Even with regular cleaning, dust accumulates on surfaces. Add in kids, pets, or trips to the beach, and your car needs immediate attention.
Getting professional detailing done by car cleaning pros can be costly, but you can do it yourself with tools and cleaning supplies that you probably have on hand. Some home hacks include rubbing alcohol, distilled white vinegar, or dish soap. Baking soda is also perfect for removing odors and absorbing oily stains.
HOW OFTEN TO CLEAN YOUR CAR INTERIOR
How often to clean your car depends on driving conditions, how the vehicle is used, the number of passengers, and how frequently you drive. A thorough cleaning of the car's interior twice a year should suffice.
However, safety is the priority for car maintenance—clean interior windows at least monthly or when grime impedes your ability to see oncoming vehicles. Remove trash and debris from the driver's floorboard and dashboard when it interferes with the vehicle's controls.
FOLLOW THESE STEPS TO KEEP YOUR CAR'S INTERIOR IN IST BEST SHAPE
Gather Trash and Debris. Remove car seats, toys, and other items from the car and trunk. Gather and dispose of all the trash from the floorboards, cup holders, door pockets, and seat pockets.
Remove and Clean the Floor Mats. To clean car floor mats effectively, remove them from the car. Shake or vacuum the mats to remove loose debris. Place them on a tarp or drop cloth. Use a carpet or upholstery cleaner for carpeted mats. For rubber, vinyl, or silicone mats, use a hose to wash away excess soil. Mix warm water and dish soap in a bucket, dip a scrub brush in the solution, and clean the mats. Rinse well and let them air dry. Some carpeted mats may be treated with stain remover and machine-washed, but check the label.
Clean the Interior Windows and Mirror. You will need a microfiber cloth and an ammonia-free commercial window cleaner, or make your own solution (see below). Note: An ammonia-based cleaner can damage interior plastics or dashboard touchscreens, removing anti-glare or anti-fingerprint coatings. Lower the windows slightly and start at the top of the window and work downward, catching any drips along the way. If you have tinted windows, read the cleaning product's instructions to ensure it's safe for your windows.
Clean the Center Console.
Clean the center console and cupholders by removing any removable parts and soaking them in warm soapy water. Scrub them clean and wipe with a soft cloth. For tight corners, use an old toothbrush, cotton swab, or a wet paper towel wrapped around a dull knife or screwdriver tip. Use a toothpick or tweezers to remove debris from small nooks. You can also use a vacuum's crevice tool to remove dust particles.
Remove Dashboard Dust and Grime. Use a duster to remove dust from the dashboard and cotton swabs to get into small spaces around vents and knobs. After dusting, use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to remove grime and fingerprints. Tip : Wrap a slightly damp microfiber cloth around a ruler or wooden paint stirrer to clean the narrow crevice where the dashboard joins the windshield. Slide it through the crevice to collect the dust or debris.
Disinfect the Steering Wheel. Germs and bacteria can accumulate on the steering wheel and gear shift knobs over time. Use a disinfecting wipe to wipe clean these high-touch surfaces. Buff dry with a clean microfiber cloth.
Clean Leather Car Seats. If you have leather car seats, use the vacuum crevice tool to carefully remove dust and grime from stitching and the area where the backs and bottom seats join. Wipe down each seat with a commercial leather cleaner made for automotive care or a solution of saddle soap and water—some cleanings are made with cars in mind, so the conditioners absorb in less than 15 minutes, and you can get back on the road. After cleaning the seat, consider using a leather conditioner to restore suppleness and shine.
Clean Cloth Car Seats. For cloth car seats, start by vacuuming each seat well. Pretreat heavily-stained areas with upholstery cleaner or specialized stain treatments. Make a paste of powdered oxygen-based bleach and water for dye-based stains. Apply the paste to the stained area, let it work for at least one hour, then vacuum away residue. Use upholstery cleaner on the entire seat, scrubbing with a brush and wiping away with a damp cloth. Avoid over-wetting the upholstery to prevent mold growth. Blot the upholstery dry with a towel and let it air dry. Also, clean the seat belts using upholstery cleaner on the fabric straps and wiping down the metal fasteners and clasps with a damp cloth
Vacuum and Clean the Interior Carpet. Vacuum the car's carpet or floor to suck away all the dirt and debris. If there are stains on the carpet, use a commercial carpet cleaner and follow the instructions. Remember to vacuum the trunk's carpeting.
Clean the Door Panels.The door panels may be a combination of carpet, vinyl, or leather. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the finishes and clean out the pockets. Remember to clean the back door or hatchback. Keep the doors open when cleaning so the dirt and dander land on the outside of your car.
Tackle Tough Odors. If your car smells stale, sprinkle the carpet and cloth seats with dry baking soda. Let it remain overnight. Vacuum it the next day. Control lingering odors by placing baking soda or activated charcoal in a sealed plastic container. Cut some slits in the lid and put it under one of the seats. Change the contents every other month. For persistent odors, purchase a commercial upholstery odor remover, like Febreze or OdoBan. Bring the car to a professional detailer for strong, foul odors like mold. Organic stains soaked into the seat cushions can grow into a moldy mess that surface cleaning or other DIY remedies can't fix.
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CAR INTERIOR CLEANConsider keeping automotive gel in your car to frequently clean out vents and other hard-to-reach places while stuck in traffic or otherwise spending time in your vehicle.
Put a silicone baking cup in your cupholders to keep them cleaner for longer.
Organize your glove compartment with a mini expanding file so you have more room to hold small cleaning tools for in-between cleanings (and to keep things from falling out of your glove compartment).
Use backseat pet covers and a rubber glove or lint roller to wipe up fur that's settled on the seats or carpet.
Keep a small sealed container in your car door pocket for bits of trash that ends up on the floor or cupholders. A narrow pet treat holder or cereal dispenser works well.
If you frequently have kids in the back seat, invest in kick mats to ward off muddy footprints on the seat backs.
What not to use when cleaning a car interior? Do not use any heavy-duty cleaning ingredients like bleach, ammonia, benzene, thinners, hydrogen peroxide, or harsh and abrasive cleaners. These chemicals can damage upholstery and interior surfaces.