Clean a car before selling it and you’ll increase its value. It’s as simple as that. But cleaning the interior is easier said than done. The many different materials, surfaces and textures inside a car provide a happy haven for dust, dirt, crumbs, stains and other marks. But it’s not difficult to breathe some life into your car’s cruddy cabin without taking unnecessary measures.
1 Get your kit together
You wouldn’t try to clean the outside of your car with an old rag and a bucket of dirty water (or at least, you shouldn’t) and that applies here too. For the interior, you’ll need a good plastic bristled brush; this will be for the stubborn stains.
Old but clean cloths will come in handy too. You could use expensive microfibre cloths but an old t-shirt ripped into sections is just as good. Do invest in proper cleaning products: specialist companies such as Meguiars and Autoglym have huge ranges, but don’t discount Halfords. Its cleaning products have come top in many independent tests.
2 Rubbish dump
Clear the interior of rubbish such as food wrappers, empty drinks bottles and that festering gym kit that’s taken root in there. If you have folding rear seats, make sure to lift them forward or up to check there’s no litter down in the cracks. Check in the door pockets and under the front seats as well. These might be out of sight but they’re the perfect hiding place for a mouldy apple core or similar.
TOP TIP: Have a bin liner handy
3 Shake and vac
For this make sure your vacuum has a long nozzle attachment, it’ll come in handy when trying to get biscuit crumbs from those tricky areas beneath the front seats and around the centre console. You should remove the floor mats, and leave them outside the car, then vacuum all around the interior. Pay special attention to the driver’s footwell as this is the most heavily used area in most cars. Shake the floor mats out and give them a vacuum too. And don’t forget to go over the boot as well.
TOP TIP: Using a brush lets you make patterns in the mats
4 Plastic fantastic
For general cleaning and dusting of the interior, use some interior wipes as they will lift the dust and not leave a residue behind. Faded black plastic trim can be restored to a deeper colour with Meguiars Ultimate Black or Turtle Wax Black in a Flash. For glossy trim you can use Turtle Wax Fresh Shine or similar products from Armor All or Halfords.
TOP TIP: Apply the spray to the cloth, not the trim to avoid overspray on unsuitable materials
5 Neat seats
Seats will invariably get a lot of abuse in a car and cloth and leather each have their own problems. Cloth seats generally get food stuck to them and absorb stains. A good cleaner such as Halfords Upholstery Cleaner will make short work of most stains. Light coloured leather seats can get colour transferred from jeans or trousers; use Autoglym’s Leather Care Balm to get the colour back to its original.
TOP TIP: Conditioner will give leather a new lease of life
6 Glass war
With Sat Nav and phone holders commonplace, it’s usual to find fingerprints on the inside of the windscreen to accompany the many found on side windows. Just as with the windows in your home it’s best to use a specialist glass cleaner to give you a clear view ahead. There are options from all the big names such as Turtlewax, Armor All, Simoniz and Halfords. We’d go with Rain-X Anti-Fog cleaner which has a special formulation that reduces the amount of fogging you get. For the interior glass it’s best to use a microfibre cloth as it won’t leave any bits behind.
TOP TIP: Wipe interior glass at 90° to exterior. You’ll know which bits you’ve missed
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.