Keeping the interior of your car clean and well-maintained has several benefits. First, by removing abrasive dirt, you can reduce the amount of wear on your interior. This can help your car hold its value better, giving you a better deal if you trade or sell it. Second, cleaning keeps bacteria and harmful chemicals from building up so much that they can pose a health risk. Third, riding around in a beautiful car will make you feel better.
Detailing your car interior can seem time-consuming and overwhelming. However, having a plan makes the job much easier. Here are a few tips to help you get the job done right.
1. Get organized.
I always like to make sure I have everything I need before I start. It’s worth the few minutes it takes to gather all the supplies together at once. I’ve found a few items to be very useful. Small tools such as a toothbrush and cotton swabs. These are so good for getting the dust and other debris in tiny crevices. I buy mine from the dollar store.
Mild soap. By mild, I mean very diluted detergent. A rag with a little of this on it will remove dust and small crumbs along with oil or stickiness from hands.
Water. It goes with the soap, which needs to be rinsed away.
Upholstery or leather cleaner. Keeping the seats clean improves the look of the whole car.
Microfiber cloths and paper towels. I prefer the cloths because they’re better for the environment and are less likely to scratch instruments.
Hand vacuum. Make sure it’s fully charged.
Trash bags. No matter how hard I try, I almost always have something in my car that I need to throw away.
2. Get rid of the clutter.
Papers, toys, jackets and various other items should be put away or thrown away. Remember to get any junk out of the little cubbyholes, the trunk, and the glove box. My car always looks much better after just this one step.
3. Start at the top.
The fabric ceiling cover is called the headliner, and it can get surprisingly dirty. If yours is stained, upholstery cleaner should remove any spots. If you don’t see any stains, use a barely damp rag to get rid of dust. Open the sunroof and clean around the edges with the toothbrush.
Remember to wipe down the sun visors too.
4. Get the glass gleaming.
Apply cleaner to a microfiber cloth to keep it from splattering onto the dash, seats, etc.
Clean the glass in firm swipes. Go over the area again to prevent streaks.
This is the time to clean the sunroof glass. Again, make sure to spray cleaner directly onto your cloth so nothing drips onto your seats. Keep the doors open to keep fumes from building up, especially if you’re using an ammonia-based cleaner. Mirrors are glass too – don’t forget about them. If you don’t want to use ammonia, try a homemade mix of one part vinegar and one part water.
5. Move on to the seats.
Spot remove stains with a cloth and upholstery cleaner. If the stains are really bad, let the cleaner soak in for a few minutes. You can then rub gently with a toothbrush and wipe off with another damp cloth. Be careful not to scrub too hard because this can cause more wear. If the seats are still damp, there are a few ways to help them dry. Leaving the windows open or laying down towels will help dampness evaporate. You can also use a wet/dry vac to speed the process.
6. Wipe down the dashboard.
Remove dust with a barely-damp cloth. Make sure it’s not too wet so water doesn’t drip into instruments. A lot of tiny crevices mean lots of spaces for dirt to accumulate. Clean around instrument edges and vent blades with dry cotton swabs or that trusty toothbrush.
Compressed air isn’t just for cleaning keyboards. I use mine to blow dust away from the stereo system and temperature control knobs. If you like your dash to gleam, you can apply a shine product. If that’s not your style, you don’t need to do anything else.
7. Remember the doors.
Treat these in the same way you do the dash. Wipe with a damp cloth, and make sure not to get any fluids into the window and lock controls. Pay extra attention to the driver side armrest, since it tends to get a lot of use.
8. The big job – the carpet.
From gravel and other debris from shoes to crumbs and bits of paper, carpets can get filthy. With a little work, they can look great again. Shake the floor mats over a trash can. If they’re really dirty, spray them down with a hose and let them dry outside.
Vacuum the floor, making sure to get under the seats. You’ll probably need a small attachment to get between the seat and center console. Move the seats back to make sure you get everything. I also vacuum the seats at this time.
Spot clean stains with the upholstery cleaner or with carpet cleaner. Carpet fiber is tougher than upholstery, so you can scrub with a little more force.
9. Make it easier next time.
Controlling clutter every day will help keep the interior looking nice. Plus, by doing a little regular tidying up, you can simplify cleaning day. If you like to keep items such as a spare jacket or an umbrella in your car, pick a good storage spot. Put a package of car wipes in the glove box to remove grime from the steering wheel or gearshift as needed. A small cardboard box with a plastic liner can be used for trash.
Detailing your car can be pretty simple once you get organized and get started. The payoff is well worth the effort. If your car interior looks great, you’ll enjoy the time you spend driving even more.