Cleaning your car interior takes time, but it’s worth it. If you’re someone who likes to take matters into your own hands – in this case, cleaning your car interior– instead of paying someone else to do it, then you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Tools You Need
It is ideal to prepare a vacuum cleaner with an extension hose and hand-held attachments. That way, you can easily vacuum tight spaces and hard-to-reach crevices.
You likely already have the cleaning products needed handle surfaces like plastic, upholstery, vinyl, carpet, etc. So get it all ready. If you’re not sure, just read on and you’ll find out later below.
Cloth for Wiping and Polishing
Prepare fine cloth rags and microfiber cloths for cleaning. Make sure the cloths are clean and free of any residual chemicals you might have previously used.
Prepare some small brushes to clean dust from air vents and other hard-to-reach places. The cleaning product you use may require you to apply it through a brush, sponge, or rag, so get those ready as well. Read the instructions on the cleaning product carefully.
Make sure that particular cleaning product is designed for your car’s surfaces. When in doubt, apply a bit of it on a small surface area. If it causes a blemish or stain, change the product immediately.
Floor Mats / Carpets
The floor mat is a good place to start, though some people prefer to leave this for last. If you expect the floor mat to get dirty while cleaning the seats and dashboard, you should clean it last.
Firstly, remove any coins, tissues, papers, wrappers, and other objects from the car. It could be on the floor, the seats, the dashboard, in the glove compartment, etc. This will make your overall cleaning easier later. Slide the seats forward and backward while cleaning to make sure you’ve cleared the floor thoroughly.
Carefully take out the floor mats one by one. Shake them hard to loosen the dirt accumulated within. Some mats have deep grooves that could easily trap dirt. If there’s stubborn grime stuck to it, you can use a stiff brush to scrub it.
Once the dirt is cleared, wash down your floor mats with water from a hose. Then, leave them to air dry. You may also use a detergent, but make sure they are cleaned thoroughly and dried completely to avoid slippery mats while driving.
While the floor mats are drying, use the time to vacuum the carpet. Make use of the vacuum’s brush attachment and nozzles to clean crevices and hard to reach areas around the seats.
You can use a steam cleaning machine if you have one. Otherwise, using a carpet cleaning product would work just fine. For most products, you just need to spray it and brush it with a stiff brush.
Don’t get the carpet too wet or it might promote the growth of mold. Use a towel to dry the carpet if that happens.
Have chewing gum stuck to your carpet? All you need is an ice cube! Just rub that gum for several minutes with the ice cube. After a while, you’ll find that you can pry it off the carpet much easily.
Thoroughly vacuum all the dirt on the seats, as well as the places around and between the seats. Next, you’ll be applying a cleaning product. The cleaning product you apply would depend on what type of car seat you have. Do you have cloth/fabric, vinyl, or leather car seats?
Cloth / Fabric
Take a look at your cloth car seat. Do you see any big stains? Do you smell any bad odors you want to get rid of? Cloth car seats tend to absorb odor, so it might smell.
Generally, a multipurpose upholstery cleaner will get the job done. But if you see any stubborn stains, you should get a stain remover. For bad odor, a simple odor elimination spray would do, perhaps one you already use in your household.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle baking soda on the car seats. Leave it there for several hours while you clean the rest of the car or do something else. It helps to absorb odor, leaving your car smelling nice and fresh. Vacuum up the baking soda once you feel it has absorbed enough odor and moisture.
Cloth car seats can soak up liquid, so if gets too wet it won’t be able to dry completely, leaving a musty smell I your car the next day. Thus, exercise caution and don’t apply too much liquid cleaning products.
Clean-up for vinyl is quick and easy. You can just wipe down the seat with a clean, damp cloth. Then, use a dry cloth to quickly wipe dry the seats.
If you have a cleaning product made for cleaning vinyl, the steps are the same as above. Spray the car seats with the cleaner, then wipe with a clean cloth, followed by a dry cloth if the seats are too wet. Your vinyl car seats should be ready for use within the hour.
Leather is a high maintenance material. Keeping it in top shape can be difficult because dirt and grime sets into the surface over time. That’s why you need a leather cleaning product for this task.
Follow the instructions on the product label. Most products require you to either spray or apply to the seat by hand. Use a clean cloth or towel to really work the product into the leather. Make sure you flip the cloth often so you are always using the clean side. Once you’ve finished cleaning, dry the seats with a dry cloth, preferably a microfiber cloth.
You’d still need to air dry the seats for a couple more hours. Afterwards, apply a leather conditioner to keep the leather in good condition. There are two-in-one products that can wash and condition the leather at the same time, so you can get one of those to make cleaning more convenient.
All you need for this task is a good glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Spray the cleaner on the cloth, not on the windows. Then wipe the windows with the cloth.
Cleaning products can easily damage tinted windows. If the tinting is part of the window, it’s fine. But if the tinting is a sheet applied to the window, it’s better not to use any cleaning product on it. Contact the shop that applied the tinting to confirm with them if needed.
A good tip here is to roll down your windows partway so you can wipe off the grime along the top of the window. Then proceed to roll it back up and wipe the rest.
Take note that the gauge covers on the front console are made of plastic, not glass. You don’t need to use a glass cleaner for that, instead use an all-purpose cleaner.
Car Dashboard and Front Panel
Let’s start off with the dashboard. Use a vacuum to suck up as much dust as you can before you apply a cleaning product. For those really hard to reach areas, you can use a cloth wrapped around a screwdriver, or chopstick, or plastic knife, whichever feels best for you.
After cleaning, it’s optional to apply an interior dressing (depending on the material of your dashboard) to keep it from fading or cracking from exposure to sunlight.
For the buttons, controls, and knobs, use the cloth-wrapped-around-screwdriver to clean those tight crevices. You can also use cotton swabs.
You can use cotton swabs to clean the air vent grills too, but you’ll find that using a long bristled brush would be easier. The brush will help to clean off most of the dust on the vent grill. Having a can of compressed air on hand can help to blow off any remaining dust.
The inside of a car door is usually made of materials that are the same as your seats or dashboard. Whether the interior of your car door is made of cloth/fabric, vinyl, or leather, use the correct cleaning method to clean them.
Your door may have cupholders or open compartments. If so, wipe down what you can using your hand, brush, cotton swab, then vacuum the rest.
If there’s a strong odor in your car, and you’re not sure where it comes from, get an odor removal product. However, an odor removal product can only do so much if you just simply spray it around. If possible, try to find the source of the odor. If the odor comes from your car seats, spray them.
If you smoke or travel with pets often, then odors will return. In this case, it would be recommended to get a car deodorizer. Some people use the charcoal trick to get rid of odors. Just get some small lumps of charcoal and put it in a container. Cut small holes on the lid of the container, then place the container under the passenger car seat.
Maintain your interior at least every six to eight months. It may take a bit longer the first time you do it, but it will be easier to clean the next time. If you clean it regularly, you can be sure your car will maintain a fresh look and feel for many years.