Your 8-Step Guide to Detailing Your Car’s Interior Like a Pro

Summer is the perfect time to detail the interior of your car. But if this is your first time trying your hand at detailing the inside of your car, you may not know where to start or what tools you need. Fortunately, the process is fairly straightforward and you can find all the supplies you will need at your local department store. Below is your step-by-step guide to turning your car’s interior from filthy to fabulous.

Step One: Gather your tools and cleaning supplies

“An unclean car not only has an off-putting smell, but it also serves as a perfect place for germs to grow and breed. This is why picking the best car interior cleaner will save you time, keep you healthy, and protect your car’s interior at the same time.” – AJ Attia, The Drive 

The path to a beautiful car interior begins with the proper cleaning supplies. Using harsh chemical agents or the wrong cleaning solutions will do more harm than good, as they may damage your car’s upholstery and other surfaces. Here is a short list of supplies to gather before you dive into the detailing process:

  • Water
  • Gentle liquid soap
  • Disinfectant wipes containing at least 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • Glass wipes
  • Mobile vacuum
  • Interior dressing
  • Plenty of microfiber cloths
  • Leather cleaner

Step Two: Prepare your car’s interior for cleaning

Start by removing all belonging and clutter from your car. Then remove the floor mats and give any carpeted areas a thorough vacuuming. If you have carpet floor mats, use an all-natural carpet shampoo to clean them. You can clean rubber mats with an all-purpose cleaner, applying a hose if necessary to help remove multiple layers of grime.

Step Three: Start by cleaning the surfaces that are touched most often

“You should clean frequently touched surfaces, including the steering wheel, door handles, shift lever, any buttons or touch screens, wiper and turn signal stalks, passenger and driver door armrests, grab handles, and seat adjusters…” – Keith Barry, Consumer Reports

Now that you have gathered your supplies, it’s time to put on your gloves and dive into the cleaning process. For best results, begin by tackling the surfaces that are frequently touched. Examples include your steering wheel, door handles, and high usage buttons. You can start by applying a light soap and water mixture and then disinfecting with your anti-bacterial surface wipes.

Step Four: Clean your seats according to their material

The cleaning method and tools you use will depend on the upholstery in your vehicle. If you have cloth seats, you can use a wet-vac extraction device to shampoo them. Make sure you dry them afterward to prevent mold or mildew.

If your seats are leather, you can apply a leather cleaner such as Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner with a soft brush. Make sure you use your microfiber or lint-free cloth to completely wipe away residue and dry your seats.

Step Five: Apply an interior finisher 

With a fresh vacuum, sparkling accessories, and clean seats, your car likely looks a lot better. However, you can really make your car’s interior sparkle by applying an interior dressing such as Armor All. In addition to making your dashboard, armrests, and leather or vinyl surfaces look great, an interior finisher serves as a protectant for your vehicle.

Step Six: Make your windows and mirrors shine

The last phase of the detailing process is to make your windows and mirrors sparkle. Spray a light mist of glass cleaner on each surface and use microfiber cloths to clean each glass area and wipe them clean. If you notice any areas of heavy buildup, you can use fine steel wool to remove stubborn adhesions.

Step Seven: Prepare a mobile car cleaning kit

“Protect your insides with wet wipes specifically designed for the leather and plastic surfaces of your car’s interior. The ease of use mixed with the cleaning agents make your life much easier, and also get rid of the problem before it has time to really get under your skin.” –Michael Crenshaw, Editorial Director and Content Manager for  

Spills, smudges, and dust do not conveniently accumulate while you are at home. They often arise while you are in transit from one place to another. While you cannot always prevent your car from becoming dirty or dusty, you can be prepared to swing into action when accidents happen. A great way to do this is to keep a small mobile car cleaning kit on hand to prevent dirt and grime from setting in. Your kit should include the following:

  • Protectant interior wipes
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Glass cleaning wipes
  • An air freshener

Step Eight: Adopt a proactive mindset to maintaining your car

Now that your car’s interior looks and smells great, it’s up to you to keep it that way. The best way to do this is to adopt a proactive mindset to keeping your car clean. This is not always easy, especially if you are always on the go or accustomed to letting your car’s condition slide. Here are some tips to help you become a pro at keeping your car’s interior in shape:

  • Create a schedule and stick to it. Detailing your car is easier if you clean it regularly. Create a cleaning schedule and post it in a visible spot.
  • Make use of time in traffic snarls. No one enjoys being stuck in traffic. However, you can use this time to tidy up your vehicle.
  • Restock your mobile cleaning kit. Depending on how often you drive your vehicle, you may need to do this once a month or more frequently.
  • Don’t ignore your vehicle’s exterior. Wash your car regularly and consider a paint protection film professionally installed.

What is your key to a flawless vehicle?

But the single best way to achieve impeccable results is to take you car to an expert vehicle services provider. A skilled expert will thoroughly inspect your vehicle and deliver tinting, paint protection, and detailing services that will make your car look fantastic inside and out.

We invite you to contact us to discover why drivers across Portland and Vancouver turn to us to make their vehicles look great. For over 15 years, the Elite Window Tinting team has transformed vehicle interiors for vehicle owners across Northern Oregon and Southern Washington. We look forward to showing you the many ways we can enhance your driving experience.


Kenley Wallis