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Five tips for cleaning the inside of your car

Take the strain out of dust-busting your car with our simple but effective cleaning tips

Five tips for cleaning the inside of your car

The ongoing coronavirus situation may have inspired you to clean your car interior more regularly, but are you doing it right?

Pesky bits of dust and fluff love getting wedged in the most awkward spots of your car. Air vents, creases in the seats and footwells are all areas that can be tricky to clean without the right tools and strategy to hand.

Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to make cleaning your car interior less of a faff. Read on to see our five top tips for achieving a spotless car cabin without breaking a sweat.

It’s also worth checking our guide to what cleaning products work against COVID-19 before you start.


Using your car less at the moment? Make sure you also check out how to maintain your car during lockdown.


1. Clear out your car first

A cluttered car is far trickier to clean and you’re bound to leave areas untouched if you don’t have a good clear-out first.

Leaving rubbish and drinks containers in your car will also invite smells and damp to take hold which can lead to bigger problems.

It’s not just rubbish that needs removing, though. Other items like CDs, car manuals, and footwell mats should all be removed before cleaning. This will give you unfettered access to the real dust traps of your car and make your efforts more worthwhile.

You should shake out and vacuum your footwell mats before putting them back in your car. If small bits of fluff and dirt are deeply embedded in the mats, use a scrubbing brush to coax them out. This will make it easier for your vacuum cleaner to suck them up.

Stashing your face covering in there somewhere? Take that out and give it a good wash too. See our guide to using and cleaning your face mask safely.

Top five best vacuum cleaners for 2020 – we reveal our top picks, including the best vacuum for cleaning your car

2. Keep your car doors open

As you clean your car, lots of tiny dust particles, many of which are thinner than a human hair, will become unsettled and float around until they eventually land on another surface.

To avoid breathing in lots of these particles and stop them from landing back in your car (and spoiling all your hard work), good ventilation is key.

  • Keeping your car doors and boot open will let the breeze flow through to flush those pesky particles out and reduce the amount you inhale during cleaning.
  • If your car is parked on a road, just keep the pavement-side doors and boot open – this should be enough to let dust escape. Rolling down the windows on both sides will also let the fresh air blow through.

Vacuum cleaners with poor filtration systems can hinder your efforts to banish fine dust particles from your car. Some vacuums let dust and allergens escape through their filters and exhaust systems, blasting them straight back out into the air.

Avoid making all your hard work count for nothing by using a top-rated vacuum with a good allergen retention rating. See which vacuums passed our tough tests in our vacuum cleaner reviews and cordless vacuum reviews.

3. Use a small brush to clean dust traps

Tricky little spots like air vents and controls are magnets for dust and suction alone isn’t always enough to dislodge it.

The ideal tool for cleaning these problem areas is a dusting brush attachment for a vacuum cleaner. Most cordless vacuums come with one included, but if you’ve got a corded vacuum cleaner or a basic handheld you might not have a dusting brush to hand.

Before you pull your wallet out though, see if you’ve got any small, clean paintbrushes knocking around. Just like a dusting brush attachment, paint brushes have thin bristles that are great for getting into those little dusty gaps that a cloth or a crevice nozzle might not reach.

The dust you dislodge with your brush will likely fall down to the footwells, so you’ll still need to grab your vacuum cleaner afterwards and suck up all the bits that fall.

Some handheld vacuum cleaners, such as the Worx Cube, are specially designed for car cleaning and include  a dusting brush attachment. Check out our full Worx Cube Vac WX030 review to see if we think it’s worth buying.

4. Clean from top to bottom

This might sound obvious, but starting to clean your car without giving thought to what order you’re going to clean in can add an awful lot of extra time to the task.

Cleaning from top to bottom is a good way on ensuring none of your hard work goes to waste.

As you dislodge the dust in high-up areas like the dashboard and vents, most of it will fall and settle on the areas below. If you clean the footwells first you’ll create more work for yourself when you clean the areas above – and have to go back to the bottom again.

For high-up spots like the dashboard, a simple cloth and some diluted all-purpose cleaning spray should do the trick. There are car interior cleaning sprays available if you’d prefer something more specialised, or if your car is made of materials that require certain cleaning products.

‘Cockpit shine’ products for plastic areas such as dashboards should be used with caution though, as they are often greasy to the touch. Make sure you don’t put these on steering wheels or near pedals/other controls that you don’t want to lose your grip on.

5. Clean the seats several times over

We know it’s a horrible job, but your car seats need special attention.

Why? Because you sit on them, and that means on top of the dust, fluff and crumbs flying around you’ve got hair, sweat and even skin particles to contend with. Eek.

  • Recline the seats first as most of the debris will be trapped in the crease between the seat and the backrest.
  • Give the seats a really good go with your vacuum cleaner multiple times. Change the direction of your vacuuming frequently to coax out as much detritus as possible.

If you’ve got an upholstery brush attachment for your vacuum cleaner, these can be especially handy for cleaning upholstered surfaces like car seats.

If not, a crevice nozzle will work well too – although the small suction gap will mean it’ll take you longer to clean the whole surface.

Dealing with car seat stains

If your car seats are stained, upholstery sprays and some carpet cleaners can be also applied directly to stains and brushed in. Once the stain-remover has done its work, use a cloth to absorb some of the moisture and wait for it to dry before vacuuming the seat again.

Cleaning leather car seats

Leather seats need to be cleaned using specialist leather sprays or wipes, and should always be buffed with a dry cloth after cleaning. Protective sprays and creams can also be applied to leather afterwards to protect it from future damage.

If removing stray hairs makes up a large chunk of your car cleaning, check our guide to the top five cordless vacuums for pet hair.


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