Cleaning Your Car’s Interior: From the Bottom Up

cleaning car interiorHaving a spotless car interior can make a used car look, feel and even smell like it just came off the dealer’s lot. And just like hand-washing your car’s exterior, cleaning your car’s interior is something you can do yourself at home if you have the right tools and know-how.

  • Carpet and cloth – You can start at the bottom of the car interior by cleaning the floor using a carpet and upholstery cleaner. If you have cloth seats, you can use the same cleaner on the seats. Note that the fibers of carpets and cloth upholstery are able to absorb smells (or the grime that causes them) more easily than any other part of a car interior, so keeping them clean is the best way to keep that new-car smell.
  • Vinyl or plastic – Most cars will have vinyl or plastic on the insides of the doors and on the dash, and some cars may have vinyl seats. You may be able to use a general, multi-purpose household cleaner for such surfaces, but you should first check the owner’s manual to see what’s recommended. Be wary of using high-gloss cleaners for control surfaces like the steering wheel or brake pedal; such cleaners often leave the surface slippery.
  • Leather – For leather seats or surfaces, you need to specifically use a leather cleaner and conditioner. Other cleaners can damage the leather rather than protect it.
  • Electronics – To keep from damaging built-in gadgets like an in-dash navigation or infotainment system, use a cleaning solution and cloth specifically designed for the screens of electronic devices.
  • Glass – Don’t forget the inside of the windshield and windows, which can be cleaned with standard glass cleaner. Spray the cleaner onto your cloth or paper towel, rather than the glass, to keep from splattering the dash with ammonia.
  • The details – There are many small seams, corners, switches and buttons in a car interior that need to be cleaned. For such hard-to-reach details, you can use small paintbrushes, foam brushes or cotton swabs.

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