Cleaning and Sanitizing the Inside of Your Car

Person cleaning interior car controls with a microfiber cloth
We have all been there a time or two: you offer a ride to a friend and only realize once you get to your car it's not really as clean as it should be. The outside of the vehicle may look nice after a run through the car wash and a good sweep with the wheel brushes, but the inside might need help. Cleaning and sanitizing the interior of the car should not be a daunting task. In this article, we'll review a few pointers that can help speed up the process of getting your car interior looking and smelling fresh.

What You Will Need  

Of course, the car won't clean itself — at least not until they invent the self-cleaning car. A few supplies you may need to clean up with include:

  • Sanitation wipes
  • Glass cleaner
  • Automotive cleaner
  • Microfiber towels
  • Vacuum
  • Optional steam cleaner

Getting the car clean can take some time if it hasn't been done in a good while, especially if you have young passengers that leave messes behind. 

Person using a portable vacuum cleaner to vacuum car seat

5 Easy Steps to Car Interior Cleaning

1. Organize the vehicle by removing any trash from the car's interior. Remove all personal items from the vehicle; this will protect them from damage. Be sure to unlatch baby car seats and other items that can collect trash and crumbs.  Pick up the floor mats and clean out the glove compartment and door pockets.

2. Vacuum the floors, seats, under the seats, and trunk before continuing. A portable car vacuum may be your best friend. It may take two to three runs to move and clean every spot in the car. Take your time and move the seats to suck up everything that you can.

3. Steam cleaning is the best way to effectively sanitize the soft surfaces in the car. Remember to keep the nozzle away from the skin and open all the doors before beginning. Clean with steam from the top to the bottom including frequent touch spots.

4. Clean up any dirt and debris with a dry cloth that the steam releases. Then use your chosen antibacterial wipes to finish cleaning frequently touched spots.

5. Finish by spraying the glass cleaner on the windows and the automotive protective spray on the dash, and any leather in the car's interior. Now you can replace your personal items and enjoy your clean car!

    Person taking out sanitizing wipes to clean a car interior

    How to Sanitize Car Interior?

    There are several touch spots that need to be sanitized more frequently. Touch spots can not only harbor harmful bacteria and viruses, but the area can begin to accumulate dirt and grease from frequent touching that wears down the material.

    Spots that need to be wiped down frequently with antibacterial wipes are:

    • Window controls
    • Dashboard and vents
    • Visors and mirrors
    • Gear shift
    • Ignition
    • Steering wheel
    • Seat belts
    • Door handles

    Using a wipe to sanitize the car interior may take more than one disposable wipe. Use one wipe per area for maximum antibacterial coverage. In between wiping, you can also use a sanitizing spray to kill bacteria and viruses on all surfaces of the car. Remember not to spray without proper ventilation.

    Person sanitizing a steering wheel with a cleaning wipe

    Remember to work from the top to the bottom. Wipe the dash, vents, radio, and air condition controls first, then use another wipe for the steering wheel and column. Grab another for each door and seat belt. Finish with the center column and any cup holders in the car.  

    Ways to Keep Your Car Clean

    Once your vehicle has been deep cleaned and sanitized, you will want to keep it that way. There are many ways to keep the interior of your car clean, beyond cleaning it every day. Accessories can help with brightening the interior of your car and personalizing it:

    • Car seat covers help protect the seats from stains and dirt falling into creases while adding décor. 
    • A steering wheel cover can aid in grip while also adding décor and protecting the original wheel from dirt and grime. 
    • A kick mat can help keep your seats clean and protected from any passenger in the back seat kicking up dust.  

    What Not to Use to Sanitize Your Car Interior

    While it may seem like a good way to kill viruses and bacteria, there are some chemicals that will damage your car. Avoid using bleach and bleach wipes, hydrogen peroxide, and benzine cleaners. They can discolor and damage the car's interior, especially fabrics.

    Do not use ammonia-based products around electronic screens. The chemicals can remove the coating that protects the screen from fingerprints and glare. Nissan offers an informative chart with different ways to clean the screens in your car.

    Don't let your car be caught in an unclean situation. Have some wipes in the car for frequent use and carry a portable vacuum for spills. Clean frequently and avoid embarrassing situations from unclean cars.