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How to Clean & Detail the Interior of Your Car – Best Tips & Tricks

How to Clean & Detail the Interior of Your Car – Best Tips & Tricks

What you will need

Vacuum Cleaner. A vacuum cleaner with an extension hose and hand-held attachments is ideal – you’ll need attachments to clean carpets and tight, hard-to-reach nooks. A steam cleaning machine can be helpful too.

Cleaning Products. It is likely that you already have the necessary products on hand to clean surfaces including vinyl, plastic, upholstery, and carpeting. Take a quick inventory your car’s surfaces and assemble a basket of your favorite cleaning products.

Wiping and Polishing Materials. For serious detailing work, you need a wide assortment of towels and rags – everything from terry cloth towels for scrubbing to lint-free, fine cloth rags for cleaning and polishing. For a perfect shine on surfaces without the worry of scratches, you can use a microfiber cloth. Before you start, make sure the cloths are clean of chemicals.

Brushes and Applicators. Different-sized brushes and sponges are a must for cleaning dust from air vents and other hard-to-reach places.

When using cleaning products on your car’s interior, make sure that they are meant for your car’s surfaces. If in doubt, test it on a small area. If a blemish or stain results, it will be hidden from view.

Carpets and Floor Mats

This is a good place to start given carpets and floor mats tend to be the dirtiest. However, depending on how dirty the rest of the interior is, you may want to clean the carpet las.

Before you begin, remove all coins, papers, junk food wrappers, and other objects that have gathered in time. Move  seats forward and backward to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Floor Mats

Remove the floor mats and vigorously shake the dirt loose.

If a good shake is not enough, try using a stiff brush. Once all the mats are dirt-free, wash them out with water from your garden hose. Allow them to air-dry completely. If you wash mats with a detergent, make sure the cleaning product will not leave mats slippery and unsafe while driving.


First, vacuum the carpet completely. Use the brush attachment and various nozzles of different shapes and sizes to clean crevices and areas around the seats. Spray the detergent on the carpet and brush it in with a medium-stiff brush, applying some elbow grease to stains and problem areas. Take care not to get the carpet too wet as this can promote the growth of mold or mildew. If the carpet becomes saturated during the process, use a clean, absorbent towel to blot it dry.


The three main types of material used for car seats are leather, vinyl, and cloth upholstery, each requiring different cleaning methods. Give your seats a thorough vacuuming first to remove dust and dirt..


Luxurious leather does have a drawback: keeping it clean and looking new can be difficult. As time goes by, dirt and grime become embedded into the surface, possibly changing lighter-colored leather to a dingy shade. Fortunately, a good leather-cleaning product can take care of that in no time.

Most leather-cleaning products must be sprayed or applied to the seat, worked into the material by rubbing with a towel. If using a towel, make sure to flip it often so that you are constantly using the clean side. Once the cleaning process is complete, dry the seats with a microfiber cloth. Allow a couple hours for the leather to dry thoroughly and finally apply a leather conditioner.


Compared to leather, vinyl seats are piece of cake. Cleanup is quick and easy. Many products that you may already have will work fine. Even some brands of glass cleaner do a good job.

Spray the car seats with the cleaner and wipe with a cloth. Wipe down the seats completely; using a second cloth to dry and in about an hour or so your vinyl car seats should be ready for use.


When cleaning cloth car seats, you must check if there are tough stains you have to take care of. Do the seats need a general cleaning or do you also have to get rid of nasty odors? These factors will determine the type of product or method you use. When dealing with a tough-to-clean cloth seat, be careful and don’t use much liquid because the more damp the seats become – he more musty the seats will smell. The use of baking soda before cleaning will help absorb any weird smells.

Windows and Mirrors

A glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth can work perfectly when cleaning glass surfaces. It is better to spray the cleaner on the cloth and not the glass area as this will reduce streaking.

If you have tinted windows, be cautious. Some tinting is part of the window while other tinting is actually a sheet applied to the inside of the window – these are easily damaged by cleaning products (especially those that contain ammonia). When in doubt, contact the shop or vendor that applied the tinting.

If you are dealing with streaks, it can be maddening to figure out whether it is on the interior or exterior surface of the glass. To combat this frustration, wipe exterior glass surfaces horizontally while wiping interior glass surfaces vertically. This way you are never in doubt which side the streak is actually on.

Front Panel

This is the area that we see most. Unfortunately, thanks to all the knobs, switches, vents, and dusty nooks and crannies, it can seem difficult to clean – but not if you have the right tools.


This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the interior to clean.

Vacuum all the dust before you apply a cleaning product, making sure to reach as far as possible during the entire process.


The many buttons and controls in your car can be a nightmare to clean. Dust can get into every crack and crevice. But there is a simple trick to fix this.

Simply wrap a cloth around the tip of a flat-head screwdriver. That will allow you to reach and clean all areas.

Air Vents

Use a brush, to wipe off as much of the vent grill as possible – this will take care of most of the dust.

Door Panels

In many cars, door panels are made of a material or combination of materials that are the same as the upholstery, the seats, dashboard, or other parts of the interior. Whichever methods and products that were used on those areas should be used on the door panels.


Lingering odors, especially those caused by cigarette smoke and pets, can be difficult to remove. Before you rush to purchase any odor-eliminating product, make sure there is nothing causing the offensive smell stuck in a hidden or hard-to-reach place – even the best product can’t permanently neutralize a horrible odor if the source remains. If you are certain the odor is coming from the upholstery or carpet, generously use the odor removal product to neutralize the unpleasant smell. These products are designed to take care of even the toughest, most unpleasant scents.

Final Word

Unless you drive a significant amount, a thorough interior detailing every six to eight months should be enough. The first time you detail the interior of your car, expect it to take longer, especially if it has not been cleaned in a while. However, if you continue to detail your car at regular intervals, it will maintain that “new car” look and feel for many years.