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How To Deep-Clean Your Car Interior

Dirty car seats

There are a countless reasons to deep-clean your car interior: kids, pets, trips to the hardware store, wet soccer gear, a spilled drink, a tumbled planter or simply a need to get rid of that lived-in smell after a long road trip. Sometimes, stains and odors can be a little more persistent than you would like, but don’t worry — here are a few tips and tricks that should get you through the stickiest and stinkiest of cabin messes.

Stains on the CarpetBaking soda

The best way to deep-clean your car interior, specifically the carpets, is to use a portable carpet cleaning machine. These devices don’t remove dirt like a standard vacuum, but they use a mixture of water and a special cleaning solution that soaks into the carpet and is then sucked up inside the machine — pulling stains along with it. They are usually available as rentals, but smaller models are worth the investment if you see yourself regularly dealing with these kinds of stains.

If you want to go the all-natural route and avoid a chemical carpet cleaner, you can soak the stain with vinegar, and then pour a small amount of baking soda over it. This will create a froth that will bubble up through the carpet and lift up grime, a process you can assist by scrubbing the spot with a stiff brush. You can also use this tactic on upholstered seats, but you’ll want to make sure not to soak too much vinegar into the foam padding underneath the fabric, as it could take some time to dry out.

Enzymes, Enzymes, Enzymes

If you live in an area where it snows in the winter, you might be dealing with accumulated road salt on your carpets. This caked-on, whitish-gray mess is often rock hard after drying out on your car’s floors over the course of the season. Instead of taking a chisel to your carpets, it’s a better idea to pick up a spray-on enzyme cleaner that’s specifically designed to break down salt formations, so that you can then scrub and soak it out of your car.

Absorb Those Odors

Remember the baking soda from earlier? It’s not just useful for taking care of stains — you can also use it to absorb odors in your car. The easiest way to do this is to sprinkle some baking soda over your floors and seats, and then let it sit overnight. In the morning, simply vacuum it up and you’ll remove all the objectionable smells that were soaked up while you were sleeping. If you have leather seats, you can always fill a few small, shallow plastic containers with baking soda and distribute them throughout your vehicle, targeting areas such as under the front seats and in the very back of the automobile to get the most coverage.

Now that you have the know-how, go ahead and let the kids and dogs run wild. You’ll be able to get your car back up to snuff (and sniff) in no time.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to deep-clean you car interior, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy FreeImages.


Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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