Vacuuming front car seat

While the condition of your car’s exterior usually makes the first impression, you don’t want to neglect its interior. A good rule of thumb is to keep the inside of your car just as clean and tidy as the inside of your home. To do this, start making interior car care a regular part of your car maintenance regimen, just as you would with its exterior.

Step 1: Take Out the Trash

Many car owners spend a lot of time in their car, traveling or commuting to work. This often allows for clutter to accumulate. If you’re guilty of this, make it a point to regularly clean out your car. Try to throw away clutter such as fast food bags, cups and unnecessary items. Keep items like sunglasses, coats, umbrellas, ice scrapers and other accessories organized inside the car, either under seats, in the glove compartment or in the trunk in a storage bin.

Step 2: Vacuum the Interior

Before vacuuming, make sure all clutter and other items have been removed or stowed away. Remove both vinyl and upholstered floor mats from inside the vehicle and shake them out away from the car. Lay them aside for cleaning later on. Use a vacuum, preferably a shop vacuum, to remove all dirt, dust, crumbs and debris from the floor, seats, ceiling, crevices between seats and other hard-to-reach areas. Don’t forget to clean under seats as well.

Helpful Tip

Use the shop vac’s crevice tool attachment to get in between seats and in other tight spaces.

Remember, regular vacuuming not only makes your car clean and look better, it also helps reduce stain buildup and decreases wear on upholstered surfaces caused by the friction between dirt and debris and the interior carpet.

Step 3: Clean Carpet and Upholstery

After vacuuming, wipe down the carpet and upholstery with a slightly damp cloth. Soiled spots from food and drinks on your carpet or upholstery can be cleaned with household carpet cleaner. Read the manufacturer’s directions carefully and test the cleaner in an inconspicuous area to be sure that it won’t fade or otherwise harm the carpet. Spray cleaner on the soiled area and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Gently scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush to remove ground-in particles and stains.

Helpful Tip

If you own or can borrow a heat/steam carpet-cleaning vacuum, use it on the carpet and upholstery for a deep-down clean. Remember to let the inside of the vehicle dry out before driving it again. Leave windows or doors open for quicker drying time.

If you have upholstered floor mats, clean them during this step, using the same process as above. Remember to vacuum them as well. As they often take the brunt of dirt and grime, you may need to give them special attention. There are a number of heavy-duty carpet cleaners formulated to clean the tough stains that often form on car mats. If they are wet after cleaning, hang them up to make sure they are dry before you place them back into the car.

Helpful Tip

If you don’t use vinyl floor mats on top of your upholstered mats or the floorboard, consider investing in some. They can act as the first line of defense against dirt and grime that can stain upholstered mats or interior carpet, especially in winter when salt and water can do a lot of damage.

Clean vinyl mats with water, mild detergent and a scrub brush. Rinse them down with a garden hose and then hang them to dry while you finish cleaning the rest of the car. If your seats are leather, use high-quality leather cleaner and a cloth to wipe them down. You should also use a leather conditioner for your leather surfaces a few times a year to protect the leather from stains and cracking.

Step 4: Clean Dashboard and Console

Wipe down your dashboard, console, steering wheel, gearshift and similar areas with an appropriate cleaner. For vinyl and plastic surfaces, use a vinyl cleaner with a lint-free soft cloth to remove dust and dirt. Many car care product manufacturers also sell ready-to-use wipes made for cleaning the dash and other vinyl surfaces. You can also clean these surfaces with a damp, lint-free cloth and a small amount of mild detergent. Just make sure that the soap doesn’t leave a residue and don’t let it dry on the surface. If needed, use a damp cloth without soap to remove any soapy residue. Let it dry or towel it off with another dry lint-free cloth or towel.

Helpful Tips

Use cotton swabs dipped in water and detergent solution to clean inside vents and other small, hard-to-clean areas on the dashboard and console.

It’s best not to use any kind of cleaner on any wood surfaces inside your car, even if it’s artificial wood. Simply wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any grime or unsightly residue.

Step 5: Clean Windows and Glass

Clean your windows both inside and out with glass cleaner and paper towels. Don’t forget your mirrors and any clear plastic surfaces. Spray the window cleaner on the glass and then wipe with the paper towels in a circular motion in one direction to avoid streaking. View the glass from different angles so that you easily can see streaks and any dirt or fingerprints that you may have missed. You can also make your own window-cleaning solution by mixing together a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray it on glass surfaces the way you would commercial glass cleaner.

Helpful Tips

When cleaning dials or other glass surfaces don’t spray them with glass cleaner. Dampen a paper towel with window cleaner and then wipe the surfaces down. This will be sure that the sensitive electronics and mechanics aren’t damaged by too much liquid.

Don’t use glass cleaners containing ammonia to clean tinted windows. These cleaners can degrade the tint and make it weak and brittle.

Step 6: Apply Finishing Touches

When all vinyl or plastic surfaces have been cleaned and have dried, apply an appropriate vinyl protectant for a lasting shine and protective barrier. Simply spray the protectant onto a lint-free cloth or directly onto the surface and then wipe the surfaces down until they are shiny and new-looking. Many car care product manufacturers also sell ready-to-use wipes that make applying protectant quick and easy, even when on the go.

Use a fabric refresher spray on carpets and cloth upholstery to help leave the car with a fresh, clean scent. Add an air freshener product in the scent of your choice to keep the car smelling clean and free of odors. Return all floor mats back to the vehicle when you’re done.

Good job! A maintained car interior makes your car look better overall and sustains resell value.

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