Whether you are driving to your family for Thanksgiving dinner or grabbing a quick bite on your way to work or the gym, sometimes food spills are unavoidable in your car. Needless to say, none of us is a stranger to such horrific disasters.

If you want to know a foolproof way that will guarantee no spills, it is to have no food in your car. Like, at all. But obviously, that’s a very unrealistic scenario; a solution almost impossible to implement. From your kid’s juice box to the drips of your hamburger or spilled soda, even the lubricant stored in your car can be the main culprit.

Depending on the type of spill and your car’s interior, the following methods should help remove even the worst of stains:

Method 1:

This method is perfect if you have spilled food with gravy. Just follow these steps below to remove the damage done.

What you need:

  • Paper towels
  • Dish soap or upholstery cleaner
  • Water
  • Scrub brush
  • Microfiber (or any soft) cloth
  • Hair dryer (optional)
  • Leather pre-treater (if you have leather interior)


  1. Blot as soon as possible.
    As soon as you can park, remove any larger pieces of food that you can and use paper towels to blot off the excess before it can set. As soon as the paper towels are saturated, replace them with new ones and keep blotting.

Keep applying pressure to the wet spot with your paper towel but be sure not to rub at the spot as it may spread the stain on the seat.

  1. Prepare the cleaning solution.
    You can mix in a one to one ratio of water to dishwasher soap to clean up the spill. Or, you also have the option of using upholstery dedicated cleaner depending on the type of interior you have, fabric or leather. The Meguiar’s D10101 Detailer All Purpose Cleaner is one that is highly recommended and worth checking out.

If the interior of your car is upholstered in leather, do make sure that you use a good pre-treatment solution following the instructions that are given by the manufacturer. This will help the leather be less immune to the cleaner and easier to get the stain off.

  1. Use a soft brush to scrub the stain.
    Dip your brush into the cleaning solution, making sure to not to have it soaked otherwise it would leave a water stain. Scrub the brush into the stain while trying to leave any watermark.
  2. Scrub with a microfiber cloth.
    Once you can get most of the stain out with the brush, take your microfiber cloth and dip it into clean water. After squeezing out the excess, wipe gently at the stain with your damp cloth to clean the cleaning solution. Do this until all the solution has been removed.
  3. Dry the spot. Set your hair dryer at a low heat and then dry over the stained area. Make sure you are doing so from a distance as close proximity may scorch the upholstery.
  4. Distribute the water stain.
    In case, the ending result is a water stain in that spot due to over-saturation, wipe evenly throughout the whole seat to distribute the saturation. This way it won’t be as obvious.


Method 2:

This is perfect for any water-based spills. Follow the steps mentioned below to have your upholstery brand new!

What you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Soft clean cloth
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Vacuum


  1. Spray with upholstery cleaner while it is still wet.
    Address the spill immediately and spray it with your favorite upholstery cleaner. Whatever cleaner you use, make sure it does not contain any form of bleach.

If you do not have one at hand, you can mix in dishwashing soap with water at a one to one ratio as an alternative.

As mentioned above, if your interior is made of leather, do remember to use a pre-treater.

Spray in the cleaning solution as much as needed, depending on how deep you think the spill has been absorbed into the upholstering.

  1. Scrub at the spot with the soft bristled brush.
    This will help lift and remove the stain from the upholstered fabric.
  2. Clean up the cleaning solution.
    Use a clean cloth and wipe up the cleaner that you used, along with any of the stain that was removed.
  3. Absorb any of the moisture from within.
    By this time, the seat cushion has surely absorbed a lot of the liquid. To absorb as much as the cleanser and the stain, apply firm pressure with the cloth.

The cloth needs to soak up as much of the liquid as possible so that the color does not leak out at a later date and to prevent odor.

  1. Allow for the seat to dry.
    While the fabric may not take long to dry, the seat cushion might. To speed up this process, you can choose to dry it with a hairdryer. But make sure the heat is at the lowest and you aim it from a distance. Being too close to the seat with the dryer may risk burning the fabric.
  2. Repeat previous steps if necessary.
    If you still see a stain present or if the stain has already dried, use your cleaner and thoroughly soak it in. Leave the stain to be soaked in with the cleaner for about 10 minutes to allow it to break and be easily removed.

Then repeat the steps mentioned above to clean it.

  1. Spill some baking soda over the spill.Make sure you cover the entire dried area of the spill with baking soda. Rub the baking soda into the stain with a fabric or a soft bristled brush. Leave this for as long as you can, preferably up to 3 days.

The baking soda will help remove any odor that might emit from the spilled substance.

  1. Remove the baking soda.
    Using a vacuum cleaner will help ensure that you get all the baking soda removed from that area.
  2. Neutralize odor.
    If you find that the odor comes back in a few days, feel free to re-apply the baking soda and repeat steps 7 and 8. It might take several applications until the odor is no more noticeable.

Method 3:

Oily stains can prove to be a pain to remove from fabric upholstery. Use this method to help remove this nightmare.

What you need:

  • Clean cloths
  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Soft brush


  1. Blot the stain.
    Use the clean cloth to blot the stain as much as possible. Change the sides of the cloth to a clean section every time you blot. Repeat this until no more of the stain transfers on to the cloth.
  2. Apply the dish soap on the oil stain.
    Use a small drop of soap to help remove the oil particles from the stain.
  3. Work the soap into the stain with a cloth or brush.
    If you find that the spot isn’t coming off as easily, scrub the brush into the spill. Do this until you can no longer prominently see the stain.
  4. Wipe the soap.
    Run your cloth through warm water and wipe the stained area to rub off the soap. You will find that suds will begin to form and you need to repeat this process until there are no more suds formed.
  5. Allow for the seat to dry.Depending on how big the stain was, the drying time may vary.
  6. Repeat if necessary.
    If the stain is still visible, repeat the above steps until it no longer is.


The above methods should do a reasonably good job at removing any of the stains. In case, none of these were successful, it is a better idea to have it checked by a professional.