How to Clean the Inside of Your Car

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 28, 2022
5 min read

While cleaning the exterior of your car typically involves visiting the nearest car wash, what about the inside of your car? Using a commercial cleaner for car upholstery is recommended, but other parts of your car also need attention.

From the dirty shoes that you wear to the odd bits of food you may eat while driving, your car can collect a lot of dirt from your everyday activities. This means that the inside of your vehicle needs regular washing. Since professional cleaning jobs can be quite expensive, it’s a good idea to clean the car interiors yourself using the following steps.

Before you start cleaning your car, remove all the litter from your car interior. This includes debris found in the floorboards, door pockets, back of the seats, cup holders, and any other compartments that your car has.

Floor mats are usually the dirtiest objects in a car as they are the first and the most common point of contact for dirty shoes. To begin, shake the floor mats and then place them on a piece of cloth rather than directly on a dirty surface.

For floor mats that are made of rubber or other similar materials, use a water hose to wash away the grime and dirt that’s stuck to the surface. Prepare a solution of warm water with a few drops of dish-washing soap and clean the floor mats by brushing them with a scrubbing brush. Once you have cleaned them thoroughly, you can air them out to dry while you continue cleaning the other parts of the car. 

If you have a carpeted mat in your car, you can use the upholstery extension of your vacuum cleaner to clean it. For increased effectiveness, you can spray a carpet cleaning solution on the carpet and wipe it using a soft cloth.

Some car upholstery cleaner attachments come with hard bristles that, when scrubbed on the surface, help churn up the dirt that has seeped into the carpet. You can then use the vacuum cleaner to suck out all the loose dirt from the surface of the mat.

Your car seats also gather a lot of dust and grime. Sitting on the seats wearing soiled clothes, spilling food, and even gasoline fumes can cause stains and smudges that need to be cleaned regularly before they leave a permanent mark on the upholstery.

You can use the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner to clean your leather, cloth, or vinyl seats. You can also reach into the crevices by using the crevice tool to thoroughly remove dust and grime from the stitched areas of the seats and the joints.

Avoid soaking the seats and cushions with water as drying them may be difficult and moist cushions and seats may attract mold.

With the increasing use of infotainment systems in vehicles, their constant utilization leads to the collection of dust and fingerprints. You’ll be better off using different cleaning solutions for these surfaces than the products you normally use to clean the other glass surfaces in your car.

Pour some alcohol-based cleaning solution on a clean piece of cloth and use it to clean the screen surface. Don’t apply too much pressure while cleaning infotainment screens.

Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners on touch screens because these can spoil the anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings.

The solid surfaces of your car such as dashboards, air vents, and cup holders can be cleaned by wiping them with a soft cloth that has an alcohol-based cleaning solution sprayed on it. It’s best to avoid paper towels since they may leave hints of lint.

The outside air pollution as well as the vapors that are emitted within the vehicle can stain the insides of your car windshields and windows, hampering your vision.

You can use an alcohol-based solution to clean the insides of the windows and the windshield. Using a chamois cloth to wipe them is a good idea as it helps avoid any scratches. You can use separate wet and dry clothes, one to apply the cleaning solution and one to wipe the windows and windshield dry afterwards.

These days, most vehicles come with a cabin air filter that is part of the ventilation system and meant to protect you from harmful contaminants. Car manufacturers typically advocate replacing the filter after around every 15,000 miles. You can check the specifics for your car in the user manual. If you feel the air circulation in your car is not proper or if you get a musty smell when you turn on your air conditioner, it is time to replace the filter.

The purpose of cleaning your car regularly is not only to clear the dirt and grime but also to remove the bad odors that can cause air pollution within the vehicle. Since you spend a lot of time within its closed confines, you must also know how to clean the inside of your car.

  • Products such as air fresheners, cosmetics, deodorants, and even vehicle fuels such as gasoline release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs are gases that are emitted into the air that may cause you harm in their original form or by reacting with other gases after they are released in the air.
  • It is also advisable to avoid smoking and vaping in the car. With constant exposure to smoke from cigarettes (including e-cigarettes) you may come in contact with toxic carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. This is even more dangerous when you are traveling for a prolonged period in the enclosed space of your car as this increases your exposure to these harmful chemicals. Another point to keep in mind is that traveling with several passengers for a long time leads to increased exposure to the carbon dioxide that is exhaled by everyone, and this exposure can make you drowsy.
  • Not cleaning your car regularly can also lead to the collection of food and other waste that in turn attract mold and bacteria and may lead to allergies.