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Tool and Material Checklist:

  • Portable or shop vacuum 
  • Spray f caner
  • Mild liquid soap 
  • Paste Wax
  • Cloths 
  • Ammonia
  • Cheesecloth 
  • Dull knife or scraper
  • Rubbing alcohol 
  • Facial tissue
  • Household detergent 
  • Seat covers
  • Window cleaner 
  • Cloth or plastic tape

Most people want more than a car that runs well and looks good on the outside; they want to feel comfortable inside the car as well. A car with a clean and quiet interior offers its passengers that comfort. Yet a clean interior is important for reasons other than comfort and appearance. For example, safety is enhanced greatly. Dirty windows obscure your vision, increasing the possibility of an accident. Objects stashed under the seat can roll forward, obstructing the movement of the driver's feet. And anything stored on the rear shelf (even something as small as a pencil) can fly forward and cause injury if the car stops suddenly.

Another reason for taking care of the interior is that a clean car has a higher resale value. Many interior defects, such as ripped seats and stained upholstery, can either be prevented or corrected through simple measures. For instance, store all sharp objects and writing implements in the glove compartment. All in all, it is not difficult to keep your cars interior in good shape.

A good rule of thumb is to clean the interior at least once a month. If the car is used often, it will require more frequent maintenance.


There are three basic types of interior headliners, each of which is cleaned in a special manner:

Perforated plastic or vinyl

Cloth with little or no padding underneath

Cloth with firm padding underneath

The perforated plastic or vinyl headliner should be wiped down with a clean, damp cloth. The cloth type with little or no padding should be brushed carefully or cleaned with a portable vacuum cleaner. Padded cloth headliners should always be vacuumed.

If the headliner is badly soiled, additional cleaning measures can be taken:

1. Clean with a mild soapsuds solution and a sponge.

2. Rinse the headliner using a cloth soaked in cold water.

3. Dry plastic or vinyl headliners with an absorbent towel.


Ordinary dirt can be removed with a household window cleaner, but further action might be required in some cases.

Stubborn Spots

1. Mix the following solution: 5 parts lukewarm water, 4 parts rubbing alcohol, and 1 part household detergent.

2. Rub the spot vigorously using a cloth dampened with the solution.

3. Rinse with clear water.

4. Dry with paper towel or newspaper.

Glass Film

Tobacco smoke gives off a vapor that forms a stubborn film on the inside of the windshield and windows. Surprisingly, vinyl upholstery does the same thing. Do not try to use water or commercial window cleaners to remove this film from the glass; they will only smear the film. Instead, mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. After washing the glass with this solution, leave the car doors open until the odor disappears.


Begin by vacuuming the dashboard, steering column, and door panels. Use a crevice tool attachment to clean the vents, the narrow space between the windshield and dashboard, and any other tight spots. Be careful not to scratch the surface while using this attachment. Use a round brush attachment for the open spaces. The method used to wash the dash varies.

Padded Dash

1. If the dash is not too dirty, simply dampen a cloth with cold water and wipe it down.

2. If the dash has turned dull and grimy, make a sudsy warm water solution using a mild liquid detergent-one that you would use on your hands.

3. Use the suds, not the solution, to wash the dash. Apply the suds with a clean cheesecloth or terry cloth, rubbing gently.

4. Rinse the suds away with clear water, being careful not to get excess water on any of the electrical switches.

5. Open the doors and windows so the upholstery can dry.

6. If the dash is still not clean to your satisfaction, you might want to purchase a spray foam product; be sure to read the directions first to make sure it is safe to use for your car.

7. Use window cleaner on the glass areas of the instrument panel. Be careful not to get any on the padded areas.

Unpadded Dash

1. Dampen a sponge and wipe down the dash, paying special attention to badly soiled areas.

2. Wax painted areas with a paste wax that contains a cleaner. Follow the label directions. NOTE: Do not use wax on the plastic trim; it will only dull the appearance of the pieces.

3. Use window cleaner on the glass area of the instrument panel, being careful not to get any on the painted areas. Remember to do the steering column as well.

4. Wash the door panels, again being careful not to 'drown" the electrical switches. Do not use volatile cleaners, household cleaning or bleaching agents, or auto body polishes to clean leather or coated fabrics such as vinyl or mylar. A non-staining conditioner can be used on leather surfaces, but do not use neat's-foot oil-it will change the color of the leather.


Start by vacuuming the seats. Use the crevice tool attachment to clean the space between the back edge of the seat and the backrest and the upholstery tool attachment to do the rest.

To give the seats a general washing, follow steps 1 through 6 of the Padded Dash section. Some suggestions for removing certain types of stains are given here, but it is wise to check your owner's manual for specific recommendations. For best results, treat a stain as soon as possible.

Before using a volatile cleaner, try it on a hidden portion of the fabric; if it changes color, try another cleaner. Pour a little of the cleaner on the cheesecloth, wait about 30 seconds, then rub the cloth lightly over the stained area in a circular motion. Start at the outside of the stain and work toward the center. Use a different part of the cloth every few circles and blot the cleaned area dry with facial tissue. If the stain is not removed the first time, repeat the process, using clean materials. If a ring results, it means that the area is too dirty; clean the entire panel and let it dry completely before using.

WARNING: Volatile cleaners are usually flammable and should be used with extreme care. Do not smoke while using these products.


Rub lightly with a cloth soaked in warm water. Let the spot dry, rub lightly with a volatile cleaner, then blot.

Fruit or Cream-Filled Candy

Rub the area with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water and suds from a mild liquid soap. Then scrape the area, while still wet! with a dull knife.

Other Candy

Rub the area with a cloth soaked in very hot water. If a stain remains, try a volatile cleaner.

Chewing Gum

Harden the gum with an ice cube, then scrape it away with a dull knife. Moisten any remaining particles with a volatile cleaner and use a dull knife to scrape them away while they are still wet.


Clean with a cloth soaked in cold water, then gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water. If any stain remains, use a volatile cleaner.


Use cold water to start, followed by detergent. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.

Fruit, Liquor, and Wine

If the stain cannot be removed with a cloth soaked in hot water, rub the spot lightly with a volatile cleaner.

Ice Cream

Try not to let the ice cream dry. Use hot water alone at first; mild soapsuds can be tried if the hot water fails. Rinse with cold water, let dry, and finish with a volatile cleaner.


Put a little detergent solution directly on the spot and press a facial tissue over the stain. Repeat the process as needed, using a fresh facial tissue each time.


Rub gently with a volatile cleaner until the stain is gone. Scraping gently with a dull knife might speed the process.

Grease and Oil

Gently scrape off the excess with a table knife. Use a volatile cleaner and blot the surface dry.


Sponge with mild soap and warm water, then rinse with cold water. Wet a fresh cloth in a 1:5 mixture of ammonia and water, and place the cloth over the stain. Let it set for a minute or two, then rinse the area with a cloth soaked in cold water.


Rub the area with a cloth soaked in cold water, then wash the area with soapsuds mixed in warm water. If the stain remains, try a volatile cleaner.


Do not use hot water or soap. Instead, rub the stain with a clear cloth soaked in cold water. If some of the stain remains, use a cloth to apply household ammonia to the spot. Wait a few minutes, then use a cloth dipped in cold water to rinse the area. Especially tough spots will have to be removed with a mixture of cornstarch and water paste. Apply the mixture to the stain, let dry, then pick it off; the paste should absorb at least some of the stain as it dries. Repeat until the stain is gone.


Seat covers can be used for torn or badly worn seats. Tape the tears with cloth or plastic tape prior to installing the covers. Packaged seat covers are relatively easy to install and require no special tools; better-fitting covers can be custom fitted. Although these covers look nice and last longer than packaged covers, they are considerably more expensive.


1. Remove the floor mats. If your car has no mats, you might want to consider buying some. In addition to reducing road noise, they also enhance the carpeting and are ideal for covering badly worn areas.


2. Thoroughly vacuum the carpet. Use the crevice toot attachment for tight spots. NOTE: You might want to remove the seats to do a realty thorough job.

3. Clean the carpet with a spray foam cleaner. A volatile cleaner can be used sparingly on those tough-to-remove stains; do not use too much or you might remove some of the coloring. NOTE: For badly faded carpet, color sprays are available that can be used to freshen the color. Check first to see that the spray is compatible with the type of carpet in your car.

4. Clean the floor mats before putting them back in the car. If they are made of vinyl, soak them for several minutes in a tub filled with cold water and soapsuds. Use a cloth to rub off packed dirt and scrape off any tar or gum with a dull knife or scraper. Rinse with cold water. Rubber mats can be cleaned and rinsed in the same manner; scrub them lightly with steel wool or a kitchen scouring pad to remove stubborn stains.


Cleaning out the luggage compartment regularly helps to prevent the metal from rusting and rotting away.

1. Remove the trunk mat and vacuum the trunk thoroughly. Pay particular attention to all edges and rims.

2. Vacuum the mat.

3. Clean the mat following the instructions found in the FLOORS section.

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