Cloth & fabric trim stain cleaning and protecting
Learning from our mistakes
Having a good number of cars with fabric seats, door trims, carpet, seat belts and hood linings, we had to develop a good cleaner for them - something effective at cleaning, safe for all the different types of fabric and something to help remove any musky smell some car interiors can get from sitting around for a period of time.
We had some painful experiences over the years with cloth trim in cars and incompatible car care products. One big U.S. brand in particular badly stained/bleached the colour of the dark fabric where we used it (yes, following their instructions), which was upsettingly irreparable. The only solution was for it to be re-trimmed.
You learn from your mistakes, and after many years the idea of a good fabric cleaner was put to our chemist. It didn't take him long as he had past experience in the field and we came up with our Fabra Cadabra. Named like this as we think it's pretty magic at removing stains and cleaning up fabric and Alcantara/Microsuede trim.
Why it works so well
Fabra Cadabra uses a deep cleaning, non aggressive formula, which works by safely removing the stains and other foreign items from the individual threads of the fabric, whilst not being damaging to them or most importantly, the stitching. We've found it cleans up sweat marks, food oil & grease, meat pies, soft drinks, hair gel (don't ask), cattle dog muddy feet marks, kids marker pens (treat them ASAP before they dry), ladies foundation and mascara, chocolate, ice cream, coffee, blood, yellowing (usually from sweat or red bull drink) and a variety of other unidentifiable stains. The most important thing to remember is that you need to clean any stains off ASAP - the longer you leave them, the harder they can become to remove.
Fabra Cadabra has no solvents in it, so it's safe for ALL colour-safe fabrics and stitching, new and old. Always test a small, inconspicious area first if you have any concerns.
We added in a pretty cool ingredient that helps to rejuvenate the colour back to your trim whilst you're cleaning - something needed with a lot of older cars that have not been cared for that well.
Our chemist sourced a nice, fresh fragrance that helps minimise odours in the car while you're cleaning; something we greatly appreciate, especially when used in conjunction with our Pong-Go, as together they help totally remove many of the more offensive smells for good.
Our 3 levels of fabric stain removal
We have three different ways we like to use Fabra Cadabra depending on the type and intensity of cleaning required.
1. Quick wipe overs: for fabric trim that's not too badly soiled or deeply stained. Our Square Bear applicator pad and separate Plush Daddy interior cloth is perfect for the job.
2. Fresh stain removal and spot cleaning; using the same microfibre products as above with a slight change up of the technique.
3. Older/hard to remove stains; Also for deeper cleaning where we use Fabra Cadabra in conjunction with the Orange Agent all purpose cleaner in an extractor vaccum machine.
It's best to do any of these 3 techniques in the shade, preferably in the garage, in a reasonably well ventilated area to allow for good drying once you're done. Also, always give the area you're about to clean a good vacuum so you're not pushing anything lying on the surface back into the interior fabric whilst trying to clean it. In the first two methods, NEVER spray the Fabra Cadabra direct onto the surface you're trying to clean, follow one of the steps below for what best suits your circumstance.
1. Quick wipe overs
If your fabric trim has no heavy stains or soiling but could use a spruce up, it's a very quick job with a wipe over of Fabra Cadabra using two of our purpose specific microfibre tools; the Square Bear applicator, which uses a soft tricot weave that we have found to be exceptional for its cleaning power. The Plush Daddy, which is a dual sided cloth with the plush side for light dusting duties around your car and the low pile side for interior product removal, including Fabra Cadabra.
Also for this job, get together a vaccum cleaner and a small bucket that's half filled with water.
First off you need to vaccum the area you wish to clean, and remove any of the heavier particles from the trim.
Spray 5 to 6 sprays of the Fabra Cadabra into a clean Square Bear applicator.
Work on smaller areas at a time, like half a seat base, a seat bolster etc. Gently wipe the Square Bear over the fabric surface and you'll see the Fabra Cadabra will lather up lightly with the cleaning part in its formula working its magic.
While it's still wet on the surface (don't ever allow it to dry), use a clean Plush Daddy cloth folded to the low pile side and wipe over the area to remove the now released dirt and grime from the fabric. Fold the cloth to a clean section/side and wipe it over once more.
It's critical to inspect and fold the Plush Daddy cloth to a clean side often, so the dirt and grime you have released will not transfer back to the surface you are cleaning. It can pay to have a couple of cloths handy if you're doing a slightly dirtier interior. We make both the Square Bear applicator and Plush Daddy with light coloured microfibre, to make it easy to see any dirt and grime in the cloth and visually alert you to the possibility of dirt transfer.
With the Square Bear and the next application, use its other clean/fresh side and continue the method as per above. Once you've used both sides, wash it out well by hand in a half filled bucket of water, wiping the dirtier areas with your hand to release it. Then wring it out well, apply the Fabra Cadabra back into it and continue your cleaning.
Once you're all done cleaning, give the cleaned areas one last vaccum and leave the windows down and doors open to allow it to totally dry.
Doing this regularly will ensure the trim stays looking like new and you don't get a build up of any sweat and grime.
2. Fresh stain removal and spot cleaning
Biggest rule with any stain removal: Get the stain out of the fabric ASAP after it's happened. The longer you wait, the more it will set in and become harder to remove.
Closely inspect the area and marks to be cleaned, to determine what they are and remove any heavier substances, (like our stain image here we acquired in our work van from a meat pie) with a damp cloth, or a plastic knife/spatula.
As always, the first thing to do is vacuum the area well.
Mist about 5 to 6 sprays of the Fabra Cadabra into the Square Bear applicator pad, Then apply on top of the stain in a blotting motion, with your fingers going from the outside of the mark and pulling to the centre and off the stain. This is so you're not pushing the stain deeper or further across into the fabric trim. Don't scrub it either, just use the same blotting motion so you don't push the stain even deeper into the fabric (this is especially the case for something like tomato sauce and grease).
Keep a close eye on your Square Bear for any build up of grime or dirt. Turn it over to the clean side if it looks excessive as you don't want to be rubbing this back into the fabric.
Let it sit for about 1 minute, then apply the same blotting method again. The ingredients in the Fabra Cadabra are working at releasing the stain from the fabric threads, so with the second application you will notice it has begun to leave the trim. You may with some stains, need 3 to 4 applications like this.
After you're happy that you've removed the stain, wipe it down with the low pile side of the Plush Daddy cloth to help it dry.
As you have just done a "spot clean", the fabric area you've just cleaned could seem lighter than the areas around it once dry, which is mainly from the fabric still being dirty. So it can be a good idea to use the "Quick Wipe Over" steps above on these other areas and get a full and uniform clean.
Open all your car doors and windows to let it totally dry. Once dry, give it one last vacuum to pull out and remove any other materials the Fabra Cadabra has removed from the fabric threads.
Note that items like glue, wax and chewing gum cannot be removed with Fabra Cadabra (to remove those ones, put a plastic bag with ice on the area and then after 10 minutes when it has hardened, work at chipping it away as delicately as you can).
3. Older / hard to remove stains
Our final stage is for a real deep clean, best suited for older and harder to remove stains usually in more neglected vehicles. This stage is what you'll find most professional detailers doing on any cars that need some real intensive love.
For this method you'll need a combination of our car care products - Fabra Cadabra, an interior Plush Brush or Foursome Brush set, and the Orange Agent all purpose cleaner.
You'll also need a shampoo extractor vacuum machine, that you can hire from many supermarkets or big hardware stores. Or you can buy one, just tell your minister of finance how it’s also awesome for small spills and mishaps in the house, ranging from couch and carpet stain removal, even for restoring an entire lounge suite. A great machine that's well worth getting is the well priced little Bissell Spot Clean unit, you can get it from many automotive or electrical stores and it's ideal for most enthusiasts. Being super small and portable it's a very handy machine, with Brett in our office personally using one in his mobile detailing business for a number of years and as he says "it's paid for itself 10 times over".
We also use the Numatic George extractor vaccum. It's a lot larger and a more professional machine (with a price tag to match), having a bigger water capacity, higher output motor, plus a super long hose. It's a great choice for the professional or really crazy keen enthusiast (like me).
Both these machines and others can be used with Orange Agent in their shampoo solution tank. Orange Agent is by far the most versatile product in our Aussie car care line up. Just for a refresher, Orange Agent is a pH neutral all purpose cleaner that’s safe for paint, metal, chrome, engine bays, vinyl and even your car’s leather interior. Orange Agent is also a great and cost effective additive to use in the shampoo vacuums. Unlike most other cleaners used in these machines and other APC's (All Purpose Cleaners) it's not alkaline. The pH balanced formula becomes a great thing as it won't become active to bleach or whiten fabrics or carpets (like alkaline cleaning agents will) if you happen to sit in the car with wet pants, or have heavy sweat or have rain get into the car.
For both machines, use a mixture ratio of 50:1, so if you put in 10L of water, use 200ml of Orange Agent. The Bissell tank is 1-1.1L, so put in 1L of water, then top it with 20ml of Orange Agent. Numatic George has a tank capacity of 15L, so 300ml is all you need. It's a good idea to use warmer water if you have more grease or oil based stains as well.
Work on larger sections at a time, like a whole seat base or backrest. Start by pre-treating any heavier staining by spraying Fabra Cadabra direct into them and give them a light agitation with our Plush Brush or Foursome brushes.
Hold the machine's handle above the stain or area you’re wanting to clean. Pull the trigger for the Orange Agent shampoo solution to begin coming out of the brush area. Pre treat the whole area with a light spray of product, then with your finger still on the trigger, use an up and down scrubbing motion to clean the area. Turn the handle 90 degrees to go in a side to side motion (so against the grain of the surface), still with the trigger held down. Once you’re happy that the area is clean (DO NOT saturate the surface), go back over the area in the same way, this time without the trigger held down, to suck up as much liquid as possible.
The dirty water tank is quite small in the Bissell, so be prepared to empty it often if you’re doing more than just a small area. When you hear the sound of the machine change to a higher pitch noise, it’s time to empty it out. It operates off a float device inside the dirty solution tank. Once it’s empty, give the tank a gentle shake so that the float inside settles back to the bottom of the tank.
Once you’ve finished the job, it’s always a good idea to let the area dry as well as it possibly can. This might mean leaving the car windows down, or the doors open for a few hours outside in the sun, or using a small pedestal fan facing the damp area. Once the area is dry, you can use our Pong-Go odour eliminator spray to really finish the job off nicely.
Other fabric surfaces.
For carpet stains, it's a very similar procedure to above as the material is a bit denser than trim on your seats or doors. Read our guide on it here:
If you have old, dirty seat belts, just spray the Fabra Cadabra into the applicator and rub into the dirt and grime inflicted areas. You'll be amazed how well they can come up with not much work.
ALCANTARA AND MICROSUEDE
Many cars nowadays, especially the more expensive exotics use a synthetic suede, micro-suede, or Alcantara, made from microfibre, which our Fabra Cadabra is 100% safe to use on. Have a read of our seperate guide on this in the link here:
Protecting your fabric seats
Make sure you have followed the above guides to clean the fabric surface and the fabric always needs to be as clean and totally dry before you apply our water based fabric protectant, Fabratection.
This professional grade super hydrophobic fabric protectant is something we are really proud to now have in the range, after having to abort this product many years ago due to the enviromental concerns with it. Water based, it's safe, biodegradable and works awesome to help keep your fabric protected from stains.
- Great for all interior fabric trim, from seat belts to fabric seats, carpet, even fantastic for exterior fabric convertible roofs as well.
- Water based – making it safe and compatible for Alcantara and Microsuedes, which is used in an abundance of cars these days.
- Helps stops liquid staining from accidental (or non accidental) spills that can happen in your car or home.
- Makes your fabric easier to clean – as Fabratection bonds to the fibres, it prevents mud, sweat, light oils, food, pet mishaps and other items from penetrating into the fabrics, making it a lot easier to clean off in the event of any mishaps.
- Crazy beading – It’s an advanced super hydrophobic formula, so after the treatment and curing 24 to 48 hours, it repels water beautifully. The contact angles on the beading we see on some tight and dense fabrics is quite insane, not to mention a cool thing to get pics of!
- It’s also a light oleophobic product, meaning it can repel most oils, acid and alkaline products as well.
- Good abrasion resistance, so it won't wipe off when touched or rubbed.
- UV protection – Important for fabrics in cars and many being more susceptible to losing colour if in the sun over time.
- Importantly does not change the feel or look of the material and still allows it to breathe.
- Will last up to one year after application.
- Biodegrable and not bio accumulative, free of the evil perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and another commonly used ingredient that doesn’t break down called alkylphenol ethoxylate (APEO).
Wearing gloves for this job isn't a bad idea as the product can get sticky on your hands.
- Working in the shade, in temps between 10c and 35c and in a well ventilated area, shake the bottle well.
- Spray Fabratection into a Square Bear applicator until it's quite damp, then rub it into the seats one section at a time (a seat bolster would be one section), from all angles, working it into corners, joins and seams of the seat, to ensure the best coverage. Spray more Fabratection into the Square Bear, then do the next section, and so on until all the seats are done.
- Allow this coat to partially dry for 20 minutes, then apply a second coat in the exact same manner.
If there is any overspray of Fabratection, simply wipe it off with a damp cloth before it can dry.
Don't let anyone sit on or disturb the treated surface for 5 to 6 hours. And after this don't allow it to get wet for 24 to 48 hours so it can totally cure.
After this you'll have a nicely protected surface that will also be easier to clean in the advent of any mishaps in the car.
We have used this formulation on numerous types of trims from new exotic fabrics, basic well used trim (from our courier delivery drivers trucks) to delicate old ones (like the orginal 1979 Brock A9X Torana) and had great success with them all.
Fabra Cadabra can be found in our best supporting stores across Australia. You can find your closest one on our stockist page by clicking the retailers link below.
We like getting your questions and queries on any of our products, so feel free to contact our team about any you may have on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us during business hours on 1800 351 308.
Love your car,