How To Clean Your Car Interior (Step By Step)

Your car is more than just a mode of transportation. Some days it may serve as your breakfast table, a gathering spot for friends and family, or a pet’s paradise. With all of this activity, dirt, hair, and crumbs can quickly pile up and make your car an eyesore. 

Knowing how to clean your car interior the right way can keep your vehicle looking brand new. This step-by-step guide reveals everything you need to know about cleaning your car’s interior so it’s spotless. Follow these simple instructions and you’ll notice a tremendous difference in your car’s appearance.

Necessary Cleaning Supplies

To detail your car, you’ll first need to gather a few materials, mainly various cleaning products that you likely already have on hand. These include:

  • A bucket of warm water and dish soap
  • Disposable gloves
  • A microfiber cloth
  • A trash bag 
  • Disinfecting spray or all-purpose cleaning spray
  • Glass cleaning spray
  • A handheld vacuum
  • Deep-cleaning brush set
  • Compressed air

You can also invest in specific cleaners that are meant for the different materials within your car, including leather and carpet cleaners. These ensure your car’s seats and materials become spotless without deteriorating from some of the harsh chemicals from an all-surface cleaner.

Once you have all of these items, it’s time to get down to business. Let’s dive into how to clean your car interior step-by-step. 

1. Remove All Visible Garbage or Large Items

First things first, you need to get rid of any garbage or bulky items within your car. Take out any folding chairs, sports equipment, or other large objects you are storing in your car. 

Next, do a quick scan of the interior for any loose garbage. You might be surprised at the number of snack wrappers, receipts, and even loose change that you’ll find in the cracks and crevices of your car. 

Once you complete this step, you can get your hands dirty and start a deep clean. 

2. Take Out Car Mats and Seats

If you want to know how to clean your car interior like a professional detailer, the trick is to expose every nook and cranny. This means removing all of your mats and seats. 

You’ll be in awe at the crumbs, dirt, and dust that can accumulate underneath your seats, plus any grass clippings or leaves that slip beneath your floor mat. 

Removing these from your car will give you a full canvas to work with and ensure that every inch of the interior is immaculate once you finish. 

3. Wipe Down Windows and Sanitize Dashboard

Once your car is empty, it’s time to get in there and wipe down each surface. Take your glass cleaner and spray down the windshields, windows, and mirrors. 

Make sure you use your microfiber cloth for this part since regular rags or paper towels can leave surfaces looking streaky. The microfiber material is extra absorbent and will leave your windows and mirrors with a streak-free shine. 

Turn your attention to your dashboard and center console and the dust and grime sitting on the surface. You may think that wiping these areas with your cloth will be sufficient, however, there’s a better way.

Take your can of compressed air and give blasts of air around the hard-to-reach places like your air vents and around your dashboard buttons. This will release any trapped dust particles. Once you finish spraying, wipe down the surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. 

4. Tackle Dirty Cup Holders

The sunken design of car cup holders makes them especially susceptible to dirt and grime, not to mention stickiness from any spilled drinks. It’s crucial to thoroughly clean these areas since they can grow bacteria if ignored. 

Dip a cloth in your mixture of warm water and dish soap and move it around each cup holder to lift all grime and residue. You can take your cleaning up a notch by using a soft-bristle brush to scrub the entire area. 

5. Sanitize Door Handles and Steering Wheel

Your steering wheel and door handle house some of the most germs in your car. After all, they are some of the only surfaces that you’ll touch every time you go for a drive. 

Don’t ignore these areas and how filthy they can get over time. Take a disinfecting spray or wipe and make sure to go over the entire surface. The steering wheel and door handles will look better and you’ll be one step closer to a germ-free interior. 

6. Whip Out Your Vacuum For Seat and Carpet Cleaning

If you’re wondering how to clean your car interior the right way, make sure you hold off on vacuuming until the very end. Be sure to dust and wipe the harder surfaces first so you can then vacuum any dust particles that your cloth doesn’t catch. 

Using a small brush attachment, vacuum your seats until there’s no sign of leftover crumbs, dirt, or pet hair. From there, you should clean the seat material with the appropriate cleaning solution. 

Apply either a leather or upholstery cleaner depending on whether you have leather or cloth seats. If you have visible stains on a cloth seat, scrub the cleaner into the area using a bristle brush so the stain lifts from the surface. 

Finally, bring your vacuum back to the interior and go over all of your carpets and floors. Make sure you suck up all traces of debris and dust before putting your seats and floor mats back inside the car.

Make Appropriate Adjustments for a Clean Car

Now that you know how to clean your car interior, make sure you take measures to keep it looking fresh and new. Consider everything that you use your car for and how much dirt each activity can accumulate. 

For example, if you frequently take your four-legged friend to the dog park to play, their muddy paws will quickly trace back into your car’s interior. Wipe down your pet’s paws before letting them in the car to avoid an unnecessary mess. 

Do you always stop and grab a coffee and a donut on your way to work? Eating in your car can spread crumbs all over the floors and seats while any drinks that spill can leave unsightly stains. Avoid eating and drinking in your car whenever possible to keep it cleaner in the long term.

Tips for Long-Lasting Car Care

Once you know how to clean your car interior, you’ll want to make sure it always looks immaculate. Here are a few tips that will help protect your vehicle’s interior from becoming a dump. 

Use Protective Seat Covers

Rambunctious pets and kids can wreak havoc on car seats by leaving stains or scratching the material. Place covers over each of the seats for optimal protection from damage. 

Apply a Fabric Protector to the Interior

If you have leather car seats, investing in a special conditioner can protect the material from wearing over time. Your car’s interior will always look stylish and brand-new when you take this extra step. 

Additionally, if you have cloth seats, apply a fabric protector. This will help prevent any stains from soaking into the cloth. 

Keep a Small Trash Bag in the Car

Whether you’re going on a long road trip or just to the nearby gas station, it’s easy for snack wrappers and paper receipts to accumulate around your seats. Instead of letting this garbage pile up, keep a small trash bag or bin inside your car to discard these items. Empty the bin as frequently as necessary.


Garry is the happy owner of a funky 2018 Nissan Juke Ti-S AWD. After growing up around his family’s mechanics shop, he is passionate about bringing budget-friendly car care to every driver. Garry has a business degree and is a car enthusiast.