Consider for a moment your car's role as your roving personal space. Inside it, you eat, you drink, you sneeze, you spill coffee, you kick muddy boots around the carpets—it's sort of like you're encapsulating yourself in a contaminated bubble of filth. (How comforting!) And while you likely treat your car's interior to the occasional vacuum and wipe-down, it's worth investing in a little extra TLC, especially in the spirit of spring cleaning. Here are the surprisingly grimy spots that we tend to overlook. Detail-oriented driver: Have at it.
Yup, carpets. And not just your floor mats, either. The carpet below your mats is full of nooks and crannies, from the pedals to the backseats, trapping dust, dirt, and (gross) smells. And in a dark interior, any wayward speck shines like a disco ball. Pull the mats and focus on the area below the pedals: A thorough deep cleaning with a deodorizing foam like Turtle Wax Power Out! Carpet & Mats Cleaner, a professional-strength carpet cleaner, will loosen up outdoor grime and get rid of the funk that emanates from sweaty driving shoes when you're heel-toe downshifting like a rally champion.
Nobody sits in it (at least, we hope that's the case), but it can still get gross back there. Active lifestyle accoutrements, sidewalk-familiar rolling luggage, and garden supply purchases can add up to a mess that winds up on your stuff. The tougher carpet back here, designed to take the abuse, is easy to scrub clean. But don't forget the area underneath the spare tire lid, where dirt, road salt, and moisture can accumulate—especially if you've recently suffered vehicular mayhem and used your spare tire.
Be honest—when was the last time you cleaned up there? What's above your head can trap the smells from smoke or food, and may take on strange blotchy stains that resemble Rorschach tests. The headliner (OK fine, "roof") is tricky to clean: Not only do you have to strain your arms reaching above your head, but the soft fabric retains moisture and can become even more discolored if you use the wrong product. Take a gentle cleaner—like Power Out! Upholstery Cleaner from Turtle Wax—that eliminates odors, blot out stains with a soft cloth, wipe it dry, and repeat. Then take a deep breath. Chances are, your car smells better already.
You hit a pothole hard and your fountain soda goes haywire in your center console. It'll be fine, you think—you don't need to wipe it up immediately. But a spilled drink that dries in the hot sun can leave your cup holders with the same grotesque stickiness as a college freshman's dorm floor. These days, most cars have removable rubber liners: Just pop 'em off and wash them by hand with a multi-purpose cleaner. Then wipe around the plastic with a damp sponge. Evidence of shameful Big Gulp consumption: destroyed.
Specifically, the little seams between the seat bolsters. They're magnets for dirt, and given enough time, all the little bits that get trapped there—dirt and pocket lint, fried chicken breading and French fry scatterings—will wear down the stitching, potentially tearing unsightly holes in your seat cushions. Before you clean the rest of your seats, vacuum down the grooves to pick up larger pieces. Then use a brush attachment to gently wipe away any remaining detritus.