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How to Deep Clean Car Interior – Step-by-Step Guide

How to Deep Clean Car Interior

How to Deep Clean Car Interior – Step-by-Step Guide

Knowing how to deep clean car interior will give you peace of mind and a sense of satisfaction. Sure, a quick dust and polish can make your vehicle instantly look better. But there’s a lot more to cleaning than meets the eye. For instance, effectively removing tough stains, bad odors, and bacteria requires extra effort and some tricks of the trade. And that’s where we can help take your car interior detailing to the next level.

If you are passionate about car care, download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to learn more about our industry leading steam technology:

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How to Deep Clean Car Interior: 10 Tips

Deep cleaning your car is a more thorough process than regular car detailing. And it takes more time. Here are 10 tips to ensure you get it right.

1. Vacuum Car Interior Surfaces

Once you have removed empty bottles, cans, and any clutter from the interior, it is time to put your car vacuum to good use. People often forget about the different attachments that come with a vacuum. However, these extra accessories help you achieve a deeper clean.

  • Use the extension wand to vacuum the headliner, behind sun visors and other high or awkward areas.
  • Swap over to the upholstery tool to get rid of any loose grime and dirt on the car seats.
  • Use the soft-bristled brush tool to remove dust from air vents and controls. Once you have loosened the dust from the air vents, use a can of compressed air to get rid of remaining dust. Vacuum the surfaces again.
  • Next, use the crevice tool. This long, narrow attachment with a tapered end is ideal for getting into tight and narrow spaces, like seat corners, door seams, and gaps between the center console and seats.
  • Finally, vacuum the floor mats and carpets with the floor brush. Its wider, flatter nozzle is perfect for larger surfaces. Don’t forget the trunk area. It is one of those places to clean inside of your car that people often overlook.

2. Clean the Surfaces and Upholstery

Go for the best car interior cleaner product to clean different types of interior surfaces. Meguiar’s Ultimate Interior Detailer cleans, shines, and protects surfaces like the dash, door panels and steering wheel.

For the upholstery, we recommend the best car interior detailing products to suit your upholstery type. For example, Leather Honey sells a top-quality cleaner and conditioner to hydrate and protect leather car seats.

Also, knowing how to deep clean car seats will help prolong the lifespan of your upholstery. Our top tip is to use steam to sanitize all surfaces. Not only does this method kill germs and bacteria, but it will also remove stains from car seats. The high temperature of steam dissolves deep-set stains from food, mud, blood, ink, etc.

There are also homemade remedies that you can use to clean the car interior. For example, a white vinegar and water solution can help clean stains on car seats.

3. Deep Clean the Carpets

Learning how to detail a car interior like a pro means deep cleaning the carpets and mats. Remove mats before thoroughly cleaning carpets with carpet shampoo or steam. This level of deep cleaning is important because dirty carpets can harbor mold and mildew.

Again, steam cleaning is the best way to detail car interior, including the carpets. Moreover, steam does not saturate carpets, unlike some traditional soap and water methods. While steam brings some moisture to the cleaning process, it quickly dries. This reduces the risk of mold or mildew growth.

If your carpets already show signs of mildew or mold, see our tips on how to remove mold from car interior. To get rid of the odor, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda on the carpets and car seats. Leave for half an hour or overnight, then vacuum.

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4. Steam Clean the Air Vents

If your car interior has a bad odor and you can’t locate its source, then clean your AC vents. If you ignore the problem, dirty vents will blow air contaminated with germs and bacteria throughout the car.

Steam is your best option for this task. It tackles dirt, odors, and allergens. Direct the nozzle of your steam cleaner to the air vents using the correct temperature control setting.

5. Windshield and Windows

Cleaning the windshield and windows is another important step in how to deep clean car interior. A clean windshield is essential for your safety. Otherwise, a buildup of dirt and grime on the glass will obscure your vision and may lead to accidents.

There are many glass cleaning products from reputed auto detailing brands available. Or try using steam and microfiber cloths for car interior for streak-free window cleaning. Sparkling clean windows will instantly improve the overall appearance of your car.

6. How to Deep Clean Car Interior Door Panels and Jambs

Use the appropriate car wash brush and warm soapy water to clean door jambs. Also, don’t forget the door panels, handles, and storage pockets. Use a damp cloth or wash mitt to wipe clean these parts of the car.

If you use a disinfectant spray, make it a habit to spray directly onto a clean microfiber towel or cloth, not directly onto surfaces, to avoid excess solution dripping onto seats and carpet.

7. Get Rid of Bad Odors

We know dirty air vents, mold, and mildew can be the main culprits of a bad odor in the car. However, other smells equally make a car ride unpleasant. For example, cigarette smoke can get deep into the fibers of car seats and headliner. Using an air freshener can mask the smokiness, but it won’t eliminate the problem.

The good news is simple home remedies can help you get bad smell out of car. For example, white vinegar and water can help neutralize strong odors. Alternatively, you could hire the help of a car interior detailing service specializing in upholstery cleaning and odor removal.

8. Sanitize the Car Interior

Did you know a dirty car interior can harbor more germs and bacteria than a toilet? Car cleaning facts like this are a reminder of why it’s good to know how to deep clean car interior. Bear in mind water and car shampoo are not disinfectants.

Your options include disinfectant wipes or disinfectant spray. Many disinfectants require a specific amount of time (dwell time) to kill germs effectively. This is usually around 10 minutes. However, refer to the product label for instructions to ensure best results.

Alternatively, use steam if you want to know how to disinfect car interior an environmentally friendly way. Steam cleaning relies solely on heat and water vapor, eliminating the need for additional chemicals or disinfectants. This makes it a chemical-free and eco-friendly disinfection method.

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9. Attention to Detail

How to deep clean car interior requires attention to detail. There are no shortcuts. You must clean every corner and sanitize all the surfaces to maintain a healthy, germ-free driving environment. Here are some final points to remember:

  • Seatbelts can become soiled and stained over time. Deep cleaning helps maintain their appearance and ensures they remain safe and functional.
  • Don’t forget buttons, switches, and controls (including window regulators). Cleaning these small components ensures they remain in good working condition and free from dirt and grime.
  • Protect your carpets with a set of good-quality rubber mats. You can buy custom-fit rubber mats for specific car models to ensure a snug and secure fit.
  • Rubber mats are easy to clean and maintain. Remove them from the car, shake off loose dirt, and wash them with water and mild soap.
  • Sanitize cup holders to prevent the buildup of sticky residue and crumbs.

10. Don’t Wait Too Long Between Deep Clean Sessions

Your car interior deserves as much attention as your car exterior. But you don’t need to do a deep clean every week unless you are meticulous about the cleanliness of your vehicle. Instead, aim for every 3 to 6 months if you use your car regularly for daily commuting and errands.

But if there is a food stain or spill, clean it as soon as possible. Don’t put it off because “no one can see it”. Similarly, if you notice excessive dirt or odors between scheduled cleanings, it’s time for another deep clean.


Knowing how to deep clean car interior goes beyond surface cleaning. It is a thorough and effective process that sanitizes and removes stains and odors. Also, it addresses the often-overlooked aspects of your car’s interior to ensure high-quality results.

Moreover, you can enjoy the benefits of a deep-cleaned car. For one, the interior will look and smell fresh. Secondly, sanitized seats and surfaces create a healthier environment for you and your passengers. Lastly, taking care of your car with regular deep clean sessions may help secure a higher resale value when the time comes.

Download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to find out more about our mobile vehicle detailing service that deep cleans an environmentally-friendly way:

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