How to Clean Carpet in Car
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How to Clean Carpet in Car

Updated: August 19, 2019

Considering that the floor mats in vehicles get worn out with everyday use, one needs to know how to clean the carpets in a car.

Shoes bring in dirt and debris that can accumulate and damage the car’s carpet.

No matter how careful you are and how many wet wipes you have on hand, it takes a little more than that to clean up the mess. Deep cleaning can give your car a makeover.

You need to have the right tools, carpet cleaners, and car carpet shampoo, etc., to get the gunk out. With the right tools and the proper cleaning method, you can give the car carpet a thorough and effective cleaning.

As long as you have kept up good maintenance practices, it may extend the carpet’s longevity.

Beginning Steps for Carpet Cleaning

Before you even begin reading up on and applying different carpet cleaning methods, there are some beginner steps you need to take. These steps will help prepare the carpet for a better cleaning cycle.

Each step is important and can loosen up the dirt crusted in the fibers and prepare it for a deeper clean. It mainly involves using a portable carpet cleaner on the interior of your car.

  1. Start by removing the carpets and mats from the floor of your car. Along with that, pick up any large debris, such as paper waste, fast food packaging, etc., and other personal belongings from the car’s floor.
  2. Using a portable carpet cleaner, vacuum the carpet thoroughly. Move the seats back to access underneath the seats. Be careful about the wires beneath when maneuvering the vacuum cleaner.
  3. To loosen up the dirt trapped underneath, use a hand-brush to lift the fibers. You can also use the brush attachment on the portable carpet cleaner.
  4. Use the vacuum again to remove the dirt lifted after the brushing.
  5. Use a spot cleaner to pre-treat stains. Follow the instructions on the packaging. You can put the cleaner on the stain for 5 minutes or more and scrub it off with a brush.

The spot treatment formula you use depends on the stain you are trying to remove. Enzymatic cleaners work well with stains containing organic proteins, such as blood, vomit, urine, etc. (whether from pets or humans).

There are different formulas for cleaning grease and oil-based stains like tar and inks.

One important thing to remember is not using an APC formula on car carpets. The formula in APCs is not pH balanced for a carpet, so it can damage the fibers and cause discoloration.

Use cleaners designed specifically for carpets to avoid damaging it.

How to Deep Clean Car Carpets

While regular cleaning with a portable car vacuum cleaner is sufficient to keep the carpet free of dirt, a deep cleaning every once in a while is necessary.

Here are a few different methods to deep clean a car carpet. You can clean it by scrubbing by hand, using a machine or with a hot water extractor.

In some cases, you may need to combine different cleaning methods to get the optimal results.

Hand Scrubbing

The first and easiest way of cleaning car carpets is manual. Start with hand scrubbing the carpets:

  1. Mix the manufacturer recommended carpet cleaner with hot water. Pour it into a spray bottle and spray it on a section of the carpet with a stain.
  2. Let the solution set on the stain for at least 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile, scrub the stain with a stiff brush until you can see it starting to fade.
  3. Use a wet/dry carpet vacuum to remove the moisture from the carpet. If you don’t have that vacuum, you can use the one at your nearest car wash or use towels to dry out the carpet.
  4. Allow the carpets to dry out completely. You can use hairdryers to move the drying along.

Machine Cleaning

If you can afford a machine cleaner, it can aid the cleaning process and make it faster. The process is just as simple as well.

Use an orbital buffer with the brush attachment at medium speed, scrubbing horizontally and then vertically to get full coverage. Repeat until you cover the entire carpet. Remove the moisture for a couple of hours.

Steam Cleaning

One of the most common ways to clean car carpets is with a steam cleaner. This method might not be the most common, but it can be instrumental in getting tough stains out.

Steam cleaners use boiling water and steam to clean and sanitize the carpet. The hot steam kills any bacteria or other living organisms from the carpet that might cause airborne diseases, mold, and fungus.

Since there are no chemicals involved in this method of cleaning, this way of cleaning the car carpets is suitable for people with sensitivities and allergies to certain chemicals.

You can also use them on other interior surfaces, such as vinyl and rubber. A handheld steam cleaner might be useful as it can be used for other automotive surfaces.

The process is also pretty simple:

  1. Refer to the steamer’s manufacturer guidelines for the specifications for loading up water into the machine.
  2. Place a towel over the steamer’s tip and turn on the heat.
  3. Scrub the carpet with the toweled-tip with slow, back and forth motions. This transfers the dirt to the carpet.
  4. Clean the spot until the towel on the tip has picked up the dirt from the carpet.
  5. Remove the towel and replace it with a new one and repeat.

Hot Water Extractor

Hot water extraction is effective for spot cleaning car carpets. Once you’ve spot-treated the stain, you can use the extractor to remove any residue remaining behind.

  1. Use a hard-bristled brush to scrape and break up any tough stains.
  2. Prepare the machine with water and any other necessary anti-foaming additives.
  3. Start spraying the carpet with the extractor very lightly. Avoid soaking the carpet completely.
  4. Scrub the carpet with a brush to agitate the stain. Use the extractor’s brush attachment or a separate brush.
  5. Move the extractor’s wand over the carpet in straight lines. Repeat the process at least twice to remove as much moisture from the carpet as possible.
  6. Once all the car carpets have dried, let them dry out completely. If it’s safe, leave the doors open a little bit. You can also position some fans to keep air moving.

Homemade Car Carpet Cleaners

If you want to avoid chemical car carpet cleaners, there are some homemade options you can use instead. Here are a few options you can experiment with:

Baking Soda

One of the most straightforward homemade cleaners is a mixture of hot water and baking soda. Mix a quarter cup of baking soda in a cup of warm water. Make it into a fizzy paste and apply it on the stain.

Use a hard-bristled brush to scrub the stain and then allow it to sit for half an hour to an hour. Once the baking soda reacts with the stain, use a clean rag to remove the gunk.

You can also sprinkle the baking soda directly on the stain and let it sit for a few hours before scrubbing it clean. Remove the leftover baking soda with a vacuum, lifting any stains and odors.

White Vinegar and Soap

Mix a cup of white vinegar into a gallon of hot water and a few squirts of dish soap. You can adjust the amounts based on the nature of the stains.

Mix all the ingredients and sponge it on the carpet to soak the stain. You can also spray the mixture and avoid wetting the carpet through so it wouldn’t take as long to dry out completely.

You can scrub the area with a bristle brush, moving it in circular motions. Once you lift the grime properly, blot the area with a towel or use a vacuum to remove the moisture.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Toothpaste

A mixture of hydrogen peroxide and toothpaste works just as well as the other homemade combinations to remove stains. You can mix regular foaming toothpaste with 3% hydrogen in equal parts.

Dab the mixture on the stains caked into the fibers. Allow the mixture to set and scrub it with a sponge or rub with a rag. Use a towel or brown paper to pick up excessive foam.

If the mixture doesn’t work well on the stains, you can use other formulas. For instance, you can mix paint thinner with glass cleaner and starch. If there are grease stains, rub some paint thinner and pour salt/cornmeal over it.

That should lift off the grease in a couple of hours. You can vacuum the remaining salt afterward.

Other mixtures include mixing soap, borax, and essential oil to use with a nylon brush. You can also use a car carpet cleaner shampoo or mix OxiClean with rubbing alcohol and soak the stain in the solution.

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