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This DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner Will Make Your Car’s Interior Look New

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - collage: using solution on car mats with a scrub brush, before and after photos of floor mats dirty, then clean

An Easy, Affordable Way To Clean Auto Upholstery

While it can be tricky to keep the floors in your home clean during the wet winter months, it’s nothing compared to how dirty you car’s floors can get! My floor mats are caked in a layer of dirt, debris, and road salt after a winter of non-stop snowstorms, and the upholstery isn’t much better.

Related: DIY Armor All: The Most Affordable Way To Enjoy A Sparkling Clean Car

But thankfully, the weather has been warming up over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been thinking that it’s high time I give the interior of my car some much needed TLC! So today I’ll be sharing an easy recipe for a great DIY car upholstery cleaner, just in case your car could use a good cleaning as well. :-)

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - car floor mat with bowl of cleaning solution and a scrub brush

Why Make A DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner?

There are a couple of reasons why it’s worth going the DIY route to clean the interior of your car. The first reason is that it’s surprisingly easy! You only need a few simple ingredients to make this cleaner, and it doesn’t actually take that long to use it. In just an hour or two, this cleaner will leave your car looking as clean as the day you drove it off the lot at the dealer.

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - putting a drop of lavender essential oil into a bowl of grated fels naptha soap and borax

Another thing I love about this cleaning solution is that it’s really affordable! The ingredients are very inexpensive, not to mention that you’ll save a small fortune by doing the actual cleaning yourself. (Have you ever paid to have your car’s interior detailed? It’s definitely not cheap!)

Thus, using this DIY car seat cleaner and floor mat cleaner is the best way to clean auto upholstery and freshen your car’s interior without emptying your wallet in the process. Here’s how to do it:

How To Make A DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - measuring cup with water, box of borax, bar of Fels-Naptha, bottle of lavender essential oil

You’ll need:

*Note: If your car’s interior is really dirty or stained, use less water for a more concentrated cleaning formula. Otherwise, I’d recommend using closer to 4 cups of water for a less concentrated, easy-rinse formula.


DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - grating Fels Naptha; pouring boiling water into other ingredients in a dish

Step 1 – Make The Cleaner

Add the soap, borax, water, and lavender oil (if using) to your bucket, then stir until the soap dissolves and the mixture is foamy.

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - scrubbing a floor mat with a brush

Step 2 – Scrub

To clean cloth seats, dip a sponge into the cleaner and dab stains and soiled areas. (If you made a more concentrated cleaner, use it sparingly to make it easier to rinse later.)

To clean carpeting or floor mats, follow the same steps above but use a scrub brush instead of a sponge. Carpeting is more resilient than cloth seats are, so don’t be afraid to give them a good scrub.

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - rinsing car floor mat with garden hose

Step 3 – Rinse

To rinse cloth seats, use a clean, damp cloth to blot the loosened dirt and cleaner out of the seats. I find it helpful to keep a bowl of clean water nearby while I do this so I can rinse out my damp cloth as I go. (If your upholstery is really dirty, don’t be surprised if you have to replace the dirty rinse water a few times!)

To rinse removable floor mats, it’s quicker and easier to just spray them down with your garden hose. Spray them until the dirt and soap are all rinsed away, then use a few dry towels to soak up any excess water.

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - car floor mat hung over porch ballister to dry

Step 3 – Dry

Once you’ve rinsed out all the dirt and cleaner from your seats and/or carpets, you’re done! Find a sunny spot to let everything dry for a few hours, and reward yourself for a job well done.

Related: 17 Of The Best Cleaning Hacks For Your Car

Note: This DIY cleaner uses basic cleaning supplies you may already have, but if you’re looking for an option that requires a little less elbow grease, you may want to consider investing in a machine like the Bissell Little Green Cleaner. It’s just as effective as an upholstery cleaner machine for cars as it is for cleaning carpets and upholstery in your home.

DIY Car Upholstery Cleaner - before and after photos of car floor mat

Now, who’s up for a road trip? ;-)

What’s your best tip for keeping the interior of your car clean?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • I actually spray my car mats with the same mixture of peroxide and Dawn that I use to pre-treat laundry, let it sit for a couple minutes, use the pressure washer (on a lesser setting) to blast the grime out, suck the excess water out with rug cleaner and let them dry in the sun. Works like a champ every time.

  • Thanks for the cleaning suggestions. I want to try this. I probably would omit the lavender because I don’t want to fall asleep in the car!!! LOL Maybe lemon or orange scent instead.

  • You’re awesome Jilliee! Thanks. Just in case anyone wants to hear this (or not!), I put my floor mats into the washing machine then air dry. So far, so good. xo

  • When we were younger, my father owned a Body Shop. When we were old enough, he always had us detail the cars before they were returned. If we have to use a lot of cleaner on a spot, we would use a shop-vac to suck up the extra moisture. Sometimes we had to rinse and vac a few times, but it worked perfectly.

    We also used just simple diluted Dawn soap, though knowing what I know about your laundry soap, this formula is likely much more robust. I just spent the nicest day last week (before the snow came back) detailing my ol reliable 04 Honda Civic from top to bottom, inside and out and it felt wonderful.

    • I have NEVER gotten my cars detailed by a mechanic. Not only have my cars never come out cleaner than when they went in, I’ve actually had to clean up grease marks from them! Your dad is definitely special. He must’ve done a great business.

    • My dad detailed all the cares he repaired. Or rather, I should say he made his kids do it. ;) He always told us to test a little spot on the underside or back of the fabric before doing the whole thing. This is what I would do.

    • Put on a rubber glove (or nitrile exam glove). Using that hand “sweep” the hair covered surfaces until you have most of the hair gathered together. It will now be a lot easier to remove.

      • Thank you, will try that. I have a dog but don’t let the mess get out of control.

      • We had a cat who loved car rides. We would wipe down the seats with a damp microfiber cloth after to get the long, dark grey hair from my cream colored seats.

    • I used a spray bottle filled with my favorite fabric softener (you can make your own strength as to how much of each to use) mixed with some water. Lightly mist the carpeted areas. Then I went online and ordered a big pumice stone and after misting, take the pumice stone lightly across the carpet and it wads up all the hair and then I just vacuum it and it’s like brand new!!!

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