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How to keep auto interior looking new

Eating fast food in your car is unavoidable on some busy days, and we’ve all had those, “Oh crap!” moments when fries went flying all over the car seat.  Although this isn’t unusual or uncommon, it’s probably not something you should brush off too lightly if you have leather seats. Grease and oil, even just the natural oils in your skin, can really add up and cause damage to your leather seats. In fact, oil (from food or just the oil in your skin) is one of the main reasons leather car seats end up looking old and worn.

How does oil damage leather car seats?

There are two main ways that oil causes damage to leather auto seats:

1. Oil combines with little bits of dust and dirt, acting like a fine sand paper that wears down the protective coating on your seats as passengers get in and out of your car.  That protective layer makes your leather seats more resilient to scratches, water and heat damage as well as other types of wear and tear, so, once that layer is worn thin, your seats are more susceptible to all types of damage.

Seat worn, over time, from dirt and oil

Seat worn, over time, from dirt and oil

2. When oil gets on your leather seats, especially once it starts to break down that protective coating, it is soaked into the back side of the leather—the part you can’t see.  Over time, the leather will “fill up,” and the oil will rise to the surface. Once the oil saturates the leather, the result is typically ugly oil stains.

How to prevent oil damage to your auto seats

To prevent oil damage, you should clean and protect your car seats 6-8 times a year, cleaning the most used areas more frequently than those that aren’t used very often. Check out our leather cleaning post for tips on leather cleaning and protection.

Additionally, never treat your leather with olive oil, petroleum or any other type of oil. A lot of people do to try to prevent drying, but the oil you use will get soaked up just like any other oil, resulting in spots and discoloration.

How do I get rid of oil damage?

If you find oil spots on your car seats, you can try to remove them by rubbing the area with a soft leather cleaner. You may be able to temporarily remove the spot, but since more oil remains deep within the leather, you will probably see it resurface over time.

Depending on the extent of the damage, a professional may be able to do a more thorough cleaning of the leather seat than you will be able to do yourself, as they have special cleaning tools and processes that can cleanse deep into the leather.

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

Meet the author


Fibrenew is a mobile service franchise that specializes in the repair, restoration, and renewal of leather, plastic, vinyl, fabric, and upholstery.

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