Cleaning the interior of my car is as important to me as
the exterior, because when I’m with my car, I’m mostly inside
behind the wheel.
I want the cabin to look, smell, and, more importantly,
For today’s interior detailing episode, we’re going to cover
a variety of techniques.
Some are very basic and easy and can be done for under $20,
while other techniques are more advanced and will require
additional cleaning tools.
We’re going to go over a lot of information today, so be
sure and check out ammonyc.com for a free a downloadable PDF
with a listing of these step-by-step instructions.
Having the right tools is key to doing an interior detail.
On this side here, we have microfiber towels.
We have brushes and, of course, a few products.
This would be considered the weekend warrior side of the
Over here, we have our professional.
We have big, heavy vacuums, ozone machines.
We have Porter cables with brushes on them, steam
machines, and hot water extractor.
Whatever tool fits your budget, time, and the amount
of cars and condition that you’re working with, these are
all great options for your interior detailing.
Once all miscellaneous items are removed from the interior,
the first and most basic technique for cleaning
leather, plastics, and vinyl is with a designated interior
cleaner and a microfiber towel.
Apply a few squirts to a clean microfiber towel.
Then wipe away the dirt with medium pressure.
In some cases, this may be enough to clean the material
However, this Lexus requires another few steps because of
its heavy dirt and grime.
For step two, add your interior cleanser to a soft
bristle brush and agitate until foamy lather is created.
Unlike painted surfaces, circles can be used on leather
with your interior brush.
Don’t allow the cleaner to dry on the surface, as the dirt is
suspended within the lather you’ve created.
Immediately wipe with a microfiber tower.
After step two, most interiors are back in shape.
But in rare cases, technique three may be required.
Although this section of the side bolster looks much
better, there are small areas that need a little extra help.
For technique three, apply two squirts of your cleaner to an
interior scrub pad with light pressure, and in straight
lines, work the remaining blemish until the surface is
Remember to avoid pushing too hard and be aware of old and
brittle surfaces, as this is an aggressive cleaning
technique reserved for difficult stains.
Much like paint, always work your way up from the least
aggressive technique until you find the method that works
best on that particular staining or material.
When cleaning most steering wheels, I prefer to use the
interior brush on wrapped leather because of the exposed
stitching that is easily cleaned with the
hairs of the brush.
Work in small areas to avoid premature drying, and use a
microfiber towel to grip the wheel and wipe it clean.
It’s common for the steering wheel to feel slightly sticky
after it’s been cleaned because the dirt and oils from
the driver’s hands have been removed, leaving behind a
clean, non-greasy texture.
When dust accumulates on the dashboard, simply add two
squirts of the interior cleaner and wipe with a
In most cases, using a brush or a scrub pad is unnecessary.
Much like the steering wheel, the armrest contains the most
body oils and sweat.
In this example, I used all three techniques to show what
can be achieved after just a few minutes of carefully
lifting and removing embedded dirt and oils.
Besides the obvious color change from dirty to clean,
notice the difference in sheen.
The clean side has a natural matte finish, while the dirty
has a shiny or light-reflective quality
that’s common on greasy surfaces.
If you have access to a steamer, it can be extremely
helpful on center consoles, cup holders, and plastic seams
because of the 65 to 70 psi it creates with
low residual water.
A simple microfiber towel, along with your brush, is also
an effective method for cleaning around buttons,
shifter booths, and cup holders if
don’t have a steamer.
Headliners can be tricky to clean because they are thinner
and generally the most delicate material used on the
interior of the car.
Avoid oversoaking the headliner, as it can cause the
fabric to sag by loosening the glue.
Directly apply the cleaner to a brush or a microfiber towel
before attempting to clean it.
The goal is to lift the stain without tearing the liner or
disturbing the fibers.
Lightly blot the stain, then comb the fibers to help blend
in the clean area with the surrounding liner so it
doesn’t stand out.
Make sure to take your time on the driver’s side door, as it
typically accumulates heavy dirt and oil
from constant use.
All three techniques may need to be used on the various
surfaces that makes the door panel.
The door jam kick panels tend to be a harder plastic, so I
like to use technique three and scrub with firm pressure
to remove the common shoe scuffs from getting in and out
of the car.
If you’re a professional, high-volume shop, or simply
love power tools, you can convert a basic dual-action
polisher to an interior scrub machine.
This brush is designed for leather because it’s soft yet
effective at lifting dirt.
Add a few squirts to the brush and the area being cleaned.
Notice I didn’t oversaturate the seat because of the
perforations built into the leather.
Add more cleaner as the area needs it and work the machine
in a crisscross pattern to effectively
covers the entire area.
Wipe clean with the microfiber towel.
For the deepest clean, I use a steam machine with a
microfiber towel wrapped around the wand.
Step one is to heat the surface to open the pores of
the leather while removing the top layer of heavy dirt.
While it’s still hot, step two is to directly apply interior
cleaner and agitate with your interior brush.
You can also use the scrub pad if necessary.
This technique is highly effective for deep cleaning
and bacteria removal, especially for abnormally
dirty seats and when mold is present.
Once all the leather is cleaned and the pores of the
hide opened, it’s essential to moisturize or condition the
material to avoid stress cracking or drying out.
Be sure to remove the excess residue for a matte finish.
Cleaning cloth and carpet can be tricky.
Here are a few different techniques that you can use it
based on the level of dirt, your comfort level, and
machines you may own.
No one method is always best, so use the one you’re most
For the first technique, presoak the
carpet with fabric cleaner.
Then use the steamer and scrubber nozzle
to heat up the fibers.
Once heated, reapply another round of fabric cleaner and
scrub with a carpet brush.
Finally, soak up with a clean microfiber towel.
If you don’t have any machines, that’s OK.
Much can be accomplished with a simple bucket of hot water,
carpet brush, and a fabric cleaner.
Liberally apply your cleaner, then scrub in opposing
directions with firm pressure.
Once the dirt is lifted, wipe clean with a microfiber towel.
For a professional deep clean, a hot-water extractor is a
fantastic option because it removes the loosened soils
immediately without the need of additional an wet-vac step.
I use a crisscross pattern to ensure every fiber is heat
treated from two different angles so
that nothing is missed.
Once all carpets are cleaned, I like to follow up with a
Afterwards, I install carpet stripes for a fresh new car
look and feel.
Start by brushing all the fibers in one direction.
Then use the width of the brush to point the pile in
opposing directions, giving the illusion of stripes.
When I’m doing my final checkover, I like to bring my
vacuum along with me to think of anything I may have missed
in the previous steps.
Be sure to pull open seat jams and vacuum out seat tracks,
all the while visually inspecting your work for
stains that may have reappeared as they dried,
which is not uncommon.
OK, we’ve reviewed a variety of techniques and showed a
range of tools that I’ve used as a professional detailer.
But at the end, use the techniques that work for you
in your situation and enjoy the satisfaction that comes
from driving in a meticulously clean interior cabin.
For a downloadable PDF of these steps, check out
That’s it for me, guys.
Thanks for watching another episode of “Drive Clean” right
here on DRIVE network.