Interior Detailing: Tools, Techniques, and Materials — /DRIVE CLEAN

Cleaning the interior of my car
is as important to me as the exterior, because when I’m
with my car, I’m mostly inside behind the wheel. I want the cabin to look, smell,
and, more importantly, feel clean. For today’s interior detailing
episode, we’re going to cover a variety of techniques. Some are very basic and easy and
can be done for under $20, while other techniques are more
advanced and will require additional cleaning tools. We’re going to go over a lot
of information today, so be sure and check out
for a free a downloadable PDF with a listing of these
step-by-step instructions. Having the right tools is key
to doing an interior detail. On this side here, we have
microfiber towels. We have brushes and, of course,
a few products. This would be considered the
weekend warrior side of the detailing tools. Over here, we have
our professional. We have big, heavy vacuums,
ozone machines. We have Porter cables with
brushes on them, steam machines, and hot
water extractor. Whatever tool fits your budget,
time, and the amount of cars and condition that
you’re working with, these are all great options for your
interior detailing. Once all miscellaneous items are
removed from the interior, the first and most basic
technique for cleaning leather, plastics, and vinyl is
with a designated interior cleaner and a microfiber
towel. Apply a few squirts to a
clean microfiber towel. Then wipe away the dirt
with medium pressure. In some cases, this may be
enough to clean the material you’re working. However, this Lexus requires
another few steps because of its heavy dirt and grime. For step two, add your interior
cleanser to a soft bristle brush and agitate until
foamy lather is created. Unlike painted surfaces, circles
can be used on leather with your interior brush. Don’t allow the cleaner to dry
on the surface, as the dirt is suspended within the lather
you’ve created. Immediately wipe with
a microfiber tower. After step two, most interiors
are back in shape. But in rare cases, technique
three may be required. Although this section of the
side bolster looks much better, there are small areas
that need a little extra help. For technique three, apply two
squirts of your cleaner to an interior scrub pad with light
pressure, and in straight lines, work the remaining
blemish until the surface is perfectly clean. Remember to avoid pushing too
hard and be aware of old and brittle surfaces, as this is
an aggressive cleaning technique reserved for
difficult stains. Much like paint, always work
your way up from the least aggressive technique until you
find the method that works best on that particular
staining or material. When cleaning most steering
wheels, I prefer to use the interior brush on wrapped
leather because of the exposed stitching that is easily
cleaned with the hairs of the brush. Work in small areas to avoid
premature drying, and use a microfiber towel to grip the
wheel and wipe it clean. It’s common for the steering
wheel to feel slightly sticky after it’s been cleaned because
the dirt and oils from the driver’s hands have been
removed, leaving behind a clean, non-greasy texture. When dust accumulates on the
dashboard, simply add two squirts of the interior cleaner
and wipe with a microfiber towel. In most cases, using a brush or
a scrub pad is unnecessary. Much like the steering wheel,
the armrest contains the most body oils and sweat. In this example, I used all
three techniques to show what can be achieved after just a
few minutes of carefully lifting and removing embedded
dirt and oils. Besides the obvious color change
from dirty to clean, notice the difference
in sheen. The clean side has a natural
matte finish, while the dirty has a shiny or light-reflective
quality that’s common on greasy
surfaces. If you have access to a steamer,
it can be extremely helpful on center consoles, cup
holders, and plastic seams because of the 65 to 70
psi it creates with low residual water. A simple microfiber towel, along
with your brush, is also an effective method for cleaning
around buttons, shifter booths, and
cup holders if don’t have a steamer. Headliners can be tricky to
clean because they are thinner and generally the most delicate
material used on the interior of the car. Avoid oversoaking the headliner,
as it can cause the fabric to sag by loosening
the glue. Directly apply the cleaner to a
brush or a microfiber towel before attempting to clean it. The goal is to lift the stain
without tearing the liner or disturbing the fibers. Lightly blot the stain, then
comb the fibers to help blend in the clean area with the
surrounding liner so it doesn’t stand out. Make sure to take your time on
the driver’s side door, as it typically accumulates
heavy dirt and oil from constant use. All three techniques may need
to be used on the various surfaces that makes
the door panel. The door jam kick panels tend
to be a harder plastic, so I like to use technique three and
scrub with firm pressure to remove the common shoe scuffs
from getting in and out of the car. If you’re a professional,
high-volume shop, or simply love power tools, you can
convert a basic dual-action polisher to an interior
scrub machine. This brush is designed for
leather because it’s soft yet effective at lifting dirt. Add a few squirts to the brush
and the area being cleaned. Notice I didn’t oversaturate
the seat because of the perforations built
into the leather. Add more cleaner as the area
needs it and work the machine in a crisscross pattern
to effectively covers the entire area. Wipe clean with the
microfiber towel. For the deepest clean, I use
a steam machine with a microfiber towel wrapped
around the wand. Step one is to heat the surface
to open the pores of the leather while removing the
top layer of heavy dirt. While it’s still hot, step two
is to directly apply interior cleaner and agitate with
your interior brush. You can also use the scrub
pad if necessary. This technique is highly
effective for deep cleaning and bacteria removal, especially
for abnormally dirty seats and when
mold is present. Once all the leather is cleaned
and the pores of the hide opened, it’s essential to
moisturize or condition the material to avoid stress
cracking or drying out. Be sure to remove the excess
residue for a matte finish. Cleaning cloth and carpet
can be tricky. Here are a few different
techniques that you can use it based on the level of dirt,
your comfort level, and machines you may own. No one method is always best,
so use the one you’re most comfortable with. For the first technique,
presoak the carpet with fabric cleaner. Then use the steamer
and scrubber nozzle to heat up the fibers. Once heated, reapply another
round of fabric cleaner and scrub with a carpet brush. Finally, soak up with a clean
microfiber towel. If you don’t have any
machines, that’s OK. Much can be accomplished with a
simple bucket of hot water, carpet brush, and a
fabric cleaner. Liberally apply your cleaner,
then scrub in opposing directions with firm pressure. Once the dirt is lifted, wipe
clean with a microfiber towel. For a professional deep clean,
a hot-water extractor is a fantastic option because it
removes the loosened soils immediately without the need of
additional an wet-vac step. I use a crisscross pattern to
ensure every fiber is heat treated from two different
angles so that nothing is missed. Once all carpets are cleaned,
I like to follow up with a final vacuum. Afterwards, I install carpet
stripes for a fresh new car look and feel. Start by brushing all the
fibers in one direction. Then use the width of the brush
to point the pile in opposing directions, giving
the illusion of stripes. When I’m doing my final
checkover, I like to bring my vacuum along with me to think of
anything I may have missed in the previous steps. Be sure to pull open seat jams
and vacuum out seat tracks, all the while visually
inspecting your work for stains that may have reappeared
as they dried, which is not uncommon. OK, we’ve reviewed a variety
of techniques and showed a range of tools that I’ve used
as a professional detailer. But at the end, use the
techniques that work for you in your situation and enjoy the
satisfaction that comes from driving in a meticulously
clean interior cabin. For a downloadable PDF of
these steps, check out That’s it for me, guys. Thanks for watching another
episode of “Drive Clean” right here on DRIVE network. [MUSIC PLAYING]