5 Steps to Cleaner Car Carpets

If you are anything like me, you have a car that gets a lot of use. I carry kids, dogs, and packages and every time someone gets in the car they manage to get the carpets a little dirty. Sometimes the people or animals that get in the car get it a lot dirty. When I go to clean the little bit of dirt I see it turns out to be much dirtier than I thought. Regular dirt I can vacuum up but occasionally I have to deal with some pretty tough stains. While dirt is easy to vacuum, the longer carpets are dirty, the harder to remove the stains. For example, organic matter (leaves and such) will rot encouraging mold and mildew growth, creating bad odors. Remember, if all else fails it’s not that hard to replace the floor mats in your vehicle.

Below are some simple steps how to clean car carpet and a few few supplies for tougher stains and for keeping your carpet clean.

Clean Car Carpet in Five Easy Steps

For a quick spot clean of some dirt a portable, battery operated vacuum will get the job done. If there is a lot of dirt then it’s recommended to pull out all the mats and use a more powerful shop vacuum. Periodically pull out the mats and get them a good shake or a beat them with your hand or a broom handle to get out some embedded dirt and dust. The more exposed the carpet the easier it is to see dirt and spots, clean, and dry.

Spot Cleaning

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Stains should be removed as soon as you see them or as soon as possible. Stains that allowed to stay on carpet for a long time become more and more difficult to remove. Spot cleaning requires a few minutes of your time and a few supplies: carpet cleaner, a stiff brush, and clean cloths. You can try cleaning easy to remove stains with hot water, vinegar, and liquid soap but most stains are easier to remove with a commercial grade cleaner.

If you are using a purchased cleaner follow the specific directions for that product.

Hand Scrubbing

For general cleaning use upholstery cleaner, a stiff brush, and a damp towel or cloth. It is recommended that you test the cleaner over a small area to assume color fastness. Normally spot removers work something like brushing the cleaner into the carpet, then vacuum. Move to another section and repeat.

You may have to repeat, and you may want to spray clear water lightly onto the surface of the carpet, then vacuum out.

Steam Cleaning

If carpets are very dirty or have several stains it may be worth steam cleaning your car carpet. You can use commercially available steam cleaners or purchase small cleaners, like the little green cleaner pictured, that do a good job.  you can use a steam cleaner. Follow the instructions on the steam cleaner and work small sections at a time, being careful not to saturate the carpet.

Air Drying

You need to remove as much water from the carpet as possible. Commercial carpet cleaners make this easy but you can also use a shop vac do get most of the water removed. All damp areas need time to dry to reduce bad odors and prevent mold and mildew. If the weather is nice and no rain is expected, leave the windows open for a few hours. you can also leave your vehicle in the garage with the windows down and fans blowing on the damp carpet to speed up evaporation.


By taking preventive steps as soon as possible you can greatly reduce the amount of work required to clean your car carpet. Clean dirt as soon as you see it. Spot clean spots as soon as you see them. Use the original floor mats, or, better yet, buy aftermarket floor mats with better floor coverage. Carpet stain guard spray is worth your time and money, as it makes your carpets more stain resistant.