Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Deep Cleaning Car Interior

Now more than ever, our cars are more than just a vehicle to get us from one place to the other. Oftentimes we spend crazy amounts of time in the car whether it’s running carpools, or taking family road trips. But either way, super important to take the time to deep clean your car interior every now and then.

Every person’s standards of cleanliness are different but it can promise you that the better you are at keeping up on the mess, the easier it is to deep clean and the less annoying it is, too!

Need More Ideas? Check out my most popular post: 9 Simple Car Organization Tips Anyone Can Do and 10 Ways to Personalize Your Car Without Making it Look Tacky

Pick a Warm Weather Day

This may seem like common sense but it’s super important to pick a day to clean your car when the weather is nice outside. Unless if you have a spacious garage with lots of lighting, cleaning your car interior on a sunny day is an essential part to making sure everything gets clean.

If you try to clean your car on a cloudy day or in a poorly lit garage, it’s very difficult to see where you are cleaning and what things you are missing. I’ve done this before and I hated seeing my car in the daylight the following day only to see that I had missed tons of junk and crumbs that I didn’t see before. So pick a nice warm day, turn on some music or a podcast or an audiobook, and just make it fun!

Clean All Similar Areas at the Same Time

Because there are so many different types of surfaces in a car, it can be very easy to forget what places you’ve cleaned and what places you haven’t. Sometimes it’s very obvious depending on how dirty your car is, but the easiest practice is just to clean all of the similar types of areas at the same time.

For example, clean all of the interior windows at the same time and just move your way around the car. That way you won’t accidentally forget a window!

My best recommendation for cleaning interior windows is to use these simple rags that are my very favorite from Amazon. They require no additional cleaners and I use them all over my house as well.

Clean from Top to Bottom

One of the basic cleaning tips that we sometimes forget is to clean from top to bottom. If we clean everything at the bottom first, there are always going to be things that fall to the bottom portions of the car that we’ve already cleaned. So it can help you to save time by starting at the top and working your way down.

It is my personal preference to vacuum out the entire car first including the carpets on the floor. But this is just personal preference and I usually have to end up vacuuming it up small things that have landed on the bottom anyway but it helps me feel like I’m making progress faster.

Use Different Colored Rags

Because of the many different kinds of surfaces that cars have, it’s important to use various types of cleaners best suited for each type of surface. Because of this, it can get confusing and difficult to remember which rags you used with which cleaners.

Pull Everything Out of the Car

The first step to cleaning your car is to pull every single item out of your car. Because we are deep cleaning car interiors, don’t forget to take things out of your car glove box, as well as your center console. Take out chargers, gum, change, everything you can think of.

And don’t forget the pockets in the back of the seats if your car has those. Taking everything out of your car helps to give you a clear picture of what things really need to be cleaned.

Vacuum Up Loose Crumbs and Debris

After you pull everything out of the car the next step is to vacuum! This can be a bit tedious depending on how messy your car is but it’s super important to get all of the loose dirt and crumbs from all of the crevices and cracks in your car.

It can help if you move your front seats forward or backward depending on what area of the car you are doing.

Use the hose attachment on your vacuum…it will be your best friend! I am pretty passionate about my vacuum and this is the one that I use. I like it significantly better than Dyson vacuums and it’s one of the top sellers on Amazon!

If you are constantly cleaning out your car then you may want to consider purchasing a wall-mounted garage vacuum.

You can also invest in a small travel-size hand vacuum to help vacuum up messes in the car when you’re on the go.

Shop my FAVORITE Vacuums:

How to Deep Clean Car Stains

There are several different ways that you can clean stains in your car but one of my favorite ways is to use a steam cleaner. This is the steam cleaner that I use and highly recommend. I use it all over my house in a million different ways.

To clean car stains, simply take the steam cleaner nozzle and angle the steam at a 45° angle towards the stain. Have a folded up microfiber cloth on the other side of the stain so that when the debris and gunk is lifted out of the carpet with the steam then it has somewhere to go.

Another really great way to clean stains on your carpet is to use a carpet cleaner if it has a hose attachment.

If you are looking for a good carpet cleaner, Folex is one of the most highly rated carpet cleaner solutions out there. Give it a try!

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Clean Window Interiors

One part of cleaning your car off and gets overlooked is to clean the interior part of your window. How many times have you looked out the front windshield thinking that your car was super dirty only to realize that it was a thin film that’s actually on the inside of the car?! This is the perfect opportunity to take the time to clean the interior windows.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, an easy way to keep track of what windows you’ve done is by starting at the driver’s side window and moving your way around the car.

Simply get the microfiber rag damp and wipe all the fingerprints and junk off of the windows. Then quickly follow up with the secondary rag to dry everything for a completely clean and streak-free window! It’s super simple and I love how I don’t have to purchase additional cleaners!

The most effective way to clean windows is by not using a cleaner. Here is the link again to these rags that I use and love. Sometimes if you use certain window cleaners, they leave a certain residue and end up making the windows look a bit foggy over time. The Chemical Guys have a great window cleaner that you are welcome to try (it has great reviews) but I’ve just never tried it before.

Make sure to get in the corners of the windows and even roll down your windows a little bit so that you can get to the very top of the window.

Window Cleaning Products:

Clean Dashboard and Doors

Deep cleaning car interior doors and dashboards is fairly straightforward. I found an excellent cleaner that I highly recommend for this. I also recommend that you use a different color of rag so that you did not get it confused with the rags that you are using for other cleaners (such as leather seats or windows).

The cleaner that I recommend is by a company called The Chemical Guys. Their products are some of the best in the industry.

The reason why I love this particular cleaner for dashboards and car doors is that it’s incredibly effective at removing all sorts of dirt and especially body oils that can build up on doors where you rest your arm.

Most cars have some sort of texturing And it’s a really easy place for dirt and debris and body oils to get caught in the teeny grooves of the texturing. One of the ways to combat getting the dirt and body oils out of those grooves is to use this cleaner combined with car detailing brushes. Simply work the cleaner to a light foam on the surface and wipe everything away with a microfiber cloth.

These work better than your typical rags that usually just get surface dirt. Of course, you can combine both methods and use both if you’d like.

Another really easy way to clean your car dash and other plastic parts of your car is to use a steam cleaner. This is a really great way to loosen dirt and debris so that you can easily wipe it away with a microfiber cloth. It’s also nice if you are the type of person that tries to not use chemicals and cleaners.

Some of my Faves:

Clean Middle Console

Cleaning the middle console is more than just wiping off the part where you lay your arm. Aside from using cleaner and a detailing brush to clean the top of the console, it’s also important to remember to clean out the inside of the console.

Hopefully, you’ve taken out all of the items inside of the console so the next part will be easy. Take your vacuum with a crevice attachment and the hose and vacuum up all of the dirt and crumbs that are inside of the console. If you’re having a hard time getting some of it up you can also use a rag with cleaner. If your console is lined with a low pile velvet or felt material, you could also consider using a lint brush!

How to Deep Clean Leather Car Seats

In the past when I have deep cleaned my car, this has been the most frustrating area for me to clean. It seems that no matter what I try, there seems to always be dark color dirt and/or body oils stuck in the crevices of the leather. Especially because I have three kids, my tan leather was not looking so hot.

When I found this leather cleaner by The Chemical Guys, I was absolutely blown away at how effective it is! Much like the dash cleaner that I use, this leather cleaner and conditioner is really effective at breaking down body oils and really getting into the cracks of the leather.

Before Cleaning….can you see all of the dirt at the bottom?!

I also highly recommend using car detailing brushes. These work much better than just using a rag. You could also trade-off and use a rag for areas that maybe don’t need as deep of a clean and use the detail brushes for areas that do.

Don’t forget to use the leather cleaner conditioner after you use the leather cleaner!

One of the big reasons why real leather starts to crack is because it hasn’t been taken care of and the leather hasn’t been conditioned regularly. In my car, I have a crack in my leather right where my armrests on the console. Through learning more about how to take care of leather I’ve learned that this was the cause.

The left side has been cleaned, the right side hasn’t been cleaned

Get Rid of Smells with an Ozone Generator

This tip can definitely be for anybody but it can be especially helpful if you have kids or if you smoke in your car. On more than one occasion I’ve had kids or babies throw up in my car and it’s one of my worst nightmares! It’s near impossible to clean and it seems like every time you get in the car your car smells like vomit for months.

I found a really great way to get rid of bad smells is to use something called an ozone generator. They use ozone generators in hospitals and surgical rooms to sterilize the space. I don’t know the science behind an ozone generator but I know that it works! Somehow it creates ozone gas and it completely eradicates all lingering smells in cars, mudrooms, closets, etc.

This is the ozone generator that I have and I love that it is compact and that I can easily use it without having to plug it into a wall unit. It comes with a car plug so that you can just plug it into your cigarette lighter and turn it on.

One important thing to know about ozone generators is that you absolutely cannot use it in an inhabited space. Meaning, if you turn on the ozone generator in your car, you need to close the doors as soon as you can and leave the car alone until the ozone generator has done doing its thing. It is really bad for you to breathe in.

Most if not all professional car detailers and car dealerships use ozone generators to rid cars of a cigarette smell in order to get them ready for resale.

Vacuum Floors Once More if Needed

If you notice a bunch of dirt making its way back in to the car after you’ve been cleaning, then now would be a good time to vacuum your car out one more time. This may be considered an extra step that some may consider unnecessary but it’s one that I prefer to do if I found that I’ve tracked in more dirt when I’ve been cleaning the rest of the car.

It also makes it easier for the next step, which is cleaning your carpets in your car!

My Favorite Car Vacuums:

Clean Car Carpets

Now that we’ve cleaned all other parts of the car, cleaning the carpets is one of the last steps! There are many ways that you can clean your carpets in your car. If you are fortunate enough to have dark-colored carpets, then this will be significantly easier on you than if you have light-colored carpets, such as tan.

You can always spot clean different stains with this incredible carpet cleaner that will definitely do the trick! But if you find that your overall carpets need to be cleaned, then one of the best things that you can do is to clean them with a household carpet cleaner that comes with a hose or stair attachment.

My husband has tan carpets in his car and I was having a hard time getting the stains up until I used this carpet cleaner. It made a huge difference and it was way easier than I expected it to be.

Carpet Cleaners:

Make Your Car Smell Nice

Now that you’ve spent a large part of your day deep cleaning your car interior, it’s important to finish things off and make it smell nice! There are tons of different products out on the market too keep your car smelling fresh but I’ll list a few of my favorites here.

My favorite way to make my car smell incredible is by using sachets and putting them underneath my car seat. It’s not something that I would typically think of but I’ve started using these in my closets and they work really well! The best part?! The sachet scent lasts for MONTHS! It’s incredible and I just love this newfound trick.

If you are trying to get rid of nasty smells that seem to not go away not matter what,I love this scented air freshener and odor neutralizer. Angry Orange smells absolutely incredible, especially if you love fresh, citrus scents.

My favorite spray air freshener is by The Chemical Guys and my favorite scent is the mango. It smells amazing! The downside is that you have to keep the small bottle in your car and spray it every couple of days.

My Favorite Car Fresheners:

Only Put the Essentials Back In

The very last step of deep cleaning your car interior is to put the items back in that you originally took out. Of course you want to make sure that you only put the essential items back in that actually need to be long in the car.

Cars can very quickly get cluttered up with unnecessary snacks, trash, games and activities for kids, and a million other different things. In order for your car to stay clean for longer, try to keep things as uncluttered as possible!

I also have a rule in my car that we are not allowed to eat food in the car. This really helps to keep the mess down and prevents tons of different crumbs from getting in the car.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and it’s been informative to help you learn how to deep clean your car interior! Sometimes I can seem like a drudgery but if you know that it’s going to take you awhile and you just turn on an audiobook or turn on some music, it really can be quite enjoyable! Happy cleaning!

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