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We Tested 9 of the Top Car Interior Cleaners to Find the Best

best car interior cleaners
Tested: Best Car Interior Cleaners for 2024Andi Hedrick - Car and Driver


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This article was updated in March 2024 with new products and information.

Have you ever found yourself muttering, "I need to clean this car," only to have life get away from you? While cleaning your entire car can feel daunting, it doesn't always have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. When it comes to car cleaning, focusing on wiping down your interior surfaces can be a quick win, falling comfortably into the "High Value, Low Effort" category.

Most interior cleaners are simple to use, requiring just a spray and a wipe, leaving you with clean surfaces and a sense of accomplishment in minutes (depending on your level of effort). Once you've tackled the interior, you can dive deeper. Start by vacuuming, move on to windows, and finish with an exterior wash and buff. Before you know it, your car looks sharp, feels sharp, and is sharp.


Things to Consider

Car interior cleaners come in all types. Which one is right for you? Are they all the same? Do you need to spend a lot of money? Can you get one that cleans all the surfaces in your cabin? Before you decide, here's what you need to know.

Type of Interior

Your car's interior comprises various materials, such as plastic (or wood for the more luxurious models), screens, and windows. Some cleaners are suitable for all surfaces, while others are designed for trim. Always check the label to ensure proper use.

Smell

While scent is a personal preference, it's a significant part of these interior cleaners. Select one with a fragrance you enjoy; life is too short to not like how your car smells.

Tools

The effectiveness of cleaners relies on the tools of the trade. Microfiber cloths are the gold standard since they leave no fabric traces like terry cloth or towels. You might also consider using brushes for hard-to-reach and especially tough areas.

How We Tested Car Interior Cleaners

To find the best car interior cleaner, we tested nine of the market's top products from brands such as Meguiar's and Chemical Guys. The test included a well-loved (and slightly legendary) 1990 Geo Tracker from a previous beaters challenge, a stick of butter, and more.

So, before applying that elbow grease to your chrome bumpers, don't overlook your vehicle's interior. These cleaners will freshen up steering wheels, dashboards, cupholders, and just about everything in between.


The Best Car Interior Cleaners

Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant

Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant from Chemical Guys actually cleans all interior surfaces and is safe to use on everything including glass and screens. It's got great strength too, acing our butter test (see below).

The cleaner also doubles as a protectant, meaning it'll shield your dashboard and other interior components from harmful UV rays. The only knock? We aren't a fan of the scent—it's strong. But if that doesn't bother you, you can't go wrong with this choice.

Hot Tip: A 'wipes' version of Total Interior Cleaner is also available. While we didn't test the wipes against the other cleaners here, they're perfect for on-the-go cleaning and quick wipe-downs. Just stash a pack in your glovebox.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071ZTPRJL?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$11.97</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

Interior Cleaner

For strong, no-frills cleaning power, look no further than Griot's Garage Interior Cleaner. We chose it as our second-best car interior cleaner for its simplicity and effectiveness, and because it's also safe for use on fabric and carpet. There's no scent, no residue, and its clear color gives us confidence that it won't stain. Griot's took off normal grime with ease and smashed our butter test. The comparatively large 22-ounce bottle is nice too, and should last a while.

The only drawbacks? It doesn't work on screens or glass and lacks any UV protection. But we're willing to sacrifice that for the fantastic cleaning power and the compatibility with textiles.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4PB8IY?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Interior Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$10.25</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

Quik Interior Detailer Cleaner

For those of us who want a quick, cheap spray to clean our car's interior, Meguiar's Quik Interior Detailer does the trick. The cleaner works decently—passing our butter test—and left behind neither streaks nor residue.

It's not as strong as other cleaners on this list, and it has a slight scent. But it does feature a protecting agent to keep surfaces looking clean longer. This is a 24-ounce bottle, so it may be more than you need. But for a cheap, quick interior cleaner, this is the best budget choice. It's also available in handy wipe form.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07R5QGGJG?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Quik Interior Detailer Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$13.31</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

Ultimate Cleaner

While this is strictly an interior cleaner test, Carfidant Ultimate Cleaner also cleans various exterior parts. (Hey, we like two-in-ones!) The cleaning power is evident—it aced our butter test and cut through existing grime easily.

Carfidant says this stuff can clean exhaust tips, degrease an engine, and remove bugs from your windshield. While we didn't test any of those claims this time, we believe that its strength makes it capable of such tasks. The scent is quite strong, and it's one of the pricier cleaners on our list, but the versatility outshines both issues.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HN9WWSB?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Ultimate Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$16.97</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

Cleaning Wipes

If you need to clean your interior lickety-split, it's tough to beat the speed of these Armor All Cleaning Wipes. This container holds 50 wipes, but these pull-through openings often seem to result in pulling more than one sheet, so there's the potential for waste. For light dirt and grime, though, the wipes themselves are excellent. But they struggled against real messes, and failed our butter test.

The smell is very strong, and they do leave a slight residue behind—which can cling to floating dust, making your cleaning job a waste of time. However, the convenience is unmatched; you'll just compromise the quality provided by more labor-intensive cleaners.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001KYSBO2?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Cleaning Wipes</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$7.57</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

Total Interior Cleaner

We aren't a fan of scents, but this one caught us pleasantly off-guard. The Total Interior Cleaner from Adam's Polishes has a light fruity scent, dubbed Maine Blueberry. It was a nice change from the typical "chemical" smells provided by other products on this list.

Adam's interior cleaner features plenty of cleaning strength and protects from UV rays. However, it left behind a slight residue and an uneven finish. We like to think of this stuff as a combo cleaner and air freshener—which isn't a bad pairing.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0923BDFH5?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Total Interior Cleaner</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$13.19</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

Ultimate Interior Detailer

Aimed toward dress-up jobs as opposed to cleaning duty, this Interior Detailer from Meguiar's might be better for show cars than ordinary rides. It lacks in the strength department and leaves behind a slick, almost glossy finish. Meguiar's recommends not using this on screens or glass.

Pairing that finish with a strong smell, this cleaner won't be for everyone. But if you're getting your car ready for the Saturday car show, a few spritzes of this will have your interior looking slick.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G49DUJY?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Ultimate Interior Detailer</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$9.99</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

Speed Interior Detailer

There isn't anything inherently wrong with Mothers Speed Interior Detailer, we just feel the other sprays do the job better. This stuff boasts solid strength—it passed our butter test and didn't leave any residue behind.

However, it's got a slight cleaner-y odor, and we noticed a few streaky spots after drying. It's not bad, not great. The sprayer nozzle had a nice spread, for what that's worth.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M9GSPEA?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.40559083%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Speed Interior Detailer</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$8.99</p><span class="copyright">Andi Hedrick</span>

How We Tested Car Interior Cleaners

We wanted a mix of typical grime and simulated messes in our test vehicle for this evaluation. We didn't want to use a new car, so we settled on a semi-legendary 1990 Geo Tracker owned by Car and Driver's very own Dave Beard. He's driven the thing all over the place, and it's accumulated its fair share of interior grubbiness in its more than three decades of existence. In our eyes, a perfect test mule.

We purchased a large pack of new microfiber cloths for this test to ensure each cleaner had an equal chance to clean. We began by testing each cleaner on a separate section of equally dirty dashboard and door panel and noted how quickly the cleaner cut through the dirt and grime. Other notes included smell, residue, and drying characteristics.

After all of the cleaners completed that test, we wiped a chunk of semi-soft butter on the dashboard. We then sprayed that greasy mess with each cleaner, waited 10 seconds, and then applied one even, uniform wipe. We noted how much of the greasy butter was left behind and applied that to our results.

Once the tests were completed, we felt satisfied that each cleaner was judged equally and that the old Geo enjoyed a nice interior spruce-up.

best car interior cleaner
Andi Hedrick - Car and Driver

FAQs

How often should I clean the interior of my car?

This depends on how much time you spend in your car, what you do in your car, and so on. But a good benchmark is once a month, with a deep clean seasonally. Monthly interior car cleaning can include a quick vacuum and cleaning of your dash, vents, screens, and cupholders. Seasonal cleanings are when you wash your floor mats, scrub seats, and perform a thorough deep-clean. However, each vehicle is different, depending on usage.

Can I use interior cleaners on my windows?

Some of them, yes. The cleaner will explicitly state that it's safe for windows, but you should confirm that before trying. Other interior cleaners will leave a finish or residue on your windows, which can be a nightmare to remove. Your best bet is to use a separate glass cleaner.

Which car interior cleaners do the pros use?

Each detailer has a product they prefer, but we've seen many of the cleaners on this list included in detailing buckets. The pros typically stay away from the wipes, but the sprays come down to preference. Even the Car and Driver garage crew can't decide which one they prefer—there's a whole cabinet full of different interior cleaners!

How much do car interior cleaners cost?

Our test cleaners ranged in price from under $10 up to nearly $25. If you choose one of the sprays, you'll want to invest in some good microfiber cloths too, which can add an extra $5 per handheld cloth.

best car interior cleaners
Andi Hedrick - Car and Driver

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