cleaning the inside of a car

Car Dealer Spills the Beans for Treating Leather

Dear Mary: I recently purchased a newer vehicle. The dealer tried to sell me a package where they treat the leather seats. Because of the cost, I opted not to purchase the package. 

Car seat

My question is, do you know the type of treatment that car dealers use to treat leather seats? Is it even necessary to do this? The car is an expensive purchase for me and I need to know how to take good care of the interior to make it last.

Thank you for your very enjoyable column. I read it from top to bottom and always learn or find something I can use daily. Jan G.

Dear Jan: Are the leather seats dirty or are you simply wanting to protect and “treat” them as the dealer suggested? As this is not a new car, I am thinking it may be time to clean the leather just to remove the kind of dirt that naturally builds up from regular use. And yes, I believe that leather needs to be treated regularly to keep it soft and supple.

I checked with a car dealer friend of mine, and he said you are pretty smart. Car dealers aren’t magicians. They just use products that work well, then charge you an arm and a leg to do what you can probably do yourself.

After a bit of arm-twisting, he told me his shop’s secret: BooYah Cleaner and Conditioner  (Note: BooYah has undergone a name change to KevianClean Leather Cleaner & Conditioner—only the name has changed). He assures me that this one product will clean, condition and protect the leather and leave it soft and supple. If I were you I would read all of the online reviews first. You’ll learn a lot and then you’ll know whether this is the product you want to trust on your beautiful car seats.

By the way, I just have to share something with you that I learned some time ago for how to deep clean and restore stained and really dirty leather seats. This is going to be shocking, so brace: Soft-Scrub Lemon Cleanser. I’m serious. I’m talking about the stuff made for kitchens and bathrooms (DO NOT  grab the Soft Scrub with Bleach … you want only the yellow lemon option). And yes, on leather. I must admit that I have not had occasion to clean any stained and or really dirty leather, so I cannot personally vouch for this. But for any readers who are dealing with the heartbreak of stained and or dirty leather car seats–or any other needy leather item for that matter—THIS is a must read.

I’m almost looking forward to having a leather stain or dirt problem so I can get some first-hand experience with this very amazing-if-true way to get rid of the problem and return even very old dried up and ugly leather back to its glory. And of course, I would not mind hearing from anyone who has tried this and is willing to report back with their results.

Dear Mary: I read your book 7 Money Rules for Life which was great. Which online savings account do you currently recommend now that INGDirect no longer exists? Thank you! Jason S.

Dear Jason: INGDirect was bought out by Capital One Bank, and they changed the name to Capital One 360. It is still an online savings bank, with lots of great features like the ability to set up automatic deposits, create sub-accounts and so forth. You should also take a look at Synchrony Bank, an online savings bank which is currently offering the best interest rates on savings, a paltry 1.00 percent, but still the best available. Capital One 360 is paying 1.60 percent on its money market account at this time. Thanks for liking my book. I’m pretty fond of it myself. 

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8 replies
  1. crabbyoldlady says:

    I would love to treat the leather seats in my car, however, my seats are both heated and cooled and so have thousands of little holes to allow flow of air. How can I take care of these without plugging the holes?

  2. Teresa says:

    I wonder if it would clean ” blue Jean” stains off the leather seats in my new vehicle. I just noticed the driver seat in my new car is so discolored. I have attributed it to a new pair of dark blue jeans. I’m sick about it and wondering how to clean it. Going to try this but afraid I’ll have to wait until spring as the weather in ND is freezing!

    • Laura says:

      Teresa, don’t wait until spring to try and remove the blue jean dye. You always want to remove stains from leather as soon as possible. Many customers have had great success removing jean dye with BooYah Clean! Leather Cleaner & Conditioner – you can read their reviews on Amazon. It may take several applications to get the dye out, but I would definitely recommend not waiting until spring.

  3. Lelia Carlson says:

    Dear Mary, I read your answers on the best interest paying banks. Please, check out In particular, their Rainy Day Savings Account.

  4. donna says:

    Would either of these products work on a leather sofabed that has been in my basement for a couple of years? I should say that there was 6″ of water in the basement last winter when the power went out. Would either of these products remove any mildew smell?

    • Ron 'n Loni Oliver says:

      Vinegar is a great cleaner, de-odorizer and will also help with mold and mildew. First, I’d wash it down with a weak white vinegar and water solution. I clean all our leather stuff with vinegar and water. After that, maybe make a paste of water and baking soda and apply to any visible mold or mildew and let it sit until dry. Wash off with a rag dipped in clear water. After that, I would condition with some cheap hand lotion or cream. If it still smells musty, you might want to turn the couch over on an old blanket and treat the underside: wash any smooth surfaces with the vinegar/water. Spray cloth surfaces with a little straight vinegar. Let dry. If it still smells, sprinkle the cloth surfaces with some baking soda. Let it sit over night and vacuum off. If that still doesn’t get the job done, you could take it outside, turn it over on an old blanket and let the sun bake out the mildew and smell. –Loni

      • Luisa says:

        Loni, I was glad to read your info on cleaning leather. An air conditioner guy installed a faulty system in my house and things in my closets and rooms molded over the summer, including books, wood furniture, and leather jackets, shoes, and gloves. I threw away some of the shoes before I realized what was causing it. Do you think your system would work on these items, or do you have any other advice on dealing with these items? Thank you.

      • Ron 'n Loni Oliver says:

        I’m not an expert, but here’s what I’d try:

        Wood- if the furniture is finished with varnish, wipe those surfaces with vinegar/water solution. If it’s very moldy, use straight vinegar. If the mold/mildew has worked down into the finish, you could try a paste of vinegar and baking soda or maybe vinegar and peroxide (try both?) rubbed in gently with a soft cloth and allowed to dry. If the wood is finished with oil or there is any exposed unfinished wood, I would first spray it with straight peroxide and let dry. Next, spray with straight vinegar and let dry (it would probably be good to direct a fan onto it). Then, apply melaleuca oil (tea tree) straight. You want to kill the mold. If the wood is unfinished and stained from mold, the peroxide will lighten it some. I have not tried wood bleach on wood stained from mold, but that might work (you can get this at the hardware store). If the unfinished wood is particle or MDF, moisture will make it swell, so go easy with the amounts of peroxide and vinegar.

        Books – Heloise has a solution for this which I can’t remember precisely, but I would sprinkle cornstarch throughout the book’s pages and close them up in a plastic bag to absorb the moisture. Vacuum or brush that off and see how they smell. If they smell, maybe try baking soda next. If that fails, put them out in the hot, dry sun to bake, turning the pages frequently.

        Leather – Same thing as the couch, including spraying a LITTLE white vinegar on the lining, but get it opened up to dry, preferably out in the sun, but excessive heat will not do the leather any good. Shoes can have crumpled newspaper shoved inside to absorb moisture.
        Suede can be washed in the washing machine; I have done this successfully with suede jackets. See below.

        Okay, I looked up leather care in my archives, and here’s a brain dump:

        ¾ c. rubbing alcohol, ½ c. white vinegar and 1-1/2 c. water —
        mix. Dampen cloth with mixture and rub into leather until clean.
        Mixture can be stored in a sealed jar.

        To wash suede and leather, see entry under Suede.

        for polished leather – 1 c. lanolin, 1 c. castor oil. Mix.
        Apply to clean leather with soft cloth every 3 months. Items may be polished as usual. Store in metal or glass container with lid. (Or, I use cheap hand lotion.)

        Light colored leather: apply
        Vaseline to clean leather. Allow it to soak in for several hours.
        Remove excess with a soft cloth. Reapply every 3 months.

        Grease spots: beat a room temperature egg white until stiff. Using a soft cloth, apply stiffened egg white to leather and rub until grease is gone.

        Lipstick: rub with a slice of white bread.

        Suede: to clean in washing machine: Wash in hottest water with regular detergent of choice (don’t skimp on water). In last rinse, add 1 quart of fabric softener for full load (adjust accordingly.) At end of wash/rinse/spin, remove and AIR DRY. When thoroughly dry, put in dryer on AIR FLUFF with two tennis balls for ½ hour to break down the fibers and restore resiliency to item.

        For non-washables – Make a paste of fuller’s earth (highly
        absorbtive, clay powder) and water. Apply to suede and allow to dry. Brush clean with a soft cloth.

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