How to Clean Your Seat Belts: Two Prime Techniques

While upholstered seats get cleaned, dashes and door panels get scrubbed, and carpets get shampooed and vacuumed, most of us forget (or choose to forget) the seat belt. If you think about it, the lowly seat belt gets in contact with most, if not all, of the same things that get in contact with the other interior parts.


Seat belts are one of the most important parts of your car, those sheets of fabric can keep you and your loved ones safe in case of an accident.

With the belt being in use almost every time you're on a commute, it is no wonder they can get very dirty. Coffee stains, juice spills, snack crumbs, and oil from the skin are just some of the most common elements that can contribute to dirtying your seat belt. In this article, I will discuss how you can clean seat belts without the help of a professional.​

Method 1: ​Simple Handwashing

This method is ideal if your seat belts are not extremely dirty. If the dirt is just superficial, an aerosol based upholstery cleaning product can be used. Spray a little amount onto a piece of cloth and beginning at the end closest to the spool, wipe the cloth against the soiled portion of the belt. Avoid putting too much product so as to keep the belt from being too wet.

However, if the stains are too stubborn to be removed by spot cleaning, you can follow these steps to do a deeper cleaning.​

​What You'll Need

  • Dishwashing liquid/vinyl upholstery cleaner
  • Clip or clothespin
  • A piece of cloth
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Old toothbrush (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: ​Pull the belts as far out as possible. Use a clothespin or clip to prevent the belt from being pulled back inside the spool.

Step 2: ​Use the dishwashing liquid or vinyl upholstery cleaner. Apply a little amount to a piece of cloth then rub the soaked cloth into the belt. Repeat until the belts are stain-free.


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Step 3: ​If applying the cleaning agent is not enough to remove the dirt, mix the cleaning agent (1 part), water (3 parts), and some vinegar (2 parts) in a cup. Dip the toothbrush into the mixture and rub it on the belt. Keep your strokes monodirectional to keep the fabric from fraying. Avoid going in circles or rubbing the brush back and forth.

Step 4: ​Wipe the belts with a water-soaked cloth to remove any residue. After cleaning, keep the belts unraveled until completely dry. Having them reel back into the spool gives you the risk of molds or mildew inside the mechanism.

Finally, ​if you have the ability to unbolt the spooling mechanism of the seat belts, it will be easier to clean them. Do this only if you are certain you can put the mechanism back together. Not having it securely fixed as before poses the risk of malfunction.

Method 2: ​Advanced Power-Washing

If your seat belts are extremely dirty, or you simply don't want to mess with using your hands, here is a method you can utilize but only if you have the proper equipment and experience in using said equipment.

Disclaimer: it is mandatory that you have previous experience in using a pressure washer if you choose this cleaning method.​

What You'll Need

  • Pressure washer
  • Scrubbing pads
  • Cleaner or Degreaser (water-based)
  • Clips
  • A few towels

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: ​Open the car doors and pull the belt as far out as possible. Close the doors with the belts hanging outside. The rubber sidings on the door will keep them from reeling the back in.

Step 2: Apply your chosen cleaner on the belt and scrub with them with a scrubbing pad. Remember to scrub in a monodirectional manner to avoid fraying.

​Step 3: Now you will use the pressure water set on a low setting (500-800 dpi, approximately 7 gpm). Adjust the spray nozzle so that the water fans out instead of a direct, singular steam. The spray should not be so strong to hurt if it ever gets in contact to human skin.

Step 4: Hold the end of the belt taught or have someone hold it for you. Spray on one side and then the other Ensure that all of the cleaning product you have applied earlier is removed.

​Step 5: Repeat on the other side. Once the belt is free from all the cleaning agent, remove excess water by wrapping a towel around it and wringing. This will not completely dry the belt but you can leave it to hang for a few hours or even overnight until any moisture is gone.

​Step 6: For the part of the belt that is inside the car, lay a thick layer of towels to avoid damping other parts of the interior of the car, and repeat the cleaning steps above.

Finally, if you have the ability to unbolt and remove the belts, you can spray them outside the car and do more thorough cleaning.​

For Molds and Mildew Presence

Lastly, if your seat belt had developed molds and mildew growth, chances are it had been removed by cleaning them. However, if the problem recurs and you want it resolved, you will need to follow some of the Handwashing steps. You will need a mild detergent, a soft toothbrush (the kinds used for babies), and a mold-preventative solution.

Step 1: Extend the belts as far out as possible, don't forget to use a clip or clothespin to prevent the retraction.​

Step 2: Mix the mild detergent with warm water. Make sure that the detergent you are using is the kind without added bleach. This acid can deeply compromise the structural integrity of the seat belt.

Step 3: Dip the toothbrush onto the mixture and rub it lightly on the belt. Remember to brush in a monodirectional manner. You would not want your seat belt to be frayed.

Step 4: Remove the excess soapy water by drying with a water-soaked piece of cloth.

Step 5: Once you have removed the excess water, leave the belt out to dry. Ensure it gets completely dry before it gets retracted back into the spool. You don't want to accidentally provide the spores you have just gotten rid of a damp, comfortable spot to start over.

​Finally, when the belt is completely dry, spray it with a mold preventative solution. Let it dry fully and you can go back to your usual routine of using the seat belt.

Other Useful Tips

  • Do not use any cleaning agent that contains ammonia or bleach as these can cause deterioration of the fibers or stitching of the belt, making it less safe for use.
  • Use caution and follow all safety instructions when using a power washer. Though it certainly gets the job done when cleaning the seat belts, if used incorrectly it can cause damage to other parts of the car or worse, to yourself or other people.
  • If you have leather seats, take extra caution to protect them. Covering them with plastic tarps will prevent water from spilling onto the seats. Covering them with towels can also be of help to catch any overspray of the cleaning agent or rinsing liquids.
  • If these steps are too much for you, you can always have the belts cleaned professionally at an auto-detailing shop.

Do you think this article was helpful? If so, share it with your friends and family. Who knows, maybe they need the same help to clean their seat belts. Please feel free to drop us a comment for any questions or suggestions you have.


Anthony Ebden

He's an auto blogger. He worked as an auto mechanic for more than 5 years and his mission is to provide our readers with the best car maintenance tips, DIY guides and the most updated trends in the automotive industry.

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