Okay, so maybe they’re not exactly guarded secrets, but there are several interior detailing techniques that many people just don’t know exist. These tricks are really where great detailers can separate themselves from average detailers often times with just a few tools.
In this blog, I’ll break down 17 interior detailing tips used by the professionals to add to your skillset as a detailer or hobbyist.
#1 – Interior Detailing Brushes
Detailing brushes are awesome for cleaning those dusty and dingy radios, perfect for buttons, seats, and really any area in your car that is hard to clean with a cloth. The benefit to detailing with interior brushes is the fact that the bristles are super soft and they allow you to apply cleaners a lot easier to certain areas.
They come in synthetic and boar’s hair depending on the level of agitation you need. Some also have longer hairs and longer handles for reaching hard to reach areas. These can be used dry for dusting, as well as wet for removing stuck-on substances on leather seats.
They look very similar to makeup brushes, and are a must-have as a professional for interior detailing.
#2 – Carpet Extractors for Hard Stains
While spraying a degreaser or any foaming product followed by vacuuming can help restore the appearance of dirty carpet, there are times when you need to actually ‘lift’ the dirt out of the carpet fibers. That’s where a carpet extractor comes into play.
These can be heated or non-heated, but essentially water is sprayed onto the carpet using a trigger while simultaneously being sucked up into the machine itself. You can learn more about these machines on my carpet extractors 101 blog post. These are great to own if you deal with filthy carpets that just aren’t coming clean with your current process.
#3 – Select the Right Vacuum Hose Attachment
If you’re like me, you may have been forced to use a Shop-Vac or other vac without the attachments, but they, in fact, are helpful if you know how to use them. Here are a few attachments that can really help you can interiors easier:
These come in a variety of sizes, and the bristles make it easy to remove particles like grass that may be stuck to the carpet itself.
These look like a standard hose attachment that has been stepped on or flattened. These are perfect for vacuuming in between seats or small areas where you may only have 1/2 inch of clearance. This is my go-to attachment for doors and other tight spaces.
Adapters and Kits
Most of these small brush attachments and crevice attachments come in kits that you can purchase online on Amazon or detailing websites. Most standard Shop Vacs come with a couple of attachments but there are many aftermarket adapters and kits you can purchase made specifically for cleaning car interiors.
#4 – Use Compressed Air for Debris
Sometimes vacuums aren’t able to remove all the dust or debris that gets lodged in tight corners or spaces, not matter what tool you use. This is where having a small air compressor with a blow gun comes into play.
For vents, cupholders, dashes, consoles, and just about anywhere else, blowing compressed air in these tight spaces can remove small dust particles that you otherwise would probably miss. Great for your high-end clients where the details matter.Free eBook: 25 Essential Detailing Products for Beginners
#5 – Diluted Degreasers for Cleaning Carpet Stains
One detailing trick that can be used for removing grease spots or stains from carpets is diluted degreasers or cleaning agents. Whether you like Purple Power, Greased Lightening, or another degreaser, it’s a good idea to dilute it about 5 to 1 with water before applying to interior surfaces like carpet.
Degreasers can be pretty strong (but also great for spot cleaning), which is why people tend to mix them with water in empty spray bottles. Use a pure (distilled) water to dilute whatever you are using, and you’re good to go.
#6 – Steam for Spot Cleaning
As opposed to large carpet extractors or carpet cleaners, many detailers use a product like the Tornador to apply pressurized steam to small stained areas.
These devices are great to have for interiors, and can even be used on doors, cupholders, and any other area that needs to be cleaned or sanitized.
It really is amazing to see these things in action and how effective they are at cleaning.
#7 – Electrical Contact Cleaner for Buttons
For cleaning sticky buttons on radios or steering wheels, pick up a can of electrical contact cleaner. This stuff is great for those nasty buttons that have everything from spilled soda to body oils caked on them. It comes in an aerosol can and straw, and is perfect to use with compressed air while you’re cleaning vents and other areas.
It’s obviously safe for cleaning electronics, so you don’t have to worry about doing any kind of electrical damage to radios or wiring.
#8 – Clean In-Between the Seams
When cleaning leather seats (for example), one area that is easy to overlook is the area in-between the seams of the seats. Crumbs, dirt and other debris can be difficult to vacuum up when lodged in between these seams.
Especially for quilted leather, try to spread open the seams as best you can to remove those trapped grains of sand or particles.
#9 – Interior Car Dusters
You may not know that there several types of brushes made specifically for dusting the interior of vehicles.
One of these called the Original California Dash Duster is perfect for cleaning those dusty dashes that you come across from time to time, and can help you keep your microfiber towels a bit cleaner.
These dusters actually lift the dust (instead of sliding it around) using a paraffin wax built into the fibers. The few interior car dusters on the market are generally multipurpose, and perfect for lifting large amounts of dust, pollen, and other debris on dashboards, interior trim, doors, and other surfaces.
#10 – Tape and Silly Putty for Sand
If you’ve been in the detailing game for any length of time, you’ll probably come across a vehicle with lots of sand from the beach on seats, doors, and everywhere else.
One trick some detailers use is to actually use silly putty for removing sand from crevices in leather, doors, and other surfaces.
Scotch tape is also good to have around in the case of removing sand that is really hard to vacuum up (like trunks). Simply wrap it around your hand sticky side up, and pat away.
#11 – Remove Offgas on Windshields
So you’ve cleaned the exterior of a client’s ride, but why is it still greasy or hazy looking? This may be due to ‘offgas’ which is basically a process in which the sun vaporizes the plastic on a car’s dashboard, causing it to evaporate and stick to the interior windshield as it cools.
Offgas usually happens on newer vehicles, but can be removed by cleaning the inside of a client’s windshield with Invisible Glass or another cleaner. You may have to agitate a little more than normal to remove it.
#12 – Vinyl and Leather Brushes for Seats
When cleaning leather, having the right tools can really make the difference. This vinyl and leather brush pictured above is one product that I am considering adding to my detailing arsenal since I have leather seats. This tool basically works as an applicator for applying leather conditioner to seats and looks like a small iron with a soft bottom.
If you’re like me, you may just use a soft microfiber towel for applying leather conditioner. However, with this vinyl and leather cleaning brush you can really remove tough stuck-on dirt that you may be unable to remove when applying pressure with a towel only.
#13 – Deodorizing the Interior
Sometimes even after you do a stellar job of detailing the interior of a car, there may still be some foul odors or smells coming from the vents. Locating the cabin air filter is step 1, which filters the incoming air. These can trap musty odors and need to be cleaned periodically.
There are also several ways to circulate deodorizers through a vehicle’s vents using a long straw that attached to a can of deodorizer. Check out this video on YouTube for more on this technique. There are also numerous deodorizing sprays specifically for interiors that you can use.
#14 – Carpet and Drill Brushes
For removing dirt, sometimes vacuums just aren’t enough. In some cases you need help bringing the dirt to the surface of the carpet using a carpet brush. These come in a variety of sizes, but many are made from nylon or some sort of synthetic fiber.
Another one of these not-so-common secrets detailers use is a drill brush. This is basically a brush attachment bit for your standard drill that helps to remove dirt and particles that are lodged deep in carpet fibers and is great for reaching tight spaces.
#15 – Clean the Seat Belts
This is one of the most overlooked areas for many detailers, simply because they stay out of the way when detailing and many people don’t know how to clean them. Treat stains with a stain remover and small brush, followed by a multipurpose cleaner for the rest of the belt.
Seat belts are notorious for holding stains, which is why a steamer is commonly used on seat belts. You’d be surprised at how bright you can get those dingy beige seat belts after cleaning.
#16 – Pumice Stone to Remove Pet Hair
When brushes and vacuums just aren’t enough, a pumice stone is perfect for removing pet hair that gets lodged in carpet fibers. These care commonly marketed as pet hair removal tools, but are essentially pumice stones.
One word of advice is to be careful when using these on newer vehicles, as they do tend to remove some carpet fibers if you aren’t careful. However for many clients requesting pet hair removal services, it’s probably not something to worry about.
#17 – Paper Floor Mats
Everyone loves the look of a freshly detailed vehicle, but when there’s evidence that your car has been vacuumed it’s even better.
While it may seem trivial, purchasing a bunch of paper floor mats to protect your customer’s vehicle goes a really long way for maintaining customer loyalty and is not something I see too often.
It’s also a perfect medium for any advertising information you want to include about your business, and would highly recommend it.
These are just a couple of the tips to try out as a detailer or car enthusiast. For even more interior detailing tips, check out our Interior Detailing section here. If you’re also looking to up your detailing equipment game check out our Recommended Gear page for a few additional car care products used by detailers that you may not have thought of!