Skip to main content

Tired of finding dust, pet hair, and last week's snack crumbs throughout your vehicle? Or perhaps you've noticed how a few days of regular use can turn even the cleanest car into something needing immediate attention. Whether it's the hustle of family life, outdoor adventures, or simply daily commuting in a city like New York, maintaining your car's interior is not just a courtesy to yourself and your passengers—it's a crucial part of vehicle maintenance.

Just like your home, your car's interior can quickly become a breeding ground for germs. Dust, dirt, grime, and spills will take their toll over time. But don’t worry; you don't need to be a professional to give your car's interior that fresh-from-the-dealership clean. Combining specialized products or even everyday household items can work wonders, ensuring your vehicle is a joy to ride in and retains its value in the long run.

This guide will arm you with the steps, tips, and tools to do the job like a pro. Say goodbye to stains and odors, and say hello to a clean, comfortable ride that's ready for whatever life throws your way.


What You'll Need:

Equipment / Tools:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Vacuum with attachments (hose, crevice tool, etc.)
  • Sponges, stiff-bristle scrub brush
  • Bucket, duster, spray bottle
  • Specialized tools like dull knives or flat-head screwdrivers (optional)


  • Ammonia-free window cleaner
  • Leather cleaner or saddle soap
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Home hacks such as baking soda, rubbing alcohol, white vinegar
  • Disinfecting wipes, water, paper towel

Keeping your car interior in top condition can be straightforward and satisfying with the right approach and tools. Let's dive into the details and get your car looking its best!

Vintage Car Dashboard


Step by Step: How to Clean Your Car's Interior

1. Gather Trash and Debris

Start by removing all the items from your car and trunk, including car seats, toys, and other personal belongings. Collect all the trash from the floorboards, cup holders, door pockets, and seat pockets, and dispose of it properly. This will give you a clean slate to work with.

2. Remove and Clean the Floor Mats

Floor mats are often the dirtiest items in a car interior. Remove all of them from the car for easier cleaning. Give each mat a good shake or vacuum and place them on a tarp or drop cloth rather than on the dirty ground. For carpeted mats, use a carpet or upholstery cleaner following the instructions on the product. For rubber, vinyl, or silicone mats, use a hose to wash away excess soil, then scrub them with a solution of warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Rinse well and let them air dry.

3. Clean the Interior Windows and Mirror

Use a microfiber cloth and an ammonia-free commercial window cleaner to clean the interior windows and mirror. Start at the top of the window and work downward, catching any drips along the way. If you have tinted windows, read the cleaning product's instructions to ensure it's safe for your windows.


4. Clean the Center Console

The center console usually includes cup holders that can get messy. If the cup holder is removable, allow it to soak in warm water with a few drops of dish soap. Scrub it clean with a sponge, then rinse well with fresh water. Dry and reassemble the console. To clean the gearstick and other controls, use a clean microfiber cloth that is only slightly damp.


5. Remove Dashboard Dust and Grime

Use a duster to remove dust from the dashboard and cotton swabs to get into small spaces around vents and knobs. After dusting, use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to remove grime and fingerprints.

6. Disinfect the Steering Wheel

Germs and bacteria can accumulate on the steering wheel and gear shift knobs over time. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean these high-touch surfaces, then buff dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

7. Clean Car Seats

If you have leather car seats, use a commercial leather cleaner made for automotive care to wipe down each seat. After cleaning the seat, consider using a leather conditioner to restore suppleness and shine. For cloth car seats, vacuum each seat well, then use an upholstery cleaner on the entire seat. Use a scrub brush to work the cleaner into the fabric, then use a microfiber cloth dipped in plain water to wipe away the cleaner and grime.

8. Vacuum and Clean the Interior Carpet

Vacuum the car's carpet or floor to suck away all the dirt and debris. If there are stains on the carpet, use a commercial carpet cleaner and follow the instructions. Remember to vacuum the trunk's carpeting as well.

9. Clean the Door Panels

Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the finishes and clean out the pockets of the door panels. Remember to clean the back door or hatchback as well.

10. Tackle Tough Odors

If your car smells stale, sprinkle the carpet and cloth seats with dry baking soda and let it remain overnight. Vacuum it the next day. Control lingering odors by placing baking soda or activated charcoal in a sealed plastic container and put it under one of the seats. For persistent odors, purchase a commercial upholstery odor remover. Consider bringing the car to a professional detailer if the smell is exceptionally strong.

Leather Seats

Creating and Using a Homemade Solution for Car Interior Cleaning

A Simple and Effective Way to Keep Your Car Fresh and Clean Using Items You May Already Have Around the House.

Gather the Supplies

First, gather a spray bottle, water, white vinegar, mild dish soap, and clean microfiber cloths. These readily available items are all you need to create your own car cleaning solution.

Prepare the Cleaning Solution

Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle, then add a dash of dish soap. This simple blend of household items can be a powerful cleaner for your car's interior.

Test the Solution

Before you begin cleaning, testing the solution on a hidden corner of the car's interior is always a good practice. This ensures that it won't cause any unexpected damage or discoloration.

The Finishing Touch

After cleaning, use a dry microfiber cloth to remove any excess solution. This leaves a clean finish without leaving any residue or water spots behind.

Remember the Manufacturer's Guidelines

As a note of caution, it's always wise to consult your car manufacturer's guidelines or instructions. Different materials and finishes may have specific care requirements, so make sure your homemade solution is compatible with your car's interior.

Car vents cleaning with a brush

Choosing the Right Tools and Brushes

Know Your Bristles: Selecting the right brush is crucial. Stiff bristles can handle the grime, while softer ones are ideal for gentle cleaning without damaging the surfaces.

The Right Brush for the Right Job

Consider what you're cleaning and choose the appropriate brush. Sturdy brushes for floors and gentler ones for intricate surfaces will make the job easier.

Invest in Quality Tools

Choose better quality tools that are built to last. Automotive-designed microfiber cloths and brushes will make your car's cleaning more effective.

Embrace the Microfiber Magic

Microfiber cloths are invaluable in cleaning. They wipe away dirt without leaving any scratches or lint behind.

These DIY tips provide an affordable and efficient way to keep your car's interior looking great. By gathering simple supplies, whipping up an effective cleaning solution, and choosing the right tools and brushes, you can make your car's interior sparkle without the need for expensive professional services. Your attention to detail and commitment to cleanliness will indeed reflect in every mile you drive.


How Often Should You Clean the Inside of Your Car

The frequency with which you should clean the inside of your car can vary greatly, influenced by factors such as your daily driving habits, the weather conditions in your region, and whether you often have passengers like children or pets.

For those who drive often and have messy passengers, a more rigorous cleaning schedule may be needed. Regular wiping and vacuuming might be part of your weekly routine, especially if you use the car daily.

A general guideline is to thoroughly clean the car's interior about twice a year. This biannual deep cleaning ensures that all the nooks and crannies are dealt with, removing accumulated dirt and possible allergens.

Professionals in the auto detailing industry, like Michael Dickson, president of the International Detailing Association, often recommend professional detailing at this same frequency - twice a year. This service typically includes deep cleaning and could involve restoration and finishing touches that exceed usual maintenance.

However, it's not just about the deep cleans. The interior of your car should be regularly maintained. A monthly routine for a thorough cleaning is advised, focusing on areas that accumulate dust and debris. This can include vacuuming the floor mats and seats, wiping down the dashboard, and cleaning the windows.

Between these monthly cleanings, adopting simple habits to keep the car tidy is wise. This might include wiping away surface dust and removing trash from the vehicle regularly or even just after each use.

Some enthusiasts may prefer a more frequent cleaning routine, especially if the car is used for specific activities or exposed to harsh conditions. A weekly cleaning might be beneficial in these cases.

In summary, how often you should clean your car's inside depends on your situation and how the vehicle is used.

A biannual deep cleaning is generally advised, along with monthly thorough cleanings, but this can be adjusted to suit your needs and lifestyle.

And remember those daily or weekly habits that keep your car looking and feeling fresh. The care you take in maintaining your vehicle's interior not only provides a more pleasant driving experience but can also extend the life and value of your car.


How to Keep Your Car Interior Clean

Alright, let's do a quick recap. This is New York City, you’ve got places to go!

Begin with a Clean Slate

Remove all personal items from the car and trunk. Collect trash from the floorboards, cup holders, door and seat pockets, and dispose of it properly. Start with a clear space to ensure a thorough cleaning.

Vacuum Like You Mean It

Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the dirt and debris from the seats, carpets, floor mats, and other areas of the car's interior. Remember to get under the pedals and along the side door panels.

Dust It Off

Use a soft or microfiber cloth to dust off the surfaces of the dashboard, console, door panels, and other hard surfaces. Make sure to reach all the hidden corners and edges.

Be a Clean Freak

Disinfect the high-touch surfaces, especially during cold and flu season. Focus on the steering wheel, gear shift, door handles, and buttons.

Take on Tough Spills

Spot clean any food or drink spills quickly to prevent stains and odors. Choose the right cleaner for fabric, leather, or vinyl surfaces.

Invest in the Best

Invest in quality cleaning tools like stiff or soft-bristled brushes. Also, consider automotive-designed microfiber cloths and other specially made cleaning tools.

Find Your Cleaning Rhythm

Determine the frequency of cleaning based on your driving conditions and lifestyle. Whether you need a deep clean twice a year or more frequent touch-ups, find the routine that works for you.

With these practical tips, you can maintain your car's interior with a personal touch. Your car is more than just a vehicle; it's an extension of your life and style. Keeping it clean and comfortable ensures a more enjoyable ride for you and your passengers.

Happy cleaning!


Post by Renny
August 16, 2023
Renny, a devoted car enthusiast, co-founded NYC's Head to Toe Detailing. His automotive expertise shines through his work and engaging content. Beyond cars, he explores in his '67 Mustang. Renny's passion and know-how define his endeavors.