Interior of a clean car, with a sunset outside the window

How to Detail a Car Interior Like a Pro

5 Steps for Detailing a Car Interior (and Exterior)

  1. Clean Out Trash and Remove Floor Mats
  2. Deodorize and Neutralize Odor
  3. Clean Car Seats, Upholstery, & Hard Surfaces
  4. Wipe the Windshield and Windows
  5. Clean Your Car’s Exterior & Wheel Wells

In the fall, we shake out our winter coats and sweaters in anticipation of colder weather. Maybe we even freshen up clothes that have been in storagethrough the hot summer months. Then, in the spring, we clear out our closets andbegin spring cleaning, pack up our winter gear, and the cycle starts again.

The changing seasons always bring a new opportunity to spruce up our homes, but what about those other areas, outside of our homes, that could also use a little sprucing up when the weather starts to get warm?

Many homeowners take the opportunity in early and late spring to wipe down and set up patio furniture for the first time, take their lawnmowers for a test run, and clean the windows. But when the weather gets reallyhot, it’s time to grab a hose and a soapy bucket to start detailing the car.

Check out our step-by-step guide for detailing your car interior like a pro, from deep cleaning upholstered seats to spritzing away unwanted smells.

5 Steps for Detailing a Car Interior (and Exterior)

1. Clean Out Trash and Remove Floor Mats

When your car interior starts to get noticeably dirty, it might be time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. To get started detailing a car, it’s best to remove everything. And we mean everything. Starting with the floor mats, protective covers on seats or the steering wheel, a special lining in the glove compartment,everything.

Scrub rubber floor mats with a bristle brush and your go-to car wash soap or regular soap. Vacuum fabric mats and spot clean any stains with a mixture of carpet cleaner and tepid water, and wipe vinyl or leather covers with a microfiber cloth. Pay attention to stitching and seams that attract dirt and scrub those with a small, bristled brush.

2. Deodorize and Neutralize Odor

This is a step not many people consider when detailing a car interior, but neutralizing odor and getting rid of unwanted smell can make a big difference the next time you climb into your car. Deodorize seats by sprinkling baking soda on upholstery, allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes and then vacuum. Molecules adhere to the crystalline structure of baking soda and this neutralizes odor.

Use a keyboard cleaner or a small brush to remove dust and grime from air conditioning vents. You can get a rag damp and wipe the vents to pick up any remaining dust. Then, add or replace any air freshening vent clips so the next time you run the AC, fresh scents will circulate through your newly clean car.

Follow up by sprayingFresh Wave Odor Removing Sprayaround your car interior. The natural ingredients and plant oils will remove any unwanted odor without leaving behind a chemically smell like room sprays with artificial fragrances. Choose from lavender or an unscented, fresh essence and take detailing your car to the next level.

3. Clean Car Seats, Upholstery, & Hard Surfaces

Once you finish cleaning your car interior, AC vents, and neutralizing any odor, it’s time to move on to the hard surfaces and large components of your car’s interior like seats, the dashboard, and door panels.

We recommend using a microfiber cloth and spraying your cleaning solution of choice directly onto the cloth. That way, you’ll avoid accidentally spraying the material in your car’s interior that shouldn’t come into contact with the cleaning solution and you won’t create residual mess.

Inspect seats, door panels, and the dashboard to locate any stains. Your car seats frequently come into contact with dropped food, dirt, and pet messso you’re bound to encounter smudges that have embedded deep into your car’s upholstery. Wet your cloth or spray a foaming upholstery solution directly onto the stain and then scrub, agitating the surface. This will break up the dirt and grime. Keeping upholstery freshis a great way to make the interior of your car look like new even if it’s been in the family for years.

As the stains and smudges sit with the treatment solution for 5-10 minutes, you can detail other parts of your car, wiping down door panels, the dashboard, and the steering wheel with a damp cloth. When you’ve wiped away dirt and dust, return to the stains and vacuum. You may need to treat these spots a second or third time before they begin to fade.

4. Wipe the Windshield and Windows

Before cleaning windows, car owners have the option to apply a layer of protection to leather seats and the dashboard. Simply take your protectant of choice and wipe down items with the largest surface area and high-touch areas.

This will prevent any additional damage to seats, the steering wheel, and door panels so your car looks cleaner longer—not to mention, it could make it easy to put your car on the market if you ever want to sell. Now you can move to arguably the most satisfying portion of detailing a car interior: windows and the windshield.

It may not seem like it, but your windshield really takes a beating on a daily basis and as the seasons change. We recommend tackling this task with a non-ammonia cleaner and slightly rolling down each window and opening your trunk window as well. Then, move onto the main part of the window, using glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Wipe down the rear view mirror, the inside of the windshield, and the side windows. You can buff out any streaks with a second, clean cloth.

5. Clean Your Car's Exterior & Wheel Wells

Your car interior should be sparkling clean, thanks to your elbow grease, and smelling fresh, thanks toFresh Wave. Now, you can move on to the exterior of the car. Working from top to bottom, start by spraying the top of your car with a hose or a pressure washer and allow the dirt and grime to rinse down onto the driveway.

With a soapy sponge or a rag, clean your car exterior and scrub your tires and wheel wells of brake dust and grime from the road. Rinse again. If you can, spray your car with pressure, this will eliminate any dirt you’ve scrubbed off with your sponge. If you really want to detail your car like a pro, draw two buckets of water: one with soap and one with fresh water. Make sure, as you clean, to rinse your sponge or rag in the bucket with fresh water before rewetting it with the soapy water. That way, you’ll avoid dirtying your cleaning solution.

Move on to your engine bay. Pop the hood and make sure to cover the distributor before you introduce your cleaning solution. Pressure wash under the hood and in the engine bay. We recommend using a foaming cleanser that’s tough on grease and oil, and then rinse away the soap mixture. People often skip the engine bay, but keeping it tidy under the hood will make it easier to perform routine maintenance and your engine will run cooler if it’s clean.

Detailing and cleaning your car interior comes with a lot of benefits and it’s a great way to spend a hot summer afternoon. Check out morecleaning tipslike these with Fresh Wave and pick up atravel size Sprayin a store near you for freshening on-the-go.