How to Detail Car Interiors Using These Homemade Cleaners

How to Detail Car Interiors Using These Homemade Cleaners
Professional detailing can be super expensive, but these DIY tricks will help you clean just like the pros. (MakeStory Studio/Shutterstock)

Remember that pristine, fresh, clean feeling of slipping behind the wheel of your new car? Knowing how to detail car interiors may not restore that new car smell, but it will certainly improve the air quality.

Washing the windows, getting rid of trash and clutter, cleaning the carpet, and scrubbing the upholstery seats will help you breathe easier and could even improve your driving habits.

Professional detailing can be super expensive, but with just a few tools and supplies you may have on hand already, together with these tips and DIY cleaning recipes, you can clean and detail your car interior just like the pros.

Homemade Dashboard and Tire Cleaner

Pour 1 cup warm water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon Blue Dawn, and 2 teaspoons baby oil (or mineral oil) into a spray bottle. Shake to combine.
Use this on the dashboard, doors, and tires by spraying it on a cloth and then on the surface to be cleaned and polished. You can also use this recipe to clean the steering wheel, handbrake, and other nonleather interior parts of the car.

Homemade Fabric Upholstery Cleaner

This is a great cloth upholstery cleaner for your car but also for upholstery inside the house! You can treat just the stain or areas that receive the most use.

Using a cheese grater, grate Fels Naptha bar soap (in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets or online) until you have 6 tablespoons. Place the grated Fels Naptha, borax, and boiling water in a mixing bowl.

Using an eggbeater or whisk, carefully mix until all ingredients are dissolved and well-incorporated.

Allow to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until cool enough that the mixture begins to gel.

Using an eggbeater, whisk, or electric mixer, whip the mixture until it looks like whipped cream or shaving cream. It will start out bubbly but then become foam.

To use, dip a clean rag into the foam and apply a generous amount to the fabric surface to be cleaned (seats and headliner, too!). Gently scrub the surface, allowing to penetrate the fabric upholstery. Wipe with a wet cloth or rag after cleaning.

Stubborn stains may need a brush, but be careful especially on that headliner. You don’t want to end up with a rip as a result of getting too aggressive.

Allow to air dry. Repeat treatment as necessary.

This recipe makes a big batch of DIY cleaner. You can store it in a container with a tight-fitting lid—like in Tupperware—in a cupboard.

Homemade Leather and Vinyl Cleaner

Leather seats and vinyl surfaces add a luxurious look to a vehicle’s interior. However, as durable and as flexible as these materials are, they are also prone to collecting dust and harboring sticky stuff. As always, test in an inconspicuous place first.

Pour 1/4 cup plain white vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 6 drops lemon essential oil into a spray bottle. Shake well.

To use, spray a generous amount of leather and vinyl cleaner on a clean cloth (not directly onto the leather or vinyl). Use this cloth to wipe down and gently scrub leather or vinyl seats and surfaces, being careful to not oversaturate the surfaces. You don’t want this liquid to pool below the surface between the cushions. Follow by polishing dry with a dry cloth to avoid allowing any wet marks to remain.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Car carpets and floor mats can get filthy and dirty with frequent use. If they’re black or another dark color, it’s easy to assume all is well since stains aren’t as visible. Drink spills can leave visible stains on lighter colors. Instead of buying specialty cleaning products, try this DIY car interior cleaner for carpets and carpeted floor mats.

Mix 3 tablespoons grated Fels Naphtha bar soap (see above), 2 tablespoons borax, 2 cups boiling water, and 10 drops lavender essential oil in a bowl or jar. Stir or shake until the ingredients are dissolved and incorporated. It’s going to look super foamy.

To use, dip the brush into the solution and scrub the dirty parts of the carpet. Rinse with a clean wet rag (or if cleaning floor mats, hose them off in the driveway). Allow to air dry.

All-Purpose Homemade Glass Cleaner

Pour 2 cups isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 4 drops dishwashing liquid, such as Blue Dawn, into a 32-ounce clean spray bottle. Attach the sprayer top. Label and keep out of reach of children.
Use this glass cleaner with a good microfiber cloth to clean the car’s windows and mirrors. It works great all around the house as well.

About Fels Naptha

What’s so special about Fels Naptha laundry bar soap? It is formulated for laundry, for its ability to get tough stains out of clothes and upholstery. It’s not a hand and body soap, so it’s not interchangeable with, say, that bar of Dove in your shower. Should you decide to substitute that hand and body bar soap for Fels Naptha, your results will be disappointing. Trust me on that and get the Fels Naptha.
Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” COPYRIGHT 2022 CREATORS.COM
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