How to clean your car interior: A step-by-step guide

How to clean your car interior: A step-by-step guide

You’ll need a few things to get started but once you’ve got the essentials, follow this handy guide to get your car interior looking good as new in no time.

If you’re wondering how much you might save by doing it yourself, you can check out our blog ‘How much does car detailing cost?

What you need to clean your car interior

There are a few things you’ll need to get started. Below is a fairly comprehensive list of everything you might need, with a few added extras to make your life easier. We’ve put a star next to everything we think is really essential, but you can decide as you go on what is essential to you.

  • Anti-bacterial wipes*
  • White vinegar*
  • Washing up liquid*
  • Rubbing alcohol (also known as surgical spirit)
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Spray bottle*
  • Clean microfiber cloths (at least 3, or you might have to clean them between steps)*
  • Duster*
  • Bucket
  • Bin
  • Vacuum cleaner*
  • Sponge
  • Toothpicks
  • Cotton buds
  • Old toothbrush
  • Stiff scrubbing brush
  • Paper towels

Optional: Shop-bought window cleaner, carpet cleaner, and fabric cleaner


1. Get rid of bits and bobs

The first step of cleaning your car interior is to get everything out that doesn’t need to be in there. Any clutter in cup holders and door pockets, kids toys, and dog leads in the boot all need to go, at least for now. Go through with your bin and clear out everything you can get your hands on.

2. Take out and clean your floor mats

Once you’ve got rid of the clutter, take out your floor mats and give them a really good clean. If you have fabric mats you can give them a good shake and a vacuum away from the car. You could also then scrub them with a sponge soaked in warm water and either washing up liquid or carpet cleaner (just make sure you follow the instructions if you’re using carpet cleaner). Or if they’re suitable for machine washing you can just follow the label instructions and pop them in the wash. For rubber mats, shake them off and give them a scrub with a stiff brush dipped in warm water and washing up liquid. It’s a good idea to clean your floor mats as early as possible when you’re cleaning your interior because they’ll need to dry fully before you put them back in. You can pop them back in the car once you’re finished cleaning everything else -just make sure they’re dry.

3. Clean the dashboard, centre console, cupholders, door panels, and steering wheel

While your floor mats are drying, you can get started on dusting and disinfecting all the surfaces. Use an old toothbrush, toothpicks, and cotton buds to get in all those hard-to-reach places around your dials, buttons, and charging points (without dropping any cotton buds down your vents too!). Try to be careful around buttons and speakers, as they can be fragile. If you have removable cup holders, you can take them out and give them a good scrub with hot water and washing up liquid.

Once you’re happy with your dusting, wipe down everything you’ve just dusted with antibacterial wipes. It’s good to take special care over your door handles, centre console, and steering wheel, as they’re all areas that get touched a lot. Be careful if you’re wiping screens or buttons as they can be sensitive. Try to avoid using ammonia-based cleaning wipes, as they can cause damage to screen protectors and strip the labels off buttons.

4. Clean your seats

Cleaning your seats is actually a pretty simple process. Mix warm water with a few drops of vinegar and washing up liquid,then spray it on a cloth and make small careful circles to wipe the seat down. Leave it to dry thoroughly with the doors open and then vacuum out any little bits of dirt left behind. Although methods can vary slightly depending on whether you have fabric seats or leather seats, and you might even want to try making a water and bicarb paste for particularly stiff stains.

For a more detailed method on cleaning your car seats, you can check out our blog ‘How to clean car seats

5. Clean inside your windows and windscreen

When your seats are done, it’s a great time to get started on your windows and inside your windscreen. First step here is to make a 70:30 mixture of water and rubbing alcohol, with a couple of drops of washing up liquid and a bit of vinegar. Dust the windows with a dry microfiber cloth first, then spray your cleaning mixture onto a clean microfiber cloth and wipe down the window. You can then follow up with another wipe down, this time with shop-bought window cleaner, to get your glass sparkling. If you’d rather not, you can skip this step and just dry the window straight away with a clean microfiber cloth.

If you’d like a more detailed method for cleaning inside your windscreen and windows, you can check out our blog ‘How to clean inside of windscreen: A guide

6. Vacuuming your car

The last step in the cleaning process is to vacuum your whole car. Get in every little corner  - it’s a great opportunity to make full use of every special nozzle your vacuum cleaner comes with! Don’t forget the boot and around the pedals on the driver’s side. Once you’ve vacuumed and everything that needed to have dried, you can put your floor mats back in place and you should be good to go.

Getting rid of smells in your car

If you’re cleaning your car interior and notice that a smell just isn’t going away, there are a few things you can do to sort it out. Smells like damp, cigarettes, dogs, or even old spilt milk can all be cleared with a good dusting of bicarb, once you’ve finished cleaning with the methods above. If you’ve got a particular patch that’s smelling, sprinkle on a good amount of bicarb and leave it for a couple of hours, or overnight for particularly strong smells. Once you’re happy, vacuum everything up and leave your car to air out. You can use a piece of charcoal whilst the car is airing to catch any last little bits of smell.

Just a note: if your car is smelling of rotten eggs and bicarb isn’t doing the trick, there’s a chance you might need to change your catalytic converter. It might be best to get your car checked out.

A few final tips…

So, cleaning your car interior is as simple as following the steps above. It might take a while to get in all the little nooks and crannies, but a lovely clean car can be well worth the effort. Here are the last couple of things to remember when you’re cleaning your car interior:

  • Having all the cleaning products ready to go, stored in one place, can save time.
  • To avoid mould and damp, if you wash something, make sure it’s completely dry before you put it back.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.