DETAILING MY CAR > Interior Auto Detailing – At Home, Step-by-Step Instructions

Interior Auto Detailing – At Home, Step-by-Step Instructions

Interior auto detailing is the first step in keeping your car looking and smelling new

How to Clean Your Car Interior at Home

So your car’s interior looks like the inside of a frat house. I can’t stand driving a car with a dirty interior – it just grosses me out. Yes, I am a neat nut. I am going to share what I learned in over 25 years of auto detailing experience. I will cover the tools, supplies and techniques of cleaning and performing an interior auto detailing job at home. The methods I will describe are very similar to what a professional auto detail shop would employ. Keeping up on the inside of your car not only makes it a pleasure to drive, but it also improves your car’s value. So let’s get our cleaning kit together and get started.

Interior Auto Detailing Tools and Supplies

1. Small bucket.

2. Sponge.

3. Shampoo. This can be a range of products. You can use an all-purpose cleaner like Simple Green, diluted according to label directions. You can also use products like Resolve when it comes time to shampoo the carpets and cloth seats.

4. Soft-bristled scrub brush.

5. One large can of compressed air.

6. Wet/dry shop vacuum.

7. Terry cloth towels.

8. Paper towels.

9. Glass cleaner.

10. Scented dryer sheets.

11. Febreze.

12. Soft medium-sized paintbrush.

Interior Auto Detailing Tips

Ok, here are my professional tips. Begin by grabbing your compressed air can and paintbrush. Take your paintbrush and use it to brush out the air vents and all nooks and crannies throughout the car. Blow out the areas with the can of compressed air as you go. Do this around the dash, center console, door handles and any other places where there is a large accumulation of dust and dirt. The next step is to give the whole interior a thorough vacuuming.

Be Cautious When Doing an Interior Auto Detail

Now take your bucket and mix up your all-purpose cleaner and warm water. Interior auto detailing begins by cleaning the headliner. Take your sponge and wet it with the interior cleaner – make sure you wring out most of the liquid. The proper way to do this is to gently sponge off the fabric. Great care is needed for this step. You must not completely soak the fabric. If you get it too wet, it will sag down, which could become a permanent condition. I only made this mistake once. The upholstery shop hit me with a fat bill! So just use a little moisture. Next, blot the headliner dry using a clean terry cloth. Use very light pressure. Cleaning the headliner is important because it traps a lot of odors.

Once the headliner is clean, you move to cleaning the dashboard, steering wheel, steering column and center console. Once again, dunk your sponge into your cleaning solution and wring it out very well. Start by sponging down the above-mentioned areas. Do not get the clear gauge faces wet, and don’t get any moisture into switches, dials or the radio/navigation screen. Dry the cleaned areas with another clean towel.

Another word of caution here: Do not get moisture into any control buttons or around the gauges. Moisture can cause problem with some components and behind the gauges. Water can get behind or into them that could potentially cause electrical malfunctions and visible marks behind the gauge panels.

The next step in interior detailing is to shampoo the door panels. Use caution around window and mirror buttons just as you did on the dashboard. Wipe these areas dry. From here you will move on to shampooing the seats. I will describe the methods of cleaning cloth seats in this post. Please refer to my post on full auto detailing for information on leather cleaning and care. As I am sure you have noticed … you are cleaning from the top down. This way, if you get interrupted or take a break during your car detail, you know where to start back up.

More Interior Car Care – Seats and Carpets

Now it’s time to scrub down the upholstery. The first thing to do is wet down your sponge – leave it wetter than you did when cleaning the dash and doors. Rub down the seats with the wet sponge. Next, dunk your nylon scrub brush into your cleaning liquid. Gently scrub down the cloth. Do not apply very much pressure while scrubbing – you don’t want to tear any of the cloth. Last, rub the seats down with a clean terry cloth towel to remove moisture and dirt that the scrub brush has loosened. I have accidently torn a hole into a cloth seat before and it sucks. Be gentle – scrub softly.

Next, tackle the carpets and floor mats. If you have bad stains, use Resolve to spot-treat them. Allow the cleaner to soak into the stains for a few minutes. Dunk your brush into the soapy water and shampoo the floors and mats. You can apply fairly firm pressure at this point. Once the material has been thoroughly scrubbed, dry it off with a terry towel. You won’t believe how much dirt transfers to the towel – gross! Now re-vacuum the whole interior to pull up any remaining soil. This will also aid in the drying process.

Clean Windows Like an Auto Detail Professional

Window cleaning is an art. I can’t stand dirty windows. It’s like wearing smudged eyeglasses. To start cleaning the windows you don’t simply spray them with glass cleaner and dry them off. I like to begin by spraying the windows with a heavy mist of glass cleaner. Allow the cleaner to sit on the glass for a minute or two. Now, soak a towel (terry cloth or paper) with your glass cleaner and rub down the glass. You are not drying the window with this step. At this point take some fresh towels and dry the windows. I like to use side-to-side hand motions to dry the glass. By drying the glass this way you can use overlapping strokes. Should you get any streaks that will be readily visible from the outside of the car. If the car has been smoked in, you will need to go through these steps twice to remove the layers of nicotine.

There is nothing nicer than driving with clean windows. The whole world looks brighter.

Wrapping Up Your Professional Interior Auto Detail

Now you are tired and sweaty, but your car interior looks fantastic. You have just performed a professional interior detail at home.There are a couple of extra tricks to cleaning an interior. If the car has been smoked in or has had pets in it, you want to kill any remaining odors. This is where you can use scented dryer sheets. Simply tuck a few under the front seats of the car. Last, lightly mist down the cloth seats, carpets and floor mats with some Febreze. Mmmmm, fresh.

Roll down your car windows and let the interior fully dry out. This usually takes a couple of hours depending on how warm it is. If you don’t do this step, your car will smell musty and be unpleasant to drive. This is especially true if you leave the car parked in the sun with the windows up. Also, if it is cold and wintery, the damp interior could mold. So, if the weather is bad, pull the car into the garage to dry properly.

After completing this detailing job, your interior looks almost brand new and you are keeping your car’s value up. To me, a clean car interior is as nice as putting fresh sheets on a bed. Soft comfort and a clean smell – nice.

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