How to Detail a Car
How to Detail a Car


Sometimes procrastination gets the best of us, and the weekend cleaning job on the family car turns into the monthly cleaning job, which might lead to even further delays as life's bigger priorities get in the way. But eventually those spills, buildups of gunk, foul odors and clutter will need to be cleaned.

For family vehicles, car seats and carpeting often have a number of combination stains, which look like a mixture of food grease, body oils, spills and other elements. Cleaning stains is much easier to do before they have time to dry, but it's still possible to remove old stains with a good cleaner.

Your choice of cleaner is critical to the success of your cleaning job, to properly penetrate tough buildup without harming the various plastics, rubber, metals, fabrics and fibers in your vehicle. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is great for this project, because it works on washable surfaces, and doesn't have harsh chemicals that might require gloves or special ventilation.

Simple Green is ideal for homes and garages, and is a go-to for automotive enthusiasts. The solution is free of harsh chemicals, and won't corrode your automotive materials. It doesn't contain caustic or corrosive chemicals that can harm your automotive surfaces, and it's perfect for cleaning interior car surfaces from plastic to upholstery, carpets, metal fixtures and more.

For cleaning the inside of a car, you'll want to dilute your Simple Green with water at a ratio anywhere from 1:2 to 1:4. So that's one part Simple Green to two to four parts water (for example, 1 quart of Simple Green to 2 or 4 quarts water). For the really heavy jobs, you should wet the surface with water and use the full concentrated Simple Green right out of the bottle. Additionally, the odor eliminating power of Simple Green is excellent at taking care of those set-in odors on your seats and carpets.

You'll need:

  • A few soft-bristled brushes of varying sizes to work on delicate fabrics, and getting into small nooks & crannies like air conditioning vents, grooves along the running boards, etc.
  • Drill
  • Drill brushes
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Carpet extractor (can be rented from local hardware store)
  • Vacuum
  • Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Dilution Bottle
  • Water

Directions for how to detail for your car:

  1. Empty car & vacuum. The first step of your deep cleaning process is to clear out the vehicle, removing any trash and debris. Grab two large containers, one for items you'll want to take inside, and another for garbage you can get rid of right away. Then you'll need to give the car a good vacuuming to get rid of the little debris that might be blocking your view or access, or even masking the stain. Start with the floor mats, and get out all the built-up dirt before removing them from the car.
  2. Remove seats if necessary. If the seats require heavy cleaning, find the release latch or bolts holding each of the vehicle's seats in place, and remove the seats entirely. Vacuum them thoroughly.
  3. Clean the seats. Give the seat a good spray down with diluted Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner (at a ratio between 1:2 or 1:4), focusing on the most dirtied areas without putting too much liquid on the seats. Make sure to get deep into the cracks and crevices of the seat, to pull up as much of that dirt and grime as you can. Drill brush attachments are great for scrubbing the really dirty areas or spots where stains have pretty much taken over. Then lightly scrub the area with your bristled brush or drill brush to agitate the surface dirt, before giving it a once-over with the extractor. Pull the wand down along the area you're cleaning, before moving to the next area. Then move up along the back and sides of the seat using the same technique. If the seats are extra dirty, you should repeat this process once more to get the seats fully cleaned before moving on to the mats. Once complete, let the seats dry completely before replacing in the vehicle.
  4. Clean floor mats. Floor mats usually collect the most amount of dirt in your car, because that's what they're there for. So after giving them a good spray down with your Simple Green solution, use your drill brush to really scrub the area deeply before rinsing clean with water. You may need to repeat this process a few times in order to really get all of the dirt and grime out.
  5. Clean headliner. What matters most here is being gentle with your headliner as you clean it, so you don't damage the fabric or the backing. Grab a soft bristle brush and the Simple Green solution, and give the headliner a light spray before softly agitating the surface. It's dirty enough to give the entire thing another gentle wipe with your all-purpose cleaner solution and microfiber towel.
  6. Clean plastic surfaces (cup holder, dashboard, etc). Use your Simple Green solution to spray and scrub any dirty areas on the dashboard, the front and center consoles and vents, as well as the cup holders, side paneling, running boards and all the little hard to reach areas. This area is perfect for those bristled brushes you have, to scrub away all those little accumulations of dust, gunk and dirt before wiping them away with your microfiber cloth. For any vertical spots to be cleaned like door paneling, you're better off spraying the microfiber cloth directly and then wiping the area down to avoid runoff going everywhere. Make sure you get into all the crevices between and around the signal levers behind your steering wheel. And when it's time to tackle those gross cup holders, spray a little extra Simple Green on there, and let it sit for a minute or so to let the cleaner break up the soils. Then wipe it out or, if possible, remove it and rinse it out with water.
  7. Clean the car carpet. Apply your Simple Green solution on the carpeted area in sections, then grab your drill brush and get to work tackling all those deep-set stains and marks. Take care not to oversaturate the carpeting, as you could soak the padding or backing beneath which could lead to mold and mildew growth. Then grab the carpet extractor and pull all the dirty solution out of the carpet. Just as with your seats, you want to try to overlap each stroke a bit to get a thorough cleaning job. If you see any spots left behind, add more cleaner and repeat the scrubbing process before extracting once more.
  8. Replace seats & mats. Once dry, return the vehicle's seats to their rightful place in the car, and reapply latches/bolts to secure their position. Then, replace the floor mats. Make sure everything is dry before using the car again.


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