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Sunday, 22 April 2018

How to Clean a Seat Belt

Seat belts are devices integral to the safety of anyone in a car. Yours also collects sweat from your skin, coffee spills, and food stains. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget the seat belt when cleaning the rest of the car, making stains, smells, and even mold growth commonplace. To clean your seat belt, hold the seat belt out at full extension, apply a light coating of cleaner, then allow the belt to air dry.


EditDoing General Cleaning

  1. Pull out the seat belt. Gently pull the belt forward until it can go no further. When this happens, the entire belt will be unspooled and much easier to reach.

  2. Place a clamp near the belt reel. Follow the belt strap upwards and locate the reel. This is where the majority of the belt is stored when not in use. Attach a metal clamp on the belt right next to the reel. The belt will be unable to retract back into the reel.[1]

    • Metal clamps can be found at hardware stores.
  3. Spray the belt with cleaner. An all-purpose cleaner or a fabric cleaner are safe to use on the belt to remove stains. These are purchased from a general store and come in spray bottles. All-purpose cleaners are designed for even delicate fabrics and should not have bleach in them. Spray all along the belt, creating a light, even coating. Don’t forget the underside.[2]

    • A mixture of equal parts of a gentle, neutral pH detergent such as Dawn dish soap or a baby wash and water can be used as a cleaner instead.[3]
    • Vinegar and vinegar-based cleaners are useful for removing smells, but vinegar is an acid and too much of it can damage the belt’s integrity over time. Use baby wipes and delicate fabric cleaners instead.
  4. Scrub the belt. Take a stiff-bristled scrubbing brush. Work from the top end of the belt and move downwards. Don’t move the brush in circles or go back up the belt. Move gently to avoid wearing out the belt’s threads.[4]

    • A second coating of cleaner can be added to deeply stained belts.
  5. Wipe the belt with a microfiber towel. Surround the belt with the towel and drag the towel downwards along the belt. This removes excess moisture. Only use microfiber towels. These towels are gentlest on the belt’s threads.[5]

  6. Let the belt dry. Leave the belt alone for at least overnight. If it isn’t completely dry, leave it for longer. It’s important to make sure the belt is dry before you unclamp it and let it retract so that mold doesn’t grow on it.
    Clean a Seat Belt Step 6 Version 2.jpg

EditTreating Difficult Stains

  1. Mix detergent and water. Fill a small cup of warm water. Add three cups of a gentle dish soap or all-purpose cleaner. Don’t use one that has bleach or vinegar, since the acid can damage the belt. Most stains can be handled by detergent or fabric cleaner no matter the origin. You don’t have many options for cleaners because they are too harsh for the seat belt.[6]

  2. Dip a stiff-bristle brush into the mixture. Dip the bristles of the brush into the bowl to pick up some of the cleaner. Minimize the amount of moisture on the brush as much as possible to avoid soaking the seat belt.
    Clean a Seat Belt Step 8 Version 2.jpg
  3. Scrub the stain. Move downwards from the top of the stain. Be careful not to move the brush in a circle or go back up the belt. Scrub the stain gently, adding small amounts of cleaner when necessary to apply a light, even coating.

  4. Use a steam machine. For truly stubborn stains, you or a professional can use a steam machine or hot water extractor. Once you’ve added a coating of fabric cleaner or upholstery shampoo, run the machine over the belt on a low moisture setting.[7]
    Clean a Seat Belt Step 10 Version 2.jpg

EditRemoving Mold and Odors

  1. Pull out the seat belt. Again, gently tug the belt forward until it is completely unspooled. This will allow you to identify any mold spores and reach the entirety of the belt to remove odors.
    Clean a Seat Belt Step 11 Version 2.jpg
  2. Place a clamp near the belt reel. Find the reel where the belt spools when not in use. Place the metal clamp on the belt next to the reel. The belt will no longer be able to retract.

  3. Mix cleaner in a bowl. Pour about one tablespoon (15 mL) of a non-bleach dish soap into a cup (240 mL) of warm water. Add two tablespoons (30 mL) of vinegar. Stir the mixture until soapy.[8]
    Clean a Seat Belt Step 13 Version 2.jpg
  4. Scrub the belt. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently work in the cleaner. Dip it in the mixture and move it downwards from the top of the belt. Don’t move the brush in circles or go back upwards. Do this to apply a small, even coating that won’t wear out the belt’s threads.[9]

  5. Blot the seat belt with a microfiber towel. Use a dry microfiber towel in order to avoid adding moisture that can damage the integrity of the belt’s threads. Squeeze the belt between the towel and gently move up and down to remove excess moisture.

    • For recurrent mold issues, spray on a mold preventative such as Concrobium Mold Control or Mold Armor while the belt is still damp. Try to choose one that doesn’t have bleach in the ingredient list.
  6. Air dry the belt. Leave the belt overnight or until dry. It must be completely dry before you remove the clamp or else the wet belt will provide ample breeding ground for mold and nasty odors inside the reel.[10]
    Clean a Seat Belt Step 16 Version 2.jpg


  • Don’t use bleach. It will weaken the seat belt. It also doesn’t stop removed mold from growing back.
  • Common air fresheners won’t remove odors deep in the seat belt, but odor eliminators may work without deep cleaning.


  • Mold spores can be dangerous. Consider wearing a mask when treating your car for mold.

EditSources and Citations

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via Peter

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