LAST UPDATED: April 24, 2019
Best Car Interior & Upholstery Cleaners: Give Your Car That “Just Detailed” Look
Learn about the best car interior cleaners and how they keep the inside of your car fresh and new
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON April 24, 2019
Just about every place you spend time needs constant cleaning: your home, your office, your car. While you go to great lengths to clean your home, your car may not get the same attention. An unclean car not only has an off-putting smell, but it also serves as a perfect place for germs to grow and breed. This is why picking the best car interior cleaner will save you time, keep you healthy, and protect your car’s interior at the same time. If you’re wondering what is the best car interior cleaner, this guide answers this and reviews the best car interior cleaning products on the market.
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Benefits of Car Interior Cleaner
- Less excessive wear and tear. Cleaning the interior of the car is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Spilled substances and UV rays create cracks in the interior of the car. Without regular cleaning, a new car can look much older than its real age and mileage. Car interior cleaners keep upholstery, leather, and all other surfaces looking new and prevent discoloration and fading.
- Prevent health issues. When you shut the car door, the interior becomes a closed environment. This allows germs, dust, and other particles to circulate in the air, causing health issues and all sorts of allergies. A car interior cleaning spray prevents such health hazards and maintains the air quality inside the car.
- Better driving safety. A dirty windshield translates into poor visibility of your surroundings. The same goes for side and rear-view mirrors. Cleaning the interior as well as the exterior of your glass increases your ability to see what’s around you and minimizes road risks.
Types of Car Interior Cleaner
Car interior cleaning spray is quite popular and widely used. Sprays clean different surfaces inside the car, which saves you time and money. Some spray products protect against UV rays, which other detailing types don’t offer. Because they’re versatile, effective, and easy to use, many car owners prefer spray products over other car interior cleaner types.
Interior wipes help you reach all the nooks and crannies inside the car and give them a thorough cleaning. While the best car interior wipes can give you that “just detailed” appearance, they’re not that good against certain stains. Interior wipes also require more time and effort to clean the car than car interior sprays.
Car interior wax, sometimes called leather balm or leather cleaner, is specific for the leather surfaces inside your car. Despite this narrow scope, it does a good job cleaning, conditioning, and protecting the leather. The wax also protects against UV rays and gives the leather a rejuvenated look and supple feel.
Established in 1980, 303 Products has mainly focused on protecting surfaces from UV rays. It offers quick detailers, fabric guards, protectants, and cleaners for both indoor and outdoor living. It’s not just automotive; these products work well for boats and homes. Other products in this category include 303 Products Aerospace Protectant and 303 Aerospace Protectant Wipes.
Started as a small company operating in California in 1968, Chemical Guys aimed to make the right detailing products that all car enthusiasts would love. Over the years, that simple idea grew into a multinational company with presence in Europe and Asia. Their products now sell in more than 50 countries all over the world. Other top products include Complete Leather Care Kit and Chemical Guys MIC_506_12 Microfiber Towels.
When Frank Meguiar Jr. started this company from his own garage in California in 1901, he had no idea that one day it would grow this big. At the time, there were more carriages than cars, and Frank was making wax products. He soon turned his attention to cars and hasn’t looked back since. The company’s Ultimate Leather Balm is a top seller and so is it's Automotive Soft White Drill Brush.
Car Interior Cleaner Pricing
- Under $10: At this price range, you can get car interior detailers that work only on one or two surfaces. For example, wax products sell at this price range, but they only work on leather. You can also get car interior sprays for under $10, but the quality is not that great.
- $10-$20: The average car interior cleaner product sells within this price range. This includes high-quality sprays that sell in a single package.
- Over $20: Good-quality car vacuum cleaners and detailing kits usually sell at this price range. Large containers, ranging from 1 to 5 gallons, will sell at higher prices. Depending on how often you clean your car, you might opt for the gallon containers to save money in the long run.
One of the main features that you need to look for in a car interior cleaner is UV protection. UV rays are responsible for a lot of wear and tear in the car interior. They’re the reason the colors fade and the surfaces crack. The best car interior protectant is the one that has UV protection among other features. Most detailers that come in spray form have UV protection, unlike other types such as wipes and car vacuums.
Thanks to advances in technology, car detailing products not only clean stains and grime but also act as dust repellents. This means they’re still working on the surfaces of the car interior even after you’ve wiped them clean. Preventing dust from sticking to the dashboard and the seats is a key feature of the best car interior detailing products.
A product that only works on one or two surfaces is neither an economical option nor is it convenient. When you shop for the best car interior detailer, you’ll ideally want a product that works on most, if not all, of the different surfaces inside the car. That will save you time and money down the road.
The finish is one of the things, not all car interior detailers get right. Some products do manage to remove stains, only to leave a splotchy blob in its place. Having a matte finish is usually a must-have feature to check for in a car interior cleaner.
- Scent: Whether you like your car odorless or scented is up to you. Some people can’t enjoy a drive without having a pineapple or baby powder aroma wafting across their face. A car interior detailer’s scent is an important factor to consider when choosing your product. A pineapple scent might be nice, but when you spray it all over the inside of the car, it might get too fruity in there.
- Toxicity: A toxic car detailer is both a health and environmental hazard. Since you’re dealing with chemicals that remove grease, grime, and stains, the issue of toxicity needs to be taken into account. The ideal car interior detailer should be non-toxic and water-based so that it’s easy to clean off if you accidentally spill it inside the car.
Best Car Interior Cleaner Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The 303 UV Protectant Spray is the best overall pick simply because it offers better cleaning and protecting functionality than the other products in the market. As a protectant, it keeps the interior of the car looking new and prevents cracks, discolorization, and fading.
Since it works on various surfaces, the spray saves you the need to buy different products for different surfaces. It works well on rubber, vinyl, PVC, eisenglass, finished leather, fiberglass, and gel coat surfaces. This just about covers most surfaces inside the car.
Besides its protection features, 303 UV Protectant Spray also works as a dust repellent. This keeps dust from sticking to the dashboard, panel, and leather seats and allows for fast cleanup of these surfaces. The dry matte finish leaves the inside of the car looking clean without any odors. Since it’s water-based and non-toxic, any excess spraying can be cleaned off with a wipe without a fuss.
On the downside, the spray doesn’t hide scuff marks or blemishes well, and it doesn’t work on fabrics or unfinished leather. The packaging is also an issue since the bottle can be leaky.
If you’re on a budget and don’t like to spend much on car interior detailers, Chemical Guys InnerClean gives you good value for your money. It’s easy to use and cleans quickly, which comes in handy when you want to give the car interior a quick cleaning.
Besides its ease of use, the detailer has advanced UV protection to keep cracks and the wear and tear at bay. It’s effective against dust and dirt on most plastic surfaces, including dashboards, door panels, steering wheels, and armrests as well as navigation screens.
Another perk you get with this detailer is that it comes in two scents, pineapple, and baby powder. It leaves behind a nice, fresh smell, and the dust repeller keeps the surfaces clean for a long time.
On the other hand, the Chemical Guys InnerClean Detailer doesn’t work on many surfaces such as glass, leather, rubber, or fabrics, which is a major letdown. The pineapple scent it leaves behind can be too strong and fruity. Also, be careful not to spill it inside the car, as it tends to leave a yellow stain.
This is an all-purpose cleaner suitable for car interior cleaning as well as maintaining other leather items such as shoes, furniture, and more. Basically, you can use it to clean any leather material. The product is pH-balanced, which means it's perfectly safe and able to preserve the material.
The cleaner is very efficient in removing dirt and excessive oils from the leather, and it's super easy to use. It also prevents leather from cracking, fading, and deteriorating. The liquid is colorless and odorless, which means you'll be enjoying the subtle scent of the leather. Also, the cleaner contains vitamin E that nourishes the material and reduces UV damage. A little of this liquid goes a long way, so you'll be using one bottle for quite some time.
There are, however, a few downsides regarding the Chemical Guys pack. While the included cleaner is very powerful, the conditioner is not that efficient. It does make the surface look shiny, but that initial effect doesn't last for very long. Also, the sprayer on the cleaner is fragile and might break easily.
If you need a quality pack of microfiber towels to maintain your vehicle's interior, the ones coming from Chemical Guys might be a perfect option. They are very soft and highly absorbent, allowing you to wipe clean all kinds of surfaces rather quickly and effortlessly.
The main benefit of these towels is the fact they are perfectly safe and won't leave scratches on the car's surface. They efficiently pick up dirt and other residue, keeping the surface clean and neat. The towels are 16 inches long, 24 inches wide, and fairly thick. They are ideal for general surface cleaning and maintaining, as well as for final buffing. You can use them with car wax, sealant, polish, and other vehicle maintainers.
The main drawback of these towels is the price. A pack of three turns out to be rather pricey, so it's not the best option for those who are on a limited budget. The other issue regards the material itself. It seems that the towels might shed after some time and even leave a yellow residue.
Those who are looking for reliable leather cleaners might want to take a look at this Leather Honey product. It's a highly valued and well-rated cleaner tested by many buyers over time. You can use it on leather and vinyl and make your vehicle shiny in no time.
The Leather Honey cleaner proves to be highly effective and perfectly safe for car interior surfaces. It removes dirt, oil, stains, and other residues that might damage the surface. Along with being powerful, the cleaner is also quite gentle to the material and won't strip it of its natural oils. It features a non-toxic formula that is ideal for furniture, shoes, clothes, and accessories.
One thing to keep in mind with this product is the price. The bottle is quite small, and you only get four ounces of liquid. That makes it unsuitable for those who are looking for budget-friendly products. The second drawback is the thick consistency that might be hard to spread on the surface. Some extra effort and buffing might be needed for a successful cleaning process.
Zwipes offers a high-quality set of microfiber cloths that proves to be very efficient in cleaning and maintaining the vehicle's interior. The set includes 24 towels that are 12 inches long and 16 inches wide. They are super soft and ideal for cleaning all kinds of surfaces, from leather to glass.
The included towels are made of quality materials that don't leave any streaks after cleanups. They are super soft and won't scratch or stain the surface. The material is highly absorbent, and it dries rather quickly for more convenience. You even get to wash and reuse the towels many times, which makes them very cost-efficient.
Although these towels don't shed at first, they might leave some small fibers behind after some time of use. The material also might crumble on some spots, which makes the towels less efficient in achieving flawless finishes.
If you're on a tight budget, you might want to check out this cost-efficient leather cleaner. It's a reliable product that comes in a 33.8-ounce bottle for long-term vehicle maintenance. The cleaner is also suitable for cleaning furniture, clothes, shoes, and other accessories and leather pieces.
What makes it stand out is a powerful yet mild formula that quickly removes dirt and other residues while also being gentle to the leather. It protects and preserves the leather, preventing cracking, fading, and other possible damages. It's also free of all waxes and oils that might become too sticky or damage the leather in any way. The product is quite easy to spread and wipe clean, and it leaves a nice final coat over the applied surface.
One of the drawbacks of this product is the longevity. The treatment doesn't last for very long, so frequent reapplication might be necessary. The second one is the time-consuming drying process. While the entire cleanup doesn't take long, you'll probably have to wait quite some time for the liquid to dry on the surface.
Adam's Interior Detailer is a multi-purpose product that cleans, protects, and preserves different surfaces. It even leaves a protective coat to prevent bacteria from growing and dirt from piling up. That makes it not only instantly efficient, but also useful in the long run. The UV-protective agents are an excellent addition, too.
The cleaner features a mild formula that is perfectly safe for your vehicle's interior. It's very convenient for all kinds of materials, from rubber to leather and vinyl, and you get to use it on furniture, electronics, and much more. While neutralizing odors and making the surface look fresh and shiny, the product doesn't leave any streaks or residues. It's also easy to use.
What can be a drawback for some people is the mild formula. The cleaner is not very strong, and it doesn't work well on older vehicles with an already heavily deteriorated interior. The minor issues regard the overall design. The sprayer on the bottle is not of the best quality, and the straw might be too long for the bottle.
Turtle Wax's three-piece kit includes a 20-ounce bottle of ICE Interior Cleaner & Protectant and two microfiber towels. It neutralizes odors, removes dust and stains, and has UV absorbers to keep plastic parts from fading, drying, and cracking. The product does not leave behind a greasy residue or artificial shine.
One of the best things about this product is it does not produce a slippery, greasy feeling on your leather interior. It provides a consistent finish on plastics and rubber parts and is not overly shiny and spotty like some rival interior cleaners. Also, the bottle lasts for a reasonably long time. Overall, it does a great job of cleaning almost anything, it doesn't leave behind any residue, and it won't crack or blister the dashboard.
However, the cleaning agent won’t clean mud or caked-on grime. Also, not everyone likes the scent, which can take a few days to dissipate. There have also been some complaints that it leaves a foggy film on the inside windows. It may also be slippery if you use it on the steering wheel or shift knob.
- Make sure to pre-vacuum the interior of the car before you use the liquid cleaner. This allows you to get rid of all debris and dry dirt in advance and makes the cleaning process less messy.
- The interior of the car can be overwhelming when you start cleaning. So, break it down into smaller areas to make it manageable. Also, consider grouping similar surfaces together.
- Use a scrub on a difficult stain after you have sprayed it to break up the dirt or grime. Then use a wipe to mop it up.
- When you have a tough stain, it’s better to use a spray lightly a few times. Don’t go for heavy application because that might ruin the surface.
- You might not be able to clean the interior of the car in one go, especially if you have a lot of dirt and grime. Patience always pays off.
Q: Should I use the product full strength or have it diluted?
A: Most of the time, you can use the spray as is unless you have sensitive interior surfaces like dashboard navigation screens or some expensive leather in the car. In that case, it’s better to dilute the detailer just to be on the safe side.
Q: Do car interior detailers work on scratch marks?
A: Not really. They’re not effective against scuffs and scratch marks. They only work on removing dirt and grime.
Q: Can I clean glass with car interior detailers?
A: No. Almost all car interior cleaners don’t work on glass. This includes the all-purpose multi-surface products. If you accidentally use it on glass and it leaves a smear, you can use a glass cleaner product with a wiper to get it off.
Q: How often should I use the cleaner on the interior of my car?
A: For a good car cleaning, you can use them as much as you like—unless the product itself is too strong, in which case you can dilute it and use it carefully around certain delicate surfaces or on light-colored interiors.
Out of the many products in the market, we picked 303 UV Protectant Spray as the top car interior detailer. It works on various surfaces, has a matte finish, protects against UV damage, and is quite affordable.
For a value buy, Chemical Guys’ SPI_663_16 InnerClean excels with its low price, UV protection, and dust repelling features. It’s quick to apply and easy to use as well. Since it comes with two scents, it saves you on buying a car air freshener.