How to properly clean your car’s interior

From the footwell to the boot lining, we've got everything you could need to make your interior sparkle.

A person vacuums the leather seat of their car

by Ryan Gilmore |

If you've already spent an afternoon following our exterior car cleaning guide then the interior may be looking a little sad in comparison and need some TLC. Thankfully we've produced a guide that'll make your interior look as good as the exterior in no time.

The essential kit you'll need to clean your interior

A good vacuum cleaner is an essential purchase for properly cleaning your car's interior. We recommend buying a smaller, handheld unit for better access to your interior. And if your interior is stained you can even buy portable spot cleaners for your car too.

GTech Multi MK2 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

The best vacuum cleaner for your car
GTech Multi MK2 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
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Our current favourite car vacuum cleaner, the GTech may be expensive but it offers an excellent run time, generous dirt storage and features top-notch build quality. The standard accessories are perfect for cleaning your car meaning you don't need the car cleaning kit.

Read our vacuuming guide right here.

A selection of detailing brushes will take your car cleaning to the next level. They'll allow you to aggravate surfaces and remove excess dirt without ruining the surface. For interior cleaning we recommend buying some brushes with softer bristles as they'll be even kinder to upholstery.

26JPN Ultra-Soft Detail Brushes

The best detailing brushes for
26JPN Ultra-Soft Detail Brushes
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This excellently made kit from 26JPN offers two brushes that are well suited to any detailing job. Made from soft boar hair they won't damage any surface you work on and the entire brush lacks metal which limits the chances of accidental scratches even more.

Learn more about detailing brushes and see our favourites here

Microfibre drying towels are a garage essential and will come in very handy when cleaning your car's interior. They can be used to remove excess product, buff and even polish the interior of your car.

Amazon Basics Large Thick Drying Towel (Pack of 2)

The best car drying towels
Amazon Basics Large Thick Drying Towel (Pack of 2)
Amazon

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These budget drying towels are great for achieving a streak-free finish when cleaning your car. They're good value for money and the fact you get two will come in handy as you can never have too many drying towels in your garage.

See our top drying towel picks right here

How to clean your car's interior

A hand cleans a car's steering wheel using a drying towel
©Photo: Getty Images
  1. Take everything not nailed down out of your car. Empty out the glovebox, door pockets and the boot and sort through what you don't need, you may be surprised what you find. It's also a good idea to remove the floor mats at this point so you can clean them easier.
  1. Using your interior shampoo set to work cleaning the dashboard, infotainment system and centre console. Use a soft-bristled detailing brush to ensure you clean every surface and then use a drying towel to remove any excess product and buff the surface.
  1. Switch on your vacuum cleaner and begin by cleaning the floor mats you removed earlier. Once they've been done you can move to the interior and begin sucking up pieces of dirt and debris. Use the vacuum on the headlining (be careful in older cars as the lining may sag) before cleaning the seats (use a crevice tool to get everything), floor and boot.
  1. Use an appropriate seat cleaner. For fabric, vinyl and Alcantara interior shampoo will be good, use a specific leather cleaner for leather seats. Apply the product according to the instructions.
  1. Clean the door cars and other areas with an appropriate cleaner, remembering to wipe away excess product with a clean drying towel.
  1. Finally, tackle any stains using a stain remover. For very large stains a spot cleaner may be in order.

The best products for cleaning car interiors

Autoglym Interior Shampoo

The best car shampoo
Autoglym Interior Shampoo
Amazon

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Our top choice for cleaning fabric interior upholstery, this shampoo is a nice thick product that is effective on stains and contains deodorising agents to eliminate nasty smells. It can be used on fabric, carpet, vinyl and even Alcantara, but is not to be used on leather seats.

Read more about car upholstery cleaners here

Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover

the best stain remover for your car
Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover
Amazon

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For those stains that a simple shampoo can't do, a simple stain remover like Dr Beckmann's is a lifesaver. The bottle features a tough bristled head for aggravating the stain and I can speak from personal experience when I say that it's astonishingly good at removing stains that once looked permanent. It's the ideal product to have if you're a particularly messy individual and it even neutralises bad smells too.

Read more about stain removal for your car here

Autoglym Leather Clean & Protect Complete Kit

The best leather cleaner for your car
Autoglym LCPKIT Leather Clean & Protect Complete Kit
Amazon

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The perfect kit for keeping your leather seats clean and looking healthy, it contains a leather cleaner, leather balm as well as a drying towel and an applicator to make applying the product easier. The cleaner effectively removes dirt and grime without stripping the essential oils leather needs while the balm will nourish the leather and keep it from cracking and drying out.

Read more about leather seat care here

Little Trees Air Freshener

the best air freshener for your car
Little Trees Air Freshener
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The simple Little Trees is a small but effective way to keep your car's interior smelling clean for longer. It's long been the favourite of minicabs everywhere and if it can cover up the smell of greasy takeaways and hammered students it must be an effective option.

Read about our favourite air fresheners here

Holts Sanitiser Air Con Bomb

The best air freshener bomb
Holts Sanitiser Air Con Bomb
Amazon

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The most powerful weapon in the fight against odours, an air freshener bomb will tear through the worst smells a wet dog or cigarette can throw at it. This example from Holts is our top pick because it claims to sanitise your car interior while it works too.

Read next:

Giving your car a health check at home: Parkers explains

Parkers' paint protection guide for DIYers

Here's why you should buy a wash mitt for your car

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