Car Detailing 3 – Interior

Automotive Detailing

Part 3: Cleaning the Interior

Detailing the interior of your car, truck, SUV or minivan requires the same care as the outside.  If you intend on giving the inside of your vehicle the full monty, knowing which products to use and how to apply them is equally as important.

Detailing Interior


VINYL:  Vinyl seats, dashes and door panels are constantly subjected to UV, dirt and abrasion.  Caring for vinyl is as simple as using a soft cloth and wiping the area with a vinyl dressing.  There are a number of these products on the market and most wax companies make their own formulas.  Some of the better vinyl dressings are Turtle Wax’s Formula 2001, Refresh by 3M, and Lexol Vinylex.  These are specially formulated to resist UV degradation and leave behind a low gloss sheen that will not be blinding when the sun is out.  And just as we recommend against the use of silicone on paint, the same warning applies to vinyl as well.  Silicone can literally dry out the vinyl and facilitate “out-gassing,” the byproduct of which is a nasty thin layer of film that appears on the inside of your windshield.

LEATHER:  It really is amazing how well the leather in our cars holds up.  Seats and leather-wrapped steering wheels, in particular, are subject to a wide range of temperatures, sweat, liquids and constant friction.  As a result, leather needs to be cleaned and conditioned regularly.  In this regard, try to think of it in the same context as your own skin:  If not properly cared for, it will prematurely age and eventually dry and crack.  Therefore, treating the leather should be part of your standard cleaning regimen.  The first step is to use a pH-balanced cleaner with warm water and a soft cloth.  This should then be followed by a quality leather conditioner.  Lexol makes excellent pH balanced products specifically made for leather and can be found at automotive specialty retailers as well as big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart.

Detailing Interior

GLASS:  Over-the-counter automotive glass cleaners are made to resist streaking, leaving behind a film – unlike some household window cleaners. Glass Cleaner by 3M and Invisible Glass are two excellent and readily available products.  Begin by washing your hands to remove any contaminants/oils.  Then, using a 100% cotton cloth, wipe the exterior glass in horizontal direction and the interior glass in a vertical motion.  When inspecting your handiwork, if a vertical streak is noticeable, for example, you know it’s inside the car.

CARPETS:  If after thoroughly vacuuming the carpeted areas, including the trunk, you still find some heavily soiled areas, it’s best to try to identify the contaminant first before trying to remove it.  Whereas household carpet cleaning products like Resolve are very effective at getting rid of the worst kinds of dirt like clay, grime, al-Qaida, etc., they are not as helpful at removing grease or oil.  In these cases, using a strong detergent like Simple Green, Castrol Super Clean or a citrus-based product like XENIT Citrus Cleaner/Remover is probably better suited to tackle those obstacles.  Make sure you identify an inconspicuous area first to color-test the solvent before using.  Working with a small scrub brush, gently work the cleaner into the affected area and repeat as necessary.  Don’t use muscle – let the cleaner do the work to loosen or dissolve the soiled area.