Many of us have left our car windows open on a rainy day, spilled a drink, or sat on our leather car seats with a wet swimsuit on. When you have kids, the chances of moisture coming into contact with your leather car seats increases tenfold. Just how water-resistant are leather seats? Can you sit on leather in a wet bathing suit, or is that a big no-no?
You should try your best not to get your leather seats wet. In general, a little bit of water, if cleaned up quickly, should not pose any issues. Most car leather have a protective outer layer that can guard against immediate damage. The issue is when the moisture soaks into your leather, which can cause it to become discolored, brittle, or to emit a foul odor.
The best way to deal with this issue is to prevent the problem in the first place. Ideally, you and your family change out of your wet bathing suits before entering the car. If that isn’t possible, lay a dry towel (or two) over your leather seats to absorb most of the moisture. You can also use a large garbage bag or waterproof clothing as a protective cover. If you have the budget, consider getting waterproof seat covers.
Great care must be taken to prevent your leather car seats from being permanently damaged by moisture from spills or wet bathing suits. That said, even if your leather has been damaged, you can still attempt to fix it on your own. Otherwise, you must hire a professional.
In this article, we discuss what happens to leather when it is wet, how to prevent your leather seats from coming into contact with a wet bathing suit or other sources of moisture, and some steps you can do on your own to try to fix water damaged leather seats.
What happens to leather when it is soaked?
As mentioned, a little bit of water on leather is not a big deal. The problem is if it is completely immersed or soaked in water. Here are some of the negative effects that arises when leather gets drenched:
The biggest issue is not when the leather is wet, but rather when it dries. When moisture reaches leather, the oils in the leather mix with water, drawing them out. Once the water dries, the oil has already been drawn out from the leather, so the loss of natural oils causes it to dry out. This causes your normally supple leather car seats to turn brittle. You’ll be able to tell this has occurred by looking at and feeling the texture.
Another issue you may encounter is that when wet leather dries without the water being wiped away, it will leave behind an unsightly water stain.
You must be quick to act so that the stain doesn’t set in. You can prevent a water stain by wiping the leather with a towel quickly and then letting it air dry. Do not use an external heat source to speed things up, such as a blow dryer, because the heat can cause the leather to harden and crack.
Starts to stink
Bacteria thrives in damp environments, and there will be plenty of bacteria in the water that you were just swimming in. When enough water gets soaked into the leather, it takes a long time to dry.
During this time, the bacteria are multiplying and producing waste. Very quickly, you will notice a foul odor emitting from your damp leather car seat, and by then you have a big problem since the source of the smell is coming from within the car seat.
How to prevent your leather car seat from getting wet
Aside from forcing everyone to change out of their wet bathing suits before entering the car, which is not always possible, then the next best option is to put some kind of cover over your leather car seats.
You could pony up the cash for a dedicated waterproof seat cover, but you could also just use things you have around the house to get the job done.
For instance, the most obvious choice is to put a dry towel over everyone’s seat. Make sure your swimsuits are not literally dripping wet before you and the kids enter the car, otherwise even a towel might not be enough. Use two towels if you’re unsure.
You can also use a large garbage bag as a makeshift seat cover, or even waterproof rain gear. However, these alternatives do not soak up the water and will allow water to pool (plus it’s uncomfortable to sit on). If your kids are fidgety, they can easily move them around and any pooled water would spill on your leather car seat. No bueno.
I think towels are the most straightforward option outside of buying a waterproof seat cover.
How to fix water damaged leather car seats
Before we begin, I have to warn you that depending on how damaged your leather seats are, you may have to get it serviced by a leather professional which can cost a pretty penny. However, if your issue is minor, then follow the tips below.
Removing water stains
Get a slightly damp sponge (one with as much water squeezed out). It’s crucial that this sponge has not been used with foods or chemicals, as any lingering bits can contaminate the leather seat.
Lightly rub the sponge over the water stain in an outward motion. This will gently dampen the stain and get rid of it.
Next, wipe the stained area gently with a dry cloth to speed up the drying process.
Once the leather has naturally air dried, you have to condition it by replenishing the oils it has lost. Apply a leather conditioner such as saddle oil or wax to the previously stained areas so that the leather can become supple and like-new once again.
Dealing with spills
To avoid your leather seat staining in the first place, you have to act quickly. If your child sat on the leather with a wet bathing suit or spilled some water, get a dry towel and gently press it against the wet areas to soak it up. This should prevent the water from penetrating the outer protective layer. Let it air dry naturally; do not use a blow dryer.
For any spills other than water, use a damp towel that was rinsed with distilled water to wipe up the mess. Once all of the excess liquid has been wiped away, let the seat air dry naturally.
If you’re worried that the water might have removed too much oil from the leather, you can apply a coat of leather conditioner while the leather is still damp. Use small, circular motions and apply it evenly over the affected areas. The conditioner will penetrate the leather deeply thanks to the open pores left by evaporating water, replenishing any stripped oils.
You should not sit on leather in a wet bathing suit, but that doesn’t mean you should freak out if your leather gets a bit wet either.
To protect the leather, the best options are to either use a waterproof seat cover or to place a dry towel over it to absorb the water. You can also place a garbage bag or rain coat over the seat, but this doesn’t absorb the water and any shifting can cause the pooled water to soak into your leather seat.
If water does get on your leather suit, gently wipe it with a towel and then let it air dry naturally. You may need to replace any stripped oils with a leather conditioner, and the best time to do so is after wiping it with a towel while it’s still damp.
There is only so much you can do by yourself. If you can smell a foul odor coming from your leather seat, you’ll have to let a leather professional handle it.