How To Remove Sunscreen From Car Interior

One problem that has baffled many car owners is how to remove sunscreen from car interior. We’ve all seen them, those whitish, greasy anomalies or oily substances often found around the edge of your seats, the headrests, door panels, steering wheel, dashboard, and really anywhere your hands can touch in your car.

Even worse if your seats are made of fabric, as the sunscreen might look like oil stains. Sunscreen stains can usually be traced to getting in your car before your sunscreen is completely dry. The sunscreen smears and dries on your seat, leaving a whitish residue that won’t come off.

Besides making your car’s interior look really gross, it says a lot about your personality. You’ve probably tried getting it off yourself with cleaning solutions like warm soapy water at home, but nothing seems to be working.

Whether you have leather car seats, vinyl, or even fabric, stains from sunscreen can be very frustrating to get rid of since trying to wipe off the stain won’t cut it.

However, before you completely give up and ship your car off to the detailers to spend extra money, you may want to read this to find the best methods to remove sunscreen stains from your car seats.

How to Effortlessly Remove Sunscreen Stains from Your Car Interiors

Getting rid of stubborn sunscreen residue does not always have to be a struggle where you keep scrubbing only to wipe the seat dry to find the stubborn stains still staring at you.

In fact, the effective way follows the exact same process you may have tried several times; scrub with a solution and wipe it down. The only difference lies in the type of products you use when cleaning.

In this article, we’ll be looking at a step-by-step guide of four simple yet effective ways of removing sunscreen stains from your car interior, whether you have leather car seats or Vinyl or fabric.

Below are the products you’ll need:

Method 1: Strong Degreaser

This is perhaps one of the best methods of cleaning sunscreen from cars. It is pretty simple and straightforward. Dilute your Meguiars Super Degreaser with water to reduce its concentration. It’s best to use a 1:10 measurement for this to avoid discoloration of your seat.

Once you are done diluting to one part degreaser, and ten parts water, you are good to go. Lightly spray the areas affected by the sunscreen stains. Two to three squirts of the solution are enough, as you don’t want to oversaturate the spots, thereby soaking the fabric in the case of fabric seats.

For fabric seats, immediately follow up with the non-abrasive sponge or brush and thoroughly scrub the stain. Then wipe the area with a microfiber towel. The stain should be gone. For the leather interior, you need to scrub, just spray on the solution and wipe it off with your microfiber towel.

If the stain doesn’t come off after the first attempt, repeat the process until it does. Sunscreens are specifically formulated to be resistant to chemical breakdown. Usually, after 2-3 repeats, the stain should be completely gone.

It is important to remember that liquid seeps into the seams of nonporous materials, so go in thoroughly when wiping your leather seats. If possible, use your fingers to force the nips and tucks apart to ensure you get all the excess water out.

Method 2: The Car Polish method.

If you do not have a degreaser handy but can get some car polish, then this method is perfect for you. Wipe off the sunscreen with diluted polish and finish off with isopropyl alcohol. Since sunscreens are oil-based and water-resistant, the oil from the polish helps to break down the sunscreen.

Mix the polish with water to create a mild-abrasive cleaning solution. You need to exercise extreme caution when using this method, as abrasive cleaners can discolor surfaces. Once you are done diluting the polish, spray a little bit of the solution on your microfibre towel and use it to scrub the stain.

Now, go in with a little isopropyl alcohol to get rid of any oil residue, and wipe down with a dry microfiber towel.

Method 3: 3D Super APC Method.

This method might be the easiest of all. We mentioned earlier that using an all-purpose cleaner to clean sunscreen stains might not be effective. But this 3D Super Citrus APC works just like a super degreaser and gets the job done in seconds.

All you have to do is spray it on the affected spot and wait for a few seconds before going in with circular motions using a microfiber towel to wipe it down. You don’t even need much elbow grease to remove the stain. After that, you can apply a leather conditioner to your leather car seats to give them a brand-new look.

Method 4: Homemade Solutions

There are some readily available products in your home that can also be used to remove sunscreen stains from your vehicle interior.

One of them is by using alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol. Of course, you need to be careful again that whichever one you choose does not discolor the leather or fabric you are trying to clean, as harsh chemicals sometimes can.

To avoid that, spray a little of the rubbing alcohol on a tiny inconspicuous part of your car seat and gently scrub it in with a microfiber towel. If the material doesn’t change color, then you can proceed with your cleaning.

Spray the rubbing alcohol on the affected areas and scrub with a microfiber cloth. Finish off by wiping it dry. Repeat the process as many times as needed.

For the alcohol wipes, just gently rub them in circular motions against the affected area and allow the alcohol to break down the stain. Wipe the sunscreen residue clean with a dry microfiber cloth or paper towel, and you’re good to go.

Some other homemade remedies you can try if you do not have rubbing alcohol would be white vinegar or baking soda. Make a mixture with a few drops of white vinegar and warm water, and simply repeat what we did with the Meguiars Super degreaser. You should get the same result.

For baking soda, pour enough baking soda over the stain spot, and leave it to soak for at least fifteen minutes. Use the brush to scrub the stains for a bit before wiping everything off with a damp microfiber cloth.

Why are Sunscreen Stains Often Difficult to Remove From Car Interiors?

Sunscreen is a staple in the daily life of an average American. And since it is used as a protection against UV rays, most people would usually choose one based on its ability to last longer. This, of course, means oil-based sunscreens.

Most sunscreens are oil-based, as oil is better resistant to water and, in turn, lasts longer after application. This same quality makes the process of removing the stains from car interiors extremely difficult, as such stains do not respond to water or just any cleaning agents.

This is why stronger cleaning solutions like the ones outlined above are needed when working with sunscreen stains.

How to Prevent Sunscreen Stains Inside Your Car

As they say, prevention is better than cure. Even though it is possible to remove sunscreen residue from car upholstery, it is always better that it doesn’t get on in the first place. So what can you do to prevent sunscreen stains in your car interior?

1. Use an Avobenzone-free Sunscreen

Sunscreens are usually formulated using elements like Titanium dioxide and Zinc, known to serve as a protective layer, deflect UV rays off your skin, and protect you from getting burned.

However, some experts have discovered another way to protect the skin, which is by using a chemical called Avobenzone instead. This chemical absorbs ultraviolet light rather than deflects those UV rays while protecting you.

But sunscreens with Avobenzone in them easily stain both fabrics and leather and are notoriously difficult to get rid of once they stain your car’s interior. They do not break down under water and leave a rust-colored stain by reacting to the iron in the liquid.

So when choosing a sunscreen, you might want to look for Avobenzone-free ones and save yourself the hassle of dealing with stains.

2. Leave the sunscreen to dry before getting in the car

Another good way to avoid staining your car seats would be not to get in before your sunscreen dries completely. It takes around 15 to 20 minutes for sunscreen to dry on your skin.

So it’s better to apply your sunscreen long before it’s time to actually get in the car so that it can settle well and you will eliminate the risks of smearing.

Apart from protecting your car, waiting for your sunscreen to dry completely is also good for you because if you do not give your skin enough time to properly absorb sunscreen before going out into the sun, you run the risk of actually burning. So think of this step as killing two birds with one stone.

3. Use Protective Seat Covers

Now, number 2 may not always be possible, especially if you have kids or need to hurry off somewhere. You might not always have enough time to spare waiting for your sunscreen to completely dry before going out.

What is the solution to this? Protective seat covers.

These things are relatively cheap, come in a wide variety of designs, and last for about 5 years before you need to change them. They are also much easier to clean because you can take them out of the car. You can use them to bear the brunt of sunscreen stains while keeping your fabric or leather car seats immaculate.


Why does sunscreen leave stains?

Sunscreen is a compound of chemicals and oils formulated to leave a screen across your skin that either deflects or absorbs UV rays in order to protect your skin from burning.

These days, most sunscreens out there contain Avobenzone, a chemical that helps absorb UV rays, as opposed to Titanium and Zinc, which used to be the norm.

Unfortunately, Avobenzone is notorious for leaving difficult-to-remove stains on fabric and leather surfaces, so any sunscreen formulated using the chemical will automatically have the same problem.

Are there any sunscreens that don’t leave stains?

Yes, there are numerous sunscreens that don’t leave stains. Just look out for anyone that contains titanium and zinc instead of Avobenzone, and you are good to go.

Can you remove sunscreen stains?

Although they can be difficult to remove, the answer is absolutely. You can definitely get rid of sunscreen from your vehicle. Just as explained above, there are both homemade and other options for safely ridding your car of sunscreen smears.

Can you remove sunscreen stains using soap?

Soap by itself is not usually very effective for removing sunscreen stains, but a stronger substance like a degreaser or even car polish will do a better job.

Alternatively, you can add a stronger substance like ammonia or white vinegar to your warm water and soap to ease your cleaning process.


To wrap it up, the problem of how to remove sunscreen from car interior is not as difficult to solve as you may think. With a little quantity of degreaser or even car polish mixed with water, you can easily scrub out the offending stain. Even household products like white vinegar can do the trick.

However, you should always remember that the stain might not always come out in one go. You might have to go in with your cleaning agent at least 3-5 times. So prepare your expectations accordingly.

Finally, it is always better to avoid getting the stain on your car in the first place. Therefore try to allow your sunscreen to dry before getting in your car, use Avobenzone-free sunscreen, or get protective seat covers.

You could even go the extra mile to do all three. After all, keeping your car seats free of stain can never be overrated. We hope you found our helpful tips useful.

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