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How to Clean, Prep, and Paint a Rusty Jeep Wrangler Floorboard

After getting a Jeep Wrangler TJ and looking at the filthy, almost rusty floorboards, I thought it might be helpful today to put together a basic guide outlining how to clean your Jeep’s floorboard prior to either painting it, applying a bedliner, or putting in carpet.

The same process applied to other Jeeps and vehicles as well.

While there are many ways to clean metal, I wanted to describe a few ways that I would go about cleaning a dirty floorboard for a complete beginner. When it comes to cleaning and prepping, you really want to make sure that you know what you’re doing and avoid using acids or other chemicals that can potentially cause damage or accelerate rusting.

I’ll also cover how to prep it for paint/bedliner and offer a few options if you are looking into carpet or a covering.

Here’s what you will need

 Cleaning phase

  • Basic car soap or dish soap
  • Simple green (optional)
  • a wash bucket
  • A soft-bristled carpet brush (or similar)
  • Auto detailing brushes (optional)
  • Old towels or rags
  • Wet-vac (optional)

Prepping phase

  • Wire brush or wire brush drill attachment
  • POR-15 (for very rusted floorboards)
  • Rust encapsulator (for minimal rust)
  • 300-grit sandpaper OR
  • self-etching primer (optional)

Painting or protecting

  • Color-matched paint (Perfect Match by Dupli-Color) or similar
  • Bedliner product (optional)
  • Clearcoat (optional, if painting)
  • Carpet or BedRug (last step)

Step 1: Remove the seats

remove jeep seats

Start by removing the front seats and unplug the seat belt from under the driver’s side seat. Once the front and back bench seats are removed, move on to unbolting the console.

For my Wrangler, I removed the center console using a socket wrench to remove a couple of bolts located inside the cup holders and on the edges of the console.

It’s also not a bad idea to remove the shift boot and anything else on the floor of your Jeep (obviously including any old carpet).

Step 2: Use soap and water to start

bucket with suds

For most people, I would recommend filling a bucket with car wash soap and using a soft-bristled carpet brush to scrub the floorboard. This is probably the safest way to clean a floorboard with the drain plug pulled. Just be sure to be careful around electronics if you do choose to use a hose to rinse things down.

It’s also not a bad idea to have a couple of old towels on hand to soak up any water that doesn’t exit the drain.

This should take care of most of the grease and grime, but if some substances cannot be removed you can use a cleaner like Simple Green. The idea is just to remove grit and achieve a smooth surface before moving on to rust removal.

Another option is to use a wet vac to suck up water as you clean. This can also come in handy later on if you accidentally leave the top down!

Step 3: Rust removal and prevention

wire brush remove rust

If you have a couple of different spots where rust is beginning to form, use a wire brush or a wire brush drill attachment to remove as much of it as you can. If you have a ton of rust (or holes), you’ll want to use Bondo or another filler. The next product you need to apply really depends on the level of rust you have.

Very rusty floorboards? Try POR-15

POR-15 for Jeep Floorboards

If you have a very rusty floorboard, it’s a good idea to use a product called POR-15 (Paint Over Rust). The automotive version of this product will act as a sealant (or rust encapsulator) and should be applied before painting or bedlining the floorboard.

This will basically help to protect rust from spreading by providing a watertight barrier. If you only have a hint of rust here and there, POR-15 may not be the best option, since it works best by binding to rust.

POR-15 is also sold as a 3 step system (a cleaner, rust converter/etcher, and protective layer) you can check out here on Amazon. If you have a floorboard covered in rust, this kit is really all you need.

Only surface rust? Try a rust encapsulator

If you have a majority of your floorboard still covered in factory paint as I do, it’s best just to apply a rust encapsulator (to prevent spreading) only to the spots where you have rust. You can optionally apply a rust converter first, but just keep in mind rust converters really only bond well to heavily rusted areas.

If you have a bit of rust around bolts, etc., you’re probably better off trying to remove as much rust as you can by hand, and then applying a spray-on encapsulator.

  • POR-15 is probably the best encapsulator on the market, so I definitely recommend it, but it can be pretty expensive as well.
  • Eastwood also makes a basic rust encapsulator in spray form you can find here on Amazon.

Tip: They make these sprays in matte black as well as silver and clear. I’d probably opt for a lighter color if you plan to paint over it.

Step 4: Prepping for paint or a bedliner

herculiner bedliner

If you choose to paint your Jeep a factory color, you have a couple of options for prepping the surface for paint.

Use a self-etching primer or 300-grit sandpaper before painting

After applying your rust encapsulator (like POR-15), it’s important to etch the surface with sandpaper or a self-etching primer before applying a factory paint color. This will just help ensure the paint sticks.

What paint to choose?

What paint you choose really depends on how you want it to look. To match the exact color of your Jeep, you can either use the Dupli-color Perfect Match option if your color is available or take your paint codes to a paint supply store if you can’t find a match.

You can sometimes find OEM Mopar paint on Amazon or eBay which would be the most ideal option.

Since most people apply carpet over the painted surface anyway, it’s really up to you on how thorough you want to be with priming, painting, and clear coating.

Step 5: Painting or applying a bedliner

self etching primer

When it comes to bedlining, one of the most common products is called Herculiner that comes in either brush-on or spray-on form. If you want a professionally applied beadliner, you can even take your Jeep to a Rhino Liner or Line-X location and possibly have it applied to other sections of your Jeep as well.

There are literally dozens of options for bedlining, and they all have their pros and cons. Just be sure to always follow the application instructions whenever applying any aftermarket products.

Most of these bedliners require several coats, and it’s usually best to start by applying thin coats before moving on if you are painting or bedlining.

Step 6: Adding carpet for comfort and noise reduction (Optional)

BedRug for Wrangler protection

If you desire a little more comfort and noise protection, you’ve got a couple of options when it comes to rugs or carpeting.

You can find carpet kits like the popular BedRug here on Amazon (as pictured above) for around $100. This material mimics carpet, but is mildew, mold, and stain-resistant, as well as waterproof.

You can find more plush aftermarket carpet options (and colors) for your Wrangler if you choose at a much cheaper price point. It really depends on the look and budget you have in mind.


When it comes to cleaning your Jeep’s floorboard, you just need to make sure you’re not using anything that will cause rusting to accelerate, like a bleach or vinegar-based cleaner.

The restoration process really comes down to three main processes: cleaning, rust removal, and protection.

While a wire brush usually is the best for removing lots of rust, you can also try a rust remover like Evapo-rust before applying an encapsulator, primer, and paint layer.

I hope this gives you a starting point for your floorboard restoration project! Let me know how your Jeep project turns out in the comments, and what techniques worked best for you.

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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