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5 Tips for Cleaning the Interior of Your Car

Posted by Rebecca Parsley on

For many of us, cleaning the inside of our car is less of a priority than taking care of the outside. It seems a bigger job somehow, especially if your vehicle is full of clutter. But interiors need some TLC too, to keep them in good repair and looking smart, so it’s an essential task every once in a while.

Here’s our guide to giving your car interior a thorough clean – while not making it too hard on yourself.

Clear it all out

Remove all the ‘stuff’ that has accumulated in your car, from old receipts and empty snack packets to kids’ toys and the extra jacket you threw in the back ‘just in case’ and then left there. Throw away any rubbish and return everything else to its rightful place. Pull out the parcel shelf, if you have one, along with the floor mats.

Mats and carpets

Shake any loose debris from floor mats. Rubber mats can be washed with soapy water and a brush, then rinsed and left to dry. Fabric mats will need to be shampooed, along with the parcel shelf – use carpet shampoo and follow the instructions carefully. Then hang them up or leave them to dry somewhere the air can circulate freely.

Clean the pedals in the driver’s footwell at this stage too. Use a wet, soapy cloth to remove dirt, then a clean one to wipe them dry.

Vacuum the floor inside your car, and then apply carpet shampoo. A spray-on product is easiest; most simply need to be left for a few moments before you work over each section with a cloth, and then vacuumed once dry.

Spotless seats

Go over the front and back seats with a vacuum cleaner, making sure to get into any seams and crevices. It’s easier for crumbs and other debris to build up than we realize! If you find it easier to use a brush, choose stiff bristles for fabric but soft ones for leather.    

  • Fabric seats: These are arguably the easiest to clean, as they need the same treatment as your car’s carpets. Use a fabric shampoo or specialist car interior product and follow the instructions. Go over each seat in sections from the top down, taking care not to soak them through with water; as well as taking a long time to dry, this can lead to mildew. Repeat the process for any stubborn marks or stains and use a dry microfiber cloth to mop up excess moisture afterwards.
  • Leather seats: These require a bit more time and care as they should be buffed properly to avoid a streaky finish. Use a leather cleaner to work over each seat in sections from the top down. If you need to get a feel for how much cleaner to use or how much pressure to apply, test a little on an inconspicuous area. Don’t spray cleaner directly onto perforated leather seats as it will soak through the holes; instead, apply it to the brush or cloth. Use a clean microfiber cloth to buff.
  • This is a soft, suede-like synthetic sometimes used instead of leather. Make sure you use a suitable cleaner; you can buy specific products, either ready-diluted or as a concentrate you mix yourself. Never apply undiluted cleaner as this can mark or stain. Mist the cleaner lightly and evenly over the seat, then use a soft bristle brush to remove dirt. Wipe with a clean microfiber cloth then refresh the textile’s appearance by gently running a vacuum nozzle back and forth, barely touching the surface.

Dashboard and console

There are likely to be some hard-to-reach areas around the center console, so move the seats back and forth as necessary to reach them. You could also use a long, thin-tipped brush to sweep out any narrow crevices. A bottle of compressed air is useful for blowing out dust and dirt but be sure to have a vacuum cleaner handy – otherwise, it will just be distributed elsewhere in the car.

Spray the steering wheel, controls and all surfaces with a suitable cleaner, and wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Use a second, clean cloth to buff to a streak-free finish. If you have interior chrome trim, use metal polish to restore its shine; apply carefully and use a soft cloth.

Window wiping

Prep the insides of your car windows and windshield by wiping first with a dry microfiber cloth – this will remove a lot of the surface dust and debris. Spritz a second cloth with a suitable cleaner and go over the glass in a circular motion, working from top to bottom. Avoid spraying cleaner directly on to the surface as this can make the glass hazy. Use a fresh cloth to dry the glass to a streak-free finish.