I need the mother of all stain removers
November 3, 2017 1:05 PM   Subscribe

I bought a used car a year ago, and it had some stains on the rear seat. I have been living with them, but I feel like having a go at removing them. I realize this is most likely impossible, but then again, I am a believer in the power of the hive mind. Give me your most brutally effective fabric cleaners, your nuclear options, your most powerful chemical warfare, and I vow to you to try them and report back here as to how well they worked. Do your worst, Mefites. Do your worst.

Of course, I have no idea what caused these stains.

Thanks, as always, for your help everyone.
posted by 4ster to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any recommendations on what to use as my answer for this situation in my car has been to take it to a detailer and let them work their magic on it. Do you know what made the stains? That might help with recommendations on how to get them out.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:10 PM on November 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Check out stain solver.
posted by tman99 at 1:28 PM on November 3, 2017

Rent a carpet cleaner that shoots cleaner and water in, then sucks it out.
posted by theora55 at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2017

A picture would be helpful.
posted by jadepearl at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

As requested, here is a photo.
posted by 4ster at 2:03 PM on November 3, 2017

Simple Green. Saturate it. Scrub with fingernail brush or similar.

Rinse well, then rinse with rubbing alcohol to drive off the water.

If possible, do on the hottest possible day, and run the car with the heater to "bake" any excess liquid out (so you don't get mold).
posted by notsnot at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ossengal soap.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:48 PM on November 3, 2017

I swear by Shout, but in this case, I'd take it to a detailer.
posted by onecircleaday at 2:54 PM on November 3, 2017

Seconding renting a carpet cleaner from the grocery store. I would also pretreat with oxiclean. To be honest I don’t think those are ever going to come out but they’ll look better than they do now! Bonus: you can use the carpet cleaner to deep clean your carpets and fabric furniture.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 2:57 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh I also recommend looking to see if Jolie Kerr who writes the “Ask a Clean Person” column has ever addressed this - she is the queen of clean!
posted by tatiana wishbone at 3:03 PM on November 3, 2017

Jolie Kerr has addressed something similar to this on her podcast (car episodes here and here), but I think that those were more about spills that had left horrible smells in the car (rancid butter, ew) than about stains that were unsightly. Not knowing what kind of stain it is will make choosing the right cleanser a bit more difficult, though.

One of my takeaways from her conversations with her go-to car guest (Freddy Hernandez of Jalopnik) has been that if a mess is bothering you enough that you are considering renting an upholstery/carpet cleaner, buying a host of new cleaning products, or taking the car in for detailing to deal with it, it might be only slightly more expensive to find the correct part for your car's model and year online and simply replace the old one. If your car is not that old, it might fall in the sweet spot where replacement parts are abundant but not yet expensive. I guess that would be the nuclear option?
posted by Anita Bath at 3:30 PM on November 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

There's good options here already, here's one to try before all those: From some in-depth research into cleaning stains out of garments/couches/rugs etc. years ago, I learned from multiple sources that it's a good thing to start with lukewarm water first, before trying all kinds of soaps, cleaners etc. Because hot water can fixate a stain, as can cold water, as can soaps and chemicals. And without loosening up the fibres and rinsing out the old dirt first, you could end up pressing and rubbing the stain-particles further into the fabric. Lukewarm water can dissolve, and loosen up dried particles, with smaller effects on the fabric itself. So it's a safe choice. For almost all stains (with the exception of blood or chocolate, I think, those go with cold water because of enzymes and melting).

For garments always use running water, under the tap, first. But for your seat I'd try luke warm water in a bowl, dab it on with a washcloth type rag (rough rag so it will shake up the fibers a bit), maybe try softly with a toothbrush (don't scrub but press the hairs of the brush in and wiggle a bit) and more lukewarm water. Immediately after dab dry fanatically with old towels, maybe some of the stain comes out with the water already and dab dry to not create water-circles (that remain after it has fully dried). Maybe nobody has ever tried removing the stains yet, in that case the luke warm water could be a good start. If former owners have tried with soaps/chemicals the luke warm water can rinse those out first, before you try your own as not to inadvertently mix things you wouldn't want to mix.

Actually, I think I can see a possible water-ring (the widest vague stain around the others), so possibly they tried something before (or it's just dirt). I'd make that whole middle seat of the darker color wet then. In that way it will take a while to dry but it wil not create water-ring stains.
Anyway, long story but I've gotten really good at this rinsing method through the years and find it's also a good prep for any following steps of choice.
posted by Mariemma at 4:02 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I use this stuff called Tuff Stuff which has removed stains from seats and also from the floor rug in the car. It's pretty amazing how well it works, It goes for around $3 for a big can at walmart (it's in the auto dept) or Home Depot. Sometimes if the stain is very tough it'll take a few tries.

My other go to is Goop, also around $3 for a decent sized vat. That stuff is amazing.

Between the two of those, not sure if there's a stain I haven't been able to get out.
posted by newpotato at 4:36 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Replacing the seat is a good option, most seats (in my experience) are readily removable. If the stain can't be easily/quickly/cheaply removed, that would be my preferred option. If it a standard trim (no special order or custom fabric/colour etc) it should be available from local wreckers. There may be a slight difference (one may be more faded than the other), but as you have lived with that stain a slight colour difference should be no big deal.
posted by GeeEmm at 4:50 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You want Folex. This stuff is fucking magic and I don’t understand why it’s not better known. It took dog diarrhea out of a carpet.
posted by Automocar at 4:55 PM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oxyclean. No question. If it will get red wine stains out of a wool flokati rug (ask me how I know. . .) it will get these stains out of your car seats.
posted by ananci at 4:57 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why nobody is suggesting a steam cleaner.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:36 PM on November 3, 2017

Yep, Oxiclean is a miracle. I use it to clean my couches and it gets blood, pen, chocolate and every other thing out of them.
posted by Jubey at 9:13 PM on November 3, 2017

Rubbing alcohol 70%, not 91%. I regularly clean stains off my cloth car upholstery with it. Soak a rag liberally with the alcohol and rub. I usually do the entire, large area rather than strict spot clean as the clean area stands out. I use multiple rags and flip them often. I use a lot of the alcohol, but it's so cheap, no big deal if I use a couple of bottles. The alcohol evaporates easily and there's very little moisture left. I leave the windows cracked and it's usually dry by the next day. No fragrance or residues after you're done. The technique also works well on microfiber furniture.
posted by quince at 9:26 PM on November 3, 2017

Is the seat removable? That'd let me be more thorough with the cleaning, let it dry better, etc.

Rather than spend $100 on detailing, might consider re-covering it, either yourself, or contract it out.
posted by at at 7:31 AM on November 4, 2017

Seeing the picture you posted I we pick some upholstery clearer from the the grocery store and give it a try.
posted by tman99 at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2017

Oxyclean took 30+ cat vomit stains off my carpet, and several giant urine spots. Looks like animals have never lived here. It’s no effort to fully saturate those stains with Oxyclean to see what happens.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:01 PM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Zout and/or Krud Kutter... they both look like as-seen-on-TV nonsense but I haven't found anything yet that one or the other won't get out.
posted by somanyamys at 7:15 AM on November 6, 2017

Fully saturate with liquid Oxyclean, then fold over several layers of paper towel. Then place a brick on top. The liquid and stain will rise up through the paper towels. I got a large carton of dried orange juice out of cream carpet and old urine out of a white matress with this method. Repeat as needed.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 9:58 PM on November 7, 2017

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