Right Driver

How do you keep the inside of your car clean?

When you first buy your car from the dealer it will be immaculately groomed. Give it a few weeks, though, and it’s likely to have crisp packets, dropped sweets and other random rubbish unless you make an effort to keep it clean. It will be more difficult to do this if you don’t have an easily accessible parking space, such as on the road or in an apartment building car park. In this case, you’ll need to take cleaning products to the car or go to a petrol station. We spoke to a number of experts to get the best tips for keeping your car interior clean.

Lily Cameron who runs Fantastic Services said.

  1. Give your car interior a regular vacuum cleaning: A weekly vacuuming is the most important activity to keep your car clean. It can extract the dirt, dust and grime accumulated inside the car on various surfaces such as carpeting, upholstery, mats and in between the seat gaps. To clean crevices and areas around seats use the various attachments with different sizes and shapes of your vacuum cleaner.
  2. Wash the rubber floor mats: Give your rubber car mats a soap washing once a week. Remove the mats and shake them well to lose the dirt. Once all the mats are dirt-free, cover them with soap detergent and let it sit for several minutes. Then rinse away the soap completely using a garden hose and allow the mats to air-dry completely.
  3. Wipe down windows and mirrors: When it comes to cleaning car windows, you can use a commercial glass cleaner or make your own cleaning solution using equal parts hot water and distilled vinegar. To reduce streaking spray the cleaner on a clean microfiber cloth rather than on the glass itself and avoid cleaning when there is direct sun on the windows.
  4. Do not smoke inside the car: Avoid smoking inside your car to prevent the tobacco smell from getting absorbed into the car interior. Once your car is soaked with that obstinate odour, it will be very difficult to get rid of the smell.
  5. Clean the car’s dashboard weekly: Vacuum the dash using the brush attachment of your cleaner to pick up any debris and dust. Wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, handbrake and interior plastic of your vehicle using soapy water and a microfiber cloth. Use an old toothbrush to clean in the small crevices and vents. Once the dashboard is clean and dry,  rub down it with a polish to add a shine.
  6. Keep the car smelling fresh: An easy way to keep your car interior feeling fresh and clean is to use air fresheners and vent clips. You can use a natural air freshener to mask the bad odours. Just put some vanilla on a cotton ball or a container of ground coffee in the car.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach, said:

Use automotive products to clean your vehicle. Keep your household product in your home. Why? Carpeting and upholstery are made of different materials than your carpet in your home, it’s also backed by jute which can disintegrate. Seats, steering wheels and the dash have electronics in them and require automotive products.

The air that comes through your vents has a filter, replace the cabin air filter every 6 months. An auto parts store can help you, it’s easy.

Greg from Your Parking Space is strict with his passengers:

I’m not going to recommend any products to keep your car clean. I’ll recommend implementing good old rules for people who climb into your car. It’s very simple: if somebody rides with you and decides to eat something, they should make sure not to leave crumbs or wrappers all over the place.

Does this sound like basic, common courtesy? It does indeed, but unfortunately, more and more people have forgotten what the word “cleanliness” means and tend to leave their litter all over the place, whether they’re at home, in the office… or in your car!

In my opinion, the best way to keep your car clean is to be ruthless when confronted with rude behaviours. If one of your passengers is dirty, you should say something so that it doesn’t happen again.

Greg Shepherd of Emily’s Maids has some great tips to keep his Tesla clean:

Some of my favourite car care hacks:

  1. Toothpaste: great for cleaning pen marks on car leather. Dab some on then wipe off.
  2. Vodka: vodka or any type of clear alcohol easily removes stains from car upholstery. Pour on and blot out.
  3. Baby wipes: wash your windshield and other windows by wiping baby wipes (credit my wife for this tip)

Richard Reina from CARiD said:

  1. Protect your dash and seats from fading: As we know, it can be hard to sit in your car on a hot day and wait for the air conditioner to get going. Direct sunlight can also damage your vehicle’s interior, specifically your dash and rear decks, which are exposed by windshields and prone to fading and cracks. One way to remedy that, particularly if you’re frequently parked in sunny areas, is by blocking out direct entry points where sunlight gets through with windshield sun shades. Most are in universal small, medium, and large sizes, but there are also vehicle-specific sun shades that ensure ultimate protection.
  2. Invest in reliable floor mats — It’s important to remember that floor mats protect our interiors from more than just rain and snow. If you camp or frequent the beach, you’re dragging dirt and sand into your interior. Just walking outside before getting into your car can bring gravel or grass inside as well. Plus, lots of traffic in and out of your vehicle can cause mats to shift, making it easy for the carpet beneath to be damaged. “All-weather” style mats, though usually associated with cold weather, are equally effective in protecting carpeting in the summer. These will stay in place to collect water, dirt, and whatever else you can throw at them, while also protecting your carpet from the wear and tear of your feet. Many are easy to remove and clean as well!
  3. Keep your upholstery clean as much as possible — We know this can be easier said than done! Spills happen, no matter how hard we try to avoid them and often those things you spill while driving don’t get cleaned right away. However, you should try to address spills and stains as soon as possible as they will be harder to clean the longer they sit and become baked onto the surface. I recommend keeping some sort of fabric or all-purpose cleaner and a little brush somewhere in your vehicle. That way you can quickly pull over to remove the stain, or at least address it when you reach your destination. No one wants to sit on dried condiments or drinks!

Glen from Glen Davis Consulting has to drive with his kids and suggests:

If there are children in the car, then limit how many toys they can have in it. We only allow our son to have toys which are always carried out after each trip. If you don’t use something at least once every 3 months, then get rid of it; store things you use maybe 1-2 times a year in the boot. If you carry pets in your car, then you either vacuum your car weekly or simply accept it will stay messy.

Dogs shed hair all over the place. It’ll be difficult to maintain a show car with a boisterous puppy

David Ambrogio is an auto detailer at Superior Honda (so he does this for a living). He suggested using a handheld steamer for stain removal. Simply apply a little bit of dish detergent and then run the steamer over the stain until it’s all gone.

David Chapple from Encycarpedia says that you should be concerned with the quality of air coming into your vehicle:

I like to use an air conditioning cleaner once a year. It freshens the whole car but the A/C system is most likely to harbour bacteria because of the moisture. There are various brands, but with the ones I’ve used, you lock the canister on, shut the doors and leave the car running with the A/C on full power in circulation mode for 10-20 minutes.

Another important but often overlooked bit of maintenance is renewing the pollen filter. It can get surprisingly dirty. They’re pretty cheap and usually easy to replace.



Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

Posted in Advice