How to Clean Seat Belts – From Start to Finish

September 4, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

If you’re planning on moving soon and taking a car with you, it’s recommended to consider, besides the regular vehicle maintenance, some additional car-related issues, such as how to clean seat belts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 90.7% of lives were saved thanks to the seatbelts in 2019. Simply put, buckling up keeps you safe and secure inside your car, while not buckling up can result in fatal consequences. The official seatbelt policy of the U.S. Department of Transportation was codified in the seatbelt law that covers all the occupants in the vehicle.

It’s needless to say that only the fully functional seatbelt is safe. In addition to the proper buckles working, your belts should be clean in order to have an efficient spool’s locking mechanism. And how many times you, actually, washed your seatbelts? If you did, congratulations. If you didn’t, keep reading, and find out what steps to undertake to get shiny new seatbelts.

Give USA Auto Transport an Ask for a Free Quote


What Is a Seatbelt

Also known as a safety belt or seat belt, it is a vehicle safety device that prevents drivers and passengers from being ejected in the case of a crash. Also, it reduces the risk of death and serious injuries. Thanks to an American inventor Edward J. Claghorn, the first seatbelt was born in 1885. Today, we know the “three-point” seatbelt, which is used in most automotive cars – it was designed by Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin in 1959.

Wearing your seatbelt should be a natural habit whenever you get into your car, and there are plenty of benefits of wearing it, such as:

  • Providing safety to everyone in the vehicle and avoiding driving stress in the case of road rage
  • Keeping you in place during crashes and impacts
  • Working with your airbags (if you’re not wearing your seatbelt, the airbag is ineffective)
  • Saving you from paying a fine
  • Reducing the risks of severe injuries and death
  • Affecting auto insurance rates because you might be considered a high-risk driver (for example, this may call into question the best car insurance for young drivers as well)
  • Preventing your auto insurance company from giving the thumbs down to cover damages in case of an accident (if it is determined you were not wearing a seatbelt)

What Materials Are Belts Made Of

If you’re wondering how seatbelt webbing is woven, this issue and its material are extremely important. Believe it or not, weaving can be a life-saver due to the webbing, which is carefully designed to have extreme tensile strength.

The difference between the original belt webbing and those made from 1975 is in the looms. The first was woven on shuttle looms, while the needle looms are specific for the latter seatbelts. Today, a seatbelt it’s usually made from 100% polyester, after the nylon was ditched because it’s more prone to wear and tear. Even the smallest damage and abrasions will dramatically reduce the tensile strength. Also, less-energized yarns have one advantage more: they create longer-lasting seatbelts thanks to the threads packed more closely.

Wear your seatbelt every time you enter your vehicle
Modern seatbelts are made from polyester

Can You Wash Seat Belts

Your seatbelts are probably the most used pieces of equipment in the vehicle, but the most neglected ones.

Why is that so?

The truth is, whenever you’ve gone to a car wash, no one is paying attention to them, neither you nor the guy washing your car. Still, the seatbelts are full of germs, stains, dirt, and should be cleaned regularly. That being said, yes, you need to wash them as often as possible. You can do that DIY, in the backyard of your home.

By washing them, you won’t just eliminate dirt, but bad odors as well, especially if you’re a smoker. But to do that correctly, the first step is to obtain a cleaner and other materials for the cleaning process.

Seatbelts are perfect places for mold, dirt, stain, and your pet's hair
Have you ever washed your seatbelts in a car wash?

Use These Materials and Chemicals for Cleaning

To clean your seatbelts, use an all-purpose cleaner or a fabric cleaner. They are safe for use and designed for even delicate fabrics. Just make sure they do not contain bleach inside. There are suitable replacements for a cleaner, such as:

  • A blend of a gentle and neutral PH detergent (or a baby wash) and water
  • Vinegar and vinegar-based cleaners are excellent for removing odor but don’t use them too much. An acid in vinegar can damage the material and affect the strength of the seatbelt
  • Baby wipes are the right choice too, but only for surface stains

Besides, make sure to acquire several clips or pins, a stiff bristle brush or blugator brush, and two microfiber cloths. These accessories will help remove unnecessary spots and smudges smoothly. An alligator’s jaws inspire the blugator seatbelt brush – it possesses the upper and lower “jaw” and cleans your seatbelts without causing them to wear out. Also, if you have a steam machine (or hot water extractor), you can use it for stubborn stains.

Can Degreaser Be Used to Clean Seat Belts

If you need a strong cleaning product, you should combine one part of concentrated degreaser with four parts of water. Avoid using cleaners with ammonia or bleach as they can damage fibers or stitching on the belt. This way, the seatbelt becomes less safe.

Aggressive chemicals are not recommended because they can damage the fibers of the seatbelts
You can use degreasers but mixed with water

How to Clean Seat Belts in 4 Simple Steps

If you’re constantly looking for excuses not to wash your seatbelts, you’ll be surprised to learn that this job is not difficult at all. Gather all necessary things to make cleaning efficient, and you’re ready to start making your seatbelts shiny and fragrant.

Gently Scrub Method Does the Perfect Job

After pulling the belt most the way out of its retractor and placing a clip or pin to prevent the strap from retracting back into the spool, start spraying the seatbelt with a cleaner. Take your brush and begin to scrub from the top end and move downwards. It’s useful to know that the circle moves might damage the material. So, move gently in order to avoid wearing out the threads. After brushing, it’s time to wipe the seatbelt with a microfiber towel. This will remove excess moisture. And keep in mind that microfiber is the best material for this job since it won’t damage your seatbelts.

How Do You Get Stubborn Stains Out of Seat Belts

To get rid of the dirt and stains, an all-purpose cleaner will be efficient, but with nasty stains, you should try something different. That’s why you should treat difficult stains as follows:

  • Mix detergent and water
  • Dip your stiff-bristle brush into this mixture
  • Reduce the amount of moisture on the brush to prevent soaking the seatbelt
  • Scrub the stain while adding small amounts of cleaner when and if necessary
  • If stains are still visible, try to remove them with a steam machine

How to Remove Mold and Odors

Pull out the seatbelt until it’s completely unspooled to spot any mold spores on the usually covered parts. After placing the metal clamp or pin near the belt reel, prepare the cleaner. Pour about one tablespoon of non-bleach dish soap into a cup and mix with a cup of warm water. Add two tablespoons of vinegar and stir. Scrub the seatbelt with a soft-bristled brush soaked into the mixture and move it downwards from the top as many times as needed. If dealing with recurrent molds, spray Concrobium Mold Control or Mold Armour on the damp belt. Finally, use a microfiber towel to blot the seatbelt.

One of the Most Important Steps – You Just Need to Let Your Seatbelts Dry

After finished work, dry your seatbelts with a cloth towel. You should squeeze the belt between your hands running in the directions of fibers. Keep in mind that your seatbelts must be completely dry before pulling and retracting. Otherwise, if you retracted them earlier, the moisture will retain, and the mold and bacteria will grow within the spool. It usually takes a night or a two before the seatbelts get free from moisture. In case you’re relocating with a car shipping company and want to speed up this process, a hairdryer may come in handy to dry your seatbelts for half an hour.

YouTube video

Additional Tips and Advice on How to Clean Car Seat Belts

With some extra cleaning tips, you’ll become a real pro for your seatbelts providing all passengers an enjoyable and safe ride:

  • When choosing the cleaning liquid, avoid those with strong fragrances as they can irritate your skin and eyes during washing
  • Regardless of the material used for your seatbelts, you should pick a sunny day to wash your belts so that they could dry sooner
  • If your seats are leather, make sure to cover them and protect them from liquids and spraying. You can use plastic tarps to prevent any spilling onto the seats
  • Waiting for the seatbelts to be dry might be a perfect opportunity to check your seatbelt mechanism. Also, you can polish the buckles if needed
  • Avoid removing the retractor in order to pull the seatbelt webbing completely. This might cause problems while assembling the parts affecting its reliability during the drive
Sunny and warm day is ideal for washing your seatbelts - it will fasten the drying process
If your seats are leather, protect them during the cleaning process

With the Right Seatbelts, Every Move Is a Real Pleasure

As the most used parts of the vehicle’s accessories, seatbelts are an essential part of your car’s safety mechanism. Whether you’re driving shorter or longer distances, the motoring is more relaxed and enjoyable with functional and clean seatbelts. Both for you and all other passengers in the car.

If you’re planning to relocate, this process requires hiring a car shipping company and moving services. Also, when shipping a car cross-country, you might want to consider auto transport choosing the enclosed trailer to protect your car during transportation. If so, remember to check your seatbelts, their mechanism, and pay attention to their threads’ condition. This way, you’ll spot potential damage or worn-out fibers, as well as stains, dirt, or mold. Repairing and cleaning your seatbelt is the best precautionary measure for a safe drive after reaching your new home thanks to the auto transport company, and taking part in the traffic. And thanks to our tips and tricks, you’ll know exactly how to prepare a car for shipping or how to clean seat belts stress-free. All in all, you’ll definitely know how to pack a car for moving from start to finish.

Get a Quote

    check mark
    Download as PDF

    Moving Checklist

    Get a Free Estimate 855.675.3451