Let’s face it, cars are a lot of work. Most of us rely on these vehicles to get us to work every day, we need them for routine chores, taking the kids to school and a host of other tasks. With that kind of regular wear and tear, it’s no wonder that sometimes things just start to go bad. From spark plugs, to oil filters, paintwork and upholstery; constant car interior cleaning and maintenance is a must if you’re to keep your car looking and running, in peak condition.

While we mostly manage the big jobs well enough, one overlooked and often dreaded part of maintaining your vehicle, is the car interior cleaning. With so many materials in play: leather, plastic, wood and vinyl, and all those nooks and crevices to get to, the job of keeping your car interior looking spick and span can seem pretty overwhelming. But with the constant flow of traffic that comes through those seats and carpets, dust, dirt, trash and other debris builds up fast. Prevention is definitely the best cure here, so we’ve compiled this handy guide to help you with your car interior cleaning.

Develop a Schedule

The best method of dealing with the maintenance work for your car interior is to split it, into a few different cleaning periods; the weekly cleanup, a monthly detailing session and a quarterly inspection. The first one consists of a wipe down of all solid surfaces, and includes clearing away all major trash and debris from seats, and compartments. A more in-depth monthly detailing session includes polishing and preventative care; and finally a quarterly inspection encompasses all the steps above with some added protection and care.

The Weekly Cleanup

Dashboard and Console Cleaning

Let’s start our car interior cleaning, with the most obvious surface presented to you, the dashboard, and console. These areas of the car are regularly exposed to harsh UV rays, which cause vinyl to fade and discolor, so you do want to pay some extra attention here. Thankfully, these areas are pretty easy to clean, just get a foam applicator pad, soft microfiber cloth, an interior cleaning agent and a can of WD-40.

  • Instead of spraying directly onto the vinyl and getting everything wet, apply your cleaner directly onto the pad, wait for the liquid to soak in.
  • Then give the dashboard a thorough rubdown.
  • Follow up by carefully cleaning the console, making sure not to break any of the more fragile moving parts.
  • Once you’ve let the interior cleaner sit for a couple of minutes, it will have cleared away a good portion of the caked grime.
  • Now wipe down the surface with your cloth.
  • For a final touch and polish, spray some WD-40 onto the cloth and give the dashboard and console a once over. This will act as a sealant and protect your dashboard from accumulating dust in the future; it also helps to add a little bit of “new car” shine to your dashboard.

The Upholstery Cleaning

Seats and mats probably take the brunt of abuse from you and your passengers, so they will definitely form a consistent part of your car interior cleaning schedule. Once again, you’ll need a soft microfiber cloth, a material appropriate cleaning agent (leather cleaner/fabric cleaner).

  • Start by applying the material specific cleaner to your cloth; let it soak in.
  • Of course, you’ll want to clear away any wrappers, plastics or other accumulated junk first.
  • Begin wiping down your seats, focus on areas where spills and crumbs are likely; between your thighs, and the areas beside cup holders.
  • Pull out the floor mats and give them a good shake outside to work loose, dirt, hair and other debris.
  • Use a brush if there’s any dirt that refuses to dislodge.

Door Panels and Jambs Maintenance

These areas of the car can be easily handled with your soft cloth and WD-40. If you have a lot of plastic elements in your door design you can scrub these down with a toothbrush, and a more caustic cleaning agent.

As is, start by throwing out any lingering trash in the storage compartments. Then, simply apply your WD-40 to the cloth, and wipe down the entire door surfaces. Make sure you get a liberal dose of the lubricant in the door jambs to prevent sticking.

The Monthly Check-Up

During your monthly in-depth car interior cleaning, you’ll follow all of the steps suggested above with some additions.


Before beginning your rub down of all solid surfaces you’ll want to undertake a thorough vacuuming. Generally any regular vacuum used for your home will do. Make sure you have the right attachments before you do this. The crevice cleaning attachment and brush are important for getting hard to reach areas, and picking up all those little hairs especially if you have pets who ride in the car.

The crevice tool should be used around all those nooks and crannies that were too difficult to get at with your cloth. When you’re going over the carpet make sure to apply a little bit of pressure to work loose stubborn dirt and dust.

For more delicate areas such as the console, dash and vents the brush tool will come in handy. If you want you can follow up by brushing down these surfaces with a small hand tool.

Interior Windows

A good glass cleaner and your trusty microfiber towel should be used on all interior windows. Make sure to mist the cloth rather than the glass to avoid residue. Ammonia treated cleaners will damage tinted glass, so if you’re using one of these for car interior cleaning purposes think again.

Getting Rid of That Funk

To get your car smelling as fresh as the day you bought it, try an odor eliminating wax or spray. Apply these to all available solid surfaces before wiping down, and you’ll make sure your daily commute is a breeze whether the windows are rolled down or not!

Quarterly Evaluation

If you’re following the car interior cleaning guide so far, then there should really be nothing extra to do at this point. After taking care of your regular maintenance work, simply go over and check all your doors, and console buttons. See if there are any cracks or malfunctioning switches. Apply some rubber protectant along the linings to ensure this doesn’t dry and crack, causing vital buttons to go flying off.