How to Clean Sunscreen Off Car Interior: Every Single Kind

Sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin, but it can also be a nightmare for car upholstery, especially during the summertime when its usage is at its peak. If you’ve accidentally spilled or smeared sunscreen on your leather car seats, dashboard, carpets, or other surfaces, you’re not alone. Fortunately, effective methods exist to remove these blemishes without causing damage. Here are some tips and insights on how to clean sunscreen off your car interior. 

What You Need

person with spray bottle cleaning car interior

Before you start cleaning, you’ll need supplies and tools to complete the job. Here are some items you may need: 

  • A microfiber cloth or a soft sponge 
  • A mild dish soap or laundry detergent 
  • A bowl or bucket of warm water 
  • A spray bottle 
  • White vinegar, alcohol, lemon juice, or baking soda (optional)
  • A vacuum cleaner or a brush 
  • A leather conditioner or a fabric protector (optional) 

How To Clean Sunscreen Off Car Interiors: General Cleaning Steps

Depending on the type and material of your car interior, you may need to use different methods and products to clean sunscreen off it (which we outline below!). 

woman squeezing sunscreen into hand inside her car

Here are some general steps you can follow:

  1. Blot the Excess Sunscreen: Immediately blot away any excess sunscreen using a microfiber cloth or soft sponge. Avoid rubbing, which might worsen the stain.
  2. Apply a Mild Soap or Detergent: Prepare a solution with a few drops of mild liquid dish soap or laundry detergent mixed with warm water. Dab the stain with a clean cloth or sponge, always moving from the outside in. Continue until the stain fades or disappears.
  3. Rinse with Water: Wipe off any cleaning residue using a cloth or sponge dipped in plain water. This ensures no leftover solution attracts dirt later.
  4. Use Alternative Cleaners (If Needed): If the general cleaning steps don’t yield satisfactory results, some specific cleaners based on sunscreen ingredients can help (See below for specific recommendations based on sunscreen ingredients).
  5. Dry the Surface: Make sure the cleaned area is thoroughly dry. Do not leave it wet or even damp. This prevents mold and mildew. Use a dry cloth, or paper towel, roll your windows down, or even a hair dryer on a cool setting.
  6. Apply a Conditioner or Protector: For leather interiors, a leather conditioner restores shine and suppleness. Fabric interiors benefit from a protective spray to fend off future mishaps.

Car Interior Sunscreen Removal by Ingredient:

sunscreen smeared on purple background, how to clean sunscreen off car interior


  • What It Is: A chemical sunscreen ingredient prone to causing rust-colored stains, especially on light-colored fabrics.
  • Cleaning Approach:
    1. Blot to remove excess sunscreen.
    2. Dab the stained area with soapy water.
    3. Persistent stains may need a half-and-half mixture of white vinegar and water. Ensure thorough rinsing.
    4. For car interiors, including leather seats, consider a specialized upholstery or leather cleaner.
  • Alternate Method:
    • Alcohol can be another effective cleaning solution to try.  It’s another option for stubborn rust-colored stains on fabric (not leather). Dab the sunscreen stain with a white cloth dampened in isopropyl alcohol. Rinse thoroughly afterward. However, always do a spot test first, as alcohol can sometimes affect fabric colors.

Titanium Dioxide:

  • What It Is: Known to leave a chalky, white residue, this mineral sunscreen ingredient is visually noticeable.
  • Cleaning Approach:
    1. Blot away visible sunscreen.
    2. Address the stain using a solution of warm water and mild detergent, suitable for both fabrics and leather.
    3. For powdery residues on upholstery or carpets, vacuuming is recommended.
    4. Finish with a rinse to eliminate any cleaning or sunscreen residue.
  • Alternate Approach:
    • For white residues, especially on fabrics, lemon juice could be used. Its natural acidity can help break down the residue. Apply some fresh lemon juice to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then blot away. Rinse thoroughly. Be cautious on colored fabrics as lemon can sometimes bleach.

Zinc Oxide:

  • What It Is: Much like titanium dioxide, this mineral sunscreen can also leave visible white marks.
  • Cleaning Approach:
    1. Start by blotting away visible sunscreen.
    2. Use a mix of warm water and mild detergent, which works well for both fabric and leather interiors.
    3. Stubborn stains might benefit from a white vinegar and water solution.
    4. Rinse to ensure a clean finish.
  • Alternate Approach:
    • For both these white residues, especially on fabrics, lemon juice’s natural acidity can help break down the residue. Apply some fresh lemon juice to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then blot away. Rinse thoroughly. Again, be cautious putting it on colored fabrics as lemon can sometimes bleach.

Oil-Based Sunscreens:

  • What It Is: These sunscreens spread easily and resist water due to their oil content, but can leave greasy marks on various surfaces.
  • Cleaning Approach:
    1. Start with blotting to remove as much oil as possible.
    2. Baking soda is great for breaking down the oily substance of some sunscreens. Sprinkle it generously over the stain, let it sit for a few hours or overnight, and then brush or vacuum away. If using on leather, ensure to wipe the leather with a damp cloth afterward and condition as necessary.
    3. If residue remains, a solution of mild dish soap works wonders on fabrics, while leather benefits from specialized leather cleaners.
    4. A final rinse and blot with a microfiber towel should restore your interior’s look.


Can I use bleach to clean sunscreen off my car interior?

No, you should not use bleach to clean sunscreen off car interiors, as it may damage the color and texture. Bleach is too harsh and may cause fading, discoloration, cracking, or peeling.

How can I prevent sunscreen stains on my car interior?

You can prevent sunscreen stains on your car interior by following these tips:

  • Apply sunscreen before you get in your car and let it dry completely.
  • Avoid touching your car interior with sunscreen-covered hands or clothes.
  • Keep your sunscreen bottle in a sealed plastic bag or container and store it away from direct sunlight and heat.
  • Use a sunshade or window tint to protect your car interior from UV rays.


Sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin from sun damage, but it can also cause damage to your car interior if spilled or smeared on it. To clean sunscreen off your car interior, you need to act quickly and use the right products and methods. By following the steps above, you can remove sunscreen stains and odors from your car interior without harming it. 

We hope this blog post has been helpful and informative for you. If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and family who may also need some tips on how to clean sunscreen off car interiors.

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