10 Steps: How To Clean A Car Interior
Ever want to clean the interior of your car but despaired at the amount of time and effort it would likely take?
Luckily, this guide will help you find new ways to clean the interior of your car with minimal effort or struggle.
Whereas the exterior of your car is impersonal and not usually judged, the interior of your car is personal. People can and will judge you on how your interior looks, which is why you should always try to keep the interior of your car looking as good as possible.
Keeping a cars interior clean leaves a very positive impression on people who will be riding as passengers, be they work associates, friends, relatives, in-laws or dates.
What follows is a number of car interior cleaning tips to help you know how to clean the interior of your car. Some elements of cleaning a cars interior are fairly obvious, but there are a number of tips and tricks you can use to make your job easier and more effective.
If you’ve ever wondered how to clean car interior, this guide should help you immeasurably.
You will need some pretty standard materials to effectively clean the interior of your car. Most of the materials are readily available or inexpensive for most; a few will require you to go to an autoparts store to make sure you get specific objects or items.
The standard, or readily available items, are mostly found around the house. For this guide, you should use the following materials.
- Trash bags and boxes to place trash and car items
- Vacuum cleaner with extension wand
- All purpose cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- Paper towels
- Microfiber (or similar material) cloth
- Cotton Swab (Q-Tips) or soft-bristle toothbrush
Possible Needs for Specialty Materials
Whether or not you will require specialty products depends on the upholstery of your vehicle. Consult your owners manual to determine which of the following materials was used for your upholstery, then use the proper cleaning materials to best clean your seats.
For Cloth Seats / Upholstery:
- Carpet cleaner
- Fine toothed scrub brush
- Common but disposable bath towels
Related: Best Upholstery Steamer
For Vinyl Seats / Upholstery:
Vinyl seats are interesting, because they can usually be cleaned with a simple cleaning solution of rubbing alcohol and water.
- Rubbing alcohol
- 2 Buckets
- Unused or clean sponge
- Clean (but disposable) bath towels
Related: How To Remove Ink From Your Car Seat
For Leather Seats / Upholstery:
For leather seats, you will probably want a specialty cleaner designed for leather auto seats. Car seats are not “natural” leather, as the seats are often treated to elongate their lives, give them a greater shine and more durability.
The chemical wash manufacturers use on leather chairs makes them incompatible with regular leather cleaner you may have for household goods or clothing. You may also want to purchase and maintain a leather brush specifically for cleaning the leather seats in your car.
- Specialty Leather Seat Cleaner
- Leather Cleaning Brush
Two companies that commonly come up for leather seat cleaning are Armor All and Meguiar’s. You could also ask the employees at the auto parts store for their suggestions on the best products to clean your leather seats.
10 Steps to Clean Your Interior
Step One: Gather the necessary materials to clean the vehicle. Depending on how long you like to work on projects like this, you could either organize your materials in advance or just wing it, though the organized approach is likely to be far more efficient.
Step Two: Gather all of the items in your vehicle and remove them. If there is any standing trash in the interior of your car, now is the best time to throw it out. Gather up the loose change, lipstick containers, CDs, charging wires and similar materials.
Take objects out of the center console, glove box and cup holders. Separate the trash from the things you will keep, but get them out of the vehicle so you have a completely clean space to work with.
Step Three: If you have floor mats, remove them from your vehicle. Hold them close to level to keep as much dirt, gunk and junk as possible on the mat.
Once you have the mat out of the vehicle, shake it vigorously as a first round of cleaning. Pro-tip: do not shake the mat out until or unless you’re away from the vehicle, so you can avoid shaking dirt back into your car.
Step Four: Get your vacuum and start vacuuming everything. First, vacuum the floor where the now vacant mats sat.
Next, vacuum the mats outside of the vehicle.
Finally, place the mats back into the vehicle and vacuum the whole area again, to ensure you have gotten every ounce of dirt you could. Once the floors are finished, move up to the seats, vacuuming them vigorously (if cloth) or gently (if leather) to remove any dirt or debris on the seats.
If possible, use the vacuum to clean the cup holders, center console, glovebox and the top of the dashboard. When you get to the back seats, make sure to also spend a moment vacuuming the rear deck.
Related: The Best Dashboard Cleaner Review
Step Five: If you have staining on the floors, utilize a carpet cleaner to remove those stains. This process might take substantially longer than other cleaning may have.
Make sure the windows are open so you are not overwhelmed with chemical fumes, so do not attempt this on a rainy day unless you do so in a garage or under a covered structure. Let the carpet cleaner set and then dab it; once the dabbing is done, clean the flooring exactly how you would clean a stained carpet.
Step Six: For the finer cleaning, go easiest first. Get a window cleaner and either a microfiber rag or soft paper towels. Spray and then clean any plastic elements of the dashboard, cupholders, glove box and center console.
Just make sure to pay close attention to what you are spraying, since upscale vehicles substitute leather materials or vinyl instead of plastic to provide a more attractive aesthetic appearance. All purpose cleaner tends to be the best way to clean car interior plastic.
Step Seven: If you have vinyl materials, clean them with an appropriate vinyl cleaner. Your owners manual should have a detailed breakdown of what kind of materials are in use in your interior, so be sure to check that to get the most accurate information on what products to use and on which surfaces.
Usually something as simple as combing a little alcohol with water should get any remaining dirt and debris from the vinyl seats. Use a sponge to clean these seats easily.
Step Eight: If you have leather seats, utilize the specialized car care products. These products should both help clean the seats while also moisturizing them to avoid any sort of cracking or damage to the seats.
If you have a vehicle which also has premium materials, such as leather, on the dashboard or as a highlight element in the interior of your car, utilize the proper cleaning element.
These areas almost never experience high levels of staining, so a quick process of cleaning these should restore their luster and have them looking great with minimal effort.
Related: How to Clean Your Dashboard Properly
Step Nine: Now you’ll move onto the detail work. Using either a toothbrush or cotton swab / Q-Tip, find any small areas of indented decals, small lips, small buttons, etc. Using these soft products, get into the small cracks and crevices and get them as cleaned out as possible.
Yes, this might be extremely detailed and perhaps further than you wanted to go, but if you’ve come this far, why not finish the job properly? Some of these small areas can be spruced up with a small spritz of glass or plastic cleaner, giving them a little extra shine just to be thorough.
Step Ten: Finally, you want to get the glass cleaner and paper towels and spray the glass of the interior. Start at the top of the glass and work your way down, usually spraying more than once per window. Position yourself as best as you can to get the glass of the windshield or rear window, understanding that there might be some very difficult areas to clean.
This is the final step to cleaning your cars interior, and once you have successfully cleaned the windows of your interior, you have cleaned every aspect of your car.
Cleaning the interior of your car might not be the easiest task, but it certainly has its rewards. Its hard not to feel great when you’re driving around in a vehicle that looks factory fresh on the inside.
It has often been said that anything worth doing is worth doing right, and cleaning your cars interior likely fits the bill.
Related: How To Clean The Inside Of An Engine
When it comes to leather seats, for example, the biggest driver of damage will be small granular dirt and debris; cleaning those seats will keep the leather in better shape and maintain your vehicles resale value.
These steps should help you effectively organize and efficiently execute the cleaning of the interior of your car. Following these steps will keep the interior of your car looking show-room-clean.