How to Clean Car Carpet (Step-by-Step Guide)

Gladys K. Connelly
As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a professional housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
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Updated October 27, 2023

Easy tips for deep cleaning your vehicle

How to Clean Car Carpet (Step-by-Step Guide)

Deep cleaning your car carpet might not be the first thing on your to-do list. But consider this; the proof of all the drive-thru McDonald’s meals and Starbucks cups are spread on your car’s floors. Plus, your dog may have pooped in the back seat.

Even with all these horrors lined up in your vehicle, you might be putting off cleaning until you can afford an auto detailer.

I’m here to give you good news: you can clean your car yourself.

It’s much simpler than you’d expect and definitely cheaper than the upkeep of the car’s engine and mechanical parts.

In this guide, I’ll discuss fool-proof methods for car owners to get rid of mud stains and make their dirty car carpet as good as new.

Let’s talk about five easy methods to keep your vehicle’s carpet in good condition, giving you a clean car interior.


It’s said – and I strongly believe – that prevention is better than cure. In this case, preventing your car from getting dirty is less difficult and efficient than cleaning it.

If you want to reduce the frequency of cleaning or the amount of waste you have to clean, avoid making your car dirty.

Originally, your car probably came with a set of floor mats. But, you can get aftermarket ones online or from car dealers. These car mats are much better at covering dirt and easier to clean.

You can also invest in a good stain guard spray, which will come in handy if you have kids. Most sprays can get rid of stains quickly. Moreover, the sooner you act, the lesser the chances of the stain getting tougher.

It might seem complicated, but you can have a ‘no eating’ rule in the car. Has your child ever splattered ice cream all over the car carpet?

Or, have you ever spilled your morning coffee on the driver’s seat carpet?

While losing your caffeine fix for the day can ruin your mood, cleaning that stubborn stain off the car carpet isn’t very exciting either.

To prevent disappointment and extra work, strictly implement the ‘no eating’ rule.

Must-Know Tricks For Cleaning Car’s Carpets

If you’re an experienced car cleaner like me, you would have learned some tips and tricks over time. However, if you are still new at this, here are a few tips to make the cleaning experience easier and more pleasant.

1.Vacuuming and Shampooing

Before you get your cleaning supplies out, make sure nothing is lying on the car carpets. Pick up cups, wrappers, or any other items on the carpeting. If you have hung a charm or a picture on the mirror, remove it too.

As for storing your cleaning supplies, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Modern cars have inner compartments that can double up as cleaning supply holders.

For instance, your coffee holder can make an excellent spot for keeping the shampoo bottle.

After that, take out the floor mats. Shake them to get rid of food crumbs and dirt particles. You can keep them at the side of your car for now.

Now, it’s time to bring out the vacuum cleaner. If you have a handheld or cordless vac, this process will be much easier for you.

2.Vacuum The Car Carpets Thoroughly

Make sure to get under the seats and on the pedals’ sides. Also, get into the crevices of your car.

Most car vacuum cleaners come with a crevice tool that makes it easier to get into the nooks and crannies. If yours doesn’t have one, you can get it online.

Once all the visible dirt and bigger particles are gone, you’re ready to shampoo the carpets.

3.Shampooing The Carpets

You can find a wide range of carpet cleaners at your local department store. Select any cleaner of your choice as they all pretty much work the same way.

You can also use a laundry detergent if you don’t want to spend extra bucks on a carpet cleaner.

Use a brush with soft bristles to rub the shampoo into the carpets gently.

Begin by spraying the shampoo onto the carpets and letting it sit for up to 15 minutes. Use your brush to spread it evenly to the edges.

To get the best results, rotate the brush in circular motions.

If you see any areas with stubborn or older dirt stains, scrub them a bit harder. You may have to repeat the process for messier areas.

To rinse the carpets, use a damp rag. Don’t wet it as too much moisture can invite mold to grow under the carpets – and use it to remove the soap.

You don’t necessarily have to get every last drop of the shampoo out of the carpets. Simply make sure to get most of the shampoo out.

Leave the car doors open for the carpet to dry.

4.Spot Cleaning

Following vacuuming, your car carpets might still have some persistent spots on them. While shampooing can do some damage control for moderately dirty carpets, it won’t help if you’re cleaning the carpets the first time since you bought the vehicle.

You need the following supplies for spot cleaning:

First, you need to select a cleaner. In most cases, a store-bought cleaner will do the job, but if you’re too lazy to run to the store, you can make a homemade cleaner with things already present in your pantry.

A natural homemade cleaner is a mixture of vinegar, hot water, and dishwashing soap. Along with cleaning the carpets, it also helps get rid of foul smell.

If you have any ink marks, tend to them with hairspray, while for grease stains, you can use a lacquer thinner.

Before you use any of these cleaners, try them on a small hidden area on the carpet. Check if the cleaner is causing discoloration.

If not, you’re good to go and apply it to the stained area.

Let the cleaner sit for some time until the stain has soaked up the chemicals. When applying a cleaner, be generous but don’t saturate the area with it. You’ll have a tough time getting the moisture out otherwise.

As you did with shampooing, use the brush to break up the stain. If needed, redo the steps until the stain is completely gone.

Let the area dry to prevent mold growth.

5.Steam Cleaning

If you have a steam cleaner /carpet sweeper at home, you can use it to deep clean your car carpets. Most steam cleaners have a spray wand that you can use to spray the carpets and a vacuum head to clean them.

When working with a steam cleaner, make sure not to saturate the area with the cleaner.

You can also use a clothing steamer for this. Apply the cleaner to the carpet and then immediately steam it.

The steam will allow the cleaner to seep into the carpet fibers to have a better effect. Let it sit for some time and then vacuum the carpet.

6.Air Drying

After shampooing or spot cleaning the car, it’s important to dry the carpets. Doing so will prevent mold growth and rid the car of bad odors from the damp fabric.

Now, there are two ways to do this.

You can open the car doors and let it stand outside for a few hours. If the sun is out or the weather is mildly pleasant, you’ll have a dry car till the evening.

Alternatively, if you have a garage, park your car in it. Turn on the fans to speed up the drying process.

How To Clean Car Floor Mats Naturally?

There’s no point in cleaning the car carpets if you’re going to cover them with dirty mats again.

Shaking your car mats won’t make them entirely clean. You have to shampoo and vacuum the mats to fully clean them just like you did with the carpets.

Start by vacuuming the car mats to get rid of dirt and debris stuck between the tiny ridges.

Flip the mat around so that the plastic side is facing you. Apply dish soap and use a water hose to loosen the dirt.

After you’re satisfied with the washing, rinse the mats and dry them using a towel.

For the fabric part, use a cleaner or a laundry detergent. Next, put the brush to work and scrub the dirt, food crumbs, and debris.

Like the plastic side, you can use the hose on the fabric too. After washing, rinse it completely and use a vacuum for drying.

You can also hang the mats outside and let them air dry. If you get bright sunshine in your region, hang the car mats on the clothing line, and they’ll be dry in a few hours.

How To Remove Stains On Car’s Carpeting?

While you can remove most stains using car cleaners, others demand special attention. Depending on the kind and severity of the stain, you can use different homemade cleaners.

  • Dirt and Water Stains

Picture this: you run from your workplace to your car in the parking lot to seek refuge from heavy rain. The next day, you notice that the car carpets have mud and water stains. If it sounds too familiar, you’ll know the effort you have to put in to remove these stains.

I have a fantastic home remedy to get rid of these stains. In a bucket, add hot water, white vinegar, and dishwashing soap.

Mix them to form a solution and apply it to the stained area. You can use a rag or a sponge to do this. Using a bristle brush, rub the solution into the fabric in circular motions. Let it sit for up to 10 minutes.

Dry the area by blotching it with paper towels.

  • Soda/Coffee Spills

For coffee or soda stain removal, apply cold water to the area. Blot the stain with enough paper towels to cover it completely.

You’d be surprised at how effectively cool water can get rid of these stains.

  • Vomit Stains

If your sick pet vomits on the carpets on the way to the vet, you need to clean it as soon as possible. For this, you can use a mixture of water and baking soda or club soda.

Apply any of the two to the carpet and rub it in a circular motion using a damp washcloth. Make sure to dry the area later using a towel.

  • Pen Stains

A hairspray works just fine for removing pen stains from the car carpets. Spray the stained area and let the chemicals do their magic.

Alternatively, you can sprinkle salt generously on the stain and let it sit for a while. Use a damp cloth to wash the area, and the stain will go away.

  • Greasy Stains

One of the hardest parts of carpet cleaning is to get rid of grease and oil stains as they refuse to budge. To get rid of them, you can apply paint thinner to the area.

Then, scrub the stained area with a brush and use a paper towel to blot the residual.

Before using a paint thinner, do a spot check on an inconspicuous part of the carpet as thinners can cause fading and discoloration.

Tips And Tricks

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for making cleaning easier. If you use these simple tips, you’d be amazed at how quickly you can get rid of stains that usually take hours.

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  • Always scrub in a circular motion. This helps in breaking up the stain quickly and evenly.
  • Don’t rush when cleaning. Take as much time as needed to ensure that the carpets are spotless.
  • If a stain doesn’t go away in the first attempt, don’t ignore it. It will set in and become even more stubborn. Instead, go back to it a couple more times until you’ve removed it completely.
  • When using homemade cleaners, do a spot test first. Apply the cleaner to a hidden edge of the carpet to check for fading or discoloration. Only continue if the cleaner doesn’t change the carpet’s color or appearance.
  • You don’t necessarily have to spend money on car cleaners. Instead, you can use natural cleaners, such as vinegar, baking soda, and hot water.
  • The sooner you clean a stain, the easier it will be to remove. Tend to vomit and dirt stains while they’re fresh, and don’t let them set in.
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  • If you’re using carpet cleaners with strong chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide, always wear gloves.
  • Be careful while applying hot water. It can scald your skin and cause itching for days.
  • If you’re an allergy-sufferer, only buy skin-friendly cleaning products. Read the labels for more information about a product.
  • Don’t flood your car with water, shampoo, or a cleaner. If the carpets are too damp, there’s a risk of mold growth.
  • Always dry the carpets and mats after cleaning. You can air dry them, use a vacuum, or turn on the fans in your garage.


How Do I Get Rid Of The Smoke Smell In My Car?

To get rid of the cigarette smoke smell, keep a half-cut apple anywhere in the car. It will absorb the smoke smell, leaving your car smelling fresh and fruity.

How To Get Sour Milk Smell Out Of The Car Carpets?

Alcohol can remove the smell of sour milk from your car carpets. Apply 95% alimentary grade alcohol to the rugs and let it evaporate.

Can I Wash Car Mats In The Washing Machine?

You can, but I’d suggest against it as this can take a toll on your washer’s functionality. Instead, spread the car mats in the yard and use the hose’s water pressure to remove dirt and debris. Vacuum the mats afterward.

How Can I Get Mold Smell Out of My Car Carpets?

To remove the mold, use white vinegar and scrub the moldy areas until clean. For the smell, sprinkle coffee on the carpets and leave it overnight.

The next morning, vacuum the carpets and dry them thoroughly. For the future, always dry your carpets if you don’t want to deal with another mold invasion.

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