How To Clean a Car Inside and Out in 7 Steps

How to Clean Your Car in
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Winter might still be in full swing, but we’re stuck dreaming of those sweet and sunny days of spring. And once the cleanin’ season starts, your car’s probably going to be one of the first things you’ll want to spruce up. Sure, hitting the carwash might be faster, but every car owner should learn how to clean a car properly. If you want to take matters into your own hands but don’t know where to start, here are step-by-step instructions to show you how to clean your car inside and out.

When you deep clean your car, you can remove ugly stains and bad odors that lower the value of your car and embarrass you whenever you give a friend a ride. While this guide includes a few steps that are rather obvious, like floor mat cleaners and window scrubbers, you’ll also learn how to clean out all those hidden nooks and crannies. So take a gander and get a leg-up on your spring cleaning today.

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1. Tidy Up Your Floor Mats

It’s a simple fact that most car floor mats don’t get enough love. Coffee stains, random food wrappers and six-month-old pieces of gum all have a way of collecting on your floor mats. If you have removable floor mats, take them out of your vehicle before treating them with cleaning products. Shake them free of dirt and debris, then give them a good pounding to get rid of all the dust that’s accumulated. Once this process is over, you should have a clear view of any stains or messes that need more intensive cleaning.

No matter what’s left clinging to your floor mats, give them the boot with Turtle Wax. As an all-in-one carpet and mat cleaner, it’s able to get in deep to help give your mats the scrubbing they so desperately need. As an added bonus, this stuff also helps eliminate those pesky odors and foul smells that may be emanating from the interior of your car.

Car Mat Cleaner Courtesy of Amazon

Turtle Wax Power Out!

$6.49 $12.50 48% OFF


2. Take Better Care of Your Car’s Upholstery, Seats and Carpets

Cars with leather seats will need some special attention, so before breaking out any car cleaning products, make sure they’re designed for use on leather seats. You can find multi-purpose car cleaners that can be used on leather seats, upholstery and auto carpets. After wiping off any dust and debris, simply spray your cleaner of choice and wipe the surface clean with a microfiber towel.

However, for most cars, a simple fabric cleaner is all you really need. The cleaner below is great for breaking down the sticky residue and pesky stains on your car’s carpets. This upholstery shampoo is designed to get in deep to help scrub away any stains that may be a pock on an otherwise flawless interior. With a myriad of different uses, this car cleaner works on both indoor and outdoor fabrics, as well as both upholstery and carpet. It also features a nice, citrusy scent. If your car’s carpets or seats are a little worse for wear, then spend some time scrubbing and deep cleaning. A thick-bristled brush will help you scrub away stains and destroy nasty odors in your car.

cleaning auto carpets Courtesy of Amazon

Chemical Guys Car Citrus Car Fabric Cleaner

$6.99 $9.99 30% OFF


3. Clean Your Vents to Help Improve Air Flow

Your air vents keep you warm (and cool), but when was the last time you had them cleaned? Sure, there are plenty of aerosol sprays and cleaning foams you can use, but we think this cleaning gel is a safer, more comprehensive alternative (plus it works on your dash, cupholders and steering wheel too). This easy-to-use auto cleaning gel gets in deep to help clean all those little nooks and crannies. The gel will keep your vents, and thereby your AC, squeaky clean.

Car Cleaning Gel Courtesy of Amazon

Ticarve Car Cleaning Gel

$6.99 $9.99 30% OFF

Once you’ve cleared out your vents, you’ll also need to clean your car’s cabin air filter (that’s different from your engine’s air filter). When you’re trying to get rid of odors in your car, you absolutely need to clean or replace your cabin air filter. This filter should be replaced about once per year, but more often if you smoke. If you know your way around a car, replacing your cabin air filter can be a DIY project. Your local mechanic can also help you with this. When learning how to clean a car, many people never learn about their cabin air filter. Whether you try and replace it yourself or ask your mechanic for help, don’t skip this step!


4. Don’t Forget to Make Those Tires Shine

Because having clean tires is akin to having a nice haircut, a sparkling set of rims can really help elevate the look of your vehicle. The best tire sprays are designed to help easily and quickly remove all the guck and muck off your tires, leaving your rims and tires looking like new. For this job, we recommend Trinova’s Tire Shine Spray. The formula not only leaves your tires with a shiny gloss, but it also helps repel dirt and grime from accumulating. To achieve a brighter shine, leave this cleaner on your tires longer before wiping it off.

Car Tire Cleaner Courtesy of Amazon


TriNova Tire Cleaning Spray



5. Keep Your Windows Squeaky Clean

Cleaning your windshield is about more than aesthetics; it’s about safe driving. Cleaning your windshield regularly ensures that you always have a clear field of vision. This microfiber cloth window cleaner is designed to clean your windows inside and out. The easy-to-use handle lets you easily reach every corner of your windshield and windows. This product can also be used on your mirrors, leaving you with sparkling clean mirrors free of those pesky streaks and smudges that will affect your field of vision. For under $15, this auto window cleaner is a must.

Window Cleaner Courtesy of Amazon

XINDELL Windshield Cleaner

$14.59 $18.49 21% OFF


6. Give Your Headlights a Little Love

Notice your car’s headlights are looking a little dim lately? Well, it may not be your battery or bulb. Give your lights a little love with this headlight polisher. When cleaning your car, don’t make the mistake of forgetting your headlights and brake lights. Whenever you notice your lights starting to dim, break out your car cleaning kit and give those lights a quick clean.

This auto cleaning product from Plastx is designed with a  smart formula that helps remove cloudy and yellow debris from your headlights, and the polish helps dial back some of the oxidation older lights often suffer from. Best of all, this cleaner and polisher is made with water-resistant polymers that are designed to help keep your headlights cleaner, longer. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow (and where the roads are regularly salted), then headlight cleaning needs to be a crucial step in your car cleaning routine.

Headlight Cleaner Courtesy of Amazon

Meguiar's PlastX Car Cleaner & Polish



7. How To Clean Your Car Carpets, Seats and Assorted Nooks & Crannies

With all the essentials taken care of, the last step — and possibly the most important — in cleaning your car is to get rid of all the dust and debris lingering around your interior. That means cleaning up all of the dirt, rocks and debris you accidentally drag into your car on your shoes. That means hunting down rogue french fries and crumbs that have disappeared under and between your seats. Your car’s interior is full of little nooks and crannies that are impossible to reach, which is why a cordless handheld vacuum is essential if you want to keep your car tidy. A lot of people skip this step, but any dirt, food or ash that’s left in your car will inevitably lead to that dreaded bad car smell.

There are some great handheld vacuums designed for your car, but you can’t go wrong with the cordless vacuum featured below. The Dirt Devil Plus isn’t just great for auto cleaning; it also features attachments for carpet, upholstery and stair cleaning. Inside your car, a special nozzle lets you vacuum up anything that’s slipped between your seats and other hard to reach places. It’s the perfect tool to help you get deep underneath your seats and suck up all those errant straw wrappers and half-eaten French fries. Because this vacuum can do double duty in your car and in your home, it’s very reasonably priced at $36. If you’re trying to learn how to clean your car like a pro, a reliable car vacuum is essential. It’s the only way to avoid embarrassing odors, especially if you often eat inside your car.

dirt devil plus handheld car vacuum Courtesy of Amazon

Dirt Devil Plus Cordless Vacuum