How to Clean and Detail a Car Interior

Renault Laguna Coupe interior 1 photo
Photo: Original image created by autoevolution
It was three or four years ago when you bought you brand new car. At the time, a full leather interior in beige or even gray seemed like a good idea, as it lifted the spirits on those winter days. “I want thick carpers as well, thicker than on a Rolls-Royce,” you also thought to yourself.
The years have, of course, not been kind to your light leather and thick carpets. Because of grime and dirt, the colors don’t match between the door cards and the seats, the carpets look too disgusting to touch and the steering wheel is all sticky.

Most guys only do thorough cleanup when it’s time to sell the car. It might seem like a daunting task, but the end result could be just the thing to help you rekindle that lost romance. Time to clean an interior!

First things first, let’s do a bit of spring cleaning… the basic stuff first. Take all the carpets out and start vacuuming. Remove the big stuff by hand to ensure the misses won’t kill you for ruining a household appliance. Move the front seats all the way back to do a proper job. If the back seats have removable bottoms, it’s time for them to get cleaned as well. Snap on the vacuum cleaner’s small brush attachment and do the seats, all the holders and trays, plus the plastics to ensure there’s no dust left.

The right tools for the job are essential, so make sure you have a brush to clean out all the big particles before you vacuum, and the crevice tool for your hose so you can get into all the corners.

That was the easy part. Now it’s time to get professional! You need to rent yourself a deep-cleaning machine for carpets from your local hardware store. It should be no more than $15-20 per weekend but will make a hell of a difference once all is said and done. It’s pretty easy to use. You fill it with a carpet cleaning formula, hot water and plug in. Spray, scrub, suction and repeat until your interior looks like new.

There are plenty of spray-on solutions that you can use but they don’t have the same deep effect, plus you run the risk of leaving patter in your car which will start to smell. The same deep cleaner vacuum can be used for the seats if they’re covered in fabric, but do make sure you don’t use cleaning products that may affect them.

Right, time for the scary part. Use clean towels and a designated leather cleaner for your beloved sets. Make sure the solution is properly diluted and won’t do damage. Lightly mist and then gently wipe. The worst thing you can do is to work the dirt back into the leather, so flip the towel constantly. Remember, towels cost next to nothing compared to that $1,000 interior.

Anybody who’s worn a leather jacked out in the rain will have noticed it becomes stained of brittle. Seats are like that as well, so you need to use a dedicated leather conditioner, which restores the essential oils that make your seat soft to the touch.

Chances are, you have a leather steering wheel and gearshift knob as well, so grab a clean microfiber towel and put on some leather cleaner, going over and gripping the wheel, removing the oils and grime from your hands gripping it.
Your dashboard plastics may be harsh to the touch, but that doesn’t mean they can take a beating, so use dedicated car plastics cleaner and microfiber towels so you don’t put scratches in. There are plastic conditioners that are supposed to prevent aging and keep the colors in, but please make sure to avoid those annoying silicone products that leave everything shiny and a bit sticky.

The devil is in the details, so make sure to detail the car. This is where your personal time proves more important than paying a car wash to do it. Panel lines can be cleaned with a rag on top of a screwdriver, air vents will contain dust, there’s… stuff sticking to the radio buttons, and don’t forget the seatbelt might be dirty.

The last thing you can do if you’re a neat freak or simply want to sell you car for a good price is use a odor remover. This eliminates the smells of cigarette buds, wet dog, hair stray, a double cheeseburger or spilled kid’s drinks. Now, it’s as good as new.

Have a memorable car cleaning experience!
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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