Clean Carpeting in Vehicles

Cleaning your vehicle's carpet may not seem as important as maintaining your car's engine and other mechanical parts. However, cleaning the interior of your vehicle can certainly be the difference between a bad looking car and a well-maintained and loved vehicle. Cleaning the carpeting of your vehicle is easy and does not take very much time at all. The reward of peace and cleanliness that a clean car interior provides is far greater than the little time it takes to carry out this simple task.


Vacuuming and Shampooing Your Car's Carpets

  1. Organize your vehicle's interior. Pick up any items that are lying on your vehicle's carpeting. Put away any loose objects you may have floating around your car. There are plenty of specially made car-organizer products available, but many vehicles now have their own built-in organizational compartments which are equally as handy. Take out as much stuff as possible, and either lay it to the side of your car or put it in your house.
  2. Remove your floor mats. Take them out and shake them properly so all the pieces of dirt and other trash do not make it into your vehicle. The best thing to do is to simply place them next to your car in a dry area.[1]
  3. Vacuum your vehicle thoroughly. Reach under the pedals, seats and crevices around the car to pick up and dispose of all remaining dirt, crumbs and trash from the floor of your vehicle. If you leave too much trash in your car when you began to wash the carpet, you won't truly be cleaning all that much.[2]
  4. Choose your carpet cleaner and find a good brush. There are a wide variety of products on the market to clean car carpets and they are all pretty similar. No matter which product you use, the method is the same. Even laundry detergent will do the trick just as well. Look for a soft-bristled brush that will help you work the shampoo into the fabric of the carpet.[1]
  5. Clean your carpet. Spray the carpet cleaning shampoo on the surface of the carpet and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Work it in slowly and methodically with your brush. Remember to use circular motions which will best bring up dirt and grime. Repeat if necessary on problem areas with stains or large amounts of dirt.[2]
  6. Rinse your newly shampooed carpet. Use a wet rag and dampen the shampooed areas. Try and pull up as much of the soap as possible. Remember, you do not want to get the carpet too wet, which will cause mold underneath. As long as you are able to get most of the shampoo up from the carpet, you should be fine.[1]
  7. Let your car dry out. This is important, as you don't want moisture to fester and not evaporate. Open all the doors to your car, and let it sit out in the sun. You should probably wait at least a few hours. Go back and feel your carpets. If they are still damp, give them another hour or so. If not, your job is all done.[2]

Cleaning Your Car Floor Mats

  1. Remove and vacuum your car mats. Take the mats out and place them on the ground; preferably cement, concrete, or blacktop. Use a standard vacuum or a shopvac to get rid of noticeable debris and dirt on the mats. Make sure to vacuum both sides. You can also give your mats a few shakes to get off any remaining dirt and grime.[3]
  2. Wash the underside of your mats. Turn your mats so that the plastic underside is facing upwards. Use a few drops of dish soap on the plastic. Use a water hose to agitate the debris, and ignite the soap's foaming action. Scrub with a towel or sponge. If there is stuck on dirt, feel free to use a brush. Rinse the plastic down one more time with the hose, and then dry with a towel.[4]
  3. Spray upholstery with cleaner. Turn your mats around so the fabric side is facing upwards. Purchase a carpet cleaning formula, or use laundry detergent. Spray/pour a healthy amount onto the fabric. Use a water hose, and spray the fabric with water. This will initiate the cleaning formula and dislodge any debris.[3]
  4. Scrub the fabric of your mats. Use a medium sized brush and scrub the fabric in circular motions. Some spots may require more pressure. Feel free to spray the mat with water in between scrubbing different areas of the fabric. After you are done scrubbing, rinse the fabric down again with water until all the soap bubbles are gone.[4]
  5. Dry and hang your mats. Remove excess water with a vacuum. Then dry with a towel or washcloth. Press down to soak in as much excess water as possible. Finally, hang your mats on a clothes line, or at least in a spot where they can hang freely.[4][3]

Cleaning Set-In Stains in Your Car's Carpeting

  1. Get rid of general stains with hot water. General stains are usually brought about by water, mud, dirt, excess moisture, etc. Add together, in a bucket, the following: a gallon of hot water, a few drops of dish detergent, and a cup of white vinegar. Mix these until they form one body of liquid. Dip a rag or sponge and soak the stained area with the mixture. Then take a bristle brush, and move in circular motions against the fabric. Blot this area with paper towels.[5]
  2. Dilute coffee, alcohol, and soda spills with cold water. First add a healthy amount of cool water to the stain. Do not add hot water, which will cause the stain to set-in even further. Then blot the stained area with paper towels. Let the area have some time to sit and dry.[6]
  3. Clean up vomit stains with club soda. Buy a can of regular, non-flavored club soda. Pour onto the stained area. Then scrub in circular motions with a damp washcloth. Dry the area with a towel. You can also use a mixture of baking soda and water to treat the stained area. This will get the job done just as well.[5]
  4. Lift pen stains with hairspray or salt. Spray on hairspray to the area which has been marked by pen ink. Rub the area down with a damp cloth in circular motions. Dry off with a towel. You can also add salt to the area. Simply sprinkle a healthy amount and wait a few minutes. Then wash off with a damp washcloth.[6]
  5. Rid your car of greasy stains with paint thinner. Use a small amount of paint thinner on a cotton cloth. Scrub the area in circular motions to remove the grease. Then take a paper towel and blot up the remaining paint thinner. Warning: paint thinner can cause your carpet to fade. First try this in a secluded area of your car, or preferably your trunk.[7]
  6. Spray glass cleaner onto the stained area. This can be for general stains or more set-in stains. Simply spray the glass cleaner onto the effected area. Wait about 5-10 minutes to let the cleaner act and lift the stain. Finally, wipe away with a damp washcloth and let dry.[7]
  7. Make a hydrogen peroxide paste. Some stains are incredibly hard to get rid of, and require extra strength. Make a paste using 3% hydrogen peroxide, and a dab of non-gel toothpaste. Lather it onto the stained carpet area. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then, with a rag, rub the mixture into the carpet using a swirling motion. Finally, dab with a paper towel to wipe off the excess.[8]
  8. Treat blood stains with a laundry starch paste. Mix together equal parts laundry starch and cold water into a bucket. Stir the ingredients until the paste is fairly firm. Apply the paste to the blood stain and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then scrub the mixture in with a wash cloth. You can wipe away any excess with a wet paper towel.[5]
  9. Clean off gum after freezing it. Place one or two ice cubes over a piece of gum that is stuck to the carpeting in your car. Let it sit there for about ten minutes. This will harden the gum (freezing it). You can then use a scrape, or your hands and pry the gum off. Finally, wash the area with a damp washcloth and let dry.[8]
  10. Apply Borax to get rid of animal smells. After your pets have been in your car long enough, your car tends to get an animal odor. Sprinkle some Borax onto the carpeted areas. Let this sit for about an hour to let the Borax act on the smell. Then, vacuum up the Borax, and wipe clean with a dry washcloth.[7]
  11. Rub in a meat tenderizer mixture. Add together, in a bucket, equal parts cold water and meat tenderizer. Mix both together until the tenderizer has diluted. Then place on the stained area using a towel. Let the mixture sit on the stain for 30 minutes. You can then clean the area up using a damp washcloth and let the area dry.[8]


  • Make sure to always use circular motions when scrubbing.
  • Take your time. It is best to set aside two to three hours in order to clean.
  • It is always best to go back a second or third time to scrub, rather than leave a stain to set in.
  • If you are trying home remedies, try them in a secluded spot first. If they cause damage, it will only be noticeable in a remote place.


  • Don't dampen your carpet too much, otherwise mold will produce and cause damage to the underside.
  • Buy cleaning products which are friendly to your skin. If you have any known allergies, make sure to check the labels on the bottles.
  • Use protective gloves when you are washing, especially when you use the hydrogen peroxide mixture.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations