind. 🙂

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Meet the author

Paul Gingras

Support Director

I’m thrilled to lead an enthusiastic support team that works hard every day to ensure our franchise partners experience success and satisfaction while growing their business.

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