How to Remove Sunscreen from Car Interior – 4 Easy Methods

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Are you are one of those drivers who use sunscreen to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun? This is especially common during the warm summer months. Then you would want to know how to remove sunscreen from the car interior and how to protect your vehicle, too.

Sunscreen and car interiors like leather do not go well together. In the long run, sunscreen may damage it and stain your car by discoloring the upholstery and making seats sticky. It may also cause your car to smell like sunscreen, which can affect your driving experience.

Tip: Use a car interior cleaner for leather or for fabric upholstery

The formula tackles grease stains like those left by sunscreen. You would need to choose between the fabric interior cleaner and the leather cleaner kit.

There are different ways of removing sunscreen stains from the car’s interior. Read on to find out our recommended methods.

How to Remove Sunscreen from Car Interior

How to Remove Sunscreen from Car Interior

Method 1: How to Remove Sunscreen from Car Interior with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is one of those household products that have many applications. It can remove everything from rust to grease and oil stains. You can also use vinegar to scrub off sunscreen stains, since many types of sunscreens have an oil base. Follow the vinegar cleanse with baking soda for the best results.

Step 1: Leave Doors Open

Vinegar has a strong smell, so employ ventilation to eliminate vinegar odors while working. It will cause them to dissipate more quickly.

Step 2: Make an Abrasive Paste

Combine baking soda with vinegar to create a paste for removing sunscreen. The vinegar to baking soda ratio should be 1/2.

Step 3: Scrub off Stains

Get sunscreen stains off your car interior by scrubbing them off with a cleaning cloth or sponge soaked in the mixture (the paste you made). Squeeze out excess water and wipe the surface in gentle circular motions. Avoid rubbing too hard because the leather may get damaged.

Tip: For non-leather, use an upholstery cleaning machine

You can also use an upholstery cleaning machine. Usually, if you have a carpet cleaner, you can look for the upholstery attachment.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry off

Rinse with water and let it dry. You may need to repeat the process.

Tip: To get rid of vinegar residue, follow with a baking soda and water wipe down to neutralize the acid. This is especially important for leather car seats.

Method 2: Remove Sunscreen Stains with Alcohol

Alcohol is available in different forms from alcohol wipes to rubbing alcohol spray and everything in between. Alcohol-based cleaners are able to remove many types of stains, including those left by sunscreen and greasy residues.

Rubbing alcohol is a safe bet. It is proven to work well for stained, tough surfaces. So consider using it to remove sunscreen. It will do wonders for your car seats and interior. Just remember to test an inconspicuous spot first and check for discoloration.

Step 1: Apply Rubbing Alcohol

After pouring some alcohol on a cleaning cloth, rub it into the stained area. Wait for a couple of minutes to allow the fabric to absorb it well. Use alcohol-based products that come in spray bottles for faster application. They are handy and easy to apply.

Step 2: Rub with a Soft Sponge or Cloth

Remove sunscreen by rubbing in quick, circular motions. The aim is to cause the stains to come off the material. This step takes some time and effort, especially when dealing with dried, large stains, so be patient.

Whether you use a sponge or cloth, make sure it’s clean to prevent it from leaving behind grime. Squeeze out the water with your hands before rubbing to make the cloth or sponge moisture-free.

Step 3: Rinse and Wipe Down Thoroughly

Remove leftover alcohol by rinsing with water. You can wet a clean cloth for this. You want to remove the alcohol because it may cause damage to the fabric over time. If you dealt with a small stain, clean over the affected area using a wet wipe or a damp cloth.

Once you’ve lifted the stain and removed alcohol residue, dry the area with a paper or microfiber towel. You can also use clean cloth. It will work just fine.

Tips on How to Use Alcohol Cleaners

Tip 1

Choose an alcohol cleaner that is safe for car upholstery. The last thing you want is to damage the interior of your car.

Tip 2

Make sure the concentration of alcohol you use is not too strong to prevent any damage. Start with a weaker mixture. The alcohol to water ratio for easy to remove and smaller stains should be 1:10. If it’s too weak, make a stronger concentration so that the ratio is 1:5.

Tip 3

You may also use alcohol wipes for small stains. Sometimes they can do the trick. Be sure to have a few ones at hand.

Method 3: Get the Sunscreen off Your Car with Soapy Water

While soapy water can get rid of new and old sunscreen stains, it can’t help in extreme cases. That said, don’t use this method for too large and deep hard-to-remove stains.

Step 1: Wipe or Blot Excess Sunscreen

If the stain is still fresh, remove it from the surface by blotting excess residue out with paper towels or a dry cloth. Then you can apply soapy water.

While this step is not always necessary, it makes this method more effective and easier. Do not use circular, gentle motions so as not to create more mess by spreading the sunscreen around.

Step 2: Make Soapy Water

Mix about 1 liter of water with 2 tablespoons of dish soap. Stir until you make suds. Alternatively, you may use dish soap or car interior detergent that is safe for upholstery and leather.

Step 3: Remove Stains

Use a cloth/sponge dipped into the soapy water an. Wring it out before starting to rub. Repeat if needed until sunscreen stains have been removed altogether.

Step 4: Rinse & Dry

Eliminate soap residue by rinsing with water. Use paper towels or a towel to get rid of excess moisture.

Method 4: Eliminate Sunscreen Stains Using Commercial Cleaners

There is a wide range of car interior cleaners that can be used for removing sunscreen stains. Some of the best ones include:

The cleaning process is similar to all of these products. Follow these simple steps to remove sunscreen from the car interior.

Step 1

Take a car cleaner and apply a few drops or spray over the stains, depending on the solution you use.

Step 2

If needed, you can also add some warm water. Dip the cloth in the water and wring it out to make it damp. Make sure it’s not soaking wet.

Step 3

Set on top of the stains and wipe them away with the cloth using dabbing or circular motions.

Step 4

Use the washcloth or towel to soak up any residue and excess water. Let it dry for around five minutes.

Step 5

Afterward, wipe the fabric with a clean cloth to make it dry completely. For tougher stains, you may need to repeat this process.

FAQs About How to Remove Sunscreen from Car Interior

Why Do Sunscreen Stains Occur in My Car?

These stains occur when you or other passengers don’t wash your hands after applying sunscreen. After a fun summer day out, you might find that sunscreen residue from your hands or face has ended up on your car’s interior. While sunscreen stains develop quickly, removing them can be a time-consuming process.

Can Sunscreen Ruin My Car Interior?

Sunscreen is often designed to stick to your skin, so it prefers to stay on surfaces. Long-standing sunscreen stains can ruin your car interior by penetrating into leather or other materials. They are relatively hard to remove, and the oily appearance is noticeable. So it’s best to use rubbing alcohol on them, if the fabric allows. Don’t use products that can cause any damage and thus ruin the car interior.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Sunscreen from Car Plastic?

Dish soap is designed to be an effective grease remover. Add a bit of dish soap and a cup of water into a spray container. Spray the affected area with this solution. You can use a sponge to apply it, too. Then, let it sit for up to 5 minutes. Then rinse with water to get sunscreen off the plastic items inside your car.


When the summer gets into full swing, the beautiful leather interior of your car may get ruined by the sunscreen on everyone’s skin. Don’t panic if you discover that it looks damaged this way. Remember these tips on how to remove sunscreen from car interior and make it look grease-free again.

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