Pro-tips for Cleaning Car Carpets and Floor Mats

Enhance the interior ambiance, eliminate odors and get rid of stains underfoot

Your car's carpets and floor mats are abused on a regular basis. Think about it: every time you get into your car, no matter how careful you are, you and your passengers are treading dirt, snow, sand or mud into the carpet.

Floor mats help make clean-up easier, but they too need a thorough cleaning every now and again. And this is before we account for accidents and spillages that occur as part of day-to-day life.

Thankfully, you don’t need to be a professional to clean your car’s carpets and floor mats at home. Follow our step-by-step guide to getting your car’s cabin back to showroom condition, with only a handful of products and tool you’ll likely already have lying around.

Step 1: Remove Whatever You Can

It should go without saying that you need to get rid of anything that obscures your ability to clean your car’s carpet. Floor mats should be easy to remove, which means they can be cleaned outside of the car. Just be sure to not break any tabs or fastening hooks that the manufacturer may have included to secure the floor mats in place.

If you can remove your car's seats, then, by all means, do so: it will allow you to get under areas that can harbor smells and would otherwise go untouched. But only remove a car seat if you’re confident in your ability to so—it might be a two-person job!

Safety Tip:

Watch out for electric seats and seats with side-impact airbags. We cannot stress this enough: only consider seat removal if you're confident in doing so. Ensure all wires are protected from fluids, and when reinstalling your car's seats, ensure that they are torqued to manufacturer specifications.

This is the perfect opportunity to vacuum the carpets and floor mats to remove any debris that isn't yet ingrained in the fabric.

Top Tip:

If you find damp patches under floor mats or anywhere on your carpet, then it indicates a water leak or point of ingress. It’s recommended that you show your car to a professional to avoid further complications such as mold and rust.

Step 2: Shampoo, Agitate and Wipe

Using a spray bottle, begin to soak the carpet or floor mat with clean (preferably warm) water. This will help loosen dirt and prepare the surface for the shampoo. Keep the water spray bottle handy, as you’ll need it in the next step.

You are then ready to apply your carpet shampoo. While there are multiple brands available, you should look for one that has a low pH value, and is proven to lift and suspend dirt from carpets. It need not be car specific, but a good product should speak for itself. Always test for colorfastness on a small inconspicuous part of the carpet or mat.

Once applied (according to the product instructions—each brand varies), agitate the shampoo with a stiff brush. You can use horizontal and vertical motions followed by swirls. This will ensure the dirt is lifted and suspended in the suds.

Working in small sections at a time, it is key not to let the shampoo stand after agitation. This is because the dirt that has been lifted may fall back down the fibers of the carpet.

Wipe away the shampoo with a clean cloth—microfiber towels will work well. Turn your towel frequently to avoid dirt being reapplied to the carpets or floor mats.

Step 3: Rinse and Repeat

After you’ve gotten the majority of the dirt up from the carpets or floor mats, there will still be some suds from the carpet shampoo left.

Use the spray bottle with clean water, and go over the areas you’ve already cleaned. Once soaked, you can use a new clean towel to remove any excess shampoo. Continue to do so until there are no signs of foaming or suds on the carpet.

If stubborn stains persist, then repeat step 1.

Step 4 (optional): Wet Vacuum

If you have a wet & dry vacuum handy, now would be a good time to use it. Use the wet & dry vacuum to go over the areas that have been tackled with the shampoo. This will ensure all dirt has been eliminated, and will effectively remove a degree of excess moisture to as well.

Top Tip:

You can use a wet & dry vacuum, in tandem with carpet shampoo, to quickly remove stains from spillages as they happen. The longer a stain sits in the fibers of a carpet or floor mat, the harder it will be to remove.

Step 5: Drying Out

The final step of the process is to let your carpets and floor mats dry—this step is crucially overlooked, and yet it is very important. Damp carpets can develop mold and unpleasant smells, so it’s best you ensure the carpets are completely dry.

To do so, we recommend letting your car’s carpets dry with the windows or doors open (if safe to do so), ideally on a hot summer’s day. If the climate is cooler it may take longer. Do not refit the floor mats until both carpet and floor mats are dry.

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