Car Care

How to Dry a Wet Car Seat [2 Easy Ways]

Oh, darn. You had thought that your water bottle was closed, but it wasn’t. It spilled all over the interior of your car.

Or maybe your kid had a spill in the backseat, or you forgot to roll up the windows and it rained. No matter what caused it, you need to dry your soaked car seats ASAP. How do you do it?

Here’s how to dry a wet car seat:

  • Sop up excess moisture with towels
  • Take the car seat out and let the sun dry it
  • Rent or buy a shop vac 
  • Use a hairdryer or fan to remove spots of wetness
  • Dehumidify 

In this article, we’ll explain the above methods in far more detail. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to dry your wet car seats whether they’re detachable or not. 

Let’s get started! 

How to Dry a Wet Car Seat

Soak up Excess Moisture with Towels

Although this depends on the extent of the spill, your car seats are likely soaked with water. The first thing you should do is park the car in front of your house, rush inside, and grab as many fluffy, absorbent towels as you can. 

Bring them out to the car and apply pressure on the car seats so the towels begin soaking up the mess. The towels will not blot up all the water by far, but they’ll at least saturate most of the excess. That will start the drying process.

If you don’t have any towels, you can always use paper towels to dry your car seats. You will need a place to throw the sopping wet paper towels away such as a wastebasket or even your recycling can. 

Let the Sun Dry the Seats

Your car seats are less wet, but they’re still anything but dry. That’s okay, as the sun is happy to help you out. 

If your car seats are detachable, then remove the offending seats from your vehicle. Roll out a tarp in your front yard or in your driveway. You can even carry the seats around to your side yard or in the back, whichever part of your home gets the most sun. 

A dark-colored tarp will attract more thermal energy. So too will putting your car seats near asphalt. Place the seats on the tarp so the wettest parts are facing upward. Then leave the car seats for the rest of the day to dry. 

Before sundown or just after, feel your car seats. Are they still wet? If you’re not quite pleased with how much the sun has dried them, cover them until morning with another tarp.

When the sun is out the next day, pull the top tarp off and let the seats dry again until sundown. It can take some time, but the sun will eventually dry your wet car seats. 

Okay, but what if your car seats don’t come out? That’s often the case if your vehicle isn’t an SUV, sedan, or minivan. We’d suggest you park your car on the street or in your driveway, whichever is sunnier. Then open all your car doors.

Since the sun can’t penetrate through your vehicle’s metal roof, it can only dry the sides of the car seats, but that’s better than nothing. If your vehicle’s roof rolls down or detaches, then take it off to expose more sunlight to the interior of the car. You can also open the sunroof if your vehicle has one. 

Use a Shop Vac

For those vehicle owners who can’t get their car seats out and don’t have a sunroof, you’ll need to get in the car and dry it another way. We recommend a shop vac, which is a specialized vacuum that has a suction unit and a powerful motor. 

Most often favored at woodworking and construction sites, shop vacs have enough suction to remove even chunks of debris.

Even better is that shop vacs are usable in very wet situations. Depending on the size of your vacuum, its storage capacity can be as little as one gallon up to 20 gallons. Most will be around four gallons and bigger ones about 10 gallons. 

The higher the storage capacity, the faster you can remove water. Keep in mind though that these shop vacs will be larger and thus unwieldy to use.

Since it’s just your car seats that are wet, you can probably get away with a four-gallon shop vac. You’d only need a 10-gallon vacuum if you drove your vehicle through high waters and the interior flooded.

When using a shop vac, you first have to take out its dry filter and exchange it for a wet one. Then put on the wet nozzle. You can tell this one apart from the assortment of other nozzles that came with your shop vac because it’s flat and broad. 

To accommodate its power needs, a ground-fault circuit interrupter or GFCI outlet is best for shop vacs. Since these vacuums are double-insulated, you can plug them into a variety outlets, including non-GFCI outlets.  

Turn the shop vac on and hold it over the wet car seat. After a few minutes of suction, put your hand on the seat and press down. Is water still coming up? If not, then move on to a different section of the car seat and dry it. 

Shop vacs cost anywhere from $40 to $200, so they’re not terribly expensive. Plus, they’re good to have around the house for other messes. That said, if you don’t think you’ll use a shop vac outside of sucking up the water in your car, you can always rent one. 

Dry with a Fan or Hairdryer

The shop vac should pretty much remove all water from your car seat. If a few spots still feel damp, there’s no need to continue using the vacuum. Park your car near an exterior outlet. Then bring out an oscillating fan, one of your more powerful ones. 

Position the fan so it’s aimed at the wet spots of your car seat. Then let it run for a while. Some car owners will allow the fan to dry their car seats overnight. If that’s what you plan to do, then make sure the night will be clear, with no rain on the horizon. It shouldn’t be too cold or hot outside either.

The fan should be under some form of cover, such as an awning. Also, prepare for a higher electricity bill for the month if you’re running the fan for that long!

For spot drying, you can also take your favorite hairdryer or blow dryer and plug it into the exterior outlet. Then use it on the wet areas until they dry. 


Your car seats are dry, but you’re not done yet. Once you’ve put them back in your vehicle (assuming again, of course, that your car seats come out), it’s not a bad idea to run a dehumidifier for at least 24 hours. 

We recommend parking your car in the garage, opening all the windows, and turning on the dehumidifier. Alternately, you can put the dehumidifier in your car on the floor and then turn it on.

Dehumidifiers, as the name tells you, suck up humidity from the air. The warm air then goes into a tank.  

How to Remove Mold from Car Seats

Maybe you forgot to dehumidify your car after drying the seats or you had thought you didn’t need to, but you’ve since been proven otherwise. Your car smells musty and gross. Plus, you’ve noticed spots on the seats.

You can only assume that’s mold, which is the likeliest conclusion. It’s either that or mildew, both of which are fungi. Mold isn’t only black or brown, but it can be white, green, gray, and a whole multitude of other colors. 

Since it’s not safe to breathe in mold, you need it gone from your car right away. Here’s how you do it.

Wear Safety Gear

As we said, you don’t want to breathe in mold. An industrial-grade face mask will keep the spores from entering your lungs. Don’t forget to put on a pair of gloves too so you don’t have to directly touch moldy surfaces.

Make a Water and Vinegar Mixture

To combat mold, you can combine water (two parts) with white vinegar (eight parts) and then transfer the liquid into a spray bottle. Mist the moldy parts of your car seats, allowing the mixture to sit for 15 minutes or longer.

Then blot it with a paper towel or use your hairdryer to remove the wetness. 

Finish with Baking Soda

The mold is gone, but your vehicle still has a gross scent that’s not coming out easily. Grab some baking soda from your pantry and sprinkle it around your car’s interior, being generous with your application.

After 15 minutes, use a handheld vacuum to suck up the baking soda residue. Not only does baking soda kill off that musty scent, but it can keep your car from smelling like white vinegar as well. 


Spills happen in your car, but they don’t have to be the end of the world. With the tips and strategies that we outlined in this article, you can quickly sop up messes in your car before they leave stains or allow mold and mildew grow. Good luck!

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren