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The Best Car Interior Cleaner of 2022: For All Parts

Like most new vehicles, the smell and shine fade and in order to maintain the cleanliness and good looks of your car, you’ll need to detail it. Not only on your car’s exterior but most importantly, the interior. Interior cleaners are usually quite affordable, with some exceptions, but normally the price isn’t much cause for concern.

As you might expect, there are a number of different products used to clean the inside of your car. This might be obvious to some but there are a variety of parts in your car’s interior, such as the windows, seats, dashboard, and more.

The Best Car Interior Cleaner

In order to get the best cleaning results for your vehicle, you’ll need to use a variety of products. Most people will recommend “universal” cleaners but in the end, they end up lacking in one area or another.

We decided to create a list of the best options in a variety of categories in order to get your vehicle as clean as possible.

1. Best for Dashboard and Trim

Meguiar's Vinyl/Rubber Cleaner and Protectant

This product may be advertised for Boats and RVs specifically but you can use it just the same on your vehicle. Meguiar’s Vinyl/Rubber Cleaner and Protectant are used for dashboard and trim cleaning. It’s made out of a premium mixture of ingredients that offer a safe, deep clean.

This results in a sparkling shine and high-level of protection for your plastic, rubber, and vinyl surfaces. Most importantly, after using this product, the surface of your dashboard and trim will have a clean, rich, and natural sheen instead of an artificial, greasy plastic look like Armor-all.

The Dashboard and trim are parts that are usually exposed to sun rays most often and are very delicate. It’s no wonder this product is advertised to RV owners as their “homes” tend to sit and absorb harmful UV rays daily. The conditioners in this particular product will help prevent the surfaces from cracking, drying out and the overall damage caused by the sun.

2. Best for Carpet and Upholstery

Meguiar's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

The next stop is the carpet and the upholstery of your vehicle. The Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is a go-to product for these parts of your car’s interior.

This product utilizes a strong cleaning foam that works perfectly for removing stubborn stains and odors. The foam acts really fast and it quickly breaks down the stains. It also dries rapidly and, most importantly, it leaves no residue.

This product has two different modes of operation. It can deliver a spray pattern, or it can be used to deliver foam to a single spot. You just need to pull the trigger a couple of times repeatedly for the first method, or pull the trigger once and hold for the another.

In order to get the best results, you’ll need to apply the spray first, then wait for at least 10 minutes for it to soak in. After that, just use a cloth to wipe and scrub away the cleaning solution.

3. Best for Leather Interior

Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

If you have a leather interior, this kit by Chemical Guys might be exactly what you need in order to keep your leather clean and conditioned. This kit includes two 16 ounce bottles; One bottle serves as a leather cleaner and the other one as a conditioner.

Unlike some options, these products leave no residue and won’t result in fiber deterioration.

When it comes to the cleaner, not only will this product not harm the leather, due to its pH balance, it will preserve the leather strength, appearance, and overall durability. The cleaner’s formula is designed to penetrate the pores of the leather, in order to lift and suspend oils and dirt that might be found in it.

The conditioner’s formula is designed with stain guard meant to bind with leather fibers so that it minimizes the ability of oils and dirt to attach to the leather surface.

4. Best for Glass

Sprayway Glass Cleaner

Having clean windows, mirrors, and windshield is extremely important, as having 100% visibility is what you need at all times while driving.

The Sprayway Glass Cleaner Aerosol Spray is a great product to use on glass parts of your vehicle. It is made out of a powerful formula that will quickly clean and dissolve your windows from grease, grit, and grime.

One of the biggest advantages of this particular spray product is that it leaves absolutely no streaks or residue because it is applied in the form of a foam. It is also ammonia free!

It’s also very simple to use, and this is how it works:

Firstly, shake well and remove the cap. Hold the bottle about 8 to 12 inches away from the surface and spray the surface. Then use a microfiber glass-cleaning cloth to wipe it away.

5. Best in Microfiber Towels

VibraWipe Microfiber Cloth

Most detailing experts will tell you that a Microfiber towel is like the holy grail when it comes to detailing. They are multi purpose and can be used for drying, buffing, and wiping away dirt. Experts and enthusiasts alike have long since moved on from the days of paper towels and abrasive options.

As you know, you can’t do everything by just spraying a cleaner or a conditioner onto a particular surface. You always have to use something to clean and wipe up the surface after. That’s where a microfiber cloth comes in. In this case, we recommended the VibraWipe Microfiber Cloths.

These microfiber cloths come in a pack of 8 and unlike most other options, these are reusable and machine washable. Usually, microfiber is notorious for fraying and unraveling after machine washing, so this is a huge bonus.

These come in a variety of pastel colors that allow you to color-code in order to prevent color bleeding.

The cloths are designed to be gentle but strong and efficient at the same time. Another reason people opt to use Microfiber cloths is as the name implies, their “micro” fibers are capable of lifting the smallest of particles. By using them, you’ll find that the cloths clean gently and they remove dirt like a magnet.

These cloths are extremely absorbent and are reported to hold up to 5 times their weight in liquid.

Truly, the only thing you have to consider when you’re thinking about buying these cloths is their size. Some may find them too small for their detailing requirements. Then again you get eight and swapping out cloths periodically isn’t a bad idea.

What to Look for in a Car Interior Cleaner

cleaning dashboard

As you can tell, we aren’t huge fans of “Universal” cleaners. Especially when there are specialized options that target specific areas of your vehicle’s interior. In most cases, a universal option is going to be lacking in one way or another. Whether it be the way it cleans upholstery or removes stains from carpet.

In most cases, there are going to be five areas that need frequent detailing; the dashboard, carpet, upholstery, windows, and general trim. Cleaning these areas is fairly straightforward due to how we outlined things above.

Dashboard and Trim

Unlike other interior components of your vehicle, the dashboard is in constant contact with the sun. Over time, UV light can break down the chemical bonds of a polymer and cause degradation; The dashboard dries out and the plasticizers dissipate over time.

Dashboards are generally made of polyvinyl chloride with added plasticizers. To illustrate, PVC pipe and a shower curtain are both made of PVC; The shower curtain has a plasticizer added to make it soft and pliable. The outer coating/layer of dashboards is made of PVC. As you might of guessed, the plasticizer can dissipiate over time and cause it to dry out.

This is another reason why a "universal" cleaner wouldn't suffice. While it would be able to remove surface debris, it doesn't treat/condition the surface of the plastic/vinyl to help prevent cracking, fading, and drying or provide UV protection against the Sun.

Seats/Upholstery and Carpet

cleaning leather seats

Seats are usually the last interior piece to be cleaned. For your seats, determine the type of upholstery cleaner you’ll need.

If you have leather seats, you’ll need something that can penetrate the leather's pores and lift dirt and grime. You also want something that can treat and condition the leather so that it doesn’t dry out and crack due to exposure to the sun.

If you have fabric upholstery then you want something that can deep clean this material.

The most common fabric used for car seats is Nylon. While it's durable, it's also porous and it's easy for debris to get trapped in the upholstery. Using a vacuum, a brush, and an upholstery cleaner can help to lift and remove particles.

Windows and Glass

In many cases, people will suggest glass cleaning products that aren’t meant for vehicles.

Many glass cleaners contain ammonia, which is problematic for a number of reasons:

Chemically, ammonia can dry out leather, vinyl, rubber, and plastic surfaces (all of which exist inside a vehicle).

If you have tinted windows, ammonia can break down the tint and cause it to peel; Ammonia can also cause streaks and fog.

Ammonia has the ability to release dangerous fumes (corrosive in high concentrations) that should not be inhaled.

While you might say just to use water, the issue is that water isn't strong enough of a solvent to break down organic compounds like bugs and various other debris.

Other Cleaning Tools?

In terms of tools, the only thing not mentioned above is a vacuum cleaner. To be frank, most portable vacuum cleaners lack adequate suction power to be able to remove dirt, debris, and various other particles from upholstery and carpet.

As long as you have a vacuum that has a hose attachment and decent suction power, you are off to a good start. On the off-chance that you don't own a vacuum and need a recommendation, Miele's canister vacuums work wonders.

With that said, if you don’t have a vacuum and can't afford one, consider going to a car wash as they usually have strong outdoor vacuums for 25 cents a minute.

There are also more nuanced tools and products; e.g. Air freshener, duster/brush, shammy towels, etc.

We outline the entire detailing process (interior and exterior) in another article.

Final Thoughts

The majority of people who drive a vehicle like having a shiny ride. However, fewer drivers make an effort when it comes to their vehicle’s interior.

It’s essential to understand that by regularly cleaning the interior of your car, not only are you making it look good, but you’re also preserving it from damage and retaining resale value.

These products all serve a particular purpose and will help clean the interior as a whole. Stay away from universal cleaners that will only provide a semi-decent job.

Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.
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