Detailing Car Interiors – How To Do It Right
If we are taking the trouble to detail the exteriors of our cars, the least we can do is make sure the vehicle has an interior to match. You’ll need a few items to hand including protective gloves, a vacuum cleaner, microfibre cloths, a spray cleaner for use on plastics, vinyl and metal surfaces and another for fabrics or leather. Here’s how:
Preparing The Car Interior
Take the mats out and get down to a thorough vacuuming throughout. This will remove dust and detritus from seats, storage spaces and carpets. Take care to do this properly; leave no grit behind to damage surfaces when cleaning.
Cleaning Fabric Car Seats
The material used for car seat covers is usually robust and long-lasting, taking anything a family can throw at it. It will last longer still if it is routinely cleaned and cared for:
1.Use a good, branded foam cleaner that keeps wetness to a minimum for quick drying and for all but the most stubborn stains can be simply wiped away using a clean microfibre cloth.
2. For more severe staining use a soft brush to work the foam into the fabric, following the instructions. Afterwards, wipe away as before and allow to air dry. It really is that straightforward.
Cleaning Leather Car Seats
Leather seats are perhaps more desirable but also need a little more TLC. That said, modern manufacturing techniques mean that thick, old-school leather is no longer used and heavy duty waxing is no longer required to keep the material supple. This is how to keep them looking good these days:
1. Use a leather cleaner for best results, ideally one that contains essential oils (thus saving the need for a separate conditioner) to help keep the material soft and flexible. Always test a small area first for colour fastness and follow instructions.
2. Apply with a soft, clean cloth. For those, usually child-related stubborn stains, use a small brush; a nail-brush will do the job. Leave to dry.
3. Dry-wipe away with a clean microfibre cloth. Finally, allow the seats to thoroughly air dry.
Cleaning Suede Car Seats
Like velour track suits, suede is not so much in automotive vogue as it once was, having been almost totally replaced by the synthetic ‘Alcanatara’, suede lookalike which can be cleaned as fabric and lightly brushed. If the seat material is genuine suede, in a classic car say, then do this:
1. Brush the material with a proper suede brush and vacuum away any residue. This will raise the nap.
2. Source a suede ‘eraser’, available on line. Rub onto any stains or marks. It crumbles in use so once the stain has gone, repeat the brushing.
But it is much more likely that the car seat will be part leather and part Alcantara. Use the process described in the previous section for the leather and follow these steps for the ‘suede’:
1. As before, a good brushing is needed to remove and lose dirt or particles. Vacuum away.
2. Source a purpose-designed Alcantara cleaner, spray sparingly and wipe away with a microfibre cloth. For more stubborn stains, do this:
3. Work the cleaner into the material with a brush. When the stain has gone, wipe away with a damp, not wet, cloth or sponge. Don’t soak the Alcantara. Repeat as necessary and, as always, allow to air dry.
Cleaning Car Mats, Carpets & Door Shuts
We use mats in cars to protect the carpets from dirt and wear and tear. Whatever is outside gets on our footwear and is carried into the car. This then is an area that needs a bit of extra attention.
1. Mats should be cleaned outside the car. Rubber mats should be washed and allowed to dry. Otherwise follow this procedure:
2. Give mats and carpets a stiff brushing to remove grit from the pile. Vacuum to remove as much detritus as possible.
3. Using a good regular carpet shampoo, scrub the material. Try not to over-wet. Allow plenty of air-drying time. If the car is garaged, leave the windows open over night to avoid condensation.
4. The door shuts are an often neglected area. Although the interior is protected by rubber seals, dirt and water still gain access into the door shuts. Clean using a good all purpose automotive cleaner. It makes sense to use a car wax product on the painted areas for extra protection. It will make cleaning easier next time. Top Tip: Don’t ignore the door underside and the hinge area.
Cleaning Car Interior Plastic & Rubber Trims
A quick dust might be all interior plastic needs but why not go a stage further. It doesn’t take long:
1. Using a soft, damp, not wet, cloth, wipe over the dashboard and other plastic surfaces to remove dust. Do not forget the gear shift and centre console. Top tip: Use an old toothbrush to get into any seams and between trim panels. Remember: modern dashboards are chock full of electronics. These don’t mix well with water.
2. Go the extra mile and use a purpose-designed spray for plastics or a general all-purpose interior cleaner. Spray and wipe over for an extra clean sheen.
3. The rubber doors seals perform the important job of preventing water ingress. They need regular maintenance to work at their best. Using a small sponge and that old toothbrush again, wash with hot soapy water, making sure to access all areas. This will remove any grease and dirt. Allow to dry. Top Tip: Use petroleum jelly smeared sparingly, or a light oil, to discourage water and keep the rubber trim supple.
Cleaning The Car Interior Windscreen
A clear view is essential when driving and, although we wash the outside of the windscreen, we tend to ignore the inside. That stops here: The windscreen interior can become greasy and soiled because we eat, smoke and sneeze in the cabin. A greasy surface makes any condensation worse. A quick wipe with the hand just makes it worse still. Do this instead:
1. Prepare a small bowl of warm water with white vinegar in solution. Being especially careful to not soak the interior, use a clean microfibre cloth to gently wash the window. Dry with a clean waffle cloth; these are great for absorbing liquid. Allow to dry.
2.Finish with a glass cleaner, used sparingly. Wipe on, wipe off with separate soft cloths, turning frequently. Job done.
We like the outside of our motors to look good; give the same treatment to the interior too.