Many car owners tend to focus only on the exterior when cleaning their vehicle, but learning how to clean car upholstery and other parts of the interior is equally important. Dirt and dust from the road can stick to the body of a car. Generally, cleaning a cabin may be less frequent as compared to exterior washing. However, the same dirt and dust, when stuck to the soles of shoes and other articles of clothing, can be carried inside the vehicle.
Auto accessory shops carry a wide selection of DIY detailing materials that any car owner can use. These include body and carpet shampoos, waxes, polishes and other cleaning agents. Vacuum cleaners, brushes and other accessories are readily available from hardware and specialty retailers. A couple of hours or so spent on leather seat cleaning at least twice a year will help a great deal in preserving a car’s interior for many years, and at minimal cost.
Step 1: Vacuuming
Use a high-powered, home vacuum cleaner instead of smaller, more compact car vacuums that plug into a cigarette lighter. Most of these types do not have enough power to suck out deep seated dirt, especially in the crevices of seats and carpets. Take out floor mats to access areas underneath them. These spots are where dirt tends to accumulate the most. Vacuum floor mats thoroughly. Make use of vacuum cleaner attachments to concentrate force in hard-to-reach areas. Brush attachments are useful when working on surfaces that may be damaged by scratching. If possible, car seats can be taken out to allow better access to the areas underneath them.
Step 2: Cleaning Carpets and Floor Mats
It is recommended that floor mats be cleaned first because, most of the time, these have to be given a suitable amount of time to dry before reinstalling. Clean each floor mat thoroughly after vacuuming. Brushing with water and detergent is highly recommended for rubber and fabric or carpet-type floor mats. Use the right type of brush so as not to damage the material. Some rubber floor mats come with areas for channeling and containing spilled soda, coffee or other liquids. These substances will react with heat and sunlight (when the vehicle is parked outdoors) and may leave a hard-to-remove stain. Give these areas due attention when cleaning.
Step 3: Cleaning Seats
Take out car seats if possible to allow trouble-free access to the areas underneath them. This also makes it relatively easier to vacuum and clean them. A variety of products are now available for cleaning different types of car upholstery.
It is good practice to clean leather seats (and other leather areas, for that matter) section by section. This means applying the cleaning solution to one area, wiping it off, and then moving to another area. For example, apply leather cleaner to the headrest first; wipe it off thoroughly to finish cleaning; and then move to the seat backrest. Apply a conditioner after cleaning all leather surfaces. This gives a protective layer to the upholstery. Leather conditioners usually offer different finishes dependent on one’s preference. Some will provide a shine, while others will leave a more matte finish.
For fabric-upholstered seats, a shampoo is the best cleaning agent that can be used. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying and rinsing. If the seats have not been taken out of the vehicle for cleaning, allow enough time for them to dry. Leave a window open to allow enough air to circulate to help the drying process.