Buying your first car can be a massive investment! Doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the last time, when you pull of that lot it’s yours and you must maintain and treat it like it’s yours if you want to get the most out of owning it and have any potential for retaining resale value. Keeping the exterior clean, free of scratches and dents, and looking good is only half the battle. Keeping your interior looking and smelling good is equally important. This holds true while you own it and at the time you try and sell the vehicle.

Keeping air vents clear of debris will help prevent dust and dirt from blowing around inside while you drive. That dirt over the long term can wear down upholstery and carpeting. Your windows also need to be cleaned on a regular basis, if for nothing else, for safety reasons. Allowing that dirt to float around the interior is also bad for stereo buttons and door switches like locks and window levers.

A proper detailing of your vehicle should be done monthly. Like anything else you own, you don’t let your home or clothing go months without washing. Interior and exterior detailed cleaning are recommended for all vehicles. You can take your car to a professional auto detailer or you can do it yourself. Weekends are a great time to get outside and spend an hour cleaning your ride. For general tips that include exterior detailing you can learn some tips on car detailing here.

Here are some tips for DIY interior detailing


Like any piece of furniture you own, your upholstery should be vacuumed regularly. Keeping your material free of loose dirt will keep it looking new for longer. When vacuuming, you will better off if you start from the headrests and work your way down to the seat. This will allow any dirt at the top to fall into the seat and get cleaned as you make your way there. After you get the seats looking good you can move to the floor. Make sure you take the mats out and shake them well before vacuuming. Then proceed to the carpet on the floor to clean before returning the mats.

Some of the smaller vacuum attachments will allow you to get down between the seats, shifting boot, vents, visors, and other hard to reach areas. You can use a brush attachment as well to loosen up debris that’s lodged in surface areas.

Surface Cleaning

You can pick up cleaning products just about anywhere for the interior of your car. Like any other cleaning solution that you apply to a surface, test a small spot in a hard to a find place and make sure there aren’t any issues.  Armorall always seems to do a pretty good job on most surfaces; I haven’t had a problem yet.

Deep Cleaning Carpet

After a good vacuuming, you should deep clean your carpets. This can be bi-monthly or even quarterly depending on how much you use the vehicle. If you don’t have a carpet shampooer or a steam cleaner you can rent one. Or just take it to a local detailer.

Cleaning Cloth Upholstery

While the vacuum and steamer are out for the floors, be sure to use them on the upholstery if they are cloth.

Cleaning Leather

Hot water, soft cloth, and some leather cleaner. You won’t want to use anything else except elbow grease.

Windows and Mirrors

Windex works wonders. A nice lint free cloth to prevent streaking. I have seen people use newspapers to get great streak free results.

Hard Surface Cleanings

Dashboards, molding, trim, vent covers, and center consoles that are not made of leather and cloth can be cleaned with an Armorall type cleaning solution that gets the dirt out but isn’t too hard on the surface.

Odor Elimination

Grab an air freshener for starters. Other than that, make sure you have cleaned deep enough in the seats and carpeting to remove anything that might be lodged in a crevice. People eat in their cars and that is a common thing we find. Deep clean, then hang an air freshener and your problems should resolve.

While you are detailing your vehicle, it might also be a good time to change your oil. You can learn more about a DIY oil change here.