A shiny-clean interior doesn’t just make an old car seem new again–it puts money back in your pocket. Keep your interior looking, smelling and feeling clean to convince potential buyers your car has had plenty of TLC.
Know your project;
Level of difficulty: medium
Time required: 3 hours
Cost: as little as $20
- Remove floor mats and miscellaneous items from the car. Vacuum every nook, seam, cranny, and crevice, starting with the headliner and working down. Slide seats backward and forward to reach everywhere. And don’t forget the trunk or cargo area.
- Clean windows with glass cleaner and a microfiber towel, wiping in straight lines across the glass. Buff them with a dry towel.
- For the headliner, apply car-interior cleaner to a soft brush (not the headliner itself) and gently swirl the brush to lift dirt and wipe it away, being careful not to get the headliner too wet. Blot the headliner dry with a microfiber towel.
- Floor mats and carpets can be spiffed up with carpet cleaner or shampoo. Brush mats vigorously with a carpet brush and wipe away excess cleaner with a towel. A steam cleaner may give better results, especially on seats, which pick up lots of dirt and human oils.
- For leather seats, spray on interior cleaner and wipe with a microfiber towel. For a deeper cleaning, spray cleaner on a soft bristle brush and work up a lather, brushing in a circular motion. Wipe up lather with a towel before it dries, in order to capture dirt.
- For cloth seats, use a foaming upholstery cleaner or shampoo.
- Apply a moisturizer for leather, vinyl and plastic. Avoid silicone-based protectants that leave a greasy, overly shiny surface. The sun can heat them and lead to drying or cracking, and the silicone can stain clothing.
- As a last resort for embedded dirt, oils and stains, use a soft kitchen scrubber with cleaner on interior plastics, vinyl or leather. Use the scrubber to remove shoe scuffs and other stains on doorjambs and kick plates.
- A brush and cleaner will lift embedded dirt and oils from steering wheels. Dry with a towel. Dashboards usually do fine with just spray cleaner and a microfiber towel.
- Lightly spray cleaner on the center console, cup holders, buttons and switches, and then brush clean and wipe down. A toothbrush, paintbrush or Q-tip works in vents and crevices.
- Give the interior, seats, carpet and floor mats a final once-over with a vacuum to hit anything you may have missed, including deep seams.
For a deeper clean, think about using a steam cleaner:
- Start by removing and vacuuming floor mats. Vacuum carpets, seat upholstery, seat tracks, door panels and interior crevices, use the steamer to go over the mats again, along with carpet, interior panels, cup holders, vents, switches and other hard-to-reach areas. Wipe with a microfiber towel.
- Presoak carpet and floor mats with fabric cleaner, then heat the cleaner with the steamer and its nozzle brush attachment. Apply more cleaner to carpet, then scrub deeply by hand with a carpet brush. Blot and dry excess cleaner with a towel.
- For leather seats, wrap the steamer wand head in a microfiber towel, and then use it to heat and open the leather’s pores. Use a brush and interior cleaner to gently work up a lather and lift dirt, and then wipe away dirt with a towel.
- Don’t get the carpet or upholstery too wet–this can lead to mildew or damage electronic gear.
- Easy-to-overlook areas include the rear parcel shelf, seat belts and crevices between seats.
- Problem stains like gum, tar or makeup should be removed with a specialized cleaning product.
Oops! Glass cleaner left spots all over the dashboard and door panels!
To remove the spots, wipe the areas with a damp cloth. Remember that it’s better to spray glass cleaner on a microfiber towel, not the glass itself, to avoid misting and spots where you don’t want them to be.