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How To Clean Sunscreen Off Car Interior Leather Seats

In this article, I show you how to clean sunscreen off car interior leather seats and car upholstery.

Even If you don’t need to remove sunscreen residue from the interior of the car, the helpful tips in this step-by-step guide can be used to remove tough stains from various interior surfaces.

Here are some jump links to the main sections of this article to help you find the information you need quickly.

How to Remove Sunscreen Off Car Interior (7 ways)
Ways to Prevent Sunscreen from Car Interior
Reasons Sunscreen Stains
Leather vs. Fabric Interior
Types of Sunscreen
Which Type Stains More

how to clean sunscreen off car interior

7 Best Ways for Cleaning Sunscreen Off Car Interior

Sunscreen stains leave behind oil stains and leftover residue that seem impossible to remove.

Furthermore, using household products with harsh chemicals to remove sunblock stains could make a bad situation worse. 

Using the most effective ways below to remove excess sunscreen avoids damage to fabric and leather car seats.

1 – Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol
Microfiber Cloth
Rubbing Alcohol Wipes or Rubbing Alcohol Spray

Of all the different ways to clean sunscreen off car interior, I use rubbing alcohol.

Rubbing alcohol is a great way to clean sunscreen off car interior including waterproof sunscreens.
In addition, this method works on leather seats, car carpets, and fabric seats.

Step 1
Dampen a small portion of a microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol.

Step 2
Gently wipe the affected areas with the alcohol wipes.

Step 3
Ensure you use a clean cloth afterward to remove any remaining residue.

2 – Method All Purpose Cleaner

Method All Purpose Cleaner
Microfiber Cloth

​This plant-based cleaning agent works well to clean sunscreen off any surface.

Step 1
Spray or apply the multi-surface cleaner to a clean, soft cloth or sponge.
Do not spray the cleaner directly onto the car interior to avoid excess water.

Step 2
Gently rub the stained area with the cloth or sponge.
Use gentle motions and avoid excessive pressure..

Step 3
After applying the cleaner, blot the area with a clean, dry cloth to absorb the moisture and lift the stain.

3 – Magic Eraser

Magic Eraser
Microfiber Cloth

A magic eraser is one of the best methods to remove sunscreen stains from the interior of your car.
Essentially, a magic eraser contains melamine foam and works by abrasion.

Keep in mind that magic erasers work by abrasion, so they may not be suitable for all surfaces.
Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for both the magic eraser and the car interior materials. 

Step 1
Lightly moisten the magic eraser with water.

Step 2
Gently rub the stained area in a circular motion.
Apply light pressure and avoid aggressive scrubbing

Step 3
Use a dry, clean cloth to dry the cleaned area thoroughly.
This is important for preventing water damage and ensuring that the material doesn’t stay damp.

4 – Leather Honey Interior Cleaner

Leather Honey Kit

Leather honey is a high-quality leather cleaner and conditioner

Step 1
Wipe down the affected area with a damp, clean cloth to remove any loose dirt or debris.
This helps prepare the leather for the application of Leather Honey.

Step 2
Using a clean, soft cloth or applicator pad, apply Leather Honey to the stained area.
Work the product into the leather using gentle, circular motions.
Ensure that you apply a thin and even layer.

Step 3
Allow Leather Honey to penetrate the leather for some time.
The product may need some time to work on the stain.

Step 4
After allowing Leather Honey to work, wipe away any excess product with a clean, dry cloth.

Step 5
If desired, you can buff the leather gently with a soft, dry cloth to enhance shine and smoothness.

5 – Mild Soap and Warm Water

Dawn Dish Soap
Microfiber Cloth

Step 1
Mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water.

Step 2
Dampen a microfiber cloth in the soapy water and gently wipe the area gently.

Step 3
Gently wipe the affected areas while not using excess water.

Step 4
Use a dry microfiber towel to wipe away excess moisture.

6 – White Vinegar Solution

White Vinegar
Spray Bottle

Step 1
Mix equal parts of white vinegar and cold water in a spray bottle.

Step 2
Spray the solution on a clean microfiber cloth.

Step 3
Wipe the stained area.

Step 4
Follow up with a dry cloth to remove any residue.

Quick Tip: Baking soda to neutralizes the smell of vinegar.

Quick Tip: Baking soda to neutralizes the smell of vinegar.

7 – Baking Soda Paste

Baking Soda
Microfiber Cloth

Step 1
Create a paste using baking soda and a small amount of clean water.

Step 2
Apply the paste to the affected areas, focusing on stubborn stains.

Step 3
Gently scrub with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth.

Step 4
Wipe away the paste and residue with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Test Cleaning

Test the cleaning method you choose as the next step. 

Choose a small, inconspicuous area in your car’s interior and follow the simple steps outlined above.
Black car interiors with leather seats and faux leather can be sensitive to certain chemicals, so better safe than sorry.

Preventive Measures

UV Clothes
UV clothing works just like sunscreen except it doesn’t stain your car’s interior.
Essentially, wear a long sleeve UV shirt in your car until you get to the beach or pool.

Use Seat Covers or Towels|
Consider placing seat covers or towels on your car seats.
This preventative measure minimizes direct contact with your car’s interior.

Regular Cleaning and Protection
Develop a routine for cleaning and protecting your car’s interior.
Regular maintenance protects your car’s interior from sunscreen and makes it easy to remove.
Leather conditioner protects leather seats while fabric guard protects fabric seats.

protect car interior from sunscreen stain

If you see sunscreen on your car, the first thing to do is remove sunscreen immediately.
The longer sunscreen sits on your car’s interior, the harder it may be to remove.

Why Sunscreen Stains Car Interiors

Sunscreen stains the interior of your car due to several reasons.

Oils and Emollients
Many sunscreens contain natural oils, emollients, and moisturizing agents to provide a smooth and even application on the skin.
When these oily substances come into contact with leather, they penetrate the surface and leave behind greasy residues.

Chemical Filters and reactions
Chemical sunscreens often include chemical filters like polyethylene glycol, avobenzone, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.
These chemicals may react with your car’s interior surface and lead to discoloration or stains over time.

Chemical Reactions
The combination of sunscreen ingredients and leather surfaces may produce chemical reactions and fresh stains.

Heat and Sunlight
Leather car seats exposed to direct sunlight and heat can intensify the staining effect of sunscreen.
Elevated temperatures can enhance the absorption of sunscreen components into the leather, making stains more persistent.

Leather Interior vs Fabric Interior

To achieve the best results, it’s a good idea to use a different cleaning process for leather seats and fabric seats.

Ultimately, both surfaces benefit from prompt action, preventing the sunscreen from setting into the material and causing lasting damage.

Leather Interior

remove sunscreen from leather car seat

Leather is a natural material that is sensitive to certain chemicals and excessive moisture.
Using harsh cleaning agents or saturating the leather with water can lead to discoloration, drying, or even cracking.

These cleaners, such as leather honey, clean and condition the leather without causing damage.
Mild soap solutions, leather cleaners, or specialized leather wipes also work well.

After cleaning, it’s beneficial to use a leather conditioner to keep the leather moisturized and prevent it from drying out.
Leather should not be overly saturated with water during cleaning. Use a damp cloth rather than a wet one to avoid water damage.

In summary, when removing sunscreen from leather seats, it’s essential to use products specifically designed for leather and to be cautious about moisture levels.

Fabric Car Interiors

Fabric seats are typically more absorbent than leather. 

They  soak up liquid, making it easier to remove certain sunscreen stains.
However, this also means that sunscreen can soak deeper into the fabric.

For deep sunscreen stains, use a steam cleaner.
Steam lifts and remove deep-seated residues without excessive moisture.

On fabric seats, a mild detergent or fabric cleaner is suitable, and a bit more scrubbing may be tolerated.

Types of Sunscreen

Sun UV rays and sunscreen

Sunscreen comes in various mixtures and different forms such as lotion, spray, colored/tinted, and water-resistant.
More importantly, the two main categories of sunscreens are chemical and mineral.

Both types aim to protect the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, but use different active ingredients and mechanisms. 

In short, chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat.
Conversely, mineral sunscreens block, reflect, and scatter UV radiation by using physical blocks such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

The type of sunscreen can influence its potential to stain leather and fabric. 

Mineral Sunscreen or Chemical Sunscreen: Which Stains More?

While both sunscreen stain car interiors, mineral sunscreens stain more.

​As I mentioned previously, mineral sunscreen block UV rays by creating a protective barrier on the skin.
In turn, this protective barrier is more likely to transfer to other surfaces.
This is especially true for zinc oxide sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens absorb more into the skin.
However, a small stain may happen if the sunscreen does not fully absorb into the skin.

Please note, sunscreen mixtures vary and react differently depending on the surface type and temperature.

how to clean sunscreen off car interior


The harmful effects of the sun causes sunburns, premature aging, and even skin cancer.
Thankfully, sunscreen blocks or absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet light rays from damaging your skin.

So, always apply sunscreen even though it may damage your car’s leather seats.
The best way to protect your car’s interior is to prevent sunscreen from getting on your car in the first place.

If prevention doesn’t work, you now know how to clean sunscreen off car interior surfaces and fix the situation.

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