If you’ve ever owned a car with leather seats, then you may have noticed that over time, they can start to look a bit yellow. This is especially noticeable if the car is white or light-colored.
So what causes this discoloration, and more importantly, how can you prevent it? In this article, we’ll discuss 9 things that cause yellow stains on leather car seats, and provide some tips on how to remove and prevent them.
1. UV Damage Of The Leather Car Seat
The main cause of yellow stains on leather car seats is UV damage. Over time, the sun’s powerful rays can fade and discolor the leather.
This is especially true for light-colored leather car seats. Darker color leather, such as black or brown, can handle UV rays better and are less likely to get yellow stains.
However, the sun’s damaging rays will affect every color of leather over time. If you have excess sunlight directly hitting your car seat in a specific spot, it will cause the leather to fade and become yellow over time.
If you want to prevent this from happening, it’s important to keep your car in a shady spot as much as possible. You can also try applying a UV-protective sealant to your leather seats every few months. This will help shield them from the sun’s powerful rays.
When my husband bought his car, a Subaru forester with leather seats, he was told by the dealer the car had been parked for about 6 months in the sun and that the seats had some stains on them, thus the knock off price we got.
He and I are both familiar with leather furniture as we have a lot of it, so he thought it was worth the risk to buy the car. We figured he could probably fix them fairly easily since we had done that with some old leather couches in our house before when they started to fade and get marks on them.
I tried googling for advice on it, but there was nothing about leather car seats in particular. I did find some tips for cleaning and restoring stains to furniture though, so he decided to give that a try.
He took off the back seat cover, cleaned it with saddle soap, and then saturated the leather seat with a conditioner and protector and left it to dry.
After it dried we did notice the yellowing had not gone completely but it was pretty hard to see it from a distance and it didn’t look as bad as when he bought the car.
It’s been about a year now and the yellow is almost invisible, nor do they seem to be getting any new stains.
UV rays are the number one cause of yellow leather car seat stains and in most cases, it can be very difficult if not impossible to remove.
To prevent this from happening, try to keep your car in a shady spot as much as possible. You can also try applying a UV-protective sealant to your leather seats every few months.
2. Food and Drink Stains
I’m sure all parents, whether you mother children or pets, can attest to the never-ending battle against food and drink stains in the car. The same holds true for leather car seats, as any spilled coffee or grape juice can leave a nasty-looking stain.
It’s important to take action as quickly as possible when a spill occurs; otherwise, the liquid will seep deep into the pores of the leather and be difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
As with other types of stains, the first step is to blot up as much excess liquid as possible using a soft cloth or paper towel. Next, apply a small amount of leather cleaner and wipe gently in a circular motion until it’s fully absorbed into the seat.
Repeat this process several times until there is no longer any visible staining or soiling. You can use a leather conditioner to restore the original look and feel of the seat.
3. Sweat Stains And Build Up On The Leather Car Seats
One of the most common causes of yellow stains on leather car seats is sweat build-up. When we get in our cars on a hot day and start driving, our body heat begins to rise and that sweat starts to pour.
In many cases, this sweat will drip down our back and onto the seat, where it will cause a yellow stain if the sweat is allowed to dry on the leather car seat.
While this will not be noticeable for the first few years of driving, it will eventually create a permanent yellow stain that’s difficult if not impossible to remove.
To avoid this from happening, make sure you wipe down your car seat each time after using it and use an antibacterial cloth to prevent bacteria growth on the leather surface. Keeping your car clean with regular cleaning sessions will go a long way in preventing sweat build-up and the formation of yellow stains.
4. Hair Products Build-Up On The Leather
Another common cause of yellow stains on leather car seats is a build-up of hair products, oils, and other chemicals.
Over time, these will accumulate on the surface of the leather seat and can cause it to become discolored – especially if it’s light-colored leather.
Hair products that contain ingredients like silicone or wax can also cause the leather to become sticky and deteriorate. Also, those that have alcohol or other chemicals that can be harsh on the leather can cause yellowing.
Use a cleaning product designed for removing these types of stains from your car’s interior, such as Leather Cleaner by Auto Magic® (sold at most auto parts stores). Be sure that you thoroughly follow all instructions on the package.
If you’re noticing yellow stains on your car seats, take a look at what hair products you’re using and see if they contain any of these ingredients.
You can use seat covers, headrest covers, or even throw blankets when using them to protect your leather seats.
5. Using Harsh Leather Cleaners
Another common cause of yellow stains on leather car seats is the use of harsh, acidic cleaners.
These types of cleaners can strip away the natural oils and waxes that are essential to keeping the leather looking and feeling its best. Over time, this will cause the leather to become dry, brittle, and cracked – leading to an ugly yellow stain.
Be sure to only use cleaners that are specifically designed for leather car seats; otherwise, you may end up doing more harm than good. If you’re not sure which cleaner to use, ask a professional at an auto parts store or consult your car’s owner’s manual.
When cleaning the seats, always test the cleaner in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it won’t damage the leather.
A good rule of thumb is if you’re not sure whether or not a product will work, don’t use it! It’s always better safe than sorry when dealing with your car’s interior because once damaged, there isn’t much hope for repair without replacing the leather altogether.
6. Leather Conditioners Build Up
Another common cause of yellow stains on leather car seats is a build-up of conditioners and other chemicals.
There are different products out there that are designed to condition and protect the leather, but not all of them are good. Today, some leather conditioner manufacturers add pigments to the products to make them look attractive and increase their appeal.
These pigments can cause discoloration. If you notice that your car seats have become yellowed after using a conditioner, then this may be because of these ingredients.
Leather conditioners are essential for keeping the leather looking and feeling its best, but if they’re not used correctly they can have some unwanted side effects.
Be sure to only use conditioners that are specifically designed for leather car seats; otherwise, you may end up doing more harm than good.
5. General Wear and Tear Of The Leather Car Seat
Another cause of yellow stains on leather car seats is general wear and tear. You can never predict how your car seats are going to wear, tear, or age. While some leather car seats will crack and peel (in the case of faux leather seats), some real leather car seats will yellow depending on the quality of leather and how well it was made.
The seats in some cars will yellow more quickly than others, depending on factors such as:
- Where you park your car; sun exposure can also cause yellowing of the leather over time.
- How old the car is; older cars have more potential to have cracks and tears in the leather.
- How often do you use your car; if it’s a weekend or summer getaway car, chances are the seats won’t need to be cleaned as much compared to daily commuters.
- Whether you have kids or pets who will likely cause more stains and tears on your car seats than other people would. etc.
So indeed, general wear and tear can also cause your leather car seats to yellow over time.
7. Smoke Damage On To The Leather Car Seats
Many people smoke in their cars, and this can cause the leather to turn yellow. The nicotine from cigarettes is a major culprit for turning leather car seats yellow.
Leather as a material is able to absorb any kind of liquid, smell, or chemical it comes into contact with.
This is because leather is a highly porous material so when you smoke in your car, the smoke will get absorbed by the leather and it will start to turn yellow over time.
This kind of yellowing will usually appear many years after the car has been smoked in, and it can be difficult to remove.
The best thing that you can do is to stop smoking in your car, but if not then at least try not to smoke near the seats or where it’s most likely going to get on them like when opening doors.
You should also clean off any nicotine residue as soon as possible and try to use a product that’s specifically designed to remove smoke damage.
8. Rust Stains
Rust stains from other parts of the car can get on the leather seats and cause them to turn yellow.
Rust is a reddish-brown color, so it will make your leather appear more of an orange or brownish hue instead of a traditional yellowing.
This type of stain is often very common in old cars, vintage cars, cars with rusty seat belts, etc. I have even had a situation where the child seat that was installed in the backseat was rusting and it left yellow stains on the leather seat.
This kind of stain is best removed with products that are specifically designed to remove rust stains from cars like Turtle Wax® Rust Stain Remover, which can be found at most auto parts stores.
9. Color Transfer From Clothing
If you’re wearing clothes that have a lot of color transfer, it’s likely that the dye from your clothes will get on the leather car seats and cause them to turn yellow.
In such instances, your leather car seats will not only be yellow but can also become dull and dingy due to the yellowing.
It’s important to note that there are many types of dyes used for clothing and each one has its own unique properties, which can make it harder or easier for a stain from your clothes to transfer onto leather seats.
If you’re wearing dark-colored pants like black jeans, the dye is more likely to transfer onto the leather seats than if you were wearing a lighter color.
It’s important to remember that your leather seats are not impervious to stains or yellowing. Even if you’re careful about keeping them clean, there may be some discoloration over time due to wear and tear or other factors like UV damage from the sun’s rays.
Fortunately, it is possible to remove and prevent these stains and restore the leather back to its original color with products specifically designed for this purpose.
If you found any of our information helpful then please share it on social media so that other people can learn more about what causes yellowing in their car seats too! Thanks for reading up until here and best of luck on your next adventure.