7 DIY Car Interior Cleaners to Keep Your Vehicle Feeling New

When your store-bought bottles run out, turn to these homemade interior cleaners instead.

Published February 27, 2023
man cleaning upholstery of his car

Washing the inside of your car doesn't have any of the fun "catching sunlight and playing in the water" appeal that washing the outside does. And traditional car cleaners are expensive. Sometimes the bottle goes missing right when you're about to clean up your car, too. Instead of running back out to the store and getting a new one, try these DIY car upholstery cleaners.

Fabric Interior Cleaners

If you've got a fabric interior, you might not know off the top of your head what textile was actually used to cover your seats. Chances are, it's either nylon or polyester, the latter of which is more porous and a bit harder to get clean.

Dish Detergent Cleaner

When you're cleaning either, you can mix a really simple solution of hot water and mild detergent.

  1. You shouldn't need a bucket full, so you can add just a few teaspoons of detergent to a bowl of hot water.
  2. Take a microfiber cloth and dip it into the solution, wringing out the excess.
  3. Scrub at the interior and dry with a clean towel or cloth.

Rubbing Alcohol and Club Soda Cleaner

Additionally, you can attack set-in stains with a rubbing alcohol mixture.

  1. Combine ½ cup of rubbing alcohol to 1 quart of club soda in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray your fabric interiors with the mixture, saturating any serious stains.
  3. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, and then scrub at the stains with an old toothbrush. Make sure you spot test scrubbing since some fabrics can be more sensitive to bristles than others.
  4. Using a shop vacuum, clean the water out of your upholstery.
  5. Hand blot any remaining liquid with a towel.

Faux Leather Interior Cleaner

Car Interior Cleaning Services

Faux leather is a cheaper, more durable option to real leather. It's incredibly popular in cars right now, and part of the reason is for how little maintenance it takes to keep it clean. Real leather needs to be nourished in order not to crack over time, but faux leather just needs to be wiped down and dried.

To clean your faux leather, follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum off any crumbs and loose debris from your interior.
  2. Wipe everything down with a dry microfiber cloth.
  3. Mix a few teaspoons of mild detergent into a bowl of hot water.
  4. Dip a microfiber cloth into it, wringing out the excess, and wipe down your interior.
  5. Dry everything with a new towel or cloth.

Leather Interior Cleaners

Because leather can be spot cleaned with a damp cloth, the only time you really need to clean it is when you're cleaning all the interior. Because leather is prone to drying out and needs to be nourished with oils, you have to be careful about which DIY ingredients you throw together to clean it. Will using a regular diluted detergent solution devastate your interior? No. Is it the best option? Also no.

Vinegar and Olive Oil Cleaner

To clean your leather interior, try this DIY recipe involving vinegar and olive oil:

  1. Mix ¼ cup of olive oil and a ½ cup of distilled white vinegar and pour them into a spray bottle.
  2. Lightly coat your interior with the spray and wipe it all into the seats, being careful to avoid any holes or seams so that nothing seeps into the cushion.
  3. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes before wiping everything off with a dry towel. The vinegar and oil mixture needs time to break down materials and work its magic before being removed.
Helpful Hack

If you're worried about the vinegar smell sticking around, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to the mixture.

Vinegar and Linseed Oil Cleaner

A similar concoction follows the same steps but involves slightly different ingredients:

  1. Mix ⅔ cup of linseed oil and ⅓ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle.
  2. Spay the mixture onto your leather interior and scrub using a microfiber towel.
  3. Take a dry microfiber cloth and wipe everything away.

DIY Interior Cleaner for Your Dashboard

Woman Cleaning Dashboard

One part of your interior that takes quite a beating is your dashboard. Direct sunlight and grubby hands will leave it worse for wear. After wiping your dashboard down, you can go to clean it with just a soft cloth dipped in some kitchen oil. You only need a little to go a long way. Once you're done, you can wipe it off with a new towel. The oil should grab up any of those pesky particles and help make it shine.

DIY Cleaning Process for Car Mats

Your car mats are probably the dirtiest thing in your interior. If you've got rubber floor mats, you're in luck because you can pop these bad boys out of the car, sprinkle some dish soap on them and scrub with a sponge. Then rinse it all away with a hose and dry it off with a towel.

However, if you've got fabric car mats, you'll have to approach it differently:

  1. Remove your floor mats and then pour baking soda onto them.
  2. Spray them down with some vinegar mixed with a few teaspoons of dish soap.
  3. After the two react for about 30 minutes, begin scrubbing the mats with a bristled brush.
  4. Once finished, rinse off your mats with water and dry with a towel.

Tips for Keeping Your Car Spotless

You can't avoid having to clean your car interior at some point, but you can postpone how frequently you have to do it by taking some simple preventative measures.

  • Regularly vacuum your car. You'd be surprised how much less dirty your car would feel if you just took to vacuuming it out once a week. All the little pieces of grass and crumbs taken out of your seats and floorboards will make it feel brand new.
  • Don't leave a stain to sit. If you spill something on your upholstery, don't wait to clean it. The longer a stain or spill sits, the harder it is to get out.
  • Wipe your car down with a microfiber cloth once a week. Wiping down everything with a dry cloth can pick up any errant liquids or dust that will accumulate later and make you have to clean sooner.
  • Leave a trash can or trash bag in your car. If you have one at the ready, you'll be less likely to leave wrappers, fast food bags, and snacks loose in your car.

Put Down Your Store-Bought Cleaners

Just because something was packaged in a manufacturing plant and sold in stores doesn't mean it's better at doing its job than homemade products are. After all, your home-grown vegetables taste just as good, if not better, than those you buy from a grocery produce section. The same goes for DIY interior cleaners. No matter what kind of upholstery you have, there's DIY cleaner recipe you can rely on.

7 DIY Car Interior Cleaners to Keep Your Vehicle Feeling New