The Interior Detailing Process That Makes Your Car Good As New (In-Depth)

The Interior Detailing Process That Makes Your Car Good As New (In-Depth)


Every car interior is devised with nooks and crannies that get dusty and grimy as time goes by. 

Your car is your home on wheels. When it’s dirty, it’s unhealthy to use (especially during a pandemic), because the buildup of dirt can mean the car becomes a hotbed of virus and bacteria.

Rejuvenating the interior will not just help with your physical health, it will greatly affect your mental health and the car’s overall performance. 

However, the benefits of car detailing aren’t just limited to making it clean and disinfected. Interior detailing brings your car back in its tip-top look. 

It reignites the excitement and initial connection you have with your car when you first bought it. 

But doing interior detailing can seem daunting. The car interior isn’t just riddled with crevices, it’s also made up of different materials that need different kinds of care. 

Components on the car’s interior are either plastic, vinyl, leather, metal, carbon fiber plastics, and sometimes there are natural fibers too. Each of them needs different cleaning techniques. 

In this post, we’re going to talk about the different interior parts of the car:

  • Interior Ceiling/ Headliner
  • Dashboard Panel and Center Console
  • Door Panel, Window, and Windshield
  • Upholstery/ Car Seats
  • Floor Mats and Carpeting

The logical way to clean the car’s interior is to do it from top to bottom ( hence the sequence of the bulleted list). This helps avoid going back to parts you’re already done cleaning with. 

Think about this:

If you clean the car seats first and work on the headliner next, drips from cleaning the headliner can mean you have to go back and clean the car seats again. 

Plus, when cleaning the dashboard and consoles you’ll have to sit on the car seats. If it gets cleaned first, it will be wet or damp to sit on. 

If you want a thorough and systematic process of cleaning your car interior, this post is for you. 

Let’s dive right in!

What We’ll Cover

In each car interior element, we’re going over:

  • Material background
  • How it gets dirty
  • Why it needs to be cleaned

Each of the interior car parts mentioned above will also have independent posts where we’ll dig in deeper and talk about the different ways of cleaning it and how you can optimize your cleaning process to make the work efficient and faster

Stick around for those posts too. 

For now, let’s go over and get started on the first car interior part, the interior ceiling, which is also known as the headliner. 

Interior Ceiling/Headliner

The car’s interior ceiling covering is called the headliner. 

It’s one of the most delicate parts of the car interior because of the material and layers it has. While cleaning it is necessary, a deep clean should be the option only when there is no other way. 

Background Of Headliner Material

Typically, the layer starts off either with fiberglass or another type of fibrous board flexible enough to be molded into the roof shape. A thin layer of foam is then added to it and finished off with either leather, vinyl, or carpet-like fabric as the exposed layer of the headliner. 

Car Headliner Detailing


Because it contains multiple layers bonded together by glue, getting it soaking wet while cleaning can affect the adhesive so it needs to be avoided if possible. 

How The Headliner Gets Dirty

Moisture and dust or splatters of drinks or other liquids can cause stains. When the car owner has kids with pens or crayons in their hands, the headliner can be like a big piece of paper for them to write on. 

Also, when you transport big or long objects, getting them inside the car can sometimes cause streaks or smudges that leave the object color on the headliner. 

Take a rod with a rubber end, for example, leaning it on the headliner, especially in humid weather can soften the rubber and cause streaks. 

Why The Headliner Needs To Be Cleaned

Headliners are not just one of the most delicate parts of the car interior, it’s also one of the areas that often gets neglected. 

Since its exposed surface absorbs smell and smoke, it doesn’t just get easily dirty or riddled with stains, it also retains odor for a long time, at times permanently. 

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

Dashboard Panel And Center Console

The dashboard panel and center console carry unique obstacles. It has most of the nooks and crevices from the frame trims, buttons, air conditioning, cup holders, pockets, and compartments. 

And then there are the delicate parts. 

The gauges can absorb moisture and leave tiny blobs of water. And the buttons and audio system carries electronics parts that can get grounded when exposed to water. 

Interior Detailing Dashboard And Center Console

Background Of Dashboard Panel and Center Console Material

The majority of the dashboard panel and the center console are either made up of vinyl or high-quality plastic. Some have leather accents to them. 

Since the dashboard is where the gauges are, it’s made of clear material, mostly plastic polymer.  Cloths used to wipe it can leave streaks and overtime cause it to turn hazy. 

How The Dashboard Panel and Center Console Get Dirty

The pockets, cup holders, and compartments are magnets for dirt like grime and dust. Especially cup holders because they get wet, they retain dirt and dust. 

Other parts mostly get dusty and sometimes with food accidents, it can get wet or greasy. 

Some front seat passenger also put their feet up to the dashboard so debris like mud or dust can also make it unclean.

Why The Dashboard Panel and Center Console Need To Be Cleaned

A dirty dashboard and center console aren’t just aesthetically unpleasing to look at, the accumulated dust, especially in the vents can heighten or cause allergies. 

Plus there’s also a risk of germ buildup, something we do not want to happen at a time when a pandemic is going on. 

And simply, a dirty dashboard and console are what people immediately when they ride your car. It can be embarrassing to let people ride with you. 

You might not know this, but it also affects your mental health. It can shape how organized you’ll be for the whole day and it can also affect your mood. 

Imagine coming into a car riddled with takeout containers, plastic cups on the cup holders, and a grimy dashboard. Do you think it contributes to helping you have a good day?

Of course not. 

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Guide Into Cleaning The Center Console And Dashboard Panel

Door Panel, Window, And Windshield

Car windows and windshields have a big impact on road safety. A clean window and windshield allow you to see the road clearly so you can properly be aware of your surroundings like cars on your front, back, and sides. 

On the other hand, clean door panels can help avoid layers of germs from accumulating that get you at risk of getting sick. 

It also keeps the part where you open the doors from the inside and where you rest your hands from becoming filthy and sticky. 

Interior Detailing Car Doors

Background Of Door Panel, Window, and Windshield Material

Door panels are mostly made from the same material used in the dashboard. 

Usually, high-quality plastic or vinyl is used for door panels, some have leather accents in them. Older car models had door panels with tufted fabric accents. 

Windows and windshields on the other hand are made from laminated safety glass. These types of glasses are treated with films of plastic layer sandwiching the glass material. 

Although these types of glasses prevent easy breakage, it’s still not immune to scratches. 

How The Door Panel, Window, and Windshield Get Dirty

Door panels usually have a cup holder, the liquid outside the cup that’s usually left in the holder gets in contact with dust and other dirt forming grimy filth inside. The same happens with door pockets too. 

As for the door handles and the part of the door where you push to open it wide usually gets dirty from the things you’ve held before touching the door. Holding greasy take-outs makes the door greasy as well. 

Like the headliner, the door panels also risk getting crayon and pen marks when kids are around. 

For the window and windshield, it usually gets dirty from dust, doggie nose, and fingerprints. 

Why The Door Panel, Window, and Windshield Need To Be Cleaned

Door panels are common contact points. Dirt stuck on it can transfer to the hands of every person riding your car. 

This is more dangerous with Covid-19 around. These unseen germs can lurk on the door panels waiting for the person to infect with the disease. 

Dirty windows and windshields can hinder you from properly seeing the road and adjacent cars. You can end up miscalculating the distancing bumping each other. 

Worse when you’re at high speed, you can even get into extreme accidents. 

Recommended Reading: 7 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Cleaning Car Door Panels And Windows

Car Seats

Car seats are also a hotbed for germs. Other than serving as seats, it’s also where you put your bag, purse, take-out food, and even your pet. 

Its material is one of the most delicate ones you’ll be working on in the car. Plus car manufacturers differ in the material they use. This means if you’re a car detailing or car wash service, you have to know how to care for each material well. 

Interior Detailing Car Seats

Background Of Car Seat Material

There are a variety of materials used for car seats. It can either be any of the following:

  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Alcantara
  • Vinyl
  • Faux Leather/Leather

Under these exposed surfaces is thick foam to cushion the seats. 

How Car Seats Get Dirty

Car seats get dirty easily. Dust gets caught on the shallow cavities on nylon and polyester and the shallow crack-like surface of vinyl, leather, and faux leather. When the surface gets in touch with any liquid, the dust and dirt that set in can turn to stubborn stains and spots. 

Other than dust, car seats also get filthy from food spills, drink stains, women’s red day leaks, and pet hair. Drink spills can also seep through the fabric and straight to the foam making the filth deep-seated (pun intended) making it harder to clean. 

Why Car Seats Need To Be Cleaned

Car seats need to be cleaned because like other interior surfaces, germs can build up. Much more with car seats because some material used for it is porous. 

Since it’s porous, the filth can go down to the foam layer, staining it and causing odor build-up. 

Car seats supposedly make your ride comfortable. If it’s grimy and dirty, it’ll hardly be the case. 

Recommended Reading: 5 Rules For Keeping Car Seats In Good Condition

Floor Mats And Carpeting

Cars have built-in manufacturer carpeting. But car owners usually add an extra layer of protection by using car mats since it’s easier to clean. 

Whatever a car owner’s daily dynamics are, whether walking on tiled-floor offices or dirt-covered factories even the most careful car owner will bring in dirt inside the car. 

It’s inevitable for dirt to accumulate and accidental spills to happen. You can immediately clean the mats by keeping wet wipes handy, but it doesn’t keep a car squeaky clean. You’ll still have to do a thorough clean of the carpets and car mats at least once a week. 

Background Of Floor Mats And Carpeting Material

A car’s factory carpeting is usually made of either polyamide-nylon or polyester. It’s a kind of fabric that has loose strands to trap dirt in. 

As for the added floor mats, it’s either from polyester, polyamide-nylon, vinyl, and rubber. 

Interior Detailing Carpet And Floor Mat

How Floor Mats And Carpeting Get Dirty

This is a no-brainer. Floor mats and carpets get dirty from the dirt carried by the owner and the passenger shoes. That can simply be dust, or a lot worse, mud. 

Floor mats and carpets also get dirty from wet grocery, food crumbs and drink spills, leaked greasy take-out food, loose debris from shopping bags, purse, pockets, and pet hair. 

Why Floor Mats And Carpeting Need To Be Cleaned

Like other car surfaces, unclean interiors cause germ build-up. It can result in stains and even awful odor. It’s unhygienic and unhealthy.

It can trigger allergies, cause germs to be passed around, makes you unorganized for the rest of the day, and embarrasses other passengers. 

Recommended Reading: 4 Practical Tips To Clean Floor Mats And Car Carpets

The sequence of when each car interior part is explained also reflects the order of what needs to be cleaned first. 

Go from top to bottom. This means starting with the headliner, the windshield, then the dashboard panel and center console, then the door panel and window, followed by the car seats, and ending with the floor mats and carpeting. 

Each interior part has separate posts. Check out these posts to learn the thorough process of each part and how a car cleaning gun optimizes the job for you. 

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