hand cleaning car interior

How to Detail Car Interior Using These Homemade Cleaners

Remember that pristine, fresh, clean feeling of slipping behind the wheel of your new car? Knowing how to detail car interiors may not restore that new car smell, but it will undoubtedly improve the air quality. Washing the windows, getting rid of trash and clutter, cleaning the carpet, and scrubbing the upholstery seats will help you breathe easier and could even improve your driving habits to boot.

 hand cleaning car interior

Professional detailing can be super expensive, but with just a few tools and supplies you may have on hand already, together with these tips and DIY cleaning recipes, you can clean and detail the car interior just like the pros.


Homemade Dashboard and Tire Cleaner

Homemade Fabric Upholstery Cleaner

Homemade Leather and Vinyl Cleaner

Homemade Car Carpet Cleaner

Homemade Dashboard and Tire Cleaner

You’ll need:

✅  clean spray bottle

✅  1 tbsp plain white vinegar

✅  1 cup warm water

✅  1 tspn Blue Dawn Dishwashing liquid

✅  2 tspn baby oil, mineral oil OR 3 to 5 drops Tea Tree essential oil


Pour water, vinegar, Blue Dawn, and oil into a spray bottle. Shake to combine.

To Use:

Use this on the dashboard, doors, tires, in the same way you may have used Armor All in the past, by spraying it on a cloth and then on the surface to be cleaned and polished.

Avoid using paper towels because they leave tiny bits of paper on the dashboard’s surface. Wipe your dash in one direction. You can also use this recipe to clean the steering wheel, handbrake, and other non-leather interior parts of the car.

Homemade Fabric Upholstery Cleaner

This is a great cloth upholstery cleaner for your car, but also upholstery inside the house! You can treat just the stain or areas that receive the most use.

You’ll need:

✅  cheese grater

✅  egg beater or whisk

✅  medium mixing bowl

✅  6 tablespoons grated Fels Naptha laundry bar soap*

✅  2 tablespoons borax*

✅  2 cups boiling water


Using the cheese grater, grate some of the Fels Naptha bar soap. Place the grated Fels Naptha, borax, and boiling water in the mixing bowl. Using the egg beater to whisk, carefully mix until all ingredients are dissolved and well incorporated**.

Allow to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until cool enough that the mixture begins to gel.

Using an egg beater, whisk, or electric mixer, whip the mixture until it looks like whipped cream or shaving cream. It will start out bubbly but then become foam.

*available in most supermarkets in the laundry aisle, or online using the link above

**Photo tutorial

To use:

Dip a clean rag into the foam and apply a generous amount to the fabric surface to be cleaned (seats and headliner, too!) Gently scrub the surface, allowing to penetrate the fabric upholstery. Wipe with a wet cloth or rag after cleaning. Stubborn stains may need a brush, but be careful especially on that headliner. You don’t want to end up with a rip as a result of getting too agressive. Allow to air dry. Repeat treatment as necessary.

This recipe makes a big batch of DIY cleaner. You can store it in a container with a tight-fitting lid, like Tupperware, in a cupboard.

If you don’t want to make up more cleaner than you need for a specific job, you can easily cut this recipe in half: 3 tbsp grated Fels Nathpa, 1 tbsp borax, 1 cup boiling water.

Homemade Leather and Vinyl Cleaner

Leather seats and vinyl surfaces add a luxurious look to a vehicle’s interior. However, as durable and as flexible as these materials are, they are also prone to collecting dust and harboring sticky stuff. As always, test in an inconspicuous place first.

You’ll need:

✅  spray bottle

✅  1/4 cup plain white vinegar

✅  1/4 cup olive oil

✅  6 to 10 drops lemon essential oil (optional but leaves a light, clean fragrance)


Pour the vinegar, olive oil, and lemon essential oil in the spray bottle. Shake well.

To Use:

Spray a generous amount of leather and vinyl cleaner on a clean cloth (not directly onto the leather or vinyl). Use this cloth to wipe down and gently scrub leather or vinyl seats and surfaces, being careful to not oversaturate the surfaces. You don’t want this liquid to pool below the surface between the cushions. Follow by polishing dry with a dry cloth to avoid allowing any wet marks to remain.

Homemade Car Carpet Cleaner

Car carpets and floor mats can get filthy and dirty with frequent use. If they’re black or another dark color, it’s easy to assume all is well since stains are not as visible. Drink spills and more can leave visible stains on lighter colors. Instead of buying specialty cleaning products, try this DIY car interior cleaner for carpets and carpeted floor mats.

You’ll need:

✅  large container (bowl or jar)

✅  stiff scrub brush

✅  3 tbspn grated Fels Naptha bar soap

✅  2 tbspn borax

✅  2 cups boiling water

✅  10 to 15 drops lavender essential oil


Mix the grated soap, borax, water, and essential oil in a bowl or jar. Stir or shake until the ingredients are dissolved and incorporated. It’s going to look super foamy.

To Use:

Dip the brush into the solution and scrub the dirty parts of the carpet. Rinse with a clean wet rag (or if cleaning floor mats, hose them off in the driveway). Allow to air dry.

About Fels Naptha

What’s so special about Fels Naptha laundry bar soap? It is formulated for laundry; for its ability to get tough stains out of clothes, upholstery. It is NOT hand and body soap, and is not interchangeable with, say, that bar of Dove in your shower. Should you decide to substitute that hand and body bar soap for Fels Naptha, your results will be disappointing. Trust me on that, and get the Fels Naptha.

All-Purpose Homemade Glass Cleaner

You’ll need:

✅  2 cups 91% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol (see Note 2)

✅  2 cups water

✅  2 tablespoons white vinegar 5% acidity

✅  4 drops dishwashing liquid, like Blue Dawn (Note 3)

Pour ingredients into a new bottle and attach the sprayer top. Label and keep out of reach of children.


1. Isopropyl alcohol serves two purposes—to cut through dirt and residue and to make this cleaner evaporate quickly.

2. Or 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is OK to make a weaker solution. Or denatured alcohol, available in the paint aisle of any home improvement center.

3. The dishwashing liquid breaks the surface tension of water, allowing this cleaner to latch onto the dirt, grease and sticky stuff so you can quickly wipe it away.

4. Do not use on stone or other materials that can be etched or otherwise react negatively to acid. Works well to shine chrome and ceramic tile.

5. This recipe yields about one quart window cleaner to fit into a 32-ounce spray bottle. Recipes multiples and divides well.

Best tools for wiping windows


Paper towels and cotton cloths are out if you want to clean your windows quickly and efficiently. Paper towels are too expensive and cotton cloths leave behind lint. It’s difficult to beat black-and-white newspaper for wiping windows clean—no lint, no streaks! And newspaper is free and recyclable. The drawback may be the mess. You’ll end up with clean, lint- and streak-free windows, but a pile of wet, soggy newsprint.


There’s nothing like high-quality microfiber for cleaning just about any surface in and about the house, especially glass. If you’ve never used a microfiber cloth, you’re going to be amazed by how fast and efficiently you can clean!

I’m pretty sure I’ve tested just about every kind of microfiber cloth out there.The best microfiber cloths are made of 70 percent polyester and 30 percent polyamide (70/30). They also can cost upwards of $15 or $20 each. For regular housecleaning including glass, I find a good-quality 80/20 cloth works just great. Anything less than that is just not worth the money.

Something else: For me, microfiber cloths need to be easy to use and able to stand up to my extreme laundry habits. (Note: Never use any laundry softeners when laundering microfiber.)

I don’t want cloths that fray around the edge, give off lint, stain easily or shrink over time. I’m hard on household linens because I demand so much from them. A pack of 10 cloths from The Rag Company has lasted me for years now and I see no signs of them wearing out anytime soon. I really like having some in a dark color, too, because they always look as clean as I know they are.




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8 replies
  1. Courtney says:

    Another super great tip: Use men’s shaving cream to clean upholstery. Spray it on, rub it in and wait 30 minutes or so. Scrub and wipe with a damp cloth. I saw the tip on TikTok. My son’s seats and middle cover were stained from foods. And it stunk from dog smell the previous owner had. And it cleaned the stains and got rid of the funk. OxyClean for cars, don’t bother! A much cheaper alternative.

  2. VINEVIDA says:

    As someone who loves taking care of their car, this article has become my go-to guide for interior detailing. The homemade cleaners are easy to make and deliver outstanding results. Highly recommend.

  3. Adolph Kimball says:

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the amazing content you’ve been producing on your blog. I came across your recent post on How to Detail Car Interior and Passionate Auto Detail, and it was incredibly informative and well-written. Your post offered some fantastic ideas that I will be incorporating into my business.

  4. Pat A Weiser says:

    I always wonder about cleaning my leather seats. Since they are heated and cooled, they have little holes that catch ‘stuff’ in them. I’m afraid they will catch the cleaner and render them ineffective.

  5. Anita Merritt says:

    Dear Mary,
    Thank you for all your tips. I do have a question about the Fels Napa, thought. I am allergic to it. I tried using it in one of your other recipes, Laundry, I think and could not stop sneezing. My husband would grate it for me, but when I used it, all I could do was sneeze. Is there another soap I could use. Thank you, Anita


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