How to Clean and Detail Your Car Interior

White car leather seats

​Cleaning the inside of your car is an essential part of owning an automobile. Not only does having a clean car feel good, but it helps to preserve your car so that it will last a long time. We walk through the details for detailing the inside of your car, including cleaning the seats and windows.

How to Clean Car Seats

​Your car’s interior is susceptible to spills, stains and catching all kinds of debris on a day to day basis. When you need to find out how to clean car upholstery then you can follow this guide on how to clean car seats to get your car looking like it’s brand new again.

How to Clean Cloth and Fabric Car Seats

​The fabric seats in your car are excellent at catching crumbs and holding onto stains. Once you know how to clean your car seats, you can easily combat messes by creating a routine for cleaning your car seats to help get rid of dirt and clean up spills or stains.

The basic steps for the best way to clean fabric car seats are:

  • 1
    ​Vacuum the seat
  • 2
    ​Spray the fabric with a cleaner
  • 3
    ​Use a scrub brush
  • 4
    ​Wipe up the suds with a microfiber towel
  • 5
    ​Repeat if needed
  • 6
    Vacuum again

Vacuum Seats

You will want to begin by vacuuming out your car seats. This will remove any dirt or crumbs that have not yet been grinded into your car seats.

Small dog peeks out of car window

You can use a simple stick vacuum or invest in a handy car vacuum that you can keep in the car for easy cleanups on the go. If you have pets, children or if you regularly eat in your car, then an in-car vacuum may be the perfect investment to help keeping your car seats crumb free.

Spray with Cleaner

​Next you will want to find a car cleaning spray to use on your car seats. While you can purchase a car cleaner spray at your local home improvement or superstore, you can also make your own car cleaner spray with simple and safe items you already have around the house.

Use Vinegar

​If you don’t mind the smell, then this home staple is great for cleaning, deoderizing and lifting stains from your car.

To make your own vinegar cleaning mix you will want to put

  • ​one cup of white vinegar
  • ​one cup of water
  • ​a few drops of Dawn dish detergent

Shake the bottle a few times to get the dawn mixed well with the vinegar and water. The vinegar will work to cut down on spills and stains by eating and shipping away at the organic matter, while the dish detergent creates a vacuum action by lifting up the dirt. This ​mutli-faceted kitchen ingredient ​is also commonly used to clean ​carpet as well.

Use Baking Soda

​You can quickly make a baking soda paste by adding half and half baking soda and water in a little bowl or dish. You will want the paste to have a consistency so that it is still somewhat solid but now moist.

Use a small brush or old tooth brush to work the baking soda mixture into the car seats. This mixture is great for cleaning stains and deodorizing your car seat, just as it is good for ​maintaining your wool rugs.

Make sure that if you are using a spray cleaner that you don’t completely soak the car seats. You should mist the cleaner over the area, and then begin scrubbing. Add in another spray or two if you have a bad spot, but you will want to avoid rapidly spraying one spot or pouring liquid onto the seat.

Too much liquid will soak deep into the cushions of your car seat and make it almost impossible to dry. This will in turn cause your car seat to eventually mold or mildew due to the excess moisture deep in the cushions.

Wipe Seats

​Once you have completed scrubbing your seats down with the mixture and a bristled brush, you will want to use a microfiber towel to wipe the seat down. This type of towel will grab the lifted dirt and residue, along with the soap suds.

It will also help dry the seat a little by pulling up any moisture on the surface. Repeat spraying, brushing and wiping up the excess again if you have a stubborn stain or still smell an odor.

Vacuum Again

​Finish by running a handheld vacuum over the car seats again. This will help lift up any newly loosened dirt as well as help in pulling up more moisture in the seat from the cleaner that you used.

Allow your car seats to dry for a few hours before you sit on them.

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

​Learning how to clean car seats that are covered in leather can seem tricky, since you don’t want to do anything to harm or age the leather. However, cleaning leather car seats is surprisingly simple and can be done with items you already have in your home.

White car leather seats

Vacuum First

​You will want to quickly run a vacuum over your leather seats to make sure that all the crumbs and tiny debris is picked up and not being rubbed deeper into your seats as you wipe them.

Make a Cleaning Solution

​Next you can make your own leather cleaning solution with water and vinegar. Instead of doing the 50/50 water and white vinegar mixture, you will want to add in one cup of vinegar into two cups of water. That's right-- you no longer have to purchase ​those ​store bought cleaning chemicals that do the same job!

This mixture on the other hand, will further cut down on the acidity of the vinegar, since it has the potential to dry out your leather in high potency form.

Spray the Solution

​Spray the vinegar and water mixture onto a clean cloth and wipe down your leather seats. You can repeat spraying and wiping multiple times until you are satisfied that your seats are clean.

Wipe Seats

​Next take a dry cloth and wipe down your leather seats to make sure that they are dry.

Use a Leather Conditioner

​Once you have finished drying off your seats, you will want to use a leather conditioner on them. This leather replenishing product is found in most local superstores or you can find it at an auto store.

Test a small area of your seat if you haven’t used this product before to make sure that it doesn’t discolor your seats. When you are satisfied with it, then you can put a little bit on a microfiber cloth and gentle wipe around the entire seat.

You don’t want to drench your seats in leather conditioner. Instead it is a very light amount that you will rub in, enough to soften your seat without making it greasy.

If you think you added too much then you can use a second microfiber cloth to wipe over it to pick up the excess amount of leather conditioner.

Park your car in the shade and let the conditioner sit for at least an hour before you use your car. This will let it finish curing on your seats.

Buff with Cloth

​Finally you will want to follow up with a final buff of your seats with a clean microfiber cloth. This will wipe up the conditioner that your seats did not soak in. You will really only need to condition your leather seats once or twice a year.

Now that you know how to clean car seats you can go out and give your seats the detailing that they have been waiting for.

How to Clean Inside Car Windows

​​When it comes to learning the best way to clean inside car windows, there are a few things to know so that you can select the best cleaner and cleaning method for success the first time.

A close up of car interior window and dashboard

Best Car Window Cleaners to Use

​Surprising as it may be, traditional glass cleaners are not always the best choice when it comes to finding the best way to clean the inside of a car windshield.

This is due to the fact that dirt, grime and oil accumulates on the inside of your car’s windows and windshield over time. The buildup, especially if you are a smoker or have small children and pets that like to put fingers and noses on the windows.

Traditional glass cleaners just don’t have enough of a degreaser element built into them to tackle the buildup. Instead you can make your own powerful yet simple glass cleaner from items you should already have around the house.

Vinegar

​The powers of white vinegar are amazing, it can be cooked with, canned with and is great for multi surface cleaning. It is also safe to inhale (even though it may have an unpleasant odor) and it won’t harm little ones or pets.

When you need to know how to clean car windows without leaving any streaks, then white vinegar is the super cleaning product that you will want to turn to.

Simply mix one part water to one part vinegar. This easy combination will dilute the vinegar just enough to make it still potent without being overwhelming. The vinegar is tough enough to power through dirt, grime, oil and other buildup that can occur on your windshield and other interior glass surfaces.

If you are wondering how to clean tinted car windows then using this vinegar based cleaner is acceptable and won’t harm your tinted surfaces. The main thing you will want to avoid with tinted windows is to stay away from ammonia based cleaners. These will damage your window tint.

Microfiber Cloth

​To wipe away the vinegar and pickup the loosened dirt and grime, you will need something that won’t leave any fibers on your glass surfaces.

Many individuals opt for paper towels since they are easy to use and toss when you are finished. However, sometimes even the best paper towels can leave small fibers on your glass surfaces.

A better tool to use is a microfiber cloth. This reusable and super soft cloth has loads of tiny fibers that work together to agitate and remove surface dirt, grime and other substances that it encounters by trapping them inside of the hundreds of thousands of fibers on it’s surface.

Microfiber cloth in different colors

The microfiber cloth also does not leave behind any fibers when it wipes your glass surfaces clean, making it a must use tool to give you the best overall clean and brilliance not only for your windows but your entire home.

How to Clean Interior Car Windows

​Now that you know what tools you need to get the job done, it’s time to know the best step by step way for how to clean inside car windows without leaving streaks.

1. Shake up the Cleaner

​Even if you just mixed up a vinegar and water cleaner, before you begin to spray, just give your choice cleaner a good shake. This will ensure that it is well mixed so that the ingredients are dispersed at the right levels.

2. Lay down Towels

​Don’t skip this prep step, so that you don’t cheat yourself out of a good thorough cleaning. Especially if this is the first time you have cleaned your windows and windshield in awhile.

Place a few folded over towels at the bottom of your windshield or place a single folded towel on the arm of your car door, just at the bottom of the window. This is used to catch the excess liquid that will slide down the glass.

You don’t want that much liquid cleaner falling all over your dash or doors, potentially damaging the surface.

3. Douse the Glass

​Usually when you are cleaning surfaces, you will want to reserve spraying too much since it could soak in and be difficult to clean out of the surface. However, when it comes to how to clean car windows without streaks you will want do liberally spary teh entire glass area.

This thorough spraying ensures that every nook, cranny and inbetween is being covered well so that the cleaner is able to clean off the buildup on your interior glass surfaces.

The towels below will protect your dash and doors by catching the excess dripping liquid while you work to wipe it off.

4. Use a Microfiber Cloth

​Grab your microfiber cloth and wipe off the windshield. You don’t really need to wait and let the cleaner sit. Nor do you need to rush and wipe off the spray as quickly as possible. There is an in between easy way for cleaning interior car glass surfaces.

Once you are done spraying the entire surface, then put down the bottle and pick up your microfiber cloth. If you are cleaning a large area glass such as the dash, then spray the entire surface and then begin wiping the area that you sprayed first and work your way across.

Microfiber cloth to clean window

If the microfiber cloth becomes too damp, then simply turn it over or fold it once, so that you have a dryer surface to work on and continue wiping away the cleaner.

5. Repeat if Needed

​If you notice an improvement, but your interior glass still isn’t up to it’s best shine, then you can and should repeat the cleaning process. If you want, you can let the cleaner sit for 20 extra seconds to let it really dig deep and pull off the grime that is on the glass surfaces.

If you notice a too strong vinegar odor, then all you will need to do is go for a nice ride with the windows down. This will help push out most of the lingering smell, which will also dissipate on its own in a few days.

Now that you know the best way to clean inside car windows, you can restore your cars windows back to that new car brilliance.

How Long Does it Take to Detail a Car?

​​When it comes to planning on detailing a car yourself or using a detailing service to do all the work for you, it’s essential to know about how long it takes to detail a car and what goes into it to rack up all the time.

On average, it can take about 3 hours to detail in inside and outside of a standard size car. Depending on the size of your vehicle and how much extra or how little you want to put into the detailing then this time will fluctuate.

Detailing a Car Yourself

​You can save a little money and spend the time yourself detailing a car. If you have kids, then they would enjoy helping with the beginning wash and helping put suds all over your vehicle.

Don’t say no to extra helping hands since this can help reduce the time and overall effort that you will put into detailing. Plus it will give your kids a nice cool relief on hot summer days. Otherwise, it can serve as ​their chores you may or may not reward ​at the end of the day.

Opt for a quick cleaning tire spray that will help with cutting down on your scrubbing time. Due to the high accumulated amounts of filth and grime on your tires, make sure that you use a separate cloth or brush than you use on your vehicle.

Close up of a white luxury car

Instead of using a standard car wash on your exterior windows, opt to mix a simple cleaning 50/50 cleaning solution of water and vinegar. This grime blasting glass cleaner will brighten up your glass and help remove dirt buildup. Save this cleaner for in inside of the windows as well.

Following a thorough scrub and rinse, you may want to add on a wax coat that requires you to wax on and wax off.

For the interior detailing you will be doing multiple steps to clean the multiple surfaces.

  • ​Use a small handheld or shop vac to pick up dirt and debris from the floor and seat areas. Make sure to remove and vacuum each floor mat.
  • ​If you have cloth seats then use a spot cleaner on them to lift any stains. For leather, use a simple multi-surface cloth cleaning wipe to clean off any residue on the seat.
  • ​A multi-surface cleaning wipe will pick up any dust on your dashboard, around the radio and along the car door interior.
  • ​Spray the interior glass surfaces with a cleaning spray and wipe them clean.

Using a Car Service to Detail

​If you choose to hire a car detailing service then make sure that you get a few details from them in order to better estimate how long it will take for your car to be completely detailed.

Each car service will have their own estimated cleaning times depending on the package. This will help you figure out how long it will take and if you are able to sit and wait in the shop or drop off your car.

​Conclusion

Now that you know more about how long it takes to detail a car, you can better schedule a time to do it yourself or take it to a professional for a thorough cleaning.

​If you're enjoying this article, make sure to check out our comprehensive cleaning guides, segmented by room:

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.

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