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Published May. 1, 2020

No matter how clean you try to keep your car, the time will come when it starts to show that you’ve been riding in it for a while. You’re going to want to take care of your car to keep it looking great long after you drive it out of the dealership. This is where a quality upholstery or general cleaner that focuses on leather, vinyl, or plastic surfaces can come in handy. We’re outlining the best picks to keep your car sparkling and fresh, and help you understand how to pick the right interior cleaner for your car.

The Best Car Interior Cleaner

If you’re looking for an all-in-one cleaner that also provides UV and antimicrobial protection, then we recommend Adam’s Interior Detailer. We’ve selected this option as our Best Choice because it features an all-in-one formula that is designed to work on a range of surfaces inside your car including commonly touched surfaces such as your car’s radio, cup holders, electronics, leather, vinyl, and even some upholstery surfaces.

Another great benefit of this cleaner is that it features UV protection, which is essential for hard surfaces such as leather and vinyl. You’ll also like that it provides an antimicrobial lather that continues to work long after you’ve finished cleaning.

Key Features
  • All-in-one cleaning formula
  • Antimicrobial and UV-blocking
  • Air freshener
  • Safe for use on frequently touched surfaces
Specification
  • Brand Adam’s Polishes
  • Model 10
  • Weight 1.3 pounds
PROS

Easy to use application process

Microban offers 24/7 protection

Restores interior to factory finish

CONS

Inconsistent quality control

Can attract dust

May leave streaks

Some car interior cleaners can be pricey, making them impractical for a budget-focused individual. We think the Turtle Wax Power Out! Upholstery Cleaner Odor Eliminator is a smart choice for anyone who needs to keep their car clean but isn’t ready to break the bank to do so. We like that it features a built-in scrubbing brush which can be removed if necessary.

You’ll like that you can also eliminate odors thanks to the Odor-X formulation. Tough scents like cigarette smoke, mildew, and even pet odors can all be banished with this cleaner.

Key Features
  • Contains Odor-X eliminator
  • Detachable micro scrub brush
  • Can be used on light and dark upholstery
  • Can be used on a range of stains
Specification
  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model T-246R1
  • Weight 1.25 pounds
PROS

Budget-friendly

Soil repelling silicone protection

Can also be used on household stains

CONS

Not as effective on light interior upholstery

Brush falls off during use

Some may not like the smell

We’ve selected the CarGuys Super Cleaner as our Premium Pick because it is a multipurpose cleaner that works on a range of surfaces and even comes with a microfiber cleaning towel. We like that this cleaner is designed to work with leather, vinyl, carpet, upholstery, plastic, and rubber. Plus it’s designed to work on a range of stains that you’ll commonly encounter on your car’s interior and exterior such as grease, tree sap, bird poop, as well as fingerprints and food stains.

However, a common issue we found with this cleaner is that while it works as a multipurpose cleaner, it doesn’t provide protection against future stains. It also lacks UV protection—a major concern if you have leather interiors, and still requires that you follow up with a leather or vinyl conditioner to keep surfaces looking fresh. We also found that a common complaint was that while this was a no-gloss cleaner, it could also leave streaks on surfaces.

Key Features
  • All-in-one cleaning formula
  • Works on a range of stains
  • No rinsing required
  • Can also be used to clean boats and homes
Specification
  • Brand CarGuys
  • Model 8542145820
  • Weight 1.26 pounds
PROS

Can also be used as an engine degreaser

Cuts down on total cleaners needed

Comes with cleaning towel

CONS

No UV protection

Can’t be used as a protectant

May leave streaks

Multipurpose car interior cleaners are a popular option if you’re tackling routine cleaning. Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant is a great choice because in addition to helping to remove light and deep set stains, it works to further protect your car’s interior surfaces such as leather and vinyl with UV protection.

This cleaner also works as a disinfectant to keep surfaces safe to the touch. We like that it promises not to leave a residue and that it’s safe for use on most common surfaces such as navigation screens, your dashboard, leather, carpet, upholstery, and more.

Key Features
  • General purpose car interior cleaner
  • UV protection
  • Safe for use on sensitive materials
  • Won’t leave residue
Specification
  • Brand Chemical Guys
  • Model SPI22016
  • Weight 1.1 pounds
PROS

Also works as a disinfectant

Provides leather conditioning

No streaking or smudging

CONS

May leave a film

Bottle sometimes leaks

May make leather greasy

While the bulk of the car interior cleaners we’ve featured are designed for multipurpose use, this is one of the few options that is just for upholstery and soft surfaces. Blue Coral Upholstery Cleaner is a foam suspension that works by lifting dirt from soft surfaces. In particular, this product is ideal for cleaning common stains such as grease, makeup, coffee, ink, and even tar.

You’ll like that you can also use this to clean stains on upholstery in the home. The spray cap features a built-in brush to help effectively work on stubborn stains. This cleaner can be used on carpeting, upholstery, and even your car’s floor mats. We like that this is also an odor neutralizer.

Key Features
  • Works on a range of stains
  • Works on carpet, upholstery and floor mats
  • Cap features built-in brush
  • Safe for use on synthetic surfaces
Specification
  • Brand Blue Coral
  • Model DC22
  • Weight 0.16 ounces
PROS

Odor neutralizer

Foam formulation to suspend dirt

Can be used in cars and homes

CONS

Spray button difficult to use

Only works on soft surfaces

Finally, we’re rounding out our reviews with a fan favorite among car care brands. Armor All Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner is a great choice if you are specifically focused on cleaning those areas of your car’s interior.

This spray-on formula helps to effectively penetrate stains—even old ones—and helps to restore your carpeting and upholstery to its previous glory. We also like that this can be used on a range of stains, even tough ones like makeup and pet stains.

Key Features
  • Great on deep set stains
  • Uses oxygen power to remove stains
  • Works on carpet and upholstery
  • Dissolves stains on contact
Specification
  • Brand Armor All
  • Model 78260
  • Weight 1.6 pounds
PROS

Great on removing mud from upholstery

Great for removing pet stains

Deep cleaning action

CONS

Bottle may leak

May have intense smell

Best Car Interior Cleaner Buying Guide & FAQs

Considering that you can spend a lot of time in your car whether for road trips or your daily commute, it makes sense that you should keep it clean. The right cleaner can help to remove odors or even stains, especially if you frequently eat in your car.

But before you go shopping for a car interior cleaner, you’ll need to decide whether you’re focused on routine cleaning and maintenance or detailing. Detailing can range from thoroughly cleaning upholstery and vacuuming, to getting into every crevice for comprehensive cleaning experience. Here, we’ll outline benefits and tips to help you pick the right products for this task.

Benefits of a Car Interior Cleaner

So why should you invest in a car interior cleaner? Why can’t you just go to your local car wash for a thorough detailing? There are plenty of reasons why it makes sense to leave a task like this to the professionals. If you’re trying to clean a car that’s truly dirty and in need of serious help, it makes total sense to pass this unappealing task over to the pros. But if you just need to do a simple cleaning job, there are plenty of reasons to do this job yourself.

  • Cleaning your car yourself saves money.
  • Buying a car interior cleaner is a great way to spot clean as stains occur.
  • A car interior cleaner can help you maintain the value of your car.
Girl cleaning the interior of car

The Most Common Types of Car Interior Cleaners

So now you know that you want to keep your car’s interior fresh through regular cleanings. But what products do you need to tackle this job, and what are the most common options available to you as you head to a big box store or specialty automotive store to source materials? It turns out that you may need to pick up a range of car interior cleaners.

  • Multi-Surface Cleaners

As the name implies, these types of cleaners are designed to clean multiple surfaces. Usually you’ll find that these cleaners work on multiple hard surfaces in your car’s interior such as leather, vinyl, or plastic. But you can also find multi-surface cleaners that include fabric cleaning.

However, most car experts would recommend that you pick an upholstery cleaner as well as a multi-surface cleaner since car interiors contain a range of surfaces that must be cleaned. That’s because more specific cleaners tend to be more effective—especially with upholstery—as opposed to a general-purpose cleaner that promises to clean everything.

  • Carpet Cleaner

A carpet cleaner is a must-have to keep your car’s flooring clean. While general sprays are nice for tackling specific stains, you should also consider using a steam cleaner. A steam cleaner can get deep into the pile of your carpet and remove stains and dirt that can contribute to potential odors you might be experiencing in your car. However, if you can’t rent or buy a steam cleaner, then focus on spray-on options and then use a scrubbing brush to work the cleaner into your car’s carpeting.

  • Glass Cleaner

Don’t forget to keep windows clean by using a quality glass cleaner. In this instance, for the interior side, you can use a standard household glass cleaner. But for the exterior, it’s a good idea to consider premium options that include features such as water resistance to help improve visibility when there’s rain or snow.

  • Leather Cleaner

If your car has any leather in the interior, then it’s important to look for car interior cleaners that are specifically designed for leather. Not only will they help to keep your leather trim clean, but they’ll also keep it moisturized and looking brand new. Leather can get parched if it’s not well-cared for, and a good leather cleaner will help to infuse new life into your trim.

What to Consider When Buying Car Interior Cleaners

With so many options when it comes to keeping your car’s interior clean, it’s understandable that you might be a little confused on what you need to prioritize when buying a car interior cleaner. Here, we outline some of the top features to keep in mind to help you make the right choice.

  • Surface Compatibility

What surfaces can you use with a car interior cleaner? If your car only features leather, vinyl and plastic, then a fabric cleaner is not necessary. Make sure that the materials in your car are compatible with the surfaces promoted on the cleaner.

Using the wrong products on the wrong surfaces can lead to staining or just ineffective cleaning. And that means that you’ll need to clean the surfaces again. So instead, measure twice and cut once.

  • Scent

While this won’t impact how well you clean the surfaces of your car’s interior, it will impact your general comfort. Whenever possible, check the scent of your car interior cleaner before you begin cleaning your car. You want to know in advance if you find a scent offensive, as this will impact your comfort and can even induce headaches if you find that a specific smell doesn’t work for you.

  • Ease of Use

Much of this will depend on how dirty your car is when you decide to clean it. If you routinely clean your car’s interior, then you shouldn’t expect for a regular cleaning to take much time or be too intensive or difficult.

But if your car is especially dirty, you may find that you’ll need to use more of your car interior cleaner, or work harder to remove built-up or deep-set dirt and grime. This isn’t necessarily a failure of the cleaner. However, we recommend that if you’re trying to clean a car that is especially dirty, you should prioritize cleaning products that are designed for intensive dirt.

Vacuum cleaning car interior

Tips for Buying and Using Car Interior Cleaners

Now that you’ve decided it’s time to clean your car’s interior, how can you make your cleaning experience effective and thorough? What tips can help you make quick work of a not-so-fun task?

While cleaning isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, there are things you can do when shopping for your cleaning supplies and while using them to stay on task and to shorten the whole process. Keep reading for best practices and recommendations.

  • Use a brush when cleaning your car’s upholstery or carpet to help gently lift dirt from the surface.
  • Always read the instructions prior to cleaning to ensure that you’re using the car interior cleaner properly.
  • Commit to regularly cleaning your car’s interior to keep your car looking and smelling fresh.

Best Car Interior Cleaner FAQs

Even though cleaning a car can seem like a fairly straightforward process, you might still have questions about best practices or methods that can make removing difficult stains easier. While there are some basic tips such as picking cleaners that are easy to use, you still might be curious about specialized car interior cleaners or how best to use them.

Q: I don’t have access to a steam cleaner. What can I do?

Use a spray-on fabric or carpet cleaner. For carpets, use a stiff bristle brush and for upholstery use a softer brush to work it in before wiping off.

Q: How can I preserve the leather interior of my car after cleaning?

For best results, use a leather conditioner for your interior. This will help to infuse moisture and protect it from the elements like sun exposure.

Q: How should I start the cleaning process for my car’s interior?

Always begin by vacuuming to remove any dirt before you begin deep cleaning. Use attachments when vacuuming the carpeting and upholstery.

Our Top Pick

After reviewing a wide range of car interior cleaners, we chose the Adams Interior Detailer as our Top Pick. The all-in-one formula gives you a multipurpose solution that can work on various surfaces. This includes commonly touched places inside your car like the radio, cup holders, electronic controls, and even more porous surfaces such as leather, vinyl, and even upholstery.

You may also like our reviews of the Best Detailing Spray, Car Vacuums and Plastic Restorers

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