Driver Knowledge Tests

What are the best ways of keeping the inside of your car clean?

It doesn’t take long for the dust and rubbish to accumulate in your car after you pick it up from the dealer. If you don’t do something about it, eventually it’ll smell like a mix of Vegemite and Freddo Frogs and there will be random chip packets stuffed in the glovebox and discarded Powerade bottles rolling around under the seats.

Keeping your car clean firstly requires a space for you to clean it. If you can’t access a driveway or a garage, perhaps you’ll need to go to a service station and use their overpriced vacuum cleaner, but if you do, get your cleaning products ready as we’re going to give you the hot tips for a sparkly fresh interior.


Your regular house vacuum cleaner will work well or you could use a handheld Dustbuster-type cleaner. Before you even think about sucking up the grime, check your vacuum cleaner is clean itself. You might need to empty the bag or clean the filter so that it does a good job of extracting the tiny stones and dust engrained in your carpets. If you have any attachments for your vacuum cleaner like an upholstery brush or one of those pointy crevice tools (that’s the official name) take those, too.

You’ll want to work on the seat covers, down the sides of the seats, in the door pockets and all the carpet, including in the boot.

Pro tip: take all the things out of your car’s cubby holes so that you don’t accidentally sweep them up.

Aim to vacuum your car every month as small grains of dust, sand and dirt trapped in the carpet pile accelerate the wear on the carpet. If you’re a beachgoer, you may want to vacuum your car more frequently to keep the level of sand manageable.

Cleaning the mats

Take the mats out of the car and vacuum them separately. If they are rubber you can give them a soapy wash. Normal dish soap and a bucket are fine for this. If they’re really grimy, use a more concentrated soap and a garden hose to wash them off. Remember to clean the back of them because you don’t want to be putting dirty mats back into your clean footwell.


A regular glass cleaner from the supermarket will work fine, or you can make your own using 50:50 water and distilled vinegar. Your car will smell rank after vinegar, though. A microfibre cloth is the best way to get a streak-free finish. A dirty window will refract sunlight making it difficult to see. This is especially noticeable when the sun is low.

Dashboard and other surfaces

You can vacuum plastics with a brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Light duty cleaners are good for wiping plastic surfaces but be careful not to get any liquids in any switches. Use an old toothbrush to get dirt out of any grain or difficult corners. 

The ceiling liner can be vacuumed, but take care not to prod it too hard near any edges where it’s connected to plastic trim as it can pull away from the trim and start sagging; it’s difficult to repair this yourself.


Leather seats require a specialist leather polish that won’t come off on your clothes. Toothpaste can work on getting some stains off leather – try an area where it doesn’t matter first, though.

Cloth seats can be vacuumed. A handheld steamer can be used for stubborn stains.


Don’t smoke in your car as it deposited all kinds of nasty chemicals inside the air vents and deep inside upholstery and carpets; it’s almost impossible to completely rid the car of this smell.

Keep an air freshener in the car. Air comes into your car via the vents so use an air conditioning cleaner once or twice a year and renew the pollen filter when necessary.

Don’t let dirty passengers in the car. This includes pets which aren’t clean. If you need to transport a dog, use a seat cover and a pet restraint system; dog hair gets trapped in carpet fibres and you’ll eventually start to smell the dog in the car even when it’s not in there. Even a clean dog can have a dirty backside which isn’t the most hygienic for your upholstery.


The longer you leave a spill, the more difficult it will be to remove it, especially once our hot sun bakes it in. Keep some wet wipes in the glove box.


Don’t carry things that you don’t need. Apart from making it more difficult to clean inside, carrying items adds to the weight of the car and therefore increases fuel use.


Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

Posted in Advice
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