How To… Clean Your Car’s Interior Properly So It Looks Great And Keeps You Healthy

Follow our easy step by step  guide to cleaning your car’s interior and you’ll have it spotless in no time.

Why spend time cleaning your car’s interior?

You’re probably reading this because you want to impress your date with a beautifully smelling car when you pick them up – or your car is just gross and smelly after not being cleaned for months. Come on – we all let it get like that sometimes.

Fact – Did you know your car’s interior is usually far dirtier than your house! Consider this; Your vehicle is a small, confined space which may rarely be ‘aired’ out. There’s also a million and one places for bits of food to hide, which turn into mould and bacteria. Every time you enter your car, you tread more muck and dirt from the street into your carpets.

A very dirty car that needs cleaning - Michael Theis

Research commissioned by Ford showed that car interiors which aren’t cleaned regularly can become breeding ground for mould, bacteria and fungus – that’s pretty gross right? The steering wheel and the areas around cupholders were the nastiest places for those nasty bugs but the gearstick, door handles, radio buttons and screens are all problem areas too.

No problem though, we’re going to get that interior spotless with our expert tips.

Let’s get cleaning that interior

How long will it take? For a thorough clean you are looking at around 1 hour or more. Of course, once you have done a ‘big’ clean, the next clean will be a lot easier and quicker to do.

What do I need?

You only need a few basic things to get going.

  • A vacuum cleaner (possibly a wet and dry vac for a really dirty interior)
  • Interior cleaner spray
  • An interior spray shine if you want a glossy finish
  • Several soft microfiber cloths

These stages aren’t complicated or difficult, and once it’s done, you’ll remember for next time. If not, use this How-To again – simple!

Start by vacuuming the car first

This is because as you vacuum you will naturally kick up dust. Get this done first and you won’t have to re-dust the interior again later.

Firstly, strip out all your mats (if you have them) and clear the car of any rubbish you don’t want the hoover to suck up – pens and coins especially tend to collect in car interiors after a while! If you want to be hugely thorough, you can take out the driver/passenger seats (see Top Tips at the bottom of this page before doing this).

Vacuums usually come with different end pieces – use the long narrow one to get into all corners such as down the sides of your seats and around the edge of the carpet wells. If you have a soft-bristle piece, use this for any plastics to avoid scratching them. Remember, if you have carpeted door cards, hoover those too. The boot, or trunk, always collects a lot of dirt, so remember to give it a really good clean too.

1.B. Using a Wet and Dry Vacuum

If your car is exceptionally dirty or stained, you need to use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner. Always give the car a good hoover out beforehand to get rid of the main dry dirt, and then tackle it. Remember though, don’t over-use the water as it can actually stain the material more.

Note that Suede and Alcantara are quite ‘fussy’ materials, and can very easily stain or mark. Be exceptionally careful when cleaning these, and use only specific products designed for these materials.

2. Dusting

If your interior hard surfaces are exceptionally dusty, start by using a damp cloth to wipe away the majority of dirt. Next, use an Interior Cleaner spray with a microfibre cloth. If it’s a good product, it should work well and clean the plastics thoroughly. If you have a leather dash, wipe the surface down with a slightly damp cloth and apply a leather cleaner and feeder (see Leather section).

3. Protecting

After you’ve done the dusting, the surface now need protecting. Some Interior Dressings include U.V. protection qualities, which help keep your dashboard from looking sun bleached. If you live in a warmer climate, this is a must!

Remember, if using a protector on your dash, use a low-shine product. There’s nothing worse than a bad reflection in your windscreen while driving.

4. Looking after Leather

Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE 2015 luxury leather front seats drivers seat side view

Leather seats are durable but with the right treatment they’ll look great and last a lot longer.

We’ll be writing a How-To on looking after leather soon, but for now here are a few ideas. Firstly, using a damp microfibre cloth, wipe down the leather seats and any other dead cow/ostrich/crocodile/whale (insert your animal of choice here) coverings you may have in the vehicle.

Next, use a leather cleanser to bring out the dirt. Each manufacturer will have different ways of using their products, so read the labels first.

After this, use a hair drier on its lowest heat setting to warm up the leather, and then apply a leather dressing/feed. Warming the leather allows the dressing to work its way into the hide, ensuring good protection. Always use a soft, dry microfibre cloth to wipe down the leather surfaces after finishing to ensure any product residue is gone.

Note; some cleaners and feeders are only suitable for certain leathers, so slightly unusual ones such as dyed Aniline will need a specific product using.

I’ve got a dog, so my car’s interior is a mess. Help!

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review-4150

Dog proof covers and mats can make it a lot easier to clean your car’s interior.

Okay, so you’ve got a dog. That means hair, drool and bits of embedded chew-toys plastered to your interior. It’s not going to be easy to clean up, but persevere and you’ll get there – there is no quick way to do it. If you regularly let Bertie the Boxer dog run riot in your vehicle, it’ll probably take a couple of hours at least to get it done. Once you’ve cleaned the car though, it’s time to either invest in some good quality thick dog-proof seat covers, or be mean and use your other half’s car.

Top Tips

Attached to the underneath of a lot of car seats are wires and cables which can be part of the airbag system. Unplugging these can sometimes result in a costly trip to the dealership to have them reset, so check they are okay to remove beforehand.

Keep a small bottle of that alcohol-based hand wash in your glove box. It’s gets rid of nearly all germs and bacteria that may be on your hands – making you less likely to transfer them onto your vehicle’s interior.

Keep a pack of interior wipes and a microfibre cloth handy in your car in case of any spills – they also help to keep your interior tidy too.

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

Photo Credit: A Dirty Wicked Camper Michael Theis

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