7 Handy Tips To Avoid Blemishes On Your Car’s Headliner

7 Handy Tips To Avoid Blemishes On Your Car’s Headliner


More often than not, although it covers a big area of the car interior, a headliner or car’s interior ceiling gets neglected when it comes to cleaning.

In today’s post we’re going to do a deep dive into cleaning car headliners. We’ll talk about:

  • The ways a headliner is cleaned
  • Tips in cleaning the headliner
  • A car cleaning tool that makes cleaning the headliner faster

If you’re ready to find out how to keep your car’s headliner in its best state, this post is for you. 

Let’s dive right. 

Car Headliner Benefits

A car’s headliner has more benefits than you’d likely know. It:

  • Serves insulation against extreme cold or heat
  • It reduces vibrations and noise from the outside
  • It helps suspend electronic items like rear cameras and Bluetooth microphones
  • And it makes the ceiling pleasing to look at

However, when little attention is given to it, it builds up dirt and stains causing it to look older than it should and absorbs unwanted odor. Thus, it gets stinky and filthy in the long run. 

The headliner is made up of 3 layers of material. The first layer (closest to the metal roof) is a fibrous flexible board-like fiberglass. A thin layer of foam is then glued to it, then the exposed layer is added. 

It could either be:

  • Leather
  • Vinyl
  • Carpet-like fabric 

Vinyl and leather headliners develop crack overtime. The carpet-like fabric on the other hand develops more and more loose fabric strands. 

Whatever the material, it can develop dirt build-up and car headliner water stains over time. It also gets marks from long or big things thrown inside and crayon marks when kids are around. 

So it needs to be cleaned to give back its brand-new look… and smells. Plus it gets rid of germ buildup to help avoid its riders getting sick. 

Ways To Clean The Car Headliner

Car owners and car detailing companies are always on the lookout for the best way to clean fabric car roofs. The same goes true for vinyl and leather material too. 

Let’s start with tips that make car owners work like professional car detailers.


Tip No. 1: 

Clean the car from top to bottom, so you have to start with the headliner so you can still clean drips from it afterward. 


Tip No. 2: 

As mentioned earlier, the headliner is made up of 3 materials glued together. Soaking it wet must be the last option when cleaning headliners so you can prevent the glue from loosening. It also helps the headliner from sagging. 

While it needs to be kept clean, cleaning the headliner must be limited to a few times a year. Ideally, twice a year would be enough. But if it gets visibly filthy, you can clean it more than twice. 

(more tips in a bit)

Now let’s move on to the ways of cleaning the headliner. We’ll then add related tips along the way. 

Way No.1: Spot Cleaning For Minor Stains

For vinyl and leather headliners, you can use a microfiber cloth or a soft-bristled brush together with a cleaning solution like a multi-purpose foam cleaner or upholstery cleaner. 

Car Headliner Spot Clean


For a carpet-like fabric headliner, a microfiber towel can work for light and shallow stains. If you use a soft-bristled brush avoid overusing the cleaning solution and aggressively scrubbing the surface, doing so can result in more loosened fabric strands. 

Spray the cleaning solution on the part with the stain and scrub lightly in circles. Apply minimal pressure so it can reach shallow spots. 

Tip No. 3: 

Use latex or nitrile gloves to avoid skin irritation. 


Tip No. 4: 

Open car doors to keep the cabin well-ventilated helping the headliner dry faster. Just avoid cleaning your car near roads where passing cars can bring more dust to your car. 

After removing the dirt or stain, wipe off the excess cleaning solution with another dry microfiber cloth. 

When possible, to ensure it completely dries off, wait until 24 hours. 

Now if the dirt and stains cover a larger area, the next method you should try is surface cleaning.

Way No.2: Surface Cleaning For Larger Headliner Surface

Surface cleaning is almost similar to spot cleaning, only that you cover more than the area of the spot. This means you clean at least an 18x18 inch area in one go. 

Start by spraying the cleaning solution and letting it sit for at least 5 minutes. After 5 minutes use the same tools mentioned earlier, a microfiber cloth at first and then a soft-bristled brush when the cloth isn’t enough. 

Tip No. 5:

Overlap cleaning off the edges of the previous area and the current area to avoid water rings. 

Finish off by drying off the excess cleaning solution. 

When this still doesn’t work, you can now do the last option, do a deep clean. 

Way No.3: Deep Clean For Super Stubborn Dirt And Stains

For a deep clean you’ll need the cleaning solution to sit a bit longer. At least 10-15 minutes. You’ll need a steam-cleaner for this too. 

Start by attaching the narrow fitting to the steam cleaner hose. 

Just like surface cleaning, cover an 18x18 inch area at a time while overlapping strokes. Move at a 2 inches per second rate. 

If the surface still has some stains, stay for more seconds, the longer it sits on one spot, the deeper clean it gets. You don’t want to unnecessarily stay longer on one surface too because again, it can cause the glue to loosen and the headliner to sag. 

Once finished with the entire surface, leave the car open to dry. 

Tip No.6: 

For oil-based stains (grease, crayon, makeup, and ink) an alcohol or lacquer thinner gets the job done. For water-based stains (drinks like coffee, tea, soda) mix white vinegar with warm water and liquid soap.

Faster And More Efficient With A Car Cleaning Gun

Spot cleaning, surface cleaning, and deep cleaning can be rolled into one using a car cleaning gun

For the 3 traditional ways of cleaning headliners, you’ll need:

  • At least 2 microfiber cloths
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Spray bottle
  • Steam cleaner

If you use a car cleaning gun, you’ll get 3 cleaning powers in one piece of equipment:

  • Water to soften the dirt and cleaning solution for a deeper clean
  • Compressed air to dislodge stubborn dirt
  • Built-in brush to scrub stubborn dirt


Car Headliner Detailing


Using a car cleaning gun will help avoid:

  • Loosened fabric strands for carpet-like fabric. 
  • Aggressive scrubbing for stubborn stains
  • Using brushed because the car cleaning gun nozzle has a built-in brush
Car Headliner Car Cleaning Gun Built-In Brush


It helps in preventing the headliner from sagging because it only emits a controlled amount of fluid, it won’t soak the surface needlessly. 

It also saves time because you won’t have to keep on scrubbing until the surface gets cleaned, the car-cleaning gun’s tri-cleaning power gets the job done faster. 

Tip No.7:

Use the air-only function of the car cleaning gun so you can dry the surface half the time it used to take. 

If you want a fast and efficient way to clean your car interior ceiling, the car cleaning gun is your must-have headliner cleaning product.

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