How To Clean Sticky Cupholders in Your Car


In this article you will learn:

  • What makes sticky cup holders so difficult to clean

  • The best way to remove stains from your cup holders

  • Which detailing products to use as a car cup holder cleaner

No matter how hard you may try to avoid them, stains and spills inside your car are inevitable. Maybe the lid to your coffee wasn’t fastened properly, or one of the kids made a mess of their soda and fries. Now there’s a gross, sticky mess for you to clean, especially all around and inside your cup holders.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to get your cup holders clean, even if those stains have had some time to set in! All you need is an interior detailer or a multipurpose interior cleaner and a microfiber towel!

What you need to know

In a perfect world, you would take a fresh, microfiber towel and some detailing spray and wipe the mess from your cup holders the moment it happens. But, most of the time, you’re in the middle of driving when something spills, and nobody wants to pull over or arrive late to their destination over such a mild inconvenience. So, instead, you quickly wipe the area with a napkin and forget all about it—that is, until your cup holders have become unbearably sticky.

The longer you allow spills and stains to dwell on and inside your cup holders, the more opportunity they have to bake in the sun, becoming increasingly difficult to remove. Over time, these stains can even react with the plastic of your cup holders, causing them to fade or become discolored.

To remove these stubborn stains from your cup holders, you’ll need a powerful interior detailer like Turtle Wax Dash & Glass or Hybrid Solutions Streak-Free Interior Mist that can break down these difficult soils and grime. The trick is to saturate your cup holders with a generous amount of product and give the formula some time to take care of those tough messes that won’t come clean no matter how much you scrub. You can also use our Multipurpose Cleaner & Disinfectant spray to perform the same task while killing 99.9% of germs to clean and sanitize your cupholders in one, easy step!

You’ll also need several microfiber cloths to wipe away any excess product or soils from your cup holders.

multipurpose cleaner & disinfectant

Remove any rubber inserts

If your vehicle’s cup holders come with rubber inserts, start by removing the inserts from each cup holder you plan to clean. You’ll want to clean these interior components separately to get rid of all the dirt and grime inside your cup holders.

Spray the inside and outside of each rubber insert thoroughly with your interior detailer or a multipurpose cleaner and disinfectant spray and allow the product to dwell for 3-5 minutes. Then, wipe them clean using fresh, microfiber towel. Repeat this process until you’ve removed all the stains and soils from your rubber inserts and set them aside.

Saturate your cup holders

Next, saturate each cup holder using the same detailer or disinfectant you used to clean your rubber inserts. Be sure to cover every nook and cranny in a generous amount of product.

Now, for the important part: give your cleaner enough time to dwell on the plastic of your cup holders. This is the best way to get rid of stains and soils completely. Depending on how long these stains have been allowed to dwell on your cup holders, the process may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

Check nearby surfaces for stains

Of course, your cupholders probably aren’t the only surface that got dirty when your food or drink spilled in the car. You’ll want to check the dashboard, carpet and upholstery in the splash zone for stains and soils. Be sure to inspect the area under the seats and around the center console. These surfaces are much less durable than the hard plastic of your cup holders, so it’s important to locate and take care of any messes as soon as possible to prevent any permanent damage your car interior.

multipurpose cleaner & disinfectant

Choose the appropriate cleaners

If you find any additional stains inside your car, use the appropriate cleaners to take care of the mess. If you have a stain on your carpet and floor mats, for instance, we recommend our heavy-duty POWER OUT! Carpet & Mats. If you need to clean your leather car seats and upholstery, you’ll need a leather cleaner and conditioner like Hybrid Solutions Leather Care. And, if you have stains on other areas of your plastic trim or dashboard, you can use the same interior detailer or multipurpose cleaner you used on your cup holders to wipe down these surfaces.

power out! carpet & mats

Wipe your cup holders clean

Once your cup holders have been allowed to soak for the alotted time, use a fresh, microfiber towel to wipe away any excess product and soils. Then, check for any residual stains. You may need to repeat this process several times to restore your cup holders to their original condition.

Protect your interior plastic

Once you’ve tackled the sticky stains on your cup holders, as well as other interior surfaces, use an interior detailer or protectant infused with UV inhibitors to shield your interior plastics from damage and make it easier to clean those stubborn stains in the future! If you used Hybrid Solutions Streak-Free Mist to clean and restore your cup holders, then you’ve already completed this step!

Now you can rest easy, knowing that the next time you or a loved one spills their drink, it won’t be the same headache to clean.


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