How to Clean & Detail the Interior of Your Car


In this article you will learn:

  • The differences between cleaning and detailing your car interior

  • Some good tips on car interior cleaning for weekly upkeep

  • The steps and car interior detailing products for a spotless finish

Have you ever considered that how clean you keep your car can be a reflection on you personally? When friends, family, dates and coworkers get in your car, you don’t want them eyeballing the dust on your dashboard, the dirt and grime in your floormats or the receipts and gum wrappers in your console. Here are some easy suggestions to keep the inside of your car looking good and an overview of the detailing steps you should take to really make it look great!

What’s the difference between cleaning and detailing?

The effort it takes to keep your car interior surfaces clean can vary, based on factors like weather, mileage, whether you eat or drink in your car, number of passengers, whether you have kids and pets in your car, whether you have leather seats and so on. That said, one thing’s for sure; your car should never require frequent interior detailing, when you’d deep clean your upholstery, shampoo your carpets and clean and protect every interior surface. For most people, that level of professional detail should be reserved for twice a year, such as the early spring and fall. The good news is you can keep your car nice and clean between detail jobs by adopting a few simple weekly or biweekly habits! It’s easiest to think of this as maintenance cleaning, just like you might do at home when you pick up odds and ends around the house or wipe down your kitchen counter.

cleaning and detailing

Get in the habit

Keeping your car interior looking nice is really just a matter of performing some simple, tasks, like emptying any trash, vacuuming your seats and carpet and wiping down high-traffic areas like your dash, console and door handles. We recommend using a microfiber cloth and pH balanced cleaning products that are specifically formulated for car interiors, such as Turtle Wax Multipurpose Cleaner & Disinfectant, or, if you want to clean your glass while you’re at it, you can use a glass cleaner like Dash & Glass. If you mostly drive solo, focus most of your effort on and around the cockpit area. If you have young kids, you’ll want to vacuum the back seat and child safety seats as well.

If you don’t already do frequent touch-ups like this, one of the best ways to make it routine is to attach it to something you already do for your car. For instance, filling up your tank and taking your car to the car wash are both great reminders, and they’re both indicators of how much you’re using your car. If it needs to be cleaned on the outside, it likely needs cleaning on the inside, too. Maybe you do it every time you get gas or wash the exterior, or maybe you do it every other time. Just keep an eye on how messy your car gets based on how you use it and start a habit based on the frequency it needs.

Another good habit to practice is removing stains from your interior surfaces as quickly as possible, ideally, immediately, but within 24 hours is just fine. Again, make sure you use auto-specific carpet cleaners, leather cleaners or upholstery cleaners like our Power Out!® Upholstery Cleaner.

dash & glass cleaner

Detail like a pro

As the name implies, auto detailing is a very involved process. Detailing the interior alone can take a few hours, depending on driving conditions and how you use your car. To get a true showroom sparkle, detailing is a necessary activity, but it’s a big enough job that you probably want to do it only 2 or 3 times a year. Here in our How-To section, we have a number of handy articles to walk you through every, single step of interior detailing, but here’s a quick overview to prepare you for what’s ahead and introduce you to the tools and products that will help you do the job like a pro.

Start by removing all your loose personal items. You just want to keep them out of the way as you work. Place them in a bag or basket and move them to your trunk.

Remove all your floormats and vacuum them. Then, vacuum the seats, reclining each and making sure to get into the seams of the upholstery. Next, move on to your carpet. Move your car seats forward and backward as you vacuum so you can reach the entire floor of the car. Shampoo the floormats and carpet and clean all the upholstery. Cleaning all of these surfaces first will give your carpet, mats and seats more time to dry.

Now, it’s time to clean and condition all the interior vinyl, plastic and leather throughout your cabin. You can use an all-purpose auto interior cleaner and follow it up with a conditioning product or use an all-in-one product like our Hybrid Solutions Streak Free Mist interior detailer to save time and effort. This detailer cleans and protects against extreme temperatures and damaging UV rays. Whichever you choose, a few high-quality microfiber cloths will help do the job right. We also recommend using detailing brushes or even an air compressor to get into the cracks and crevices you can’t reach with your fingers or a cloth.

As you near the end of your detailing job, re-vacuum your seats, carpet and floormats. As you’ve worked in the car, odds are some debris settled onto those surfaces.

Lastly, clean your windshield and windows with an automotive glass cleaner and a glass-specific microfiber cloth. As a finishing touch, don’t forget to roll down each window a couple of inches and clean the window edges.

If your seats, carpet and mats aren’t dry by the time you’ve finished cleaning, we recommend the leaving the windows open if your car is in a garage or cracked if it’s outside, allowing air to circulate throughout the car interior. This will speed the drying time and help you avoid any mildew odors inside the car you worked so hard on.

Whether it’s fresh from a routine cleaning or a full-on detailing, your car will be ready to make a great impression!

detail like a pro


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