How to Clean Food Spills Before They Stain Car Seats
Prevent spilled coffee, chili, or ketchup from leaving a permanent stain on those stylish cloth seats
Your car is basically your second dinner table. You’re always eating something on the go, whether that’s morning coffee, late-night fast food, road trip meals, or emergency snacks when you’re feeling munchy. Sometimes, those meals can wind up spilling on your cloth car seats. If you want to make sure your car stays in top condition, here are some tips that will help you prevent most car stains before spills permanently tarnish the seats.
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Act as quickly as possible
Don’t wait until you get home to clean up the spill. Pull over quickly so you can address the mess immediately. Otherwise, if you wait to wipe the splatter, it has time to dry and set into the cloth fibers — exponentially increasing the chance of a permanent stain. Find a fast food restaurant, gas station, or travel plaza you can park at that has a restroom.
Scoop up the chunks
Blot the area first to pick up any excess moisture and remove any pieces that might remain on the carpet. If the spill involves a solid food item like a dropped BBQ chicken wing or ketchup-covered fries, pick up those pieces before addressing the sauce spots left behind.
Dilute the dye
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it actually helps to pour more liquid onto your carpet. Fill a cup with cool water and pour it on the remaining spill to dilute its potency. This is especially applicable if you’ve dropped a cup of coffee or Crock Pot of chili. Diluting the mess with water will make it less caustic and thus make any lingering stain less noticeable.
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Blot with a towel or rag
Soak up the liquid immediately with a shop towel or handful of paper towels. Even napkins from your glove box will suffice. This will get the solution soak into something other than the carpet or upholstery. Be careful not to wipe the surface or put pressure on it; smearing or scrubbing it will push the mess into the seat instead of lifting it out.
Sprinkle some baking soda
Shake some baking soda over the area to clean the surface and neutralize its odor. Baking soda is excellent at absorbing oils and grease so they don’t tarnish the fabric. Work the powder into the cloth in a circular motion with a toothbrush or even your finger. Then you can simply vacuum the soiled powder away.
Take further measures at home
Once you get home, you can use stronger cleaning supplies to wash what’s left of the mess. Most household carpet cleaners can also be effective at lifting dirt out of upholstery too. You can make your own liquid cleaning solution by combining water and white vinegar with a dash of dishwashing liquid. Scrub the stain with the cleaning solution, and then rinse the area with clean water. Afterward, blot the area dry with a towel.
Be prepared for next time
The best way to reduce the severity of a stain is by having materials on-hand to clean up a spill when it happens. Keep a bottle of water, a roll of paper towels, and a box of baking soda in the trunk for easy cleanup in the future. That way, you don’t have to panic if you aren’t near a facility with a restroom. Also consider applying a stain-repellent spray to the seats to increase its resistance to spills.
Everyone loves a cup-a-joe in the morning to improve their daily commute, but no one loves when a sudden stop sends this delicious drink all over the car. Luckily, following these steps will keep spills like those from tarnishing your seats — or your day.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.