Detailing Seatbelts Like A Pro

99% of detailers don't clean seatbelts, so it's impossible to find info about how to do this well! Here are 3 steps that make it easy.


If you want to skip the details and get the summary, jump down to the BIG IDEAS.

Most detailers aren’t detailing nasty seat belts on a daily basis, so the problem of “how to clean them” isn’t the biggest problem they face.

Until they come across seat belts that must be cleaned, and they just can’t get the results they want because well…

Seat belts are difficult.


Why are seatbelts hard to clean?


Firstly, the material itself is a tight weave fabric that is the opposite of traditional carpeting. In other words, when stains get in, it’s hard to get them out.

Secondly, the type of staining that accrues on the seat belt over time is really difficult to clean because it’s mostly the oily residue from our hands and skin. Gross. 

Here’s a 3 step process to perfect seat belts (and for the professional detailers… here’s how you speed up the cleaning process)

  • Don’t clean the whole seat belt. Think about it with me: The only part of the seat belt that is actually dirty is the area that is touched! No one touches the whole thing. We grab the same area everyday when we get in the car. Generally this is the area that I call the “lower third.” From the base of the belt to about 3 feet up is where most of the staining is found because the rest of the seat sits coiled up inside of the seat. The easiest way to see the difference here is by pulling out the entire seat belt, and laying the lower third area next to the very top. You will see the difference…

  • Use the right cleaner and brush. For average dirt (which is most of what you will see) I suggest using Meguiars APC diluted around 7:1. This cleaner is great for materials like the seat belt. Cleaners like P&S interior express cleaner tend to be a little too weak to do this quickly. In addition to your cleaner, you need the right brush: The Gator brush is really the only thing that makes sense for seatbelts. No other brush allows you to get the torque and pressure from both sides that you have to have in order to scrub the belt. Here are the steps:
    1. Pull the seat belt all the way out and clip the end with a workbench clip to keep it from retracting. 
    2. Identify the dirty area ONLY, there is no use in cleaning anything else (sometimes it’s helpful to wrap a piece of tape around the area the is dirty vs clean so you know where to stop).
    3. Fold a microfiber towel (350 GSM) into 4th’s and cup the seatbelt with the towel. In other words, hold the towel behind the belt.
    4. Start from the bottom of the belt spraying your cleaner on one side.
    5. When you’ve sprayed the whole area with cleaner, start from the bottom again because this gives you some torque that you can pull against, and use the brush to scrub back and forth. Don’t be afraid of oversaturating the seat belt… you really can’t use too much cleaner. 
    6. After you’ve scrubbed, start again from the bottom to rinse with your steamer. It is important to utilize a steamer here as the material is always going to turn out best when rinsed. The tight weave holds in staining, and the steamer helps to mitigate against that.
    7. Repeat steps 1-6 on the other side of the seat belt.
  • When you’ve finished… Be sure to keep the seat belt clipped so that it doesn’t retract into the seat as it’s drying. We want the seat belt to be at least 80% dry before it coils back up.

For REALLY dirty seat belts: Sometimes the steps above aren’t enough because the seat belt is absolutely nasty. This is most common with lighter color seat belts like tan and light gray as they do not hide dirt well. Remember, the biggest issue with seat belts is the material itself. One way to think about it is we have to take steps to pull out the stains from a material that locks them away, so heat is our friend. If you have a seat belt that won’t get clean, heat up boiling water, pour it into a 3 gallon bucket, and allow the dirty part of the seatbelt to sit in the bucket for 5-ish minutes. You can even mix in some Meguiars APC. This loosens the material, and seriously helps you in the process. You will find that the water gets NASTY and needs to be replaced between each seat belt cleaning. After the belt sits in the water, repeat steps 1-6.



  1. The biggest reason seatbelts are difficult to clean is because of the material. Much like headliners, the seatbelt material is a tight knit fabric that holds dirt really well. The second reason they are so hard to clean is simply because it is awkward to hold. Trying to hold a seatbelt while at the same time cleaning it is difficult because you don’t have a stationary surface to push against.
  2. My favorite and most effective way to clean seat belts is with a steamer. Because the material is so difficult to work with I find it easiest to cut to the chase and steam the seatbelt coupled with your favorite all purpose cleaner pretty much immediately. Remember that only the front portion of the seat belt needs to be cleaned. In other words, the entire seatbelt does not need cleaning, only the area that covers the passenger’s body and the area that is actually touched. Cleaning the rest is a waste of time.
  3. For really nasty seatbelts you will have to manage your expectations because they may be impossible to clean perfectly. That said, pulling out the entire seat belt and letting it soak in extremely hot water for a few minutes before cleaning is a great way to extract a lot of the staining.

Seat belts, much like headliners, are difficult to clean because the material sucks. This is a detailing process I put together after about 4 years of trying to find “the secret.” This is as close as I have come to finding it.


Hope this helps.