How to Detail a Car Interior: Steps and Procedures
November 19, 2012
Learning how to detail a car interior keeps your vehicle in pristine condition. Moreover, a clean and sanitized interior will enhance your driving experience. Also, regular car care protects your investment. And you can pick up everything you need to know about car interior detailing with a little help from our mobile detailing experts.
Our technicians at DetailXPerts are passionate about car care. Download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to learn how we guarantee a greener clean:
We’re happy to share tips and advice so that you can maintain a good-looking car. Let’s get straight to how to detail a car interior.
How to Detail Car Interior – 10 Steps and Procedures
DIY car cleaning and sanitizing can be a money saver. In addition, the results of your hard work can give you a sense of accomplishment. So, if you feel up for the task, follow these steps and procedures to clean your car like a pro.
1. Gather Your Car Interior Tools
Collect the essential tools and supplies. Useful car interior detailing tools include:
- Car vacuum with various attachments
- Steam cleaner to kill viruses and germs
- Glass cleaner
- Upholstery and carpet cleaner
- Microfiber towels
- Soft-bristle car wash brush types
- Leather conditioner (if your car has leather seats)
Also, make sure you have a selection of the best car interior detailing products. High-quality items will restore sanitization and shine to your vehicle.
2. Remove Clutter and Personal Items
Start by removing personal items, trash, and unnecessary items from the interior. A tidy car helps you assess the level of cleaning required. For example, stained upholstery and ground-in dirt will need more time and attention. The same goes for pet odors if you’re following steps how to get bad smell out of car.
3. Vacuum Car Interior
Your car interior detailing kit should include a good vacuum cleaner and a few attachments. Ensure your crevice attachment is good-quality plastic, not metal. You don’t want to risk damage to leather or vinyl upholstery. If you need help choosing a reliable model, see our guide to the best car vacuum cleaners.
Here are the steps to vacuuming a car:
- Take out all the floor mats and shake off loose debris. Set aside to clean later. Also, leave the floor area until you’re ready to shampoo the carpets.
- Vacuum the ceiling first. Working from top to bottom saves you from cleaning the carpet and seats twice should any dirt fall from above.
- Vacuum the console, vents, and door panels. Use the crevice tool or a small detailing brush to clean air vents and other tight spots.
- For stubborn dirt in the dust in vents, consider using a can of compressed air for a more thorough cleaning.
- Begin vacuuming the seats, starting from the headrests and working your way down. Use the appropriate upholstery brush or attachment for fabric seats and a soft brush for leather seats. Make sure you clean crevices and seams where dirt and debris gather.
- Finally, don’t forget to vacuum the trunk space.
4. Wipe Down Surfaces
Knowing how to deep clean car interior can help avoid the spread of germs and viruses. Pay special attention to high-touch points such as the steering wheel and controls.
- Use a suitable interior cleaner to wipe down and disinfect surfaces like the dashboard, center console, and steering wheel. Always use a product compatible with your car’s material (e.g., plastic, vinyl, or wood).
- To keep your dash from cracking and fading, regular treatment is a good idea. After cleaning the hard surfaces, use a protectant product once a month.
- The easiest way to treat the dash and console is to use a foam applicator pad. Spray your vinyl protectant on the applicator, not on the dash or console, then gently rub it in. Allow the product to soak in for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, buff the dash and console dry with a microfiber detailing towel.
For more tips on how to detail a car interior, read our 5 steps to complete car sanitization.
5. Detailing Door Panels
Here’s how to clean door panels effectively.
- Thoroughly clean around door handles, pulls, and window cranks using a toothbrush and soapy water.
- Clean and dry the speaker grilles and the wells on the armrests, too. If the door panels have storage pockets, use your sponge or wash mitt to clean these areas, as they collect a lot of dirt and dust.
- Next, use your sponge or wash mitt and soapy water to clean all the way around the door frame and the door sill. When you’re finished, dry the door completely with a clean towel. This will help prevent streaks and water spots.
- If your car has leather door panels, apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a clean cloth and gently rub it into the leather. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow it to soak in properly.
6. Cleaning Car Upholstery
Learning how to detail the interior of a car like a professional involves cleaning different types of car upholstery.
- If your car seats are fabric or cloth, use an appropriate upholstery cleaner to to deep clean car seats. Use a soft-bristle brush to gently agitate the cleaner and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.
- For particularly dirty seats, you can use home remedies to remove stains from car seats. For instance, make a solution with baking soda and water and apply the paste to the stain. Leave for up to 30 minutes, then rinse.
- For leather car seats, use a leather cleaner and conditioner to clean and protect the leather. Apply the conditioner after cleaning to keep the leather in pristine condition.
- If you have access to a steam cleaner, read our tips on how to steam clean car seats. Steam deep cleans seats and removes stains effortlessly.
If you need help, our car interior detailing service offers upholstery cleaning. We use steam because it is safe to use on most upholstery materials, including leather.
7. Cleaning Car Interior Windows
You can clean car windows in a few easy steps. First, use a glass cleaner for automotive use to get professional-looking results. Equally important, avoid using household cleaners that contain ammonia as they may damage tinted windows.
- Spray the glass cleaner directly onto the interior side of the windows. Start with one window at a time to ensure the spray doesn’t dry on the glass.
- Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe the glass in a back-and-forth or circular motion. Ensure you cover the entire surface of the window, including corners and edges, i.e., lower the window slightly to clean the top edges.
- After cleaning, use a separate dry microfiber cloth to buff the window. This technique will ensure there are no missed spots or streaks.
8. Shampoo Car Carpets
Before you shampoo or steam clean car interior, vacuum the floor area to remove any crumbs or dirt.
- Vacuum the floor thoroughly, working from one side to the other. Use back-and-forth overlapping strokes to ensure you don’t miss anything. Focus on high-traffic areas and spots where debris is likely to accumulate, such as near the pedals.
- Move the seats forward and backward to access the area beneath them. Use the crevice tool to reach tight spots between the seats and the center console.
- Use a store-bought carpet shampoo or make a DIY car carpet cleaner. Dip a scrub brush or soft-bristle brush into the shampoo solution and work it into the car carpet in a circular motion. Start from one corner and work your way across the entire area. You can also make a car carpet stain remover to tackle heavily soiled spots and stains.
- Using a wet/dry vacuum or a clean microfiber towel, extract the shampoo and water from the carpet. Blot the area gently to remove excess moisture and dirt. Continue this process until you’ve cleaned the entire carpet. Repetition is a key part of learning how to detail the interior of a car.
- If possible, park your car in a sunny spot to speed up the drying process. Also, open the car doors and windows to let the air circulate.
- Alternatively, if you have a steam cleaner for cars, direct the pressurized steam into carpet fibers to dissolve any build-up of dirt. We know how effective this method is! Our professional detailers use steam cleaning technology to clean and sanitize car interiors. Steam is also great for banishing odors. And it is gentle enough to use for cleaning car AC vents.
- For more tips, watch our video, How to Clean a Car Interior Using Steam.
9. Scrub Car Mats
Your car mats gather a lot of dirt from shoes and bags, especially during wet and winter seasons. Therefore, it’s important to vacuum and clean them regularly. We have a video on how to clean rubber car mats. Alternatively, follow these steps:
- Firstly, fill a bucket with clean water and add a small amount of mild detergent or all-purpose cleaner. Mix the solution to create a soapy mixture.
- Dip a scrub brush or soft-bristle brush into the soapy water and thoroughly clean both sides of the mats. Pay extra attention to stains and heavily soiled areas. The brush’s bristles will help loosen dirt and grime effectively.
- After that, rinse the mats with clean water. If the mats are still dirty or have stubborn stains, repeat the scrubbing and rinsing process until the mats are clean.
- Finally, shake off excess water from the mats. Place them on a flat surface or hang them to air-dry. Ensure they are completely dry before returning them to the car. This will help prevent mold and mildew growth.
Green tip: If you want to save water and protect the environment, steam cleaning is a greener way to make your mats look good as new. And they’ll dry in no time. Moreover, pressurized steam has little-to-no runoff water. So, there is no risk of harmful chemicals and pollutants affecting the ecosystem.
10. How to Detail Car Interior: Final Touches
Lastly, look around the interior to ensure you haven’t missed any areas. For example, the places inside the car that DIYers often forget to clean include under the pedals, sun visors, and the glove compartment.
Your vehicle should smell clean and fresh. However, if there are lingering odors, inspect carpets and upholstery to ensure there are no traces of stains, mold, or mildew. By all means, buy a car air freshener if you want a fresh scent. But avoid strong fragrances that might irritate passengers.
In summary, knowing how to detail a car interior has many benefits. For one, a clean and fresh interior makes driving a pleasant experience. After all, who wants to drive around in a dirty car? Also, cleaning your car is great for reducing stress levels! Repetitive tasks like washing, vacuuming, and detailing can be relaxing. So, why not give it a try. Finally, not only are you protecting your investment, but also it can give you a feel-good boost. Especially if you take pride in driving a clean and well-maintained car.
If you want to learn more about how we clean cars the greener way, download our free Eco Wash Benefit Guide: