Need to know how to clean seat belts? Follow these 9 easy steps:
- Pull the seatbelt out as far as it will go
- Place a hand clamp at the top of the seat belt
- Find and remove spots and stains
- Remove dirt, oil, and grime
- Remove odors and / or mold (optional)
- Wipe with a terry cloth towel
- Let the seat belts air dry
- Apply a fabric protectant / stain repellant
- Remove the hand clamp
Tools & Products Needed to Clean Your Seat Belts
- Hand clamp
- Fabric / upholstery cleaner
- All purpose cleaner
- Upholstery brush (medium to stiff bristles)
- Clean terry cloth towel
- Fabric protectant / stain repellant
Optional Tools & Products
- Steam cleaner
- Upholstery extractor
- Odor eliminating solution:
- White vinegar
- Dish soap
- Plastic cup
The method described in this guide is the method used by professional detailers. It is also the method I use to keep the seat belts clean in my personal vehicles.
Table of Contents:
- How to Clean Seat Belts in 9 Easy Steps
- Step 2: Place a hand clamp at the top of the seat belt
- Step 3: Find and remove spots and stains
- Step 4: Remove dirt, oil, and grime
- Step 5: Remove odors and / or mold (optional)
- Step 6: Wipe with a terry cloth towel
- Step 7: Let the seat belts air dry
- Step 8: Apply a fabric protectant / stain repellant
- Step 9: Remove the hand clamp
- Warnings and Things to Avoid
- How often should you clean your seat belts?
- Is it safe to clean your seat belts?
- Can you use a steam cleaner to clean seat belts?
- Can you use a pressure washer to clean seat belts?
- Can I soak dirty seat belts in a bucket of water?
- Can I use a blow dryer or heat gun to dry the seat belts quickly?
- How do you remove sweat stains from seat belts?
- What material are seat belts made of?
- Can degreaser be used to clean seat belts?
- Do I need to wear latex gloves while cleaning seat belts?
- Should I unbolt the seat belts from the vehicle to clean them?
- What’s Next?
How to Clean Seat Belts in 9 Easy Steps
Step 1: Pull the seat belt out as far as it will go
Most of the dirt and grime will be in the middle of the seat belt. The end of the seatbelt that is almost always retracted will be clean. Pulling the seatbelt all the way out makes it easier to clean. The clean end acts as a guide for the dirty part. Keep cleaning until the dirty part looks like the clean end.
Step 2: Place a hand clamp at the top of the seat belt
With the seat belt fully pulled out, place a hand clamp at the top to keep it from retracting back in. This steps makes the processes easier by freeing up both of your hands. The clamp will stay on until after the cleaning process is done and the belts are completely dry.
Step 3: Find and remove spots and stains
- Spray fabric / upholstery stain remover onto the stains and let soak for 5-10 mins
- Scrub the stain with an upholstery brush. Move the brush with the grain of the webbing. Do not use a circular motion. Scrubbing against the grain can cause the seat belt webbing to fray. Scrub both sides of the seat belt.
- Wipe away the cleaner with a terry cloth towel
- Repeat the process as needed.
- For improved results, use a steam cleaner on the heavily stained areas. Steam cleaners are effective in eliminating stains on the webbing of seat belts. They also don’t over saturate the belt with water.
Step 4: Remove dirt, oil, and grime
- In 12 in sections, spray all purpose cleaner on the seat belt.
- Scrub the section with an upholstery brush. Scrub both sides of the seat belt. Do not scrub against the grain of the webbing.
- If you have one, hit the section with a steam cleaner or upholstery extractor.
Step 5: Remove odors and / or mold (optional)
- Make a cleaning solution by combining the following in a plastic cup
- 1 cup of water
- One tablespoon of dish soap
- Two tablespoons of white / clear vinegar
- Dip your upholstery brush into the solution and scrub the webbing of the seat belt
- Hit the seat belt with a steam cleaner (if you have one)
Step 6: Wipe with a terry cloth towel
Wipe away excess water and cleaning solution with a clean terry cloth towel. This will also lift away dirt and residue that is still on the belt. Your towel should look dirty when you’re done with this step.
If the seat belt is still dirty, repeat steps 1-4 as needed.
Step 7: Let the seat belts air dry
Allow the seat belts to air dry completely. A good practice is to let them dry over night. If you allow damp seat belt to retract, they can become moldy and smelly.
Step 8: Apply a fabric protectant and stain repellant
Apply a quality fabric protectant / stain repellant to both sides of the dry seat belts. This will keep your seat belts clean longer. It will also make the next cleaning easier. Do not skip this step. You’ll be glad you didn’t.
Many upholstery protectants come in a spray. Be aware of where your overspray is landing. You want to avoid it getting on your glass, plastics or paint.
Let the seat belts dry completely.
Step 9: Remove the hand clamp
Remove the hand clamp from the top of the seat belt to allow it to retract back in. You’re done.
Repeat these steps for each seat belt in your vehicle.
Warnings and Things to Avoid
- Do not use cleaners with ammonia or bleach. These chemicals can weaken or damage the the fibers and the stitching on the seat belt.
- Do not use harsh chemicals to clean your seat belts. Only use mild soaps and detergents to maintain the integrity of the material.
- Do not fully immerse seat belts in water, or over saturate with water for extended periods of time. Soaking your seat belts can weaken the fibers and the stitching.
- Do not use pressure washers to clean seat belts. The high PSI of a pressure was has the ability to damage the fibers in the webbing, and the stitching.
- When cleaning with vinegar and vinegar based products, use it sparingly. The acid in the vinegar can weaken the fibers and the stitching.
- When scrubbing seat belts with a brush, do not use circular motions or scrub agains the grain of the webbing. This can cause the belt to fray. This not only looks bad, but can weaken the belt.
- When cleaning seat belts, look for imperfections in the webbing. Tears, cuts or fraying usually mean the seat belt needs to be replaced.
How often should you clean your seat belts?
Clean your seat belts as needed. Frequent cleaning can cause the tightly woven polyester fibers to fray over time. Cleaning your seat belts quarterly is a good frequency for most drivers.
Is it safe to clean your seat belts?
Yes. It is safe to clean your seat belts as long as you do it properly. Avoid using harsh chemicals and pressure washers to clean seat belts. Don’t fully immerse your seat belts in water. These things can damage or weaken the webbing and the stitching. If you follow the steps found in the this guide, you can safely and effectively clean your seat belts.
Can you use a steam cleaner to clean seat belts?
Yes. Steam cleaners are very effective tools for cleaning seat belts. They use little water, so they don’t over-saturate the webbing. The steam does a good job of breaking up tough stains and spot without the use of chemicals.
Can you use a pressure washer to clean seat belts?
No. The high PSI of a pressure washer can damage the fibers in the webbing and the stitching. Pressure washers saturate the material with water. This weakens the polyester fibers and the stitching.
Can I soak dirty seat belts in a bucket of water?
No. Do not soak your seat belts in water and soap. Soaking your seat belts can be an effective way to clean them. Yet, it can weaken the polyester webbing and the stitching. It’s better to play it safe by using other methods that won’t over-saturate the material with water.
Can I use a blow dryer or heat gun to dry the seat belts quickly?
No. Do not use heat to dry your seat belts. The tightly woven polyester threads will lose strength when exposed to heat. To maintain the full integrity of your seat belts, let them air dry. It’s best if the wet seat belts are allowed to dry over night.
How do you remove sweat stains from seat belts?
Sweat stains are usually a combination or salt and oil from your skin. To remove a sweat stain from a seat belt, use all purpose cleaner and an upholstery brush. Sweat stains come out easily with little effort. After scrubbing, rub the belt with a clean and dry terry cloth towel.
What material are seat belts made of?
Seat belts are made of 300 tightly woven 100% high tensile polyester. The polyester material is a petroleum-based product. This material has a tensile strength of 3,000 to 6,000 pounds.
Can degreaser be used to clean seat belts?
Yes. You can use a mild degreaser to clean seat belts. Strong degreasers can damage the fibers of the webbing and the stitching. Mild degreasers are effective at cleaning seat belts. Most fabric and upholstery cleaners use mild degreasers.
Do I need to wear latex gloves while cleaning seat belts
Wear latex gloves when cleaning with chemicals to avoid skin irritation. Although the chemicals used to clean seat belts are mild, it’s good to take precautions.
Should I unbolt the seat belts from the vehicle to clean them?
Removing the seat belt anchor bolt to clean the seat belts is not required. But, some detailers find that doing so making the process easier. When you unbolt the seat belt anchor, you’re able to hold the seat belt away from the vehicle while cleaning. This helps to keep cleaner and water from getting on other surfaces in your vehicle.
Cleaning and protecting your seat belts is easy. Use fabric / upholstery cleaner, a medium bristle brush, and a terry cloth towel. A steam cleaner or extractor can help with tough stains and heavy dirt.
Avoid scrubbing against grain of the webbing. Do not soak your seat belts in water, use harsh chemicals, or use pressure washers.
A solution of water, vinegar and dish soap can remove odors and mold.
For best results, apply a fabric protectant / stain repellant to clean and dry seat belts.
Allow your seat belts to dry completely before allowing them to retract.
Clean your seat belts every 3 months or so, or as needed.
Now that your seat belts are clean, move on to another dirty area of your vehicle. Explore our other interior detailing guides.