Magic Eraser On Leather Car Seats (How to Use Safely)

The Car Spy, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Car Spy, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Magic Eraser On Leather Car Seats (How to Use Safely)


You may have heard that using a Magic Eraser really works like magic if you need to clean leather shoes, sofas, luggage, and other accessories. It’s also super handy for cleaning leather car upholstery. In addition to seats, you can use a magic eraser on leather shift knobs, leather emergency brake handles, leather steering wheels, and other frequently touched or dirty leather interior bits.

Care should be taken though. While it can work great, a Magic Eraser should be used very gently. Using it too vigorously can wear away the protective layer auto manufacturers coat the leather with.

Here’s everything you need to know about using a Magic Eraser on leather car upholstery.

How to clean leather car seats with a Magic Eraser

Here’s what you need when using a Magic Eraser to clean your car’s leather interior:

  • Microfiber cloth – Microfiber cloths are perfect for cleaning your leather seats because they’re highly absorbent and will ensure your leather seats are dry and don’t have any residue. They’re also soft and will not scratch your leather.
  • Vacuum cleaner – You can use a hand vacuum or your regular house vacuum.
  • Meguiar’s All-Purpose Cleaner – Dilute this cleaner 10 to 1 to keep it strong enough to gently do the job well.
  • Spray bottle – A spray bottle allows you to control the amount of solution you use on your leather seats. When cleaning, it’s usually a good idea to dilute your cleaner, so it’s five parts cleaner one part water. Generally, you should avoid cleaners that contain wax or petroleum since they create a buildup that dulls leather. Don’t use a leather cleaner that contains ammonia or bleach. If you don’t want to use store-bought leather cleaner, you can also use DIY leather car seat cleaner. 
  • Magic Eraser – You can use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or another brand name of your choosing. Just make sure you have a quality melamine foam brand that’s capable of doing the job.
  • (Optional) Disposable Dental Pick – If you’re dealing with perforated seats you may want to get a pack of disposable dental picks. You can use these to clean out particularly clogged-up perforations gently.

You can follow these quick and easy steps when using your Magic Eraser on car seats:

  1. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust and debris that may be on your car seats.
  2. Wet your magic eraser with Meguiar’s APC.
  3. Do a spot test if it’s your first time using a magic eraser on your cars’ leather. Find an inconspicuous location to test it just in case there’s something unique about the leather of your vehicle’s interior.
  4. Work in small sections and move the Magic Eraser in a circular motion when cleaning.
  5. Use the eraser slowly and with very gentle pressure.
  6. Keep in mind that wiping aggressively can remove the protective coating on the leather. If you begin to see the seat color coming off the leather and onto your magic eraser, you know you’ve gone too far. It doesn’t take much force to clean leather thoroughly.
  7. (Optional) Use a disposable dental pick on clogged and dirty perforations.
  8. Dry the leather with a microfiber cloth after cleaning each section.
  9. Repeat until your leather looks as good as new.

What is the best cleaner for leather car seats?

If you have used other leather care products on your car before, you might have been a bit disappointed with the results. Unlike fabric upholstery, leather upholstery cleaners aren’t very effective. The best cleaner for leather car seats is the combination of Meguiar’s All-Purpose Cleaner diluted 10 to 1 and a Magic Eraser.

Modern leather car seats are coated with a protective layer. When you’re cleaning leather in your car or truck, this is actually what you’re cleaning. “Gentle” leather cleaners won’t really do the job very well. You need a good and safe all-purpose cleaner like that from Meguiar’s.

How often should you clean and condition leather car seats?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should clean your leather seats. Generally, it depends on the following factors:

  • How the car is used – If the car is frequently used and there are many people who ride in the car, or pets and kids, then the car might need more attention. On the other hand, if the car is used infrequently, cleaning and conditioning once every few months will suffice.
  • The conditions the car is exposed to – This generally depends on the climate you live in. If the car is exposed to a hot and dry summer, the leather can dry out and crack if you don’t apply conditioner regularly. But if the weather tends to be more humid, you won’t have to condition as often. 
  • The color of the leather – Light-colored leather reveals more dirt, so it will typically need more cleaning and conditioning. 

The rule of thumb is you’ll need to clean your leather seats at least once every three months. The better you treat the leather, the less you’ll need to clean it. In between cleaning your leather with Magic Eraser, you should also take the time to wipe down the surface of your leather seats with a damp towel to remove dust and dirt, so it doesn’t work into your leather. 

Keep in mind that oil from human skin can also be damaging to leather, so if the leather is regularly in contact with oils from the skin, be sure to use an all-purpose cleaner like that from Meguiar’s and a high-quality UV protectant once in a while.

How do you keep leather car seats from cracking?

As mentioned earlier, modern leather car seats are coated with a protective layer. This means that they don’t need to be “conditioned” or moisturized. Anything that would add moisture would just sit on top since it can’t penetrate the protective coating. The protective coating not only helps keep your leather cleaner as well as easier to clean, but it also helps keep the natural oils and moisture in the leather.

What dries out your leather over time is the sun and UV rays. UV will break down the protective coating over time. Once the coating begins breaking down, the leather begins losing its moisture and elasticity.

The best way to keep leather car seats from cracking is to use a quality UV protectant. My favorite product for this purpose is 303 Aerospace Protectant. It has superior UV repelling properties and has a nice matte finish. If you’re looking for a more shiny finish you may want to try Armor All Original Formula.

Another important factor to keep in mind to prevent the leather from cracking is keeping your leather clean. Body oils, dirt, and grime will break down the protective layer on top of your leather. Regularly cleaning your leather seats and other leather interior parts will help extend their life.

So what are all those “Leather Conditioners” on the market for? They really just smell good. They may also contain UV protectants or have cleaning properties, but for tackling the primary problem of preventing cracking, you want to use a proper interior protectant like 303 Aerospace Protectant. If you like the aroma of some leather conditioners, there’s nothing wrong with using them. I’d lay down a good coating of UV protectant first and give it ample time to dry. Once it is no longer wet to the touch, adding a leather conditioner should help restore that wonderful leather aroma.

Frequently Asked Questions for Using a Magic Eraser on Leather Car Interiors

Why do Magic Erasers work so well?

It’s possible you might have seen Mr. Clean Magic Eraser being advertised as the be-all and end-all solution to your cleaning woes. Not only are they effective at cleaning leather, but you can also use them on anything from sneakers and jewelry to microwaves and pet marks. When you get right down to this wonderful cleaning tool, you’ll find that it’s simply melamine foam.

Melamine is a chemical compound that can best be described as an excellent yet gentle abrasive. This unique and delicate abrasiveness is what gives melamine its famous name as a cleaning agent. Melamine foam is very porous and hard – it has been compared to sandpaper. 

However, as mentioned its abrasiveness is more delicate, but you should always spot test to ensure the melamine isn’t damaging your leather. Unlike other household products, melamine is actually safe to use because it doesn’t break down or remove dirt using chemicals. Instead, it uses its tiny pores to scrape off and trap dirt. This combined with their abrasive nature makes them much more effective when cleaning leather. 

Are you supposed to wet Mr. Clean Magic Erasers?

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are no doubt a popular product to use when cleaning leather. If you’re wondering whether you should wet this handy product, then the answer is an absolute yes! After all, that’s how you activate the melamine foam for maximum effectiveness. 

For instance, before cleaning your car leather seats it’s a good idea to let your Mr. Clean Magic Erasers soak in a bucket of water for a few minutes until it has a soft and absorbent texture. But once you’re no longer using it, be sure to wring it dry or let it air dry before putting it away.

Can you reuse Magic Erasers?

The good news is you don’t have to throw away your Magic Erasers once you have used them once or several days. Your Magic Eraser can last a very long time. However, because a Magic Eraser is very porous, it will eventually start crumbling and this makes cleaning less efficient. So, you’ll need a fresh sponge once in a while.

This won’t be a problem if you buy them in bulk since this is cheaper. Brand names like Mr. Clean Magic Erases can be a bit expensive, but there are other melamine foam erasers that can do the job just as well. For instance these Magic Melamine Erasers.

What can I use instead of Magic Eraser?

Magic Erasers are great for cleaning leather seats if used gently. But besides using Magic Eraser on leather what else can you use to clean? Generally, it’s a bad idea to use a scrub brush or scouring pad since they can cause your leather to start peeling off. Instead, consider the following options:

  • Leather brush. You can use a quality detailing brush for your leather seats, such as this horsehair leather cleaning brush. It’s capable of removing dirt and has a dual side suitable for every detailing job.
  • Scrub pads. You can also use a leather scrubbing sponge to clean your leather seats. The pads won’t scratch your seats and they are very affordable.

Fortunately, there are many other products you can use to clean leather, but be sure they’re designed specifically to use on leather. Otherwise, you’ll end up damaging your seats or whatever item you’re cleaning.

Final Thoughts for Using a Magic Eraser on Leather Car Seats

If you decide to use a magic eraser on your leather car seats remember to use it gently and you should be fine. A magic eraser isn’t going to strip away your leather’s protective coating without a little elbow grease behind it.

Lubricating the magic eraser with a quality all-purpose cleaner like Meguiar’s APC will help break down body oils and grime while also reducing the harshness of the eraser on your leather’s surface.

Be sure and follow up your hard work cleaning the leather with a good UV protectant like 303 Aerospace. UV rays will break down the leather’s protective coating and not only make keeping your leather clean more difficult but cause the leather to begin to crack and peel.

Also, leather isn’t the only thing we’ve found magic erasers effective at cleaning. Be sure to check out our article about removing wax from plastics.

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