Your Complete Guide to Car Interior Cleaning

By: // Updated: September 17, 2020

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A drive through the car wash can give your vehicle exterior a brilliant shine, but as a rideshare driver, you need a spotless interior to earn five-star ratings on every ride. Sticking to a complete car interior cleaning routine is the best way to impress riders and keep your car damage-free.

Your passengers spend the vast majority of their rideshare experience inside your car. While a small scratch on your car exterior may be left unnoticed, your riders are bound to spot dirty seats and floors once they get settled in. In order to give Uber and Lyft riders the quality of service they expect, you need to keep your entire car well-maintained at all times.

This guide will help you check the most important car interior cleaning tasks off your to-do list.

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Weekly Car Interior Cleaning Routine

A dirty vehicle interior is one of many things that will make your car ineligible for Lyft and Uber. Due to the heavy usage of your entire vehicle, you’ll need to stick to a weekly car cleaning routine to keep dirt, debris, and other unwanted contaminants away.

This section will guide you through the three preventative steps you can take once per week — or more, if you see a noticeable mess anywhere in your car.

1. Remove Trash

Remove trash when doing a car interior cleaning

The first step in your car interior cleaning routine should be taking out the trash. It’s as simple as it sounds. Make sure to toss any garbage your riders leave behind, checking in cup holders and storage areas for less noticeable items like gum wrappers.

Of course, while this task should minimally be part of your weekly routine, you should be taking out trash when you notice it — or at least making sure it’s out of sight until your next fill-up at the gas station. Keeping your car clean will please your riders and discourage them from leaving any trash behind.

2. Vacuum

Vacuuming is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent damage and keep your driver ratings high. By removing dirt, debris, and even pet hairs on a routine basis, you not only make your car interior look and smell nice, but you also remove abrasive materials that can damage your upholstery over time. This is especially important if you have leather seats, which can easily be scratched and is expensive to fix.

To give your car a proper vacuum, start by removing your floor mats from your vehicle and shaking off any loose debris. If any other excess items are in your car, take those out as well. Then, vacuum all surfaces, including your car seats, car floor, cup holders, storage areas, and dashboard. Place your floor mats back in your car and vacuum those, too.

Vacuum cleaner attachments can prove to be extremely helpful in this process. We recommend at least having a crevice tool on hand, as this attachment can help you reach all the nooks and crannies of your car. If you own a dog that frequently rides in your backseat, using a brush attachment will help you get all the pet hair off.

Full-time drivers may find it necessary to vacuum once per day or every other day, but it’s even if your car looks fine, it’s important to vacuum at least weekly to protect your interior surfaces. If you want to make vacuuming on-the-go more convenient, we recommend purchasing one of the best car vacuums in the market, which are all highly portable and cordless.

3. Wipe Down Surfaces

Car interior cleaning: Close-up of gears and buttons in a sleek, black vehicle

To close your weekly car interior cleaning routine, make sure to wipe down all the general surfaces of your car. This includes your door panels, center console, dashboard, steering wheel, and cup holders. All you need to do is grab some all-purpose cleaner — the product you use in your home will do — spray a small amount onto a clean microfiber cloth, and wipe the surfaces with your cloth.

Then, use another clean microfiber cloth to wipe away any spots on your window interiors, spraying a bit of automotive glass cleaner onto your cloth as needed. No need to get too crazy, as you’ll be fully cleaning your window interiors as part of your monthly routine.

Monthly Car Interior Cleaning Routine

A little light cleaning once per week will protect your vehicle from permanent damages, but once in a while, your car’s interior needs a deeper clean to keep it looking and smelling fresh. This section will guide you through the monthly routine you should follow to keep your heavily used car looking like a brand new car.

Make sure to vacuum your seats and floors before performing these three car interior cleaning steps to ensure you’re not rubbing any abrasive debris into your upholstery.

1. Clean Car Seats

Interior shot of a man driving a Mercedes Benz with his dashboard lit up

Deep cleaning your car seats is necessary if you want to avoid permanent stains, rips, and scratches that would be expensive to fix in the future. Before you start cleaning up, be aware that there are many different types of car upholstery out there, with each requiring different cleaning methods to avoid easily preventable damages.

Leather seats are made with the most finicky material of all. To clean these car seats, you’ll need to purchase a leather cleaner and leather conditioner. Soft-bristled horsehair brushes are also recommended to minimize any abrasion that may come from your gentle scrubbing. We recommend using our complete guide on how to clean leather car seats for specific must-haves and must-dos in this process.

Material-specific upholstery cleaners are also purchasable for polyester and faux leather seats, while vinyl seats should only be cleaned with a damp towel.

For the most common type of upholstery — nylon, which is your standard fabric seat — you have plenty of DIY cleaning solution options. You can use our guide on how to clean car seats for a complete list of required materials and a step-by-step cleaning process.

2. Clean Car Carpets and Floor Mats

The next step in your monthly car interior cleaning routine should be cleaning your car carpets and floor mats. Much like nylon car upholstery, car carpets can typically be cleaned with a homemade cleaning solution and a basic soft-bristled brush — though a designated carpet cleaner can help with tougher stains. Depending on the material, your floor mats can become grime-free with the same process or simply soaped and hosed down.

For a complete step-by-step guide for leaving these parts of your car spotless, learn how to clean car carpet.

3. Clean Window Interiors

Car interior cleaning: Woman's bejeweled hand on a steering wheel

Your last step in the monthly car interior cleaning process is fully cleaning your car window interiors to remove any fingerprints and smudges that naturally occur with you and your passengers using each one.

To start, grab an automotive glass cleaner and spray directly on a clean microfiber towel to prevent water damage from overspray inside of your car. Then, wipe each window in straight lines (this will reduce streaks), re-spraying your towel or grabbing a new towel as needed. We recommend rolling down your windows during this process to ensure the top of your window doesn’t remain noticeably dirty.

Don’t forget to clean your rear view mirror with your glass cleaner while you’re completing this process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Car interior cleaning: Close-up of red car seats and dashboard

Once you’re confident that you know how to detail a car interior and keep it spotless for your riders, all you need to provide is a little friendly service to keep your star ratings and tips high. Here are our answers to three common questions to help you with the car interior cleaning process:

1. On the weeks that I’m completing my monthly routine, can I skip my weekly routine?

No. We don’t recommend skipping a week on your weekly routine, as one week is all it can take for debris to pile up. Plus, much of your weekly routine — including vacuuming — is actually necessary to prepare your car for your monthly deep cleaning.

2. I recently completed my weekly and monthly cleaning routines, but my car interior still smells. What can I do?

If cleaning up your car still hasn’t eliminated an odor in your car, you may need to locate a specific source of the odor. If there’s a stain in your upholstery that’s causing the odor, you may need to treat the spot with some stain remover, letting it sit as recommended on the spot before wiping it away. Baking soda is also an effective, affordable odor eliminator that may already be in your pantry.

If an odor is more generalized, you should use one of the products on our list of the best car air fresheners. These picks will help you remove bad smells without covering them up and without leaving behind an unpleasantly strong aroma for your riders.

3. Can I only use homemade cleaning products instead of store-bought products?

Absolutely. There are plenty of home remedies — often including baking soda, vinegar, and detergent — that can act as alternatives to store-bought cleaning products. However, we recommend doing some research on Google before you choose to replace a certain product, as household glass cleaners and dish detergents can actually damage parts of your car.

Store-bought automotive cleaning products can be both gentler and more effective, and are often tax deductible expenses for rideshare drivers.

Keep the Interior of Your Car Fresh

A spotless car interior is always the goal when you’re constantly welcoming in guests as a rideshare driver. Our recommended weekly and monthly car interior cleaning processes will help you limit the damage that occurs inside your vehicle throughout its lifespan. At the same time, it will keep your passengers satisfied with the level of service you provide.

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