Sunday, August 7, 2016

Complete Interior Care

In this post, I will share the products and methods I used to keep the interior of a car clean and protected. This is going to be a long post. Here we go.


I normally start the by removing large and loose objects. Not only will they make your interior look messy but they can also be hazardous. Once cleared, I would remove all floor mats. For coil mats; if weather permits; I would wash them with diluted all purpose cleaner like Optimum Power Clean (or repacked as Alien Clean in Malaysia by Detailien). For carpet mats, I would give each of them a "good beating" by to remove all loose dirts like stones and sand. I would then sun-baked them while I work the rest of the interior

For vacuuming, I would recommend a good vacuum cleaner with multiple nozzles for cleaning different surfaces and reaching tight corners. A cordless vacuum is the best here but a good quality corded or car-powered vacuum will work too. 

Same as washing the exterior, I would usually vacuum from top to bottom. I would start from the dash with a brush type nozzle and then to the car seat. For hard to reach places, I would use a hose extension connected to a brush type nozzle.

For car seat, I would fully recline them to expose hidden areas in between the backrest and the seat.

See all the dirt trapped in between?

Here, I use the brush type nozzle directly. More power.

For the seams, I would use my hand to push them apart and vacuum off all the trapped dirt. This is especially important if you have leather seats in your car. Imagine a trapped sand in between the seams. With car moving and somebody seating on the seat, that sand will move about and scratch or worst cut the leather.

Yes, "pry" the seams open. I could not show it it the picture as I only have 2 hands. One to hold the vacuum and another to hold my camera (phone).

Once all the top surfaces like dash, door panels, and seats are vacuumed, I would vacuum the floor.

This is where different nozzles come in handy. This is a narrow opening nozzle (no brush).

Cleaning Fabric Surfaces

Most of the time, I would only vacuum and use a little Febreze for fabric surfaces like car fabric seats and door panels. However, if they are really dirty like if there is a stubborn stain, I have a few stuffs that I would normally use.

First up, is Autoglym Interior Shampoo. It is a multipurpose interior cleaner dedicated for car care. I would take a microfiber towel, spray some cleaner on it, and use the towel to wipe the fabric. I would then follow by wiping with another damped microfiber towel a few times to remove or "rinse off" the shampoo. This is effective for most stains.

If the stain is too stubborn, I have something a little stronger where I can vary the dilution. I would normally go for 10:1 dilution to be economical but could go up to 3:1 as the bottle suggest. This would be Optimum Power Clean. It has been repacked and relabeled by the local authorized distributor (Detailien) to Alien Clean. Same method applies for this. Spray on a microfiber towel. This is to prevent over spray and cleaner staining or spotting. 

There are also some aerosol type foam cleaners from Carplan or Johnson. These would work too but instead of spraying onto a microfiber towel, spray them on direct. Wait for them to foam and wipe. Same thing, I would follow with a damped microfiber towel.

Cleaning Plastic Surfaces and Rubber Strips

The above two cleaners for fabric (Autoglym and Optimum) can be used to clean plastic and rubber surfaces too. They are good for heavier dirt and stain. However, for only cleaning light dust, a milder cleaner can get the work done.

This Meguiar's Quik Interior Detailer is a very mild cleaner. It is perfect for cleaning light dust and finger prints. Similar to the other cleaners, spray onto towel and wipe. This cleaner and the above cleaners provide good cleaning for plastic and rubber surfaces but lack protection. Plastic and rubber surfaces in cars are exposed to high temperature and strong UV light for most of the time. Therefore, besides from keeping them clean, it is also important to protect them. Unlike the old days, most modern car plastics and rubbers already have UV stabilizers and other additives in them. Adding external protection will further enhanced the durability. I still remember our old local-made cars where the plastics will "disintegrate" by just touching them just after a few years of use.

I have a few protectants that I normally used. There are some protectants in the market that are either too glossy or too oily. Also be sure to use something from a reputable manufacturer. I had a bad experience last time in using a sub-standard plastic dressing. The dressing would "vaporized" under hot sun and fogged up all the glass windshields and windows and because of the oily nature, I had to use a strong glass cleaner to clean them off.

The Meguiar's Natural Shine Protectant is one of my favorites. It is not too shiny nor too greasy but offers UV protection. I do not recommend following the directions of "spraying directly on the surface" as stated on the bottle. I would spray some on a microfiber towel, and wipe it on plastic surfaces. Spraying onto a towel gives you better control as we do not want the product to be on everywhere. I then used another clean microfiber towel to wipe off the excess.

Next would be Autoglym Vinyl & Rubber Care. This is like an all-in-one product. It comes with some mild cleaning agent as well as protection. And it smells wonderful. This will be my go-to product if the interior is just dusty, and I need to top up the protection.

Next in the line is the most expensive plastic dressing.

Unlike the Meguiar's Natrural Shine Protectant and Autoglym Vinyl & Rubber Care that come in thick milky white liquid, the Meguair's Ultimate Protectant is a cream. It can be used for both interior and exterior plastic and rubber trims but I do not use it for exterior. My experience of using exterior plastic dressings is that they tend to leave a dark trail after raining. That is why I prefer to use spray wax (read more here). I normally use this only for door panels as it is more durable. This is a little shinny compared to the other two. I do not fancy shining interior surfaces especially the dash as it will reflect on the windscreen and cause glaring. The reflections and glares make it difficult to see the road properly when driving. This product claim to last longer. That is why I mainly use it on door panels as these are the surfaces that come into contact with human the most. However in actual cases, all these dressings last very long especially on surfaces not normally touched. So you would not go wrong with any of them.

A Note on Petroleum Distillates

Some of these protectants contain petroleum distillates. I previously shared my thoughts on them in my earlier post on Tire Shine. If you are concerned about petroleum distillates you can read them in the post here (near the end of the post).

Cleaning Leather

Depending on the type of leather, some are more delicate than others. To be on the safe side, I used a dedicated cleaner and conditioner for my leather seats. There are other detailers who uses diluted all-purpose cleaner for leather and find it to be okay. So, you could try out which works best for you. Be sure to do a spot test before going full on.

Leather seats tend to soil easily and faster compared to other surfaces. Light colored leather will show this more obvious. So far, I have been using Autoglym Leather Cleaner and I am quite pleased with the results. Same thing. Spray on microfiber towel and wipe. Follow with another damped microfiber towel and wipe-rinse-wipe until there is no trace of foam. The cleaner is very effective in removing shinny oily stain.

To protect the leather, I used Autoglym Leather Care Balm. It has a cream-like consistency. 

I use applicator pad for this. First, I would make sure that the leather surfaces is dry. I then poured a little product on the applicator pad and butterfly it (fold in half and open back). I would use the pad and massage in the balm into the leather. Then I used a microfiber towel to gently wipe off the remaining balm. This balm goes on shinny and will stay shinny for up to 48 hours depending on the weather. Once it is fully absorbed and cured, the leather will turn matte. The leather will feel softer and smoother with no oily feel. Frankly, I feel that this is a great product because unlike some spray on leather care that will either feel oily or powdery, this balm does none of that. However it does take a long time to cure.

Cleaning Glass Surfaces

Basically, any good household glass cleaner can do the job but since glass cleaners are the least expensive interior car care stuff, I went for Meguiar's Perfect Clarity Glass Cleaner.

This can be used in both interior and exterior glass. Just use a different towel for each. Again, spray onto a microfiber towel and wipe. Use another clean towel to buff dry. For door windows, lowered them a little so that you could wipe near the edges too.

Cleaning Steering Wheel, Shifter, and Parking Brake Lever

These parts deserved some special attention. The most important thing to note is to NOT to use any dressings or protectants on these parts as they tend to become slippery. It will be dangerous to have a slippery steering wheel!

These parts could be cleaned with a very mild cleaner. I normally use Meguiar's Quik Interior Detailer (the cleaner I used for plastic surfaces as mentioned above). 

Odor Eliminator

We Malaysians love to "tabao" food (packed take-away). The can be from nasi lemak to pisang goreng (fried bananas) to even durians! Although I literary "banned" durians in my cars, some other food gets the pass.

In order to "neutralized" the odor, the natural way is to wind down all windows and "sun bake" the car. However, there are certain times and moments where this method is not feasible. In such cases, I will resort to odor eliminator. The one that I commonly used is from Meguiar's.

I would just normally spray onto floor mats and carpets. And for cars with fabric seats, I would spray onto the seats too. I would not say this odor eliminator is very effective but it works to a certain extent.

Another household item that can be used is Febreze. It has an edge in terms of anti-bacterial.

Air Conditioner

There are a few things that I normally DIY for air-cond. First thing is the cabin filter. I always make sure to use a carbon activated filter over a normal filter. The activated carbon helps to remove unwanted odor. Next is to clean the filter regularly. Remove filter from the designated compartment. Check your owner's manual to see where is the filter located. If you have access to compressed-air or blower, use them to blow-clean the filter. If you have not, just knock or tap on the filters.

To clean or disinfect the interior of the air-cond cooling coils and air passage. I sometimes use diluted IPA (isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol) in an atomizer spray. I would remove the cabin filter and spray some inside. For dilution, I used one part water to one part IPA (99.7%).

Once in a while (or when there is unwanted smell coming out from the air-cond), I would use typical household air-cond cleaner to clean the air-cond. I normally use MrMcKenic Air-Conditioner Cleaner (see here). Other self-rinse DIY air-cond cleaner should do the job too. Instead of the supplied straight nozzle, I would connect it to a tubing (something like fish aquarium air tube). For cleaning, I would insert the tubing all the way into the cooling coil from the front air-cond blower and spray liberally. I would let the cleaner soak for about 15-30 minutes before starting the car to turn on the air-cond for another 15-20 minutes. Be sure to wind down all windows before doing this.

I guess this pretty much covers all for interior care.

There is another useful tool for interior cleaning - steam. I guess I will be keeping them for another post. Till then, happy detailing.

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