Clean Cars 101: A Guide to Upholstery Cleaning


Try as we might keep the interior of our cars clean, sometimes spills and stains are simply unavoidable. Even those who are truly passionate about the care and upkeep of their vehicles occasionally find that their upholstery is in need of a thorough cleaning. Like most regular cleaning or maintenance, if it’s done on a regular basis it will typically be a significantly easier process; that sticky soda stain between the seats will be a lot easier to take care of when it’s a day old than when it’s a year old. Fortunately, with the proper knowledge, cleaning a car’s interior becomes a simple matter.

Vacuum and Wipe Down Regularly

Vacuuming the vehicle’s interior is the one part of the cleaning process that most people do complete with regularity, and though it’s only one piece of thorough cleaning, it is still a very important one. When going over the surfaces of the car with the vacuum, it’s crucial to not only cover the seats and floors but the car’s door panels as well. If necessary, many automobile vacuum cleaners come with different attachments, which often make it easier to get into certain hidden areas and be more thorough. For the non-fabric surfaces like the dashboard, center console, and steering wheel, it’s important to regularly wipe them down with a cleaning towelette to take care of dust and grime.

Remove Stains and Dirt

Going at the car’s interior with a vacuum will take care of things like crumbs and loose debris, but certain blemishes, such as liquid stains and older dirt that has been ground into the surface, will be more stubborn to remove. When the vehicle in question’s upholstery has stains like these that are too stubborn to just be scrubbed out with a towel and automotive cleaning product (this should usually be tried as a first resort), there are a couple of potential options to achieve a deeper clean:

Steam Cleaning

A steam cleaning machine will need to be purchased or rented, but it can be a very effective option for getting the most difficult stains and dirt out of a car’s cloth upholstery. The equipment works by dispersing both heat and water simultaneously, which are pressed against the surface and moved around while pressure is applied. This type of cleaning works well, but can also leave the upholstery a bit damp, so it’s a good idea to wipe the area down with a dry cloth afterward, and if possible to leave the car sitting in the warm sunlight.

Hot Water Extraction

Similarly to steam cleaning, hot water extractors also do an excellent job of eliminating stubborn stains by utilizing heat and water. These machines work a bit differently, though. A hot water extractor injects the extremely hot water, along with a cleaning solution, into the surface that’s being cleaned. Next, it immediately vacuums up both the water and the cleaner, taking the stain or grime with it. It’s important to keep in mind that this cleaning process can also leave a car’s upholstery fairly wet, so it’s always wise to make an effort to dry it out after finishing.

It’s extremely common for car owners to procrastinate when it comes to upholstery cleaning. However, when it’s taken care of before it truly gets bad, and done properly it can be both a painless and rewarding experience. A clean vehicle is not only more pleasant to drive, but it makes a better impression and demonstrates discipline. Overall, putting in the effort to do it consistently and do it right is a worthwhile investment. Protect your upholstery with some luxury floor mats to increase its life even longer.