How To Remove Sunscreen From Car Interior

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Sunscreen isn’t something a car owner or driver wants to see on their car seats or roof. Being a solution that can deface the interior of your car, sunscreen can get anywhere.

It doesn’t matter what you do to keep it off. Usually, when it gets to the car’s interior upholstery, it can leave behind rust-colored or grease-like stains.

This is because sunscreen contains harmful chemical compounds like avobenzone. This chemical not only mixes with hard water-bound iron but also absorbs UV light.

As a result, it leaves on your car seat or roof an orange stain that can be quite difficult to remove.

The stain upsets the aesthetics of the interior of your car and can make you become a little nauseated.

As much as possible, you shouldn’t allow this visibly oily substance to stain the interior furniture or seat of your car.

If you don’t clean it off in good time it’ll have a lasting effect on the durability and appearance of the car interior. But again, removing sunscreen can be a daunting task.

Luckily, this article will provide a solution. I will explain the different methods you can use. You can explore any of them.

The method you choose depends on the interior material or type –leather or non-leather -extent of the stain, affordability, and your preferences.

Methods To Clean Off Sunscreen From Car Interior

The four most effective methods to remove sunscreen from your car interior are:

  1. Soap and water
  2. Degreaser
  3. Rubbing or denatured alcohol
  4. White vinegar and Baking soda

Step-By-Step DIY Guide To Remove Car Interior Sunscreen

Method 1: Soap And Water

Supplies needed:

  • Soap: dish detergent
  • Clean water
  • Mild sponge or cloth
  • Towel/wipes
  • Bowl
  • Tablespoon
Step 1: Wipe off sunscreen residue

Depending on the freshness of the stain, wipe off the residue of sunscreen from the seat top.

You can use wet or dry wipes to achieve this. The wiping motions should be gentle and circular.

Step 2: Mix soap with water

Get soap, preferably dish soap or upholstery-safe detergent, and clean water. Mix in the ratio of ¼ of water to two teaspoons of soap.

Do the mixing in your hands and make sure it forms suds. Stir vigorously to dissolve any semi-solid soap.

Step 3: Put Sponge In Soapy Liquid

Submerge the mild cloth or sponge into the bowl containing the mixture of soap and water. Bring it out and wring to leave out excess liquid.

Step 4: Start To Clean A Stain

The next step is to start to rub a damp sponge against the seat. Continue the process until all sunscreen has been removed from the seat.

Make sure the rubbing is done gently to avoid scraping the surface of the seat.

Step 5: Rinse With Clean Water

After this, it’s time to rinse the surface with clean water, using a clean towel. Make sure you remove excess liquid on the seat.

Pros And Cons Of Soapy Water Method


  • Highly affordable and cost-effective
  • Versatile
  • Most used
  • Efficient for mild stain


  • Not suitable for extreme cases

Method 2: Degreaser

Supplies needed

  • Degreasing solvent
  • Microfiber towel
  • Non-abrasive sponge
  • Water
  • Steel wool/scrubbing pad
Step 1: Apply The Cleaning Agent

The first step is to apply the degreaser to the stained area on your car. Avoid letting excess agents get into the unstained portion of the seat.

Make sure you read the terms and direction of use to know the degreaser that’s suitable for your stained car interior.

Step 2: Scrub The Degreaser

Now, it’s time to scrub the stain properly. Use steel wool or a scrubbing pad to scrub the stain against the stained portion of the seat.

Step 3: Allow The Degreaser To Soak

This step varies, depending on the material used in making your car seat or roof.

If it’s leather material, you should allow the degreaser to soak up and melt the oily sunscreen for a few minutes.

For non-leather material, you should wipe it off immediately.

Step 4: Wipe Off

After allowing the degreaser to break up the sunscreen, it’s time to wipe off the residue using a clean microfiber towel.

Step 5: Repeat The Process (Optional)

After wiping off the residue, you’ll need to check if the stain has completely left the affected area in your car. If it has, you’re good to go.

If not, then you’ll need to repeat the process until the entire sunscreen is no longer visible.

Pros And Cons Of Degreaser Method


  • Highly effective
  • Offers quick, clean results
  • Requires diligent terms of use


  • Highly Costly
  • Can cause further damage if not properly done

 Method 3: Rubbing Alcohol

The method of using rubbing alcohol is similar to the degreasing processes and procedures. Again, the material used in making your car interior will determine what next steps to take.

Supplies needed:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • An abrasive or non-abrasive sponge
  • microfiber towel
Step 1: Spray the rubbing alcohol

Start by pouring or spraying a modest amount of the rubbing alcohol on the sunscreen stain area in your car. Wetting, and not drenching, quantity is enough.

Step 2: Scrub the agent

At this point, the material type of your car interior will determine what next to do.

If you’re using a leather seat, a non-abrasive sponge or steel wool will work perfectly to do the scrubbing.

For non-leather material, you should scrub with a scrub brush or a scrub pad will do a great job.

Step 3: Wipe Off The Cleaning Agent

After scrubbing with your sponge, you can instantly wipe off the cleaning agent using the microfiber towel.

Wiping off immediately only applies to leather materials. For the non-leather interior, you’ll need Step 4.

Step 4: Allow The Agent To Disintegrate Sunscreen (Optional)

This step is optional if your car interior is made of leather material.

However, for non-leather or polyester-made interior, you can only start wiping after a few minutes.

First, allow the alcohol to soak up and break down the oily sunscreen for about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Repeat The Process

Once you checked and still found some sunscreen stains on the seat, you’ll need to repeat the entire process until everything is removed.

Step 6: Spray Clean Water

After removing the sunscreen stains completely away from the affected area, it’s time to spray some clean water on the surface

Step 7: Air dry

The last but not least step is to allow some fresh atmospheric air to dry the surface. You can open your car door for some minutes. You can wind up and close all the doors to heat up the surface.     

Pros And Cons Of Rubbing Alcohol Method


  • Highly efficient
  • Cost-effective
  • Supplies are household items


  • Time-consuming
  • Relatively pricey

Method 4: Vinegar and Baking Soda

Mixing vinegar with baking soda works wonders in cleaning sunscreen stains from your car interior.

Supplies needed:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Water
Step 1:  Ventilate The Car Interior

The first step is to remove any excess smell in the air. To do this, you have to turn on your car’s air conditioner or ventilator.

Alternatively, use a well-ventilated workspace. This way, the white vinegar will diffuse very rapidly.

Step 2: Mix White Vinegar With Baking Soda

In the ratio of 2:1, mix the baking soda with the white vinegar. This mixing ratio creates a kind of abrasion paste from the two household products.

Step 3: Scrub Off The Paste

Using a sponge or cloth, depending on the material, scrub off the sunscreen stains from the affected area in your car interior. Do this in gentle, circular motions.

Step 4: Rinse

Rinse the surface properly with clean water. But try to check if you’ll need to repeat the process before rinsing.

Step 5: Dry

Finish off by drying the wet surface.

Pros And Cons Of Using Vinegar And Baking Soda Method


  • Easy to apply
  • Affordable
  • Won’t scratch car seat


  • Can give off a repugnant smell

How To Remove Zinc Oxide Sunscreen From Car Interior

To remove zinc oxide sunscreen from your car’s interior, any of the methods above will work.

However, because zinc oxide is highly water-resistant, you need some amount of ammonia to break through the waterproof.

Here are steps to remove zinc oxide sunscreen from the car interior.

Supplies needed:

  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Ammonia
  • Soap or detergent
  • Sponge
  • Cloth


  1. Pour warm or hot water into a bucket.
  2. Mix the water with dish detergent or soap.
  3. Add a small quantity of amount.
  4. Place a sponge deep into the water-filled bucket.
  5. Gently and in circular motions scrub the sunscreen-stained area.
  6. Repeat the process until all stain is wiped off.
  7. Rinse the area with clean water.
  8. Air dry or heat up to dry.

What To Consider When Choosing A Method To Clean Sunscreen

Material of car seat

The type of material used to make the seat goes a long way to determine what method to use to remove the sunscreen from your car.

Sunscreen soaks deeper into non-leather or polyester materials than it will into leather materials.     


Considering the money you have in hand before opting for any method is a no-brainer.

As budget-friendly as the soap and water method is, it, however, cannot work in extreme cases.

A budget shouldn’t cause you to leave a part of your car interior messed up with sunscreen stains.


In the end, your preference also depends on the amount of money you want to spare.

Some of the agents can produce some disgusting smell for some time. Others give off no bad smell.

You may want to choose what works well for your health.

Extent of stain

The extent of the sunscreen stain will also determine what method to use.

Extreme cases demand extreme measures and rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, or degreaser methods work well if the interior is badly riddled with stains.  

Final Thoughts

Remember, summer is usually the time of the season when you spend more time in your car.

Either you’re on a road trip with your family or out to get some items from the grocery store. Regardless, there is an increased chance that you’ll come in contact with sunscreen.

Once any part of your body is stained with substance, the car seat becomes vulnerable.

When this happens, it’s time to get rid of this annoyingly greasy chemical.

You don’t need an auto detail expert; a simple DIYer like the methods I have highlighted above will do the magic.

But don’t forget our old saying that prevention is better than cure. Even if you can’t avoid sunscreen from getting onto your car seat, try to clean it off as soon as possible.

The longer it stays on the seat, the more difficult it becomes to remove. I hope you found this guide helpful.