Car interior detailing tips: keeping the cost to a minimum

For decades, it’s been a tradition in many homes to allot the weekend for doing chores, including washing the car. But today, you’ll see more and more shops offering car wash and auto detailing services. Based on an IBIS World report, the auto detailing segment of the car service industry in the U.S. is valued at $13 billion, with more than 57,000 businesses across the country.

It’s a profitable business. No wonder professional detailing costs $200 at the minimum. You don’t have to shell out that kind of money every few weeks, though. You can do interior detailing at home if you have the tools and basic know-how. To save money on interior detailing for your car, here are some tips.

What you need

Start with your cleaning materials and tools. According to Car and Driver, you’ll need the following tools and supplies.

  1. Vacuum cleaner: You’ll need it to remove dirt from hard-to-reach corners and nooks. It’ll be better if your vacuum has handheld attachments and an extension hose. If you have a handheld variant, use it instead. It’s more manageable to use, considering you’ll be vacuuming in a limited space. If you have a steam cleaner, you can also use it, especially for cleaning the carpet.
  2. Brushes: Prepare several brushes of different sizes and kinds. You’ll need them to clean dust from air vents and others with hard-to-reach parts.
  3. Wiping and polishing materials: You’ll need different wiping and polishing materials, including fine cloth rags, terry cloth towels, and microfiber cloth. Each type has its purpose. You’ll need the terry cloth for scrubbing, the fine cloth rags for polishing and cleaning, and the microfiber cloth for finishing.
  4. Chemical cleaning products: Have the right kind of product for each type of surface on your car. Carpet, upholstery, plastic, and vinyl all require a different kind of cleaning and polishing product. If you’re unsure, ask for help from store staff.
Front and door panels

Start with the front panel that contains the dashboard, console, and air vents. This way, you can clean any debris and dirt that will fall on the carpet when you get there later.

From the top, wipe the dashboard and vacuum any debris from the corners. Use a brush to reach tiny gaps. When the entire dashboard is clean, apply a finish that will protect it from the sun.

The console underneath has buttons, switches, and knobs that have nooks and crannies. Use an aptly-sized brush to clean them. Do the same with the air vents. You can also use a hairdryer to blow off the dust from the vents’ grills. Make sure the hairdryer is set to cool air mode.

Then, move on to the door panel. Like the front panel, it also has nooks and crannies because of all the buttons and knobs. Use the right brush to clean them. For the door upholstery, use the right cleaning product.


Clean the car seats next. Start with vacuuming them. Move the driver and passenger seats forward or backward to reach under the seat. If you can pull them out, the better. Vacuum the back seat, too.

Then, identify what type of upholstery your seats have so that you can prepare the suitable cleaning materials and tools and use the proper cleaning method. Seat upholstery can be made of fabric, vinyl, or leather.

When cleaning fabric upholstery, use a multipurpose upholstery cleaner. Use a specialised stain remover if there are difficult marks or discolored areas. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid soaking the cushion underneath. Your car will end up smelling musty if you leave the cushion wet.

If you have leather upholstery, use the right cleaning product. Apply it with a soft cloth and dry it out with a microfiber cloth. When the seats are dry enough, apply a leather conditioner. Do the same with vinyl-upholstered seats using vinyl-appropriate products.


Clean the carpet and floor mats next. If the seats have been removed previously, let it stay that way for a bit. Without them, you can move freely around and clean areas that would’ve been hard to reach if the seats were still there.

First, remove all trash and debris that will be hard to clean with a vacuum. Pick up food wrappers, papers, coins, and other tiny objects that fell and accumulated on the car floor. Then, remove the mats, take them outside of the car, and shake off loose dirt. Use a stiff or shoe brush to remove grime, and then you can proceed with vacuuming.

When it’s free of dirt, wash mats with water and dry them out completely. If your mats look shabby and crumbling, replace them with new ones. Check out wholesale car mat shops where you can get them at a more affordable price.

Now, you can move on to the carpet. Vacuum it thoroughly using the vacuum’s different kinds of nozzles to clean hard-to-reach nooks.If you have a steam cleaner, you can give the carpet a better clean.

You’re finally done with your car interior detailing. After you put back the clean car mats and wipe the windows and mirrors, your car is ready for the highway.

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