The Detail: Pets

Cleaning Leather Car Seats

If you’re tired of pet hair and dandruff taking over your car, this article is for you. While we all love our pets, we don’t always like how they leave our cars after taking a trip to the park. Cleaning up the mess is usually where the headache sets in and you begin thinking about making your car off limits to Fido. Well I’m here to show you that a pet lover’s detail doesn’t have to be a pain. First things first, some things you’ve got to know about our furry friends.

As you know, pets have no regard for human property, let alone your car while they struggle to keep their footing – I imagine it feels similar to surfing in their eyes. Before any pet detail, assess the situation. See if they piddled (because you never know), check how dusted the carpets and seats are with pet hair, examine the smudges, the paw prints, etc. Really get a feel for what you’re up against before you begin. Once you do, you’re ready to vacuum all interior surfaces to remove large debris and major pet hair. Then we start cleaning…


The best way to make cleaning up after your pet easier is to knock out the simple stuff first. Grab your glass cleaner, spray your cloth (no paper towels!), and wipe. Cleaning glass is extremely simple, and chances are you’ve already got experience doing it in your house. Your car is no different other than that you must clean both sides on your car. To do so effectively, wipe the inside of the glass with horizontal strokes and the outside vertically – if streaks show up, this will let you know which side they’re on. Once you’re done here you should have no slobber, grease, or drool clouding up your windows and you’re ready to move down to the trim.

Panels & Trim

If you’ve got a dog you know what your door panels and trim can look like after a week of chauffeuring “man’s best friend” around town. Bite marks, puncture marks, staining… it happens. Luckily the cleanup is as simple as spraying an interior cleaning product and wiping with a microfiber towel. Once you’ve done that you always want to condition to prevent future damage – whether it be from your pet’s oily skin or damaging UV rays (yes, interiors are at risk, too), it’s not worth letting your interior trim dry out, crack, or begin to fade. Protection, however, isn’t the only benefit of conditioning these surfaces. The conditioner feeds the leather, vinyl, or plastic finish and actually makes it stronger.


If you have leather or vinyl seats your job wont be as hard, but if you have cloth I suggest picking up a pet hair brush and a carpet stone. Since you’ve already vacuumed up major dandruff, pet hair, etc. you’ll want to use the pet hair remover brush to pick up what’s left. Then, with a cleaner (specific to the type of seats you have – cloth or leather/vinyl) and a horsehair brush, begin to scrub the surface. Spend added time on the seams and heavily soiled areas. If you smell something funky, fear not. Grab a non-scented odor remover and blast it out. Continue this cleaning process until the affected seats look and smell fresh. When you’re done, seal in your work. Use an upholstery protection product or a leather/vinyl conditioner. With your seats sparkling it’s time to hit the carpets.


carpet cleaningI often think to myself, whose idea was carpeting in cars? Between spills, wet weather, and pet hair you’d think people would fit their cars with a nice plastic molding, but no. For this step you’re going to need the vacuum (I suggest purchasing a shop-vac if you don’t have one already), a carpet stone, a carpet brush, and your car cleaning products. By now all the gunk from the seats and paneling has accumulated down on the ground, so you may want to vacuum before scrubbing the carpets. If it’s not too dirty, let’s go… spray your carpet cleaner lightly over the surface and begin to scrub. If you don’t see foam right away, don’t worry. You don’t want to oversaturate the carpets to the point of needing a fan so use your products sparingly. To further agitate the surface and remove embedded dirt, grime, and more pet dandruff, use a carpet stone. You may start to see things flying up out of your carpet, so keep your vacuum handy. Often it is beneficial to have it running while you’re using the carpet stone so you’re picking up particles as they’re coming out of your carpet fibers. Finally, continue by protecting your work with a carpet protection product to help fight messes and spills from staining your carpet. When all is said and done you’ll want to dab up any wet areas with a microfiber towel and throw a light fan over the carpets or crack the windows to air out.

At this point you shouldn’t be able to tell that your four legged friend was even inside your car. It’s a pretty good feeling so take it in. No paw marks, no tongued up windows, and most importantly, no pet hair. By following these directions you’ll be making your ride more enjoyable and your next clean much easier. So next time you notice your car looking like a dog house, give this process a try and let us know how it goes in the comments and on facebook! We’d love to hear what you think.