How to Clean Car Carpet: A Step-by-Step Process

By: // Updated: September 17, 2020

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A thorough car wash may get rid of all the exterior dirt and grime, but the inside of your car will still remain as it was before. In order to impress your riders with your entire vehicle — inside and out — you need to know how to clean car carpet and the rest of your car’s interior to perfection.

Learning how to clean car interiors doesn’t just help you maintain your high driver rating. It also ensures that you can earn with rideshare apps in the first place. Having a dirty vehicle interior can actually make you ineligible to drive with Lyft and Uber, as it goes against rider expectations and leads to a poor experience overall.

In this article, we’ll walk you through how to clean car carpet, as well as the floor mats that protect it, and provide helpful tips for keeping the rest of your car interior spot-free, too.

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Preparing for Car Carpet Cleaning

brushes to help clean car

Before you start cleaning your car’s carpet, you need to gather all the materials you need. These materials are:

  • A car vacuum cleaner
  • A carpet cleaning solution
  • A soft-bristled scrub brush
  • Hot water
  • Microfiber cloths or cotton cloths

When it comes to selecting your carpet cleaning solution, you have two options. First, you can purchase car carpet shampoo from your local auto parts store. If you’d prefer to save money by using household cleaning products in place of a commercial carpet cleaner, you can take the fully DIY route and use one of these effective solutions:

  • Two parts club soda, two parts distilled white vinegar, and one part dish soap
  • Two parts hydrogen peroxide, one part dish soap

Make sure to pour your carpet shampoo into a spray bottle if you opt for a homemade solution. If you’re worried about vinegar leaving behind an unfavorable smell, we recommend adding a few drops of essential oil into your DIY carpet cleaning solution to enhance your vehicle’s post-cleaning freshness.

How to Clean Car Carpet

How to Clean Car Carpet: interior showing driver's seat

Once you have all your materials gathered, you can follow these step-by-step directions to effectively clean your car’s carpet:

  1. Remove anything that’s covering your carpeting, including your car mats. (We’ll come back to clean these later.)
  2. Thoroughly vacuum your car floors with your car vacuum cleaner to pick up loose dirt and debris. Make sure to get into all the crevices of your floor, including under your seats and behind the brake pedals, while you’re vacuuming as debris often hides in these areas.
  3. If you haven’t already, mix together your homemade car cleaning solution or prepare your store-bought solution as recommended on the bottle if it needs to be diluted.
  4. Spray your cleaning solution on your car carpet and let it sit for 10 minutes or the length of time recommended on your product.
  5. Scrub your car carpet with your soft-bristled brush, gently and in circular motions. This should effectively loosen up any dirt.
  6. Soak a clean cloth with hot water and squeeze out most of the excess water, so it isn’t dripping wet.
  7. Dampen (don’t soak) your car carpeting so as to lift out and wipe away the carpet shampoo. Switch out your cloth as needed if it becomes saturated with dirty soap.
  8. Leave your car doors open to air dry your car’s carpet.

How to Clean Car Floor Mats

car floor mats

While you’re waiting for your carpeting to dry, you can clean your car mats to ensure you’re not placing dirty materials right back onto your newly cleaned car floors. This process is actually quite easy to complete with your car vacuum cleaner, a hose, dish soap, and a soft-bristled brush (cleaned out since you used it for your car carpet).

Here’s how to clean your car floor mats:

  1. Vacuum both sides of your floor mats.
  2. Fully hose down your car mat with water.
  3. Wet your scrub brush slightly and apply a small dot of dish soap.
  4. Gently apply the dish soap to a small area of the floor mat by scrubbing it in, using circular motions. Repeat Steps 3-4 until your car floor mat is covered with a light, soapy layer.
  5. Use your hose to fully rinse away all the suds.
  6. Hang your car mats outside to completely dry. Allowing your mats to completely dry before returning them to your vehicle will ensure mildew doesn’t form.

Make sure to check your labels before cleaning, if your car mats have them, to ensure you take any special considerations into account.

How to Clean Car Interior: 5 Areas to Remember

Getting the new car look in the interior of your car requires you to learn more than how to clean car carpets and floor mats. It additionally requires you to keep up with maintenance on the entirety of your car’s interior. Here are five areas you’ll want to pay attention to and tips for cleaning them:

1. Car Seats

How to Clean Car Carpet: car seats and full car interior

Your car seats are some of the most used parts of your vehicle when you’re a rideshare driver. If you have common nylon or polyester car seats (better known as cloth car seats), we recommend purchasing a dual carpet and upholstery cleaner or using a DIY solution that works for both. This way, you don’t need to spend extra money on the car seat cleaning process.

However, keep in mind what type of upholstery you have. Leather seats require store-bought leather cleaner because they’re prone to damage.

Always vacuum thoroughly before cleaning your car seats.

2. Car Window Interiors

Cleaning car window interiors is an important step to car washing that many drivers forget when washing their car exteriors and when cleaning their vehicle interiors. When cleaning windows inside and out, you save money by using the same sprayable car window cleaner you use for your car windshield. When cleaning your window interiors, just make sure to spray directly onto your microfiber cloth to prevent damage to your door panels, dashboard, and other nearby areas. Also, make sure to roll down your passenger windows so you don’t leave spots at the very top.

Your rearview mirror can be cleaned with this same method.

3. Steering Wheel

steering wheel

Whenever you’re driving ⁠— which we can safely assume happens very frequently ⁠— your hands will naturally leave oils and even dirt on your steering wheel. Luckily, steering wheels tend to be extremely easy to clean. Just wipe it down with a damp cloth, lightly spray it with automotive multi-purpose cleaner (make sure it’s leather-safe like this cleaner, if needed), and wipe it dry.

Steering wheel covers can generally be cleaned with water and dish soap, but much like your car seats, they’re best maintained if you pay attention to the material.

4. Dashboard and Center Console

You can put your multi-purpose cleaner to use once again with your center console. Because of all the nooks and crannies in this area — which includes many buttons, air vents, and cup holders — we recommend dampening your microfiber cloth with the cleaner instead of spraying directly on the dashboard and console.

Compressed air canisters can also help you get dust and dirt out of hard-to-reach areas.

5. Door Panels

Finally, your door panels can be easily cleaned using the same methods we recommended for your dashboard and center console. Much like you would on your car seats, you’ll want to vacuum in the storage and cup holder areas of your door panel, if applicable, before cleaning to remove abrasive substances.

Frequently Asked Questions

cleaned interior of BMW

Now that you understand how to clean car carpet effectively, it’s time to put your knowledge into action. If you still have questions, check out our answers to common inquiries that car owners may have:

1. How do I remove stains from my car carpet or upholstery?

There’s a wide variety of stain removal solutions, each ideal for different types of upholstery and carpet stains. For example, paint thinner is quite effective for releasing grease stains, while coffee stains can be removed with household glass cleaner.

However, applying a paste made of one part baking soda and four parts water is generally an effective solution for all stubborn stains and odors on car carpets and cloth car upholstery. To use your stain remover, scrub in the solution and let it sit for 30 minutes before wiping it away with a damp cloth. This is best done before the carpet cleaning process as a pre-treatment.

2. Where can I go to get my car carpet professionally cleaned?

If you have an especially stubborn stain that seems impossible to get out, you can head over to an auto detailer in your area to get your car carpet professionally cleaned. This will cost you quite a bit more than our DIY solutions, but their commercial-grade equipment will likely help you out.

3. Can I use a steam cleaner to clean my car carpet?

Absolutely! If you own a steam cleaner, you can typically use it on both car carpet and cloth car seats. Steam cleaning is an effective method of removing both stains and odors from your car.

Extend Your Car Maintenance Inside

Car interior cleaning is an often neglected part of the car cleaning process that rideshare drivers don’t have the luxury of avoiding. Understanding how to clean car carpet, car seats, your dashboard, and more will leave your vehicle spot-free for riders as they seek a comfortable, impressive Lyft or Uber experience.

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