The Ultimate Guide to Interior Car Cleaning: How to Do It Yourself

You may not be able to afford professional detailing for your car on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the condition of the interior. You can do your own interior car cleaning using just basic cleaning supplies you already have around the house. Vacuuming, wiping down surfaces, and picking up the random junk that accumulates on the floor can keep your car’s interior looking fresh and new.

Setting up a regular cleaning schedule will make the tasks easier as you go along. Even when it comes to more stubborn problems like stains and odors, you don’t need professional help. All it takes it some specially-designed products to refresh and renew the interior. Another advantage of interior car cleaning is that it can add hundreds of dollars to the resale value of your car.

Most people wash their cars religiously every week, but when it comes to the interior, that’s a different matter. You may be accumulating food wrappers, receipts, and other miscellaneous junk along with a small helping of food crumbs and even splotches from spilled coffee or soda. You get used to this mess and hardly even notice it.

But neglecting to clean your car’s interior can have some adverse consequences, like reducing its resale value. If you have enough dust floating around on the inside of your car, it may even become a hazard when driving. Food crumbs and smells may invite local rodents to investigate and even set up house in the engine area. Over time, the condition of the interior will deteriorate beyond recovery.

One thing other hand, if you follow a regular schedule for cleaning your car’s interior, you can keep it looking like new. Vacuuming, dusting, and taking out accumulated trash and debris can make the interior as pleasant and attractive as the exterior. Once you get in the habit of cleaning out your car’s interior every week, with more serious cleaning on a monthly or yearly basis, you’ll find it easy to keep up with.

Can You Do Your Interior Car Cleaning Yourself?

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You may think that you should get your car professionally detailed at least once or twice a year, but even that comes with a price tag. It’s actually very easy to do your own interior car cleaning using simple cleaning tools like a car vacuum and soft microfiber cloths. Regular cleaning is the key to maintaining your car’s interior in pristine condition.

You can even handle more serious problems like stains, spills, and odors yourself. Being thorough and detail-oriented is the key to keeping your car looking like it was just professionally detailed.

How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Car’s Interior?

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Most auto detailing experts recommend following a regular roster of interior car cleaning tasks on a weekly, monthly, and bi-annual basis. A weekly cleaning routine can consist of wiping down solid surfaces with a microfiber duster, picking up pet hair with a special tool, and vacuuming the floor mats.

Every month you can do a more detailed clean-up, focusing on removing stains, cleaning windows and glass, and vacuuming the upholstery. You can also vacuum the vents to get rid of the dust, debris, and pet hair that often collects there. This is also a good time to get rid of any stains on the upholstery or food area.

Once or twice a year, you may want to do a serious cleaning of the upholstery. This is also the time to use a protectant for leather and fabric upholstery.

Interior Car Cleaning and Conditioning Guide

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Having the right materials at hand can make interior car cleaning much easier. You’ll need some very basic cleaning supplies that you probably already have at home. In general, it’s best to avoid very strong chemical cleaners, since they can harm the fabrics, leather, and vinyl and plastic fittings.

Specially formulated products for interior car cleaning and detailing are the best choice. They won’t leave any slippery or harmful residue on the upholstery, carpets, mats, or fittings. A handheld steamer is also a gentle and non-chemical way of getting rid of stains and odors.

What You’ll Need

A handheld vacuum cleaner with an extension hose and attachments to clean crevices is essential. If you have pets, you can get a special model that is designed to pick up pet hair. You will also need a soft microfiber cloth, as these are the best items to use to clean interior fittings and hard surfaces. They will trap and remove dust and dirt without scratching or damaging any surfaces

Additionally, you will need a firm bristle brush that is to be used to remove stubborn patches of dirt from carpets, mats, and upholstery, a pet hair remover mitt or sponge, a general purpose cleaner for hard surfaces like plastic, vinyl, and glass, and you will need a stain remover or spray-on fabric cleaner for stubborn dirt.

For a deep clean, you will need a tin of compressed air to get rid of dirt in awkward corners and a handheld steamer for cleaning fabric upholstery. It is also advisable that you have a protectant for fabrics and leather upholstery on hand.

Carpets and Mats

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It may be best to clean the flooring materials last so you can pick up the dirt dislodged from the seats, dashboard, and other surfaces. Begin with the vacuum cleaner and make the first pass to pick up loose dirt and debris. Remember to move the front seats forward so you can get to the dust and crumbs underneath.

For any stubborn bits of dirt, use a stiff brush to work them loose. It’s best to brush from the edges to the center and to collect the loose dirt in the middle of the mat and then pick it up with the vacuum.

If there are any stains, use a stain remover to get the fabric clean. Mats can also be cleaned out with a strong jet of water from the garden hose. They should be fully dry before being replaced in the car. If you need to deep clean the carpets and fabric upholstery, it’s best to use a handheld steam cleaner.

Seats and Upholstery

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Begin by vacuuming all seats and upholstery, including headrests and the back of the seats. Don’t forget to clean the doors as well. Use the crevice attachment to clean in the hard-to-reach areas where food crumbs tend to get stuck. Wipe down your seats with a damp towel to pick up any remaining fragments.

For deep cleaning, it’s best to use a steam cleaner. If needed, a chemical cleaner may be used, but it should be specially formulated for interior car cleaning and detailing.

Leather seats need special care. Once or twice a year, they should be cleaned using special cleaners, followed by a conditioning product that will keep the leather from drying out in the sun. A special protectant to guard against UV rays may also be used.

Dashboard, Vents, and Trim

Use a general purpose cleaner and a soft microfiber duster to wipe down the dashboard and trim. Use the vacuum and a can of compressed air to get rid of dirt from corners and angles. A foam swab can help get the dirt out the grills on vents and speakers.


The cupholders can be a problem area with spills from sugary drinks that tend to stick to the surfaces. Using a spray-on cleaner and a damp towel should get rid of the most persistent ones.

Windows and Mirrors

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Use glass cleaner and a soft microfiber cloth to clean windows and mirrors. It’s better to spray the cleaner on the cloth rather than on the mirrors and windows directly. This prevents streaking and also keeps you from getting the cleaner on other parts of the car.

To detail like a pro, remember to roll down the window and wipe off the line of grime that forms at the top of the glass. Attention to detail takes very little time and makes a big difference to the final results.

Getting Rid of Odors

Bad odors in your car can be due to a number of sources such as food, kids, pets, and smokers. The quick and easy way to get rid of them is to use products specially formulated to remove odors. These can be sprayed or used as foggers. Some are specially designed to clean the bad smells from the air vents as well.

Additional Tips and Techniques

Then there are the stubborn stains and odors that can linger, making you despair of ever getting rid of them. Mud, grass, blood, coffee, and food are the worst offenders here. Persistence is the key to getting rid of stains and odors. You can try experimenting with several different products before you find the one that works best for you.


For most people, interior car cleaning is something of an afterthought. But with just a little effort, you can keep your car looking as if it is regularly detailed by professionals. Setting up a schedule for weekly, monthly, and bi- annual cleaning will make the upkeep easier over time.

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