Is Cleaning Car Headliner Safe?

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Many car headliners I’ve seen are quite dirty. When I inquire with car owners, they often express concerns about cleaning them, fearing it might damage the headliner. In this post, I’ll explain to you whether cleaning a car headliner is safe or not and what steps you should take to make it safe.

Key Takeaways:

  • The car headliner is safe to clean as long as you don’t oversaturate it with cleaning products or heat.
  • Dry cleaners are best for cleaning car headliners. They help to prevent the headliner from sagging.
  • Soft brushes should be used to prevent damaging the headliner fibers.
  • The car headliner should be spot-cleaned in most cases unless it’s fully covered in stains.

Is Cleaning The Car Headliner Safe?

stained headliner in car

Cleaning the car headliner is safe if you use the right cleansers and if you know exactly how to do it. Cleaning the car headliner the wrong way may lead to extensive damage. 

The most common damage that happens when washing the headliner incorrectly is the sagging headliner. Headliners are taped to our car ceiling with adhesive, and if you clean it with the wrong materials, it will peel off with time.

Products You Should Use For Cleaning

You don’t need many products if you want to clean the car headliner. Just a few basic products are needed, and you can probably buy them in any local store.

Products you should use when cleaning car headliners:

It’s important to use a safe fabric cleaner because some cleaners are too wet, and they will make your headliner peel off.

5 Tips To Avoid Car Headliner Damage While Cleaning It

Here are a few tips for you to follow if you want to avoid doing any damage while cleaning your car headliner.

Choose the right cleaner:

  • Invest in a quality fabric cleaner designed for car upholstery.
  • Look for cleaners that come as a dry foam to prevent over-wetting the headliner.
  • Recommendation: Meguiar's Carpet and Upholstery Foam Cleaner. It’s quick-drying and effective against tough stains.

Opt for a soft brush:

  • Avoid hard brushes that can damage the headliner fibers.
  • Even stubborn stains can be addressed with a gentle brush and the right cleaning solution.

Moderation is key:

  • Upholstery cleaners contain potent chemicals.
  • Overusing them can weaken the adhesive, leading to a drooping headliner.
  • Excessive foam can also overly dampen the headliner.

Allow adequate drying time:

  • After cleaning, ensure the fabric dries thoroughly.
  • Keep car windows or doors open to let the fresh air ventilate throughout the vehicle.

Educate yourself:

  • Take the time to watch tutorials or read articles.
  • Never assume you know everything; there’s always something new to learn.


What’s the cost of repairing a car headliner?

The cost of fixing the sagging headliner and replacing it is between $150 and $400.

Why are car headliners so delicate to clean?

Car headliners are constantly exposed to heat (the sun is heating the roof), and if you do even small damage to the adhesive, it’ll start to peel off, causing a sagging headliner.

What to do with stubborn stains?

Sometimes, you’ll realize that not all the stains can be removed. I suggest not forcing it and only removing what goes quickly. Professional detailers will use steam cleaners in those situations, but if you’re not experienced, it’s better to leave that stubborn stain instead of oversaturating the car headliner with cleaners to get rid of it.

Wrap Up

As you can see, cleaning car headliners is safe when following proven methods and techniques, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. It’s not rocket science.

If you want a full guide for cleaning your car headliner, check out my car headliner cleaning guide.

And if your car headliner isn’t stained, but you smoke in your vehicle, check my guide on removing cigarette smoke from headliners.

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