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Interior Detailing Made Easy: Remove Stains from Carpet and Upholstery

Interior Detailing Made Easy: Remove Stains from Carpet and Upholstery

The Ultimate Guide to Fabric & Upholstery Interior Detailing: Products and Methods


Whether you routinely clean your fabric and upholstery interior surfaces or treat messes and stains as they occur, using the right cleaning product is essential to DIY car care. No matter the mess, there is a car interior cleaner out there that is specifically designed for your needs. The trick is knowing which cleaning products are best for each type of contamination or stain. An all-purpose cleaner or stain remover is not always going to cut it.


Table of Contents

  1. Preparing Surfaces
  2. Choosing a Cleaner
    • Dirt, Grease, Grime
    • Coffee, Wine, Juice
    • Beer, Eggs, Grass, Blood, Urine, Feces
    • Lipstick, Lotion, Peanut Butter, Ink
    • General Soils
  3. Deodorizing
  4. Key Takeaways


Prepare Fabric Surfaces for Interior Detailing


Before cleaning your automotive fabric and upholstery, pick up and vacuum away any free-floating dust, dirt, or other debris from all car seats and floor mats. Be sure to get into all cracks and crevices. You don’t want to work any of this contamination deeper into the surface.


What is the Best Car Interior Cleaner to Use to Clean Carpet and Upholstery?


Once all loose debris has been removed from all carpet and upholstery, you can begin spot-treating any stains or soils. It’s important to have a general idea of what caused each stain, as different soils require different chemicals and methods for removal.


Whatever interior cleaning products you end up choosing for your interior car cleaning needs, always read the full label for instructions on dilution, application, and compatibility. Following these guidelines will help you avoid any damage to your surfaces. Additionally, some products can be applied directly to the surface, while others should be applied to a brush, pad, or microfiber towel for wiping.


Lastly, it is critical to test for colorfastness. What is colorfastness? This is a material’s ability to maintain its color and resist fading. To test for this, follow your product instructions and test the application on a small, hidden area of the fabric that you will be treating. If the material changes color or texture, stop using that product immediately.


Dirt, Grease, and Grime


To remove dirt, grease, and grime from automotive fabrics, moisten the surface with your cleaning solution. Gently agitate the area with a brush or colorfast cloth. Then, use a clean, dry microfiber towel to blot up the residual cleaner and soil. For best results, rinse the area with water before agitating and blotting with a clean microfiber.


Concentrated cleaners work well for this and can be diluted in a spray bottle to match the severity of the soiled area. Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner Concentrate is designed for ground-in soil and stain removal and can be diluted anywhere from 1:10 to 1:20. This cleaner is even great at removing clay.


For a quick detailer solution, some prefer to use a foaming aerosol upholstery cleaner. Carpet Plus Foaming All-Fabric Cleaner is a premium-grade foaming spray that won't leave a sticky residue and can be applied horizontally when necessary.


Dye and Tannin Stains: Coffee, Wine, and Juice


Coffee, wine, or juice-stained car seats? The dyes and tannins in these types of soils can be difficult to remove. Tannins are natural dyes that come from plants and are acidic. To clean these stains, spray your cleaner directly onto the soiled area. Allow the cleaner to dwell, as directed by the instructions on the product label. Then, wipe away the stain with a clean microfiber towel. Light agitation with an upholstery scrub brush may be required for stubborn stains.


The best car detailing product for dye and tannin stains is Oxy™ Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. It is a peroxide-based fabric cleaner in a powerful, ready-to-use formula that cuts through soils quickly.


Organic Matter and Protein-based Stains: Beer, Eggs, Grass, Blood, Urine, and Feces


To remove organic and protein-based stains from the fabric interior of your car, saturate the area with your chosen cleaner. Allow the cleaner to dwell, as directed by the product label instructions. If necessary, a stubborn stain may need to be scrubbed gently with a soft-bristled brush. Lastly, blot up any residual cleaner with a clean microfiber cloth.


Our recommended solution to organic and protein-based stains is Enzyme Cleaner. This bio-enzymatic cleaner uses pro-microbial action to remove embedded soils and organic materials and provides long-lasting odor control.


Water & Oil-based Stains: Lipstick, Lotion, Peanut Butter, and Ink


Other common stain sources include water and oil. Examples of these types of soils can be lipstick, lotion, peanut butter, ink, cola, and even shoe polish. To remove these stains, spray your selected cleaner over the soiled area, ensuring thorough coverage. Allow the cleaner to dwell, as directed by the product label instructions. Then, blot away any residual cleaner with a clean microfiber towel.


If a tough stain requires it, use a soft-bristled brush in a circular motion to gently release any remaining soils. Repeat these steps until the stain has been lifted. Lastly, dab the area with a clean, wet microfiber. Instant Out Spot & Stain Remover is highly effective at removing both oil and water-based stains from carpet and upholstery.


General Soils


For other stains and soils, choose a high-quality carpet and upholstery all-purpose cleaner. Start by wetting the area with water. Spray your cleaner onto the soiled area and work it into the surface with a clean microfiber cloth. Use a separate microfiber to blot up any remaining product, dirt, and moisture.


For this, we like Xtrax™️ Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. This unique, foaming formula is ideal for deep cleaning all automotive fabric and upholstery, including headliners. It leaves behind a fresh fragrance and lifts soils without leaving behind any oily residue.


Smell Removal: Odor Eliminators and Air Fresheners


Now that you have removed all stains and soils from your seats and carpets, your vehicle should have that new car smell again. Right? Wrong. Not all cleaners contain odor-eliminating chemicals. Removing foul smells from your vehicle may require specific auto detailing products that are designed just for that.


Depending on what is causing the odor and how strong it is, you can use a liquid odor eliminator that can be applied directly to the fabric or you can use a variety of air freshener sprays that can be released into the air to cover or eliminate foul smells.


Key Takeaways: The Best Car Interior Cleaners Are Stain-Specific


Choosing the best car interior cleaner for the mess at hand is key to lifting and removing stains and odors from automotive carpet and upholstery. Car care can be tricky, but whatever soil or odor you are facing, there is a stain remover and odor eliminator out there for you.


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