10 Simple Steps To Deep Clean a Car Interior

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10 steps to follow when deep cleaning a car

I know how discouraging and confusing it can be when it comes to deep cleaning the car. Mostly, the problem is doing things without any order. That’s why today I’ll show you 10 steps I do when I deep clean a car interior.

Car interior deep cleaning isn’t hard or complicated, and you only need to follow some basic steps and procedures. In the guide below, I’ll show you exact steps on how to deep clean a car interior so that you can follow it.

When I was a complete newbie in the car detailing world, it would take me the whole day (ca. 10 hours) to get the deep cleaning done. Now, by following these steps, I reduced it to around 6 hours, depending on the size and dirtiness of the vehicle.

Make sure and follow the tips in this article, and I believe that you’ll speed up your time and, more important – improve the quality of your car inside deep cleaning.

How To Deep Clean a Car Interior: Step-by-Step Guide

Here are all the steps you should take when deep cleaning your car.

1. Inspect The Car

I like to quickly inspect the car and see if there are any tough stains to which I’ll have to pay more attention.

I also like to write those tough stains down on paper, so I don’t forget them later.

The point of this step is not to miss any spot when deep cleaning the car. Remember, we’re doing car detailing, and every detail is important.

2. Remove The Seats From The Car

After inspecting the car, it’s time to remove the seats from the car. Not all car detailers remove seats when doing deep cleaning, but it’s one of the most important parts for me.

With seats removed, you’ll have access to all those tiny spots, and also, you’ll have more space to work.

How To Remove The Seats Out

To remove the car seats out, you’re going to need some tools. You’ll need a socket set, just like this DEWALT Mechanics Tools Kit and Socket Set (check price now).

It’s a bit bigger socket set, but I recommend you buy it because not all the cars have the same type of bolts. Some cars have Torx bolts, so make sure to have all of them in your socket set.

Let’s dive into the steps:

  • Move front seats all the way to forward
  • Remove move the rear bolts from the rails (sometimes there is a plastic cover over them, so remove that first)
  • Move the seats all the way back
  • Remove the front bolts from the rails
  • Disconnect the battery; you can disconnect the minus (-) port only; that’ll be enough
  • Lift the seats and disconnect the car seat wires, and carefully take the seats out
  • Remove the back seat of the vehicle (just a part where you sit)

If you need more detailed information, check the How To Remove Car seat video here.

How To Install Seats Again?

When you’re finished with deep cleaning, just do these steps in reverse, from the end to the beginning.

3. Take Out All The Trash and Rubbish

Before going any further, it’s important to take all the trash and rubbish out of the car. That way, you’ll really see the condition of the vehicle, and it will be much easier to work in a rubbish-free area.

I always like to take two garbage bags:

  • In one bag, I only put trash from the car, such as cigarette butts, ash, chips, and all other kinds of trash that the owner doesn’t need anymore
  • In the other bag, I always put anything that could be valuable to the owner of the car (or to me if I’m cleaning my car)

It’s much easier if you sort it straight away.

4. Vacuum The Seats

Now it’s time to vacuum the seats. I usually start with the ones that I just removed from the car, and then I vacuum the rear seat inside the car.

It’s important to vacuum seats thoroughly. If you don’t do it now, there’ll be a lot of problems later on when you are extracting the seats.

To get the best results when vacuuming, always pay attention to those little stitches on the seats. The dirt trapped over there is harder to vacuum. Just stretch the seat a bit, and vacuum that area thoroughly.

Also, always vacuum from top to bottom. That’s gonna save you a lot of time.

If you vacuum from the bottom to the top, all the dirt from the upper parts of the seat will fall to the bottom, and you’ll have to vacuum it a few times.

5. Vacuum The Interior

Vacuuming the interior is the last thing you should do before you dive into the deep cleaning of the car. The main principle over here is also to always vacuum from top to bottom. 

So, I like to vacuum it this way:

  1. Dashboard
  2. Car doors
  3. Car carpet
  4. Trunk

Vacuuming The Dashboard

For this step, you’re going to need a vacuum (ideally a shop vac) and a detailing brush. I recommend you buy this Detailing Brush Set in 6 Different Sizes (check the price on Amazon now). It’s very cheap but will help you a lot, and it’s also soft enough so it won’t scratch the surface.

Now, use that brush together with the vacuum, and start from the top of the dashboard.

Keep the brush in one hand, and while brushing the surface, with your other hand, keep the vacuum hose near to the brush. That way, you’ll immediately vacuum all the dirt and dust from the surface.

To this on all panels of the dashboard (steering wheel, radio, gearbox, ventilation, etc.)

Can You Use Vacuum Only?

I don’t recommend that. It’s hard to vacuum all the dirt and dust from those tiny pores without a brush. However, there is a vacuum attachment with a brush at the end, but still, it’s not nearly as good as when you brush it manually with your hands.

Car Doors

Vacuum all the car doors in the exact same way as you’re vacuuming the dashboard and other panels.

Vacuuming Car Carpet (Floor)

Car carpet is a part where you’re usually going to face some problems with little dust and stone particles. They tend to stick to the carpet and won’t get out with vacuuming only.

You’ll solve this problem by using a brush or a drill brush, agitating the area to lift those particles to the surface, and then easily vacuum them with your shop vac.

I recommend you use a drill brush because it’s much easier, quicker, and more important – you won’t get tired doing this.

To find high-quality brushes, check out my brushes recommendation over here.

Vacuuming The Trunk

Trank is also covered with carpet, so you shall do the same thing as with the car floor.

Vacuum > Drill Brush > Vacuum again.

When you’ve done all of the steps above, you’re ready to start deep cleaning the whole car.

6. Deep Clean The Seats

To deep clean seats, you’re going to need:

If you have a shop vac, check out my article How To Turn Shop Vac Into a Carpet Extractor. It’ll help you a lot when extracting the seats.

Again, you should always start deep cleaning from top to the bottom. Also, work in smaller areas, don’t clean the whole seat at once.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Spray the carpet solution on the seat
  • Let it sit for ca. 30 seconds to allow chemicals to break up the dirt)
  • Agitate the area with a grill brush or a hand brush
  • Extract the seat with a carpet extractor or a shop vac with an extractor attachment

When brushing and extracting, make sure to go in all directions and make a few passes over the same area.

When you see that the extractor is pulling out only clean water, the seats are clean.

Cleaning Leather Seats

If you have leather seats, then the procedure is a bit different and much easier I would say.

Steps to clean leather seats:

  • Spray leather cleaner on the seats and on the brush
  • Use a soft leather brush to agitate the area
  • Wipe the seats off with a clean microfiber towel
  • Use an applicator pad to apply leather conditioner on the seats

I like using this Adams Leather Care Kit (check the price on Amazon), you get both leather cleaner and leather conditioner inside, and it’s one of the best on the market.

7. Deep Clean The Floor Mats

Cleaning floor mats is pretty easy. You should do the same thing as with the seats.

However, if you have a pressure washer – you’re at a big advantage. A pressure washer will help you to clean those tough stains that are usually stuck onto the floor mats.

Fabric Floor Mats

Vacuum them, pressure-wash them, spray some carpet solution, agitate with a drill brush, and then extract with an extractor or shop vac.

Of course, if you don’t have a pressure washer, it’s not a big deal, then just deep clean them the same way as seats.

Rubber Floor Mats

Rubber floor mats are much easier to clean. If you have a pressure washer, wash them quickly.

After that, spray some high-quality such as this Meguiar’s All Purpose Cleaner APC cleaner (check the price now), agitate the area with a brush, and just wipe off with a clean microfiber cloth.

8. Deep Clean The Carpets

Car carpets are usually the dirtiest part which almost always has some tough stains.

If you have a car carpet extractor, do the same thing as with the seats. The only difference is that you should use a harder brush. Carpets aren’t as sensible as car seats, and a harder brush will help you clean those stains easier.

If you don’t have a car carpet extractor, check out my detailed article, where I explain how to clean car carpets without a machine.

9. Clean All The Plastic Parts (Doors, Dashboard, etc.)

When it comes to cleaning plastic parts such as the dashboard, doors, steering wheel, gearbox, etc., it’s pretty simple.

Again, always start from the top to the bottom. I like to clean car doors first and everything around them (car thresholds), and then switch to the dashboard, steering wheel, gearbox, armrest, etc.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Spray some APC (All-purpose cleaner)
  • Agitate the area with a soft detailing brush
  • Wipe off with a clean microfiber towel

Some people just spray APC and immediately wipe it off with a rag, but I like to agitate the area with a brush. You’ll get much better results by doing this since brush will clean every single pore from the plastics.

If there are some extremely dirty areas, repeat the process or use a steam cleaner. I recommend you this Bissel SteamShot Steam Cleaner (check the price now).

Steam cleaners will clean any stains with ease, and you’ll get the best results possible.

10. Apply UV Protection

Not everybody does this when doing a deep clean of the car. It’s very important to protect all the plastics in the car, so they look even better – like new again.

Also, applying some protection will protect everything from the harmful effects of the sun, which is very important if you want to keep your car in the best condition as long as possible.

I like to use this TriNova Plastic & Trim Restorer (check the price now). It’s a great product that will restore plastic and vinyl and protect them from the sun and from fading.

Just use an applicator pad, pour some VRP on it, and spread it over the surface.

Don’t Rush – The Golden Rule of Deep Cleaning

Just a quick tip: I want to tell you that you shouldn’t care about the time you spend detailing a vehicle, especially when deep cleaning the inside of the car.

Always try to do your best, even if it will take an hour or two more. Especially if you’re a weekend warrior like me and you’re not doing this for money.

However, if you’re starting a car detailing business, time is money, and you will speed up with time and experience. But don’t rush at the beginning, learn how to do the job properly, and after 5-10 cars, your speed will improve a lot.

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