This field guide is for you to compare the damage, stains, spills, etc in your vehicle to figure out a potential cause and how to fix it where possible. Some can be done DIY, other more severe damage may require professional help.
- Enzyme cleaner for odors, found in pet care aisles or a pet store
- Short pile (less fuzzy) microfibers for scrubbing
- Shop towels or paper towels
- Brush for scrubbing at carpet stains (a carpet cleaner is optimal but not required!)
- All-Purpose Cleaner or dedicated upholstery cleaner
BEVERAGE & FOOD SPILLS
Situation: You spilled coffee, soda, juice, milk, or some other drink all over the seats and carpet.
General fix: Soak up as much liquid as you can with paper towels or shop towels. Blot at the surface to pull more liquid up. If it’s particularly smelly, use an enzyme cleaner (available in the pet care aisles or a pet store) to remove the lingering particles.
BLOOD & BODILY FLUIDS
Situation: Someone had an accident and there’s now blood, urine, puke/vomit, or other nasty things on the seat.
General fix: Put on some gloves and remove as much of the offending stuff as possible. Remove any floor mats that got hit and hose them off. Use an enzyme cleaner to remove any odors. Hydrogen peroxide can remove blood when used with cold water.
Situation: Over time your leather has dried out and cracked.
General fix: Depending on severity you can use a leather repair kit to dye it to be less noticeable, but there’s no real fix for this. Look into replacing your seat or having it reupholstered.
Situation: Your light-colored leather is stained from your leggings or jeans rubbing dye onto the seat.
General fix: Some gentle scrubbing with an APC or leather cleaner can remove most if not all of the stain if it’s relatively new.
BAD SMELLS & ODORS
Situation: There’s a certain level of stank lingering in your vehicle – something like body odor, smoke, pot, fish, or “wet dog” smell. Cloth seats are more susceptible to picking up smells than leather.
General fix: Go over the interior with an APC to clean the surfaces and potentially track down the source of the stink, if it’s hidden under a seat. Failing that, use an ozone generator and air out the vehicle to freshen it up. Don’t use air fresheners as a substitute – they mask the smell instead of truly getting rid of it!
Situation: Dog or cat fur is everywhere and embedded in the carpets and seats. How do they produce so much?!
General fix: Use a pumice stone to drag across the surface and scrape up the hairs, then grab chunks with a gloved hand to remove it all.
GREASE AND OILS
Situation: Your greasy fingerprints are all over the dash, console, or windows. The steering wheel and window switches are grimy. Sunscreen, lotion, and makeup often fall into this category.
General fix: Use an APC to lift the greases and oils. Buff with a microfiber towel. A small paintbrush can help clean around window switches and the center console.
TEARS, PUNCTURES, AND RIPS
Situation: A sharp object or a cigarette left a hole in your upholstery.
General fix: There’s nothing for this unfortunately. You’ll need to head to an upholstery shop or get some seat covers.
Situation: One day you look up and realize your ceiling is gross with a stain or splatter from something.
General fix: Use APC on a microfiber towel and blot at the marks to clean it. A soft paintbrush to agitate the cleaner can help more stubborn stains. Headliners can be difficult because they’re so thin and backed by foam.
Situation: You’ve recovered an old vehicle that’s been sitting or the interior has a leak, leading to mold and mildew growth on soft interior panels and seats.
General fix: This is best left to the professionals because mold is very dangerous and can make you extremely sick. Minor mold situations can be cleared up with strong APC while wearing gloves and a respirator. If the interior is badly damaged, it might be cheaper and safer to replace and reupholster everything rather than clean it.