Step By Step Guide to Cleaning Car Carpet

Last Update:

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Learn more

how to clean car carpetYou spend a substantial portion of your waking life in your car. A car that’s decorated with crumbs, drink stains, and old receipts can put a downer on your mood. If you decide to sell your vehicle, dirtiness can detract from the value of the car.

Luckily, keeping your car looking pleasant isn’t that hard. We’re here to give you hints on how to clean your car carpet and floorboards.

This is how you clean a car carpet:

Removing Clutter

Just like you would do for household carpet, you should first pick up as much solid debris as you can find. This includes loose change, paper trash, empty cups, and anything that would prevent you from vacuuming the carpet and floor mats.

Clean everywhere, including under and between the seats. If you have any food crumbs there, they can attract bugs and cause an unpleasant odor. You should get as much out of the car as you can.

Shake Off Floor Mats

car mats hanging on a rackPull your floor mats out of the car and give them a vigorous shake. You want to clear as much dust and dirt as you can. This isn’t the last you’ll be working with the car mats, so hang them on a rack until you’re ready to continue cleaning them.

Vacuum Carpet

car vacuumYou need to get a small car vacuum for this part. If it’s battery-powered that’s the best option, but many car vacuums have an AC adapter. You can purchase an AC-to-USB adapter and use your car’s lighter receptacle to charge it.

Thoroughly vacuum out your carpets, using the small nozzle to reach tight spaces. Do the same thing with your car mats on both sides – neglecting the bottom attracts more dirt – and hang them back up for now.

Move your car to a sunny spot if one is available. If not, don’t worry, it isn’t necessary but putting the car in the sun allows it to dry quicker.

Apply Shampoo

applying shampoo to car carpetDon’t apply shampoo if your carpet hasn’t been vacuumed. When you are ready to shampoo, spray a little at a time so that a light film is on the carpet.

Use a microfiber scrub brush and move in small circular motions. The agitation creates a lather that acts as a deep cleaning agent.

When you have shampooed the carpets completely, open your doors and windows so the car can air out. Otherwise, you may be left with a shampoo smell. Unless you plan on sitting in the car to watch it, remove all your valuables so no one can steal them. It’s probably going to take at least three hours for your car to finish airing. While you wait, you can vacuum the mats if you haven’t already done so. Otherwise, there’s nothing to do unless you want to shampoo the mats as well.

What Are The Best Carpet Shampoos?

You need to find shampoo that’s color-friendly and easy to apply. Shampoo that isn’t color friendly will bleach or darken your car’s carpet, making it look bad and decreasing the car’s value. We looked at several shampoos, and here are our top three choices:

  • Bissell Oxy Boost
  • Biocleen Carpet and Rug
  • Oxysteam Carpet Cleaner
Before buying car carpet shampoo, look on the container; it should tell you whether the shampoo is safe to use on your carpet. You may also be able to sue it on your upholstery without too many problems. If you’re curious, dab a small bit of shampoo on the floorboard and wipe it clean after a few minutes. You should see whether it’s safe for your colors.

Using DIY Products

If you just want to remove a few stains here and there, you don’t have to use carpet shampoo. It’s still a good idea to pick up loose items and vacuum. White vinegar and baking soda are pretty standard go-to cleaning products for most stains. Don’t use them undiluted; mix them with water and apply with either a scrub brush or an old toothbrush.

Dish detergent and laundry detergent, similarly diluted, work too. If you have doubts, ask your car dealer what the best method is to keep your carpets and upholstery clean.

Final Steps

After you get your car shampooed, give it another run with the vacuum cleaner. The shampoo likely will bring ground-in dirt and stains to the surface and dislodge them from the carpet. This means the vacuum cleaner should be able to pull them out of the fibers, adding to the effectiveness of the cleaning process.

Option: Using a Carpet Cleaner

Some home carpet cleaners can also clean car carpets. Look for a carpet shampooer with an attachment for cleaning car upholstery and car carpet.

You can also go for a portable carpet cleaner, they are a bit lower in price, and great to use for upholstery and carpet.

See our reviews of carpet cleaning machines here.


Cleaning your car’s carpet is something you should do every few months to keep it looking and smelling fresh. You can do so with professional-grade materials or with DIY substitutes.

Photo of author


Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

Leave a Comment

fifteen + 4 =