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How to clean your car’s interior » Car Care Advice » Archive

How to clean your car’s interior

Car Valeting, Detailing and Car Care Advice       May 1st, 2006     by Anna


After doing the outside, Inside seemed like a doddle, there was no danger of me actually damaging anything!


First I did the inside windows (which should have been the first job on the car if I had done things the professional way! See here). I had a bottle of spray on glass cleaner that I got from a pound shop and a dry microfibre cloth.
Microfibre cloths work better on windows when they are slightly damp, but window cleaner is designed to dry without smears so it is best to have the cloth damp with window cleaner instead of water.

As I said in the Exterior part of this article, when I tried cleaning the inside of the windows when the outside were dirty, I couldn’t see what I was doing - but there is a trick to this. Hold your spay bottle of window cleaner about 20 inches from the window and squeeze the trigger hard so that you heve a fine mist all over the window. Although you may not be able to tell whether the dirt is on the inside or outside, you can see that the mist is on the inside so you know which bits you have done.
Also mist your microfibre cloth with window cleaner so that it is slightly damp and then wipe the windows. The microfibre cloth just soaks it all up and leaves the windows very clean. You will always miss a few bits and have to go back at the end no matter which way around you do things.


Cleaning inside the carNext I cleaned the dashboard and interior plastics. I used the same microfibre cloth but rinsed it out, wringed it out and sprayed some general purpose cleaner onto the cloth.
They make general purpose cleaners especially for cars but I am told that they are for the most part pretty similar to household products so I used my favourite which is Bugs Away. It’s anti-bacterial, bleach free and safe when kids are around and it has a nice smell. I do find that many car products are designed by men and the smell of them is overpowering and are masculine or flowery - I much prefer a clean fresh smell.

This is important! Spray your general purpose cleaner onto the cloth, not onto the plastic. The reason is that there are so many electrical bits in cars that you can end up causing hundreds and even thousands of pounds worth of damage to your car if you put on too much and it runs down into the cracks.

A word about dressings

I didn’t use any interior plastic dressings because I have been warned against them. There are two problems, first they make the dashboard too shiny and cause glare, which is really dangerous. The second thing is that it causes build up and can get sticky, which is nasty. The old dressings tended to be made from silicone, you can now get water based matt dressings which over come these problems, but I haven’t tested any but will do so in the future and let you know.

Vacuum Cleaning

I got out my mother-in-law’s Dyson (I’m told by Gary that it’s worth paying a bit more money and getting an Electrolux. This discussion caused a bit of a stir but I’m going with Electrolux as it’s Swedish! Although at home we have an industrial sized Henry.) and a stiff brush. This works because while you are vigorously rubbing the brush on the upholstery you move the dirt to the surface. Here is the best way to do it on a four door. Remove the mats to some place clean and dry. Start in the drivers area, move the drivers seat backwards to show the carpet. Work from the top down vacuuming the seat and then the carpet. You can use a brush on both seats and carpet, you can use a very stiff brush on he carpets and be quite aggressive. While you are in the driver’s area, vacuum the right side of the passenger’s seat and the area down the right side of the passenger’s seat. Don’t worry too much about the left side of the driver’s seat and the area between it and the centre consul as this is best got at when doing the front passenger seat area. It sounds confusing when typing it out, but it’s really quite simple - honest!

When you are happy with the driver’s area, move the driver’s seat all the way forward and then move to the rear passenger seat area which is behind the driver, and do what you gotta do there.

Next, move to the boot area and vacuumed that, in case you haven’t noticed by now, we are moving clockwise around the car (unless you have a left hand drive in which case you go widdershins.) Just in case you can’t guess the rest — next move to the rear seat behind the front passenger’s seat, moving the front passenger’s seat all the way forward, then after vacuuming there move to the front passenger’s seat area moving the front passenger’s seat all the way back and vacuuming there not forgetting to vacuum the right side of the driver’s seat and the area between the driver’s seat and the centre consol! Phew!

Use a paint brush as a duster while cleaning air vents and around the centre consul, but wrap some tape around the metal ferrule to prevent scratches.

While doing this I found £2.50 and a boiled sweet which I gave back to my mother-in-law.

Poor (wo)man’s shampoo

Because my mum-in-law takes care of dogs I used an upholstery foam cleaner to get the seats and door panels smelling fresh and dog free.
I used a foam cleaner from Wynn’s. Gary told me this is great stuff and that everybody should keep a couple of cans around the house. I took his advice and have been using it to clean the stuff which my 5 year old daughter pounds into my carpet at home. My verdict is that it is a good general upholstery cleaner, but it is fantastic for certain things, especially general grubbiness left by pets and husbands.

To use it in the car, mist it over the seats enough to make them damp and leave for a moment, then wipe over with a microfibre cloth. It’s surprising the difference this can make.
Just as with the window cleaner, microfibre cloths work fabulously well with this product. They seem to grip girt and act like a magnet to grime - I like microfibre products!

Some cars will just be too grubby for this to work and will need a going over with a proper shampoo machine (and extractor apparently) but although these machines are quite cheap to hire it’s best not to do it yourself - there are all sorts of issues with modern cars which can lead to serious problems so it is much better to go to a professional valeter for this.


The mats in the car were brushed roughly with the stiff brush, beaten and bashed until they looked clean. This was actually the hardest part of the whole car. I have been told that it’s best to do these first while you still have the energy. I have also been told that you can pressure wash them at the garage and this is a far easier way of doing it. Place them in a plastic bin bag and take them home to dry. But don’t put them in the washing machine as some mats and some washing machines may get damaged.

Finishing touches

The windows where cleaned again with the window cleaner and the microfibre cloth to get any bits I had missed, as where the wing mirrors and rear view mirror as well.

By now I was well and truly done for and stepped back to admire my handy work. I had done a nice job! there is a certain satisfaction in cleaning your own car, because it really shows when you have done a good job.

Needless to say I am now in my mum-in-laws good books and she is more than happy for me to test out new things (products) on her car!

Good Luck with your own car!

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