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How to clean the inside of your car

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

interior car cleaning
  • How to get the inside of your car looking like new 
  • Tips and tricks for getting the best results
  • Give your cabin that 'new car' feel

If you’re considering selling your car, it’s come to the end of its PCP (Personal Contract Purchase), or you need to return it to a finance company, it’s time to give it a good clean. And even if you’re not getting rid of your car, interior cleaning is a great way to make your motor feel brand new again.

We spend a lot of time in our cars, so it’s nice to keep it clean, good looking and to treat it well. Not only does an untidy car look unappealing, but a dirty car cabin can cause bacteria to build up. And bacteria usually result in nasty smells. Follow our tips below to return your car’s interior to its brilliant best.

Tidy up

Before you think about firing up the vacuum cleaner, you need to give your car a good clear out. That means removing all the items in door pockets, cup holders, under the seats and in the boot.

Get everything out

If it isn’t fixed to your car, get it out. That includes mats, reflective vests and the umbrella you probably keep in the boot for a rainy day. If there are things you never use (apart from the hi-vis vests and first aid kits) consider getting rid of them.

You can then clean your car’s mats. First give them a good whack against a wall to shake off any loose debris. Then vacuum them to suck up smaller pieces of trapped dirt. If they’re really dirty, you might consider carpet shampoo. Be sure to check what sort of products you can apply in your car’s user manual.

Clean out the vents

Your car’s ventilation system sucks in air from outside. Much of the debris is caught by filters but some dust will build up in the vent channels. Switch the engine on, then turn the fan up to full and let the air blast through. Once the dust has settled you can get vacuuming.

How to vacuum

Use a brush attachment to clean upholstery. This will help suck up dirt that you can’t see. Work from the top down - so start on the car’s roof lining, then its seats, and then finally the carpets. Remember to slide the seats forwards and backwards so you can vacuum under them. Use the vacuum’s edging tool to get in the narrow spaces down the sides of the seats.

How to clean non-leather car seats

Use a special car fabric cleaner for this, and make sure you read the instructions that come with it. Always test the cleaner on an area that’s out of sight. If it’s a specialist product it shouldn’t fade them, but it’s better to be certain.

You can then get busy. Seat backrests should be pretty clean so you’ll probably just be working on the bases. But if you carry many passengers, or luggage, or have children then you’ll probably think about cleaning the backrests too. When you’ve finished, the seats will most likely be damp, so keep the doors and windows open while you work on other jobs.

How to clean leather car seats

If your car has leather seats, you’ll definitely need a proper car leather seat cleaner. Plenty of companies make these. As with fabric seats, it’s important to test the cleaner on an area you can’t see. You’ll then need to work it into the seats with a clean cloth before wiping off any residue and leaving it to dry. Remember to always follow the instructions provided.

Time for dusting

Although car interiors are made to last, some parts of them can be quite delicate. Treat these as you would something precious. The softer the cloth you use for dusting, the better. You won’t want to scratch any of the shiny surfaces or the Perspex covering the instrument panel.

Work from the top down, starting with the dashboard. If you’re using a car interior cleaner – and there are loads of products out there – spray it onto the cloth rather than the car. That way you won’t get any product on areas that don’t need it.

If you are using a polish, check the finish. Some end up being very glossy. If that’s the case, don’t spray it onto the steering wheel or pedals as it could make them very slippery.

Do the details

When you start looking closely at a car’s interior, you’ll see there are all sorts of nooks and crannies for dirt to get into. Chances are you won’t be able to get your hand or fingers into some of these. The answer to this is to use either a new, soft paint brush or a make-up brush. This will dislodge dust and dirt without scratching the surfaces.

It’s also worth remembering that cars are full of delicate electronics. None of these are designed to get damp. If you do use a polish or cleaner on switches or buttons, be very sparing with it and be careful to not spray directly onto switches.

How to clean inside of car windows

You might be surprised how dirty car windows get. Over time, grease and dirt from pollution in the atmosphere combine to form a film on the inside.

You can use a regular window cleaner to get this off, but be careful that it doesn’t contain ammonia. This might damage any plastic it comes into contact with.

If you’re going to clean the outside windows, it would be better to use a specialist product. This is because many are designed to cause the water droplets to form beads which then simply blow away from side windows. As before, it's best to follow the instructions that come with the product.

When you’re cleaning the windows, it’s a good idea to wipe horizontally inside and vertically outside. That way if you miss a bit during the final wipe over, you can see instantly whether it’s on the inside or outside.


See also: 

How to sell your car

Removing paintwork scratches

Ensuring your car passes its MoT