Vinyl is a durable, easy-to-clean material that is often used for vehicle upholstery. However, whether new or old, vinyl tends to develop unsightly wrinkles that make it look stretched out. Luckily, you can easily shrink up the vinyl to remove these wrinkles in a few different ways, including using a steamer, applying hot, wet towels, or using a heat gun. No matter which method you choose, you'll have smooth, wrinkle-free upholstery in just a few minutes!
Method 1 of 3:Using a Steamer
1Fill a handheld steamer with distilled water. Tap and well water contain minerals, which could clog up the steamer or leave deposits on your upholstery. It's best to use distilled water when steaming anything, but especially when working with vinyl upholstery.
Though you can use a steamer made for car upholstery, a regular handheld steamer will work just fine.
Steamers are super useful tools. Not only can you use them on clothes (say good-bye to ironing!), but you can also use them to remove wrinkles from items that are hard to wash, like curtains.
2Steam the upholstery in small sections. Turn on the steamer and hold it so it's just barely touching the upholstery. Use long strokes to apply the steam to the vinyl using light pressure. Work on a single panel of the upholstery at a time (or a 1 square foot (0.093 m2) section) and be sure to steam every last inch for a smooth, even result.
Tip: Move the steamer in the same direction as the wrinkles to help remove them completely.
3Pay special attention to the seams. Vinyl is often most wrinkled near the seams. Hold the steamer directly over the seam to force steam into the foam underneath the vinyl. Repeat the process for the length of each seam. This will help plump it up, making your seats look brand new!
4Allow the upholstery to dry completely. Run a clean microfiber cloth over the vinyl to remove excess water. If you're working on upholstery that's already in a vehicle, leave the windows down to allow air to flow through the interior.
Don't close up the car until the upholstery is completely dry, or it may develop mildew as well as an unpleasant smell.
Method 2 of 3:Applying Hot, Wet Towels
1Fill a bowl with towels and water. Select several clean, small towels or cloths. Roll them up and put them in a small microwave-safe bucket or large bowl. Fill the bowl with water so that the towels are completely submerged.
Hand towels, washcloths, or even clean rags will do.
2Microwave the towels for 5 minutes. The heat and steam will smooth out the vinyl, removing wrinkles and shrinking it to the seats. Be very careful when you remove the bucket from the microwave—it will be hot!
3Spread the towels over the upholstery. Put on a pair of clean heat-resistant gloves, carefully unroll the towels, and lay them on the wrinkled upholstery in a single layer. Be sure to completely cover all the parts you want to shrink or smooth out. Press the towels into the vinyl.
You can use this same process to remove wrinkles from leather upholstery as well.
4Remove the towels once they're cool. After 10-15 minutes, take the towels off of the vinyl. The wrinkles will have disappeared, leaving you with smooth upholstery!
Let the vinyl dry completely before closing up the car to prevent bad odors and the development of mildew.
Method 3 of 3:Using a Heat Gun
1Obtain a heat gun. Heat guns are useful tools with many applications, including drying, softening, and shrinking different types of materials. Pick one up from your local hardware store to easily shrink vinyl upholstery in a matter of minutes.
Variation: In a pinch, you can use a hair dryer on the highest heat setting instead of a heat gun.
2Heat the vinyl in small sections to remove the wrinkles. Turn on the gun and hold it at least 6 inches (15 cm) from the vinyl to keep from melting or otherwise damaging it. Work on a single 1 square foot (0.093 m2) section at a time. Move the heat gun from side to side and work from the top to the bottom of each section to evenly heat the upholstery.
Keep the gun moving at all times so you don't scorch the vinyl.
3Smooth out the vinyl with your hands, if necessary. As the vinyl heats and shrinks, you'll be able to see the wrinkles disappear. If you encounter any stubborn spots, smooth them out with your hands, but be careful—the vinyl will be hot!
If you're using the heat gun on a seat, let the vinyl cool completely before sitting in it.