Has the time come to clean your car interior? Well if it has you basically have three options:
1. Drive your car to a professional car wash and let them clean your car’s interior.
2. Visit a self-serve car wash with vacuum cleaners, water hoses, etc, and do the cleaning yourself.
3. Clean your car interior at home, by yourself, using some household items.
The focus of this article will be on the third option. With the steps that are going to be shown you’ll be able to clean your car interior pretty well and it will take about an hour of your time.
Of course, it’s completely free provided you have some common household items.
At the end of this article, you’ll see some hacks that will perhaps help you clean the car interior more easily.
Also, if you’re not in the mood for reading, you have a video tutorial at the end of the article or you can watch it on our YouTube channel.
WHY SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR CAR INTERIOR AT HOME?
The most obvious benefits of investing some time into this will be:
Letting professionals clean your car interior isn’t that expensive, in most cases. For a common cleaning, it will cost you from 5 to 20 Euros, depending on the thoroughness of the job.
This doesn’t include deep cleaning or detailing which is much more expensive.
So, for 5 to 20 Euros you can have a clean car for the next couple of weeks, all depending on the habits of yourself and of your passengers (if you have any).
On the other hand, if you like to eat in the car, smoke in the car, have children in the back seat often, then this cleaning will last for two weeks at most. Then you’re back to square one.
To simplify, you’ll have to give a couple of dozen Euros each month to keep the car interior in good and clean condition.
Multiply this by twelve months and you’ll get a significant amount of money spent on cleaning the car interior (maybe over 100 Euros per year).
This is enough money, for instance, to pay some bills, buy some car tools or buy a year’s worth of supplies to clean your car’s interior.
Besides this, you can also read a separate article on how to properly wash your car by hand and maybe save some additional money.
Cleaning the car on your own means that you’re the master of your time. No need for drives to the car wash, waiting, appointments, or else.
Just plan an hour of free time and you can get the job done without going anywhere.
Maintaining proper hygiene of the car interior on a regular basis
Perhaps the most important factor. We all spend a great deal of time in the car and keeping the interior clean is both good for aesthetics and why not, your health.
When you learn how to clean your car’s interior at home, you can maintain a constant level of cleanliness and proper hygiene of the interior.
DIY cleaning enables you to react immediately and save your car from becoming a chicken coop.
Enjoy the pleasure of a DIY job on your car
If you like a tidy car interior and have some car DIY enthusiasm in you then the joy of transforming a chicken coop into a shiny, fragrant salon is priceless.
This is one of those DIY car jobs where a small amount of invested time can give some great results and satisfaction.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED?
1. Vacuum cleaner
The common household vacuum cleaner will do a pretty good job. If you have a semi-professional one even better.
If you have a battery-powered one you can also use it. It’s very convenient as it doesn’t have a cord to get in the way. But the results may not be that good if the car interior is very dirty (in most cases, it has less power than the classic vacuum cleaner).
The same goes for a 12 volt one which you can plug into the car’s electric installation.
Before you start, make sure to clean the dust bag for better results. Also, have at hand the plastic extensions for those tight parts in the car interior (for instance between the seats and the central console).
2. Paper towels
Best use thicker ones. Have a whole roll of paper at your disposal although you probably won’t need that much.
3. Window cleaner
Just use the one that you use for the windows around the household. You can buy more professional ones but I think it’s just a waste of money in most cases.
4. Plas chamois cloth or clean cotton cloth
Almost all drivers have a chamois cloth in their car equipment. With this versatile cloth, you can clean the dust and filth on the dash, give the windows a primary scrub with water, etc.
If you don’t have one, use a bigger piece of clean cotton cloth.
5. Some clean warm water
Prepare a plastic bowl of clean water. This is good for primary cleaning of things like hardcore mud or window stains. Also good for rinsing the chamois or cotton cloth if needed.
6. Dishwasher sponge
You may ask what’s the purpose of the sponge. The answer is lower in the article. Sort of a hack which you may not know off.
7. Spray for car interior plastic
This is optional and you don’t have to use it. Some people don’t like the fragrance and shiny look afterward.
To tell you the truth, I always use it to give that nice final touch.
The main advice here is don’t overdo it so the car interior doesn’t look like a flashy circus. Just apply a thin film.
Try to find a spray with a fragrance you like and with protective components for plastic (like against UV radiation, one that repels dust, etc).
8. Upholstery cleaner
This is also optional and I wouldn’t classify it as necessary to clean the car interior at home.
Rather use it if the upholstery has some more hardcore stains or to improve the overall look at the end.
A refreshment would certainly be great, but if the upholstery is already in good condition, then you don’t have to use a cleaner.
9. Air compressor
Now, this is very optional.
Most drivers don’t have this at hand or around the household. If you do, at the end of the article you can see the very effective and helpful use of an air compressor to clean your car’s interior.
10. Wet wipes
These will also come in handy. Most drivers keep a package in the car for various reasons anyway.
Besides the hack with the air compressor, you can also see one with wet wipes at the end of the article.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CAR INTERIOR AT HOME-COMPLETE PROCEDURE
Before we start I just wanted to say that the steps shown below don’t necessarily have to be done in that order.
If you find that switching some steps will do a better job for you, by all means, do it that way.
Now for the actual procedure:
1. Take out the car mats
Once the car mats are out, shake off the filth. If they’re made from textile, vacuum them also before returning them back into place.
If they’re made out of rubber, you can clean them with some warm water and car shampoo or soap.
Using a pressure washer is the best solution for cleaning if you have one.
2. Clean the garbage out of the car
Get rid of any garbage like paper, tissues, or else that may have gathered over time. This way you will have fewer obstacles when vacuuming and cleaning.
This is also a good opportunity to de-clog the car interior from various items that you don’t need.
Making a revision of these items from time to time is both useful and makes more space in all of the compartments.
3. Clean the dust, mud stains, or other primary filth
Use a wet chamois or cotton cloth and go over the dashboard, central console, trim parts around the footholds, anywhere that you can see dust, mud stains, or else.
This is the beginning step so you don’t have to detail that much. The point is to get rid of the primary filth.
If you don’t and later, for instance, apply a spray over it you’ll just get a filthy layer that is later even more hard to remove.
Rinse the cloth with warm water from time to time for a better effect.
4. Vacuum the car interior
I would advise doing one side first ( for instance the driver’s side front and back seats and then the co-drivers side). Vacuum everything on that side (carpets, seats, upholstery, etc).
This way, if nothing else, you’ll have less trouble and work moving the vacuum cleaner and cable around.
Depending on how much the carpets and seats are filthy, you may have to repeat the vacuuming several times.
Move the front seats backward as much as possible so you can reach under and around the seats where a lot of filth is accumulated over time.
When vacuuming the rear seats, move the front seats forward as much as possible.
Don’t forget to vacuum the trunk (boot).
For this job, best use the plastic extension wand for better reach. You can also clean dust using a brush extension (especially good for ventilation openings).
5. Clean the car windows
Cleanliness of the car windows is very important. Proper cleaning means no smudges or smears which is good for visibility, especially during a night drive.
Prepare the window cleaner and paper towels.
If you have some hardcore greasy stains on the windows best use some dishwasher detergent mixed with warm water.
After that, use a cotton cloth for wiping (the detergent is hard to rinse out of the chamois). You can use paper towels as well. Repeat until the stains are completely off.
Afterward, apply the window cleaner and wipe with a paper towel. Going up and down, around the edges of the windows, and then using circular movement works best for me.
If you can:
Clean the windshield first, especially the inner side. In most cases, it’s the hardest window to clean and the edges are hard to reach. Repeat several times and change the paper towel more often to get the best results. Try not to leave any smears as this will seriously affect visibility. The outer side is less complicated. You may need some extra effort to remove bug stains or other hard-core stains.
Clean one door window at a time, first the inner than the outer side of the glass.
Don’t forget the trunk (boot) window. Clean the inner side as thoroughly as possible as this will reduce fogging. Be careful about the rear heater, on some cars you can damage it so pay attention.
Clean the rearview mirror, side mirror and if you remember, the sunblock interior mirror.
Lower the windows a bit so you can reach the upper part of the glass that goes in to the door sill.
6. Clean the upholstery
As already mentioned this is optional. If the upholstery is in good shape then some simple refreshing with a wet cloth will do a good job.
However, if there are stains, try using the upholstery cleaner. Use or buy one specifically for that task.
In most cases, they have a very good effect and don’t need rinsing. So, just apply the cleaner and wipe.
Besides the cleaner, there is one more very effective and simple way to clean the upholstery. It’s shown at the end of the article.
7. Use a spray for car interior plastic
In the end, the final touch.
The car interior spray will refresh the look of the dashboard and other plastic parts besides repelling dust from them.
Lots of people make a mistake and use it like they would use a paint spray. They mercilessly spray it all over the cabin giving the car interior a shiny, circus-like look.
This is neither good for aesthetics nor for future cleaning. The plastic gets a thicker coat of spray making it sort of greasy and making future cleaning harder.
Rather use short bursts and make ˝spots˝all around. Then use a clean cotton cloth and spread the cleaner around. This way you’ll get a thin protective layer on the plastic and a normal refreshed look.
There’s one, more practical way to apply the spray and it’s shown lower in the article.
8. Return the car mats into place.
9. Open all the doors and let the car vent out. This will reduce all of the fragrances from the cleaners to a normal level. Also, if you’ve used an upholstery cleaner the interior will dry out more easily (cleaners may leave the upholstery a bit moist).
If you close everything up once you finished the cleaning, an unpleasant odor could appear.
CLEANING HACKS FOR THE INTERIOR
For the end a couple of hacks for cleaning your car interior at home.
I use them myself regularly and they’ve proven to be very effective. I hope they will help you too.
Cleaning the car interior with an air compressor
If you have an air compressor around the house, you can use it to clean your car interior at home.
You can even clean it just with the compressor (if you have nothing else at hand).
Put a classic compressor pistol onto the hose and start blowing away dust and dirt out of the car.
This method is very good for hard-to-reach-places like between the front seats and the center console, air vents, or else.
Also gets out all that filth that a vacuum cleaner wand can’t reach.
The best results will be if you vacuum the car interior afterward.
But even if you don’t, the results will still be pretty good.
Use a dishwasher sponge to spread the spray for car interior plastic
Over years of cleaning the car interior at home, I’ve seen that using this will both give a better aesthetic effect as well as save a significant amount of spray over time.
You can spray the cleaner onto the sponge and apply it over all the plastic parts.
For even better results, put some spray on both the sponge and the plastic.
You’ll see what I mean once you try this out. The result will be a nice refreshed look and the interior plastic will be evenly covered.
Certainly better results than with a simple cotton cloth.
Of course, make sure to use the soft side of the sponge. not the one for scraping.
Use wet wipes to clean the upholstery or stains on the plastic parts or trimming
Wet wipes are very effective against smaller stains on the upholstery and plastic trimming.
Also good for taking off stains quickly. Besides that, there’s no drying afterward.
I, for instance, mostly use them for taking off stains and dirt on the back seats and door upholstery.
On my previous car, I had a nasty oil smudge on a white piece of plastic trimming (leftover from fingers when the car was repaired).
With wet wipes, the stain was gone.
To conclude: for less demanding stains, try using the wet wipes before the upholstery cleaner or other types of cleaners.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author at Despairrepair.com
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CAR INTERIOR AT HOME? YOUTUBE VIDEO