One of the most common questions I get asked as an upholstery producer is: "How can I take care of my cars beautiful new interior?"
There are so many cleaning products out there and not all of them are good when it comes to your cars upholstery!
In fact some of the more common assumptions like using house hold cleaners & detergents can slowly strip away the colour pigments or dry out some of your materials.
There are several different types of materials typically found in a cars interior, and each requires its own special treatment when it comes to properly cleaning and maintaining it.
Of course it is always advisable that you do try to keep your cars interior as clean and free of debris, dirt and moisture as you can!
So I will get started by describing each of the more common materials found in a typical British sports car, and how to properly clean and care for them...
To properly clean and maintain your interior carpets, it is important to vacuum them regularly. I recommend using a good shop vac with a set of various wand attachments for getting into all the nooks and crannies.
A good soft brush and/or brush attachment for your vacuum is also recommended for getting into the grain of the carpet to remove any clingy bits that can become embedded like hair, dirt and dust -
If and when ever your carpets get wet, it is important to unsnap the mats if possible and dry everything thoroughly.
If you can't remove them, at least try to soak up the wet with towels and dry them as quickly as you can. Avoid using things like blow dryers or heat guns though which can quickly singe or burn the carpet fibers.
Carpet and underlay can soak up a lot of water, and that moisture can quickly cause all sorts of problems like mould, corrosion, and staining so it is important to stay on top of wet situations if and when they do arise.
If you encounter stains in your carpet from spills etc, I recommend using an approved automotive carpet cleaner with a scrub brush applicator.
Often these are foaming cleaners that work to pull the stains up from the carpet fibers. You apply it in a circular motion with a scrub brush, then rinse it off with water and thoroughly dry it off.
It is always advisable to clean up spills and stains ASAP to avoid deeper staining!
Vinyl is most often used throughout the interior on things like door and kick panels, dash boards, seat backs, edge binding and piping...
Since vinyl is a durable and generally non porous surface, it is easily kept clean by regularly wiping it down with a soft cloth.
For dirtier situations you can use a bit of mild soap and water;
suds up a cloth and gently scrub the vinyl, followed by wiping it off with a wet cloth without soap, and finally drying it off with a clean dry cloth.
Avoid using heavy chemicals! - stay right away from oil or tolulene based products like gasoline or laquer thinners as they may discolor or destroy the surface of the vinyl.
Hardura - sometimes referred to as 'Armacord' or 'ribbed Hardura', is commonly used in British cars as boot lining or lining other ares that don't need to be as plush as carpet.
It comes with either a smooth or ribbed surface texture.
It's basically a very durable vinyl surface that has a dense jute backing to it making it good for sound deadening as well as insulating.
Since it is basically a vinyl top surface you can clean it just the same as you would any other vinyl. Again, a good soft brush comes in handy when cleaning out the grain or 'corn rows' of Ribbed Hardura...
A common stain found on boot compartment Hardura is rubber scuffing from the spare tire. I recommend trying soapy water first, or using a bit of Simple Green - it's a natural and very effective cleaner that won't harm or bleach the material.
For Healey 100 owners who have ever experienced fuel spills onto the Armacord while filling up in the boot compartment, you want to soak it up ASAP and wash out the affected Armacord where the fuel made contact with it.
Some warm soapy water to neutralize the petrol followed by a good rinse of clean water and a dry off will help a lot. - Otherwise the gasoline will quickly dry out and bleach the material, making it eventually go brittle and start to shrink and crack.
Some other commonly affected spots are the inner lid of the battery compartment on 2 seater cars.. often this piece of Hardura is found stained by electrolyte and/or gasses emanating from the batteries. A routine scrub down with a wet cloth followed by a dry wipe off will help to stay on top of this area..
Leather, most often used for all the seat and armrest faces, should be treated with regular care and cleaning.
Since your seats are the most used part of your interior, care must be taken to avoid damaging them. Avoid carrying sharp objects in you pockets that can mar or damage the leather when you're sitting in it.
A regular wipe down with a clean, dry, and soft cloth is most recommended and will go a long way in preserving your seats.
It is not recommended to be washing your seats with water or soaps either.
With leather, you're wanting to maintain the leathers natural oils and prevent it from getting dried out.
For this reason it is best to use some proper leather cleaner and conditioner and avoid using water/soaps or any other cleaners or detergents.
Avoid using waxes too because these tend to create a sheen on top of the leathers surface which also eventually leads to drying out.
I personally like to use Leather Honey as it does a good job at cleaning and maintaining the leathers natural finish without wax or heavy chemicals.
However it is advisable not to over do it when using Any products on your seats - once every few months is plenty.
When you do use product, it is important to try and avoid soaking the seams and sewn areas as it will prematurely break down the thread fibers and dry them out.
Depending on what cleaner/conditioners you're using, it can also build up in those crevasses and wear the threads.
It is better to gently clean sewn seams out with a soft toothbrush and/or a tiny vacuum attachment to remove any dirt or build-up which can wear on the threads.
Then apply your leather conditioner in a light circular motion making sure to rub it in evenly and not collect in the corners.
Finally, the weather equipment: most British cars used either an Everflex vinyl or a Stayfast canvass material to manufacture weather equipment like soft tops, tonneau covers and side curtains.
Everflex is treated the same way you would treat vinyl, wiping it down with a dry soft cloth on a regular basis, drying it off after rain exposure especially before folding it down or putting it away is important to avoid creating water stains, mould, mildew etc.
If you need to wash it, avoid using chemicals and cleaners, just use mild soapy water with a soft brush, followed by a rinse and towel off.
Sunfast or other similar canvass' is a trickier material to keep clean!
Once again it is most recommended that you routinely wipe it down with a soft dry cloth or brush. Dry it off before putting the top down or away.
Avoid using household cleaners and only use approved car upholstery fabric cleaners and spot removers if you need to get any stains out.
For clear plastic windows I like to use a clear plastic polish like Novus or Meguires,
These polishes actually scrub down the surface of the plastic much like a paint polish works, and will remove minor scratches in the process.
Apply a small amount to a soft cloth and rub in a circular motion. Then come back with a clean and dry soft cloth to remove the dry polish residue and buff it out shiny again.
Always take care to avoid creasing or folding the clear plastic parts when you're folding down tops, and generally keep them safe from pinching or scuffing them when you're folding them down.
Well there you have it, a few simple tips for cleaning and maintaining your cars interior.
I hope these tips will help and encourage you to put just as much effort in maintaining the interior as you do in maintaining the body paint, chrome and mechanical condition of your car.
Until next time -
Classic auto enthusiast, upholsterer, coach trimmer, and fine scale modeler.