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5 Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Car Interior

Written by James Hall |

Getting your car professionally cleaned can be expensive – but don’t despair. It’s relatively easy to get a sparkling car interior using nothing more than your vacuum cleaner and a few extra products. Here’s how to do it!

A guide to cleaning your car interiorBottom Line

  • Start by cleaning floor mats using a combination of beating off dirt, your vacuum’s hose attachment and a garden hose.
  • Use a micro fibre cloth when cleaning the dashboard, as it’s easy to scratch or damage the surface.
  • Once the mats and carpets are clean, thoroughly vacuum the rest of the car.
  • Be careful when cleaning delicate surfaces, including leather. Use your vacuum’s soft dusting brush.
  • Pay particular attention to cup holders, as they can be amongst the dirtiest areas of a car.

Before you get started, make sure you have the right tools. You’ll need a vacuum that can handle the challenges of a car, so take a look at our list of car vacuum cleaners (you may also want to consider a 12v car vac). You’ll also need a micro fibre cloth, for wiping shiny surfaces without scratching them, and some cleaning products for plastic, vinyl and upholstery.

Note: This posts is a follow on from our post about vacuum tricks for cleaning your home.

1. Start With Floor Mats

Floor mats quickly get dirty, so they are a good place to start when cleaning your car. Begin by taking them outside and beating off loose dirt and other debris. This won’t get rid of all dirt – especially if it’s trapped in indentations – but can deal with the worst. The fewer large chunks of debris your vacuum has to deal with, the less likely it is to get clogged.

Next, attach your vacuum’s hose and clean the grooves of the mats. The hard end of the hose is great for digging out dirt that’s ground into the fibres.

You can then use a hose to wash off the mats. Leave them to dry outside, as you don’t want to put them in the car while they are still wet and slippy.

Bonus Tip: While the mats are drying, use your vacuum’s powered brush attachment to clean all the carpets in the car. These usually aren’t as dirty as the mats, but you still might need to go over stubborn patches several times.

Picture of a car dashboard

2. Dust Your Dashboard and Console

The dashboard and console of a car are often the hardest places to clean. They have a range of buttons and crevices for dust to get stuck in, which can be a nightmare for a vacuum cleaner. Many also have surfaces that are easy to scratch.

Some vacuum cleaners come with a soft dusting brush for this reason. This type of brush can remove dust from the dashboard and in crevices without damaging the surface. If the vac has strong suction it should be able to lift dust from around button edges too.

If you don’t have a vacuum cleaner with this attachment, you can improvise by wrapping a micro fibre cloth around a flat-head screwdriver to get into tight crevices. Be careful not to scratch the dashboard though.

3. Thoroughly Vacuum The Rest of the Car

Vacuuming car seats

Once you’ve got rid of dirt in the carpets and mats, it’s time to give the rest of the interior a thorough clean. Go over every part of the car with your vacuum, including the back shelf, boot and seats.

Make sure you use all your vacuum’s attachments for this. The crevice tool is particularly useful for getting rid of dirt (or food!) that’s fallen down the sides of seats.

A word of warning though: be careful when vacuuming leather seats. They are easy to scratch, so you’ll want to use a soft brush attachment for this.

4. Clean Car Doors

Just like dashboards, car doors can often be difficult to clean. This is because they have various panels and tight spaces made from a variety of materials.

The good news is that the materials of a door are often the same as those used in other parts of the car. By this point, you should know which tools and vacuum attachments to use to clean these materials.

The most important part of the door to clean is the cup holder. These can become filled with dirt, grime and even mould, so they need to be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. Once you’ve cleaned all the gunk, vacuum the door to remove any remaining dust and dirt.

5. Remove Unpleasant Odours

Cigarette smoke, pets and other common car smells can linger even after cleaning. If you’ve thoroughly cleaned the interior and can’t get rid of a smell, you may need a specialist product.

There are some excellent options available. Some come in spray form, allowing you to cover the smelly area and let the product do the rest of the work. Baking soda can also absorb smells on certain types of material, but make sure it’s safe to use on your car’s interior first.

Of course, check everywhere in the car to ensure there’s nothing causing the smell. It can be easy to miss a damp cloth or piece of rotting food that’s stuck under the seats. You can also hang a deodoriser to prevent smells from returning.


Cleaning your car interior doesn’t need to be difficult – and there’s no reason why yours can’t look as good as new. For most people cleaning every six months is enough. If you have pets or use your car a lot, however, you might need to clean it more regularly.

Do you have any advice for cleaning car interiors? Or have you tried one of these tips and want to give some feedback? Let me know in the comments section!

1 thought on “5 Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Car Interior”

  1. Avatar

    Good tips! Thanks!


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