Cleaning your car’s interior to a standard professional valeters would be proud of isn’t easy. And it’s even more difficult if you don’t have the right tools for the job. Let’s be honest, a bucket of hot, soapy water and a few cloths just won’t deliver that showroom look you want.
Although water is essential for deep cleaning car carpets and upholstery, too much can cause permanent damage. But using a steam cleaner delivers the optimum amount of water — so your car’s fabrics aren’t left completely drenched afterwards.
In fact, if you have a handheld steamer, you won’t need much else.
1. Clear and vacuum
Before you start steam cleaning your car, remove any debris, litter and personal possessions. You should then thoroughly vacuum the car with a powerful, handheld vacuum cleaner. Take the time to clean underneath seats, between seats and in the footwells.
2. Start with the windscreen
Yes, that’s right, you’re going to be able to clean everything with steam. Using the highest setting, steam your windscreen in small sections — starting from the top left and moving sideways. Once you’ve reached the bottom, give the windscreen a quick wipe with a microfibre cloth.
3. Wipe everything down
Before you start steaming, it’s a good idea to remove dust, crumbs, dirt and general debris from your dashboard, gear stick and the surrounding areas. Use a slightly dampened microfibre cloth to do this.
4. Clean the dash
Using one of the smaller attachment, direct a thin stream of steam at your dash. Don’t forget to clean the vents, the steering wheel, and the various compartments. If you need to, wipe the dash dry with a microfibre cloth
5. Clean the ceiling
A good steam cleaner is perfect for removing stains and scuffs from a car’s ceiling. Assuming yours is covered in fabric, use either your upholstery attachment or brush tool to steam clean your ceilings — from the front of the car to the back.
6. Move onto the seats
There are various approaches you can take to steam clean upholstery. For stubborn accumulations, you can blast steam right at it — although this can leave upholstery sodden. Usually, it’s best to use a brush or squeegee attachment. Some steam cleaners have dedicated fabric gliders for the job. Take your time, and work in small sections.
7. Clean the boot and parcel shelf
Using the same fabric attachments, clean your parcel shelf and boot with the steam cleaner. You can clean plastic, metal and fabric using the various attachments.
8. Finish with your carpets
The last thing to clean inside your car is your carpeting. Start at the front in the footwells, and use the brush attachment of your steam cleaner to deliver superheated steam deep into the fibres. With any luck, you should see dirt disappearing as you go.
A few final tips
You shouldn’t need any chemicals, shampoos or foams to give the interior of your car a professional clean. However, if it has been a while since you last cleaned it, it might be worth covering your carpets and upholstery with baking soda the night before. This will soak up greasy stains and absorb bad odours.
If you have some particularly bad isolated stains to clean, deal with them first. They usually benefit from extended periods of contact with baking soda, white vinegar and dedicated stain-removal agents. Do these jobs the night before you do the rest of the cleaning.