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How To Clean Car Carpet Properly Avoiding Stains

The carpet in our vehicle sure gets dirty quickly. Today I’m going to show you how to clean car carpet and general cleaning process. This is how to clean car carpet properly to get like new car upholstery or fabric.  Remember, detailing and car maintenance go hand in hand.

To clean car carpet properly, follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum any surface dirt or debris from the carpet.
  2. Remove any stains first by scrubbing with soap and water.
  3. Scrub the entire car carpet with soap or a detergent.
  4. Dry and blot the carpet in hard to reach areas.
  5. Clean your floor mats to finish.

Let’s get started and I’ll show you how to clean car carpet correctly!

Item List:

Here is a list of everything you should have before getting started:

  • Cleaning solution or detergent (for stains)
  • Carpet brush or scrubber
  • Preferred carpet shampoo or cleaning product (some use baking soda and water)
  • Towels
  • Extractor or steam cleaner (optional – gives great results)
  • Vacuum cleaner

My Preferred Cleaning Products:

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How to Clean Car Carpet Stains!

Cleaning car carpet is actually a pretty straight forward process. You vacuum the carpet, scrub and clean your carpets with hot water or cold water, and then extract any general stains or dirt from the vehicles interior.

I’m now going to break each step down and show you how to get the best results, step-by-step. Let’s get rid of the stains on your carpet!

Vacuum The Entire Car

how to clean car carpet pet hair

Start by removing the car mats and get ready to clean your car of any debris, and any surface dirt and grime. Throw away any trash as well.

Pro detailing tip: Detailers use a brush to help agitate dirt out of areas that are hard to reach.

Use either a shop vac or any vacuum with a decent amount of power. The more debris and dirt you can remove in the first step, the easier it will be to remove the remaining stains or grease. Focus on removing just the top layer of dirt, you will be scrubbing and cleaning stains later.

If your carpet is completely trashed, remove the vehicle’s carpet instead. You may need to use a ratchet or other tools to remove the seats as well. A timely process, but worth the results.  Once you’ve gone over the entire carpeted area with a vacuum, we can work on scrubbing.

Try your best to also remove any pet hair during this step as well.

Scrub Carpet Stains With A Cleaner Or Shampoo

You will need a brush to scrub your carpets by hand. You can also feel free to use a drill with a soft brush to help do all the scrubbing for you.

I personally opted into the drill brush attachments from Amazon, but it’s up to you which way you wish to scrub. Start by getting about a gallon of hot water or so and slightly wet the stain and let it sit for about 60 seconds. I recommend using a spray bottle and then gently dab a paper towel or rag to help soak up a little bit of the moisture. Blot the area in small sections and take your time.

You want your carpet to be damp, not soaked.

Depending on the type of stain, you may also need to make multiple passes. Some stains just sit too long or are just too deep to get out on the first try. Chemical Guys also has a great video on this.

Blot The Stain And Wash The Rest Of The Car Interior

You may choose whichever cleaner you wish to lift the stains out from your carpet. Although you may use household items to clean your carpet, I recommend you use an automotive grade detergent.

I’ve seen over the years that some people have bene able to remove stains from your car and get the carpet to a like new condition using baking soda and warm water. This will make a paste like cleaner but I don’t typically recommend laundry starch or detergents, but if you’re going to try it, do it in a small hard to see area.

Pro tip: Make sure you pay attention to manufacturer specifications. Some cleaning products may force you to mix equal parts cleaner with water.

Dirt and stains that you are aware of should be removed immediately. Allowing them to stay in your car overnight is what allows the stain to set in. Try your best to clean up any spills when they happen. As always, I only recommend an automotive grade carpet cleaner to do this. Don’t ever use pure dish soap to wash your vehicle’s carpet.

You can however use drops of dish soap in some hot water to remove very small and fine stains. Just be warned it might dry your car’s carpet out.

The longer you wait, depending on what was spilt, the more likely your car is going to develop an odor while you are in it. This will also make the stain significantly harder to remove.

Using circular motions to scrub, remove any hard stuck on stains first. Clean and deodorize any stains first before working on the entire carpeted area. Otherwise you may cause the stain to spread into other areas of your carpet.

Pro tip: A cup of white vinegar and water can help remove certain odors. Try it in a small area as it may stain your vehicle’s carpet. Otherwise try Ozium.

Clean Car Carpet – Deep Cleaning

When you are done cleaning up any stains, you can now move onto the entire carpeted area. You are going to repeat the same steps as listed above just in much larger sections.

Scrub the entire carpet using circular motions. Once again, whatever cleaning agent you decide to use is up to you. Throughout the many years of detailing I’ve seen so many different things used. Whether it be hairspray, hydrogen peroxide, borax, and even glass cleaner. However, I will always say and recommend an automotive grade carpet cleaner.

Use a brush or drill to agitate any deep dirt or mud that is trapped in the fibers of your carpet. Make sure you keep the carpet moist during this process.

When I say to “wash the carpet down” I literally mean it. Scrub everywhere but make sure you stay using circular motions. Once again, I don’t recommend liquid dish soap for this, use water and a carpet cleaner for the best results.

Once you’ve scrubbed the entire carpet. Look for any light stains you may have missed.

Blot The Stain And Wash The Rest Of The Car Interior

clean car carpet interior

If you have any leftover light stains after scrubbing, apply some warm water and the cleaner again, then lightly blot the stain. Afterwards, follow back up with an extractor to suck up whatever was causing the stain. When you finished getting rid all of the light stains follow back up with the rest of the carpet.

Pro tip: Some cleaners work better if you dilute them. Try a mix of water and detergent to achieve the best results.

Go ahead and dry everything off once again once you are satisfied with the results! From here your carpet should now be pretty darn clean. But we can always go one step further…

Clean Carpet At Last!

Your carpet should be looking pretty darn good at this point! You should be proud of yourself! However, we can always go further with the process and that’s where steam cleaners and extractors come into play.


Extractors suck up any moisture and dirt from carpet. They have high suction power and use moisture to suck and pull all of it out of your carpets. You don’t “need” to have one of these to clean carpets, but it definitely saves a ton of time and money in the long run. These do get expensive so you can try out this one for more entry level, or this one if you’re looking for a serious clean without breaking the bank.

Clean Carpet Without Shampoo?

Steam Cleaning!

Steam cleaners keep your carpet ALMOST completely dry while using heat to kill any mold, germs, or bacteria. I’m a little more invested at this point in my life with detailing so I use this every time.

Steam cleaning should be utilized in a more professional atmosphere but there’s no harm in doing it at home! To steam clean your carpets, you basically just guide the steamer around as it blasts dirt and grease out of your carpet.

Once that’s done, follow back through with a soap and scrub your carpet well. Use your extractor after to remove any of the remaining moisture or cleaner. Dry off any sections left with moisture and your carpet is completely clean!

Don’t Forget To Clean Your Car Floor Mats!

Floor mats usually are made of plastic or a blend of plastics and rubbers. I always put these in my bath tub or a utility sink and scrub them by hand with liquid dish soap.

Once they are clean, rinse them off water and dry them before reinstalling into your vehicle.

Final Words And FAQ:

As you can see there are many ways to clean car carpet. There is no “one stop” solution. Find what works best for you and hopefully this guide has got you off the the right start! Have a tip that I missed? Leave a comment and let us know!

Let’s end with some commonly asked questions!


1.What is the best way to clean carpet in a car?

Answer: The best way to clean car carpet is to remove the seats and wash with carpet soap. Vacuum everything up after and then dry your carpets.

2.What household items can I use to clean car carpet??

Answer: You shouldn’t use any household items, only automotive grade detergents.

3.How can I clean my car carpet without a shampooer??

Answer: Use a steam cleaner to kill any bacteria, and mold, afterwards use an extractor to suck up any left over moisture from the steaming process.

4.How do you clean car carpet by hand??

Answer: Vacuum up all dirt and debris and scrub the carpets using an automotive cleaner.

5.How do you clean old dirty car carpet??

Answer: Remove the carpet and allow it to soak overnight. Use an extractor and soap to remove any stains then dry the carpet off and reinstall.

6.What should I use to clean fabric car seats??

Answer: Any fabric cleaner of your choice that is automotive grade.

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