Here’s Exactly How You Should Clean Your Car’s Interior

This is what you should hit during your routine cleaning.

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You probably have a weekly cleaning routine for your home. Heck, you probably even make sure to hit the car wash the minute the outside of your car starts glistening with bird droppings and pollen. Unlike at home, your dirty shoes are almost always on in the car, and there’s a good chance you’ve been caught snacking during the rush to get to your next destination. All that use makes for a pretty grimy car interior, but most people don’t bother cleaning the inside—including all your favorite car accessories—as often as they should. So, when was the last time you actually cleaned your car interior? Pick up some car stain removers, grab your favorite clean car essentials, and arm yourself with these car cleaning tips and tricks. Time to get cleaning!

A few car interior cleaning tips

According to Consumer Reports, “many of the same household cleaners that kill viruses (including COVID-19) on hard surfaces at home can also clean a car without damaging its interior.” This includes isopropyl alcohol, disinfecting wipes, and soap, and using microfiber cloths because the fabric won’t harm the surfaces of your car.

But what does cleaning your car look like? Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports‘ Auto Test Center, recommends on Consumer Reports to clean surfaces that are touched frequently “including the steering wheel, door handles, shift lever, any buttons or touch screens, wiper and turn signal stalks, passenger and driver door armrests, grab handles, and seat adjusters.”

How often you should clean your car?

To keep the inside of your car sparkling, you should be cleaning it at least once a month, Christian Newman, owner of C & J Automotive Detailing tells TODAY. And if the dog hair and granola bar crumbs start building up even sooner, you might want to clean the inside of your vehicle every other week. But there are certain habits to get into regularly to make cleaning your car’s interior less of a hassle every couple of weeks such as taking out any accumulating trash and wiping away dust. Doing a deep clean every two weeks sounds like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you think. Check out these myths that you need to stop believing about your car.

Start with the dashboard

Time to break out the vacuum, but not where you think. Don’t start by vacuuming the carpet when you decide to clean your car interior; you’ll just end up pushing dirt back on when you clean the seats and other areas, according to Family Handyman. Instead, start by attacking the dashboard, door panels, and console with your vacuum. This will pick up any debris sitting on top.

Next, dip a soft microfiber cloth into some water to wipe the surfaces down. If your dashboard is looking particularly filthy, mix some warm water with soap to wipe it down. In order to get into vents and tiny crevices, Detail Central recommends using a toothbrush or soft paintbrush to gently remove dirt in those hard-to-reach places. Find out the meaning of all those dashboard symbols on your car.

How to clean door jambs 

Now take a look at the doorjamb, the area where your car door connects to the body of the car. “Door jambs are one of the first parts of a car you see when you get in, so keep them clean,” Newman tells TODAY. By using a cotton cloth to rub mild polish into the area, you’ll not only make the area look nicer, but also add oils to keep it from getting too dry, according to Popular Mechanics. 

You can also spray an all-purpose cleaner and use a small brush to clear away any of the dirt. Then, take a spray bottle with water to spritz away the dirt you just dislodged. Wipe away with a clean microfiber towel and voilá! You have clean door jambs. Pretty neat, right? Make sure you also check out this car cleaning putty that will get those hard-to-reach areas.

Time for the vinyl 

To get dust and dirt off your dashboard and door insides, start by wiping the vinyl with a rag, suggests auto repair company Your Mechanic. Then spritz a microfiber cloth with vinyl cleaner and wipe down the surface, getting rid of the excess with a dry cloth. Just avoid the steering wheel, because vinyl cleaner can make it slippery and hard to hold onto. Don’t forget to hit the pockets in your door by de-cluttering and vacuuming. See if you’re doing any of these things that you shouldn’t do in your car.

How to wash your windows 

When you roll down your windows, you might notice a buildup of dirt toward the top—don’t forget to hit those edges when you wipe down your windows and mirrors, suggests Family Handyman. You can also try this cool trick for using club soda to clean a windshield.

In order to prevent streaks, make sure you have the right cleaning supplies. Create your own wash with a bit of white vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, and distilled water. The mixture should have even amounts of distilled water and alcohol, topped off with a cap full of vinegar. Combine in a spray bottle and spritz away! Use a microfiber cloth for the best results.

How to clean car seats 

Before washing seats, get the dirt off with a vacuum. This prevents you from pushing dirt deeper into the seats when you clean and getting rid of any unwanted pet hair or crumbs. Next, for cloth seats, work at a spray-on cleaner with a scrub brush, says Family Handyman. If your seats are leather or vinyl, use a lotion-based leather cleaner, which can work on either material, Newman tells TODAY. Regardless of what material your seats are composed of, make sure you wipe away any excess moisture using a microfiber cloth.

How to clean the floors 

Finally, it’s time for the floors. Clean car floors make a huge difference in how clean your car looks. Start by removing the mats and sliding your seats forward—junk tends to build up behind them. Go over the mats and carpet with a brush-free attachment, according to Family Handyman. Now bring that vacuum inside for these other genius uses for a vacuum cleaner.

What not to use to clean your car

Both Kelley Blue Book and Consumer Reports advise against using hydrogen peroxide and bleach. “Both chemicals can put a welcome end to the coronavirus, but they will also cause damage to the vinyl and plastics used in most modern vehicles today,” writes Kelley Blue Book on their site. “Under no circumstances should you use any ammonia-based cleaning products.” If you find yourself without any cleaning products, using soap and water will work fine. Now that you have the cleanest car interior, check out these weird car features you may not have known you had.


  • Consumer Reports: “How You Can Kill Coronavirus in Your Car Without Damaging Interior Surfaces”
  • TODAY: “How to clean your car interior”
  • The Family Handyman: “Best Car Cleaning Tips and Tricks”
  • Popular Mechanics: “How to Wash Your Car Like a Pro in 12 Steps”
  • Your Mechanic: “How to Clean the Inside of Your Car”
  • Kelley Blue Book: “How to Clean Your Car to Reduce the Spread of the Coronavirus”
  • Detail Central: “What is the best thing to clean car dashboard?”
  • Automotive Training Centres: “An Expert’s Guide To Cleaning Door Jambs In An Auto Detailing Course”

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.