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Cleaning Upholstery

Closeup dolly shot of mid 30’s man cleaning upholstery of his car while sitting in driver’s seat. He’s using purple colored cloth for fine cleaning of the interior.

You’ve spent years finding the right products and best carpet cleaning solutions to get each type of stain out of your customers’ carpets, but every once in a while, you find a new type of stain that you weren’t prepared for.

Carpet stains can be tough, especially in automobiles. It’s amazing what people attempt to do while driving that inevitably leads to spills and stains.

It’s mistakes like those that keep us in business. If you own a full-service carwash, you want to be prepared for these requests and be able to respond appropriately. If you can’t mitigate the stains in a customer’s automobile, they’re less likely to become a repeat customer.

We have all bought expensive spot cleaners that claim to be all-purpose stain removers but never delivered.

You can read about DIY carpet cleaning solutions all over the web, but when I have had to remove stains on upholstery within cars or otherwise, I have two go-to solutions that have never failed me.

Simple solutions

The first is a 1:1:1 mixture of liquid dish soap, club soda and vinegar. I mix one cup of each in a spray bottle. Generic brand club soda and vinegar work just fine, and I prefer using tropical scented liquid dish soap because it helps to negate the vinegar smell afterwards.

Spray the mixture liberally over the stained areas, and allow it to sit for five to10 minutes. Scrub the affected area vigorously, and watch the stains lift and disappear. Because it takes some time for the area to dry, I prefer to apply a steam vacuum to the area at this time. This method has worked on milk stains, coffee stains and old grease stains.

Another homemade miracle carpet cleaning solution that I keep handy for emergencies is a 1:2 mixture of liquid dish soap (regular or otherwise) and hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. I make sure to keep these two solutions clearly labeled so they don’t get mixed up, but I find that they complement each other, if anything. This mixture works wonders on upholstery that is cloth, vinyl or microfiber. Just like the first solution, spray liberally, wait, scrub and steam vacuum. Not that you should be encountering these while detailing a car, but I’ve found this solution virtually eliminates red wine stains from carpets on the first application.

Steam cleaning versus carpet shampooing

Even though a car’s flooring is doomed to get dirty again (it’s what keeps us in business), it’s important to make sure that we’re adding enough value to our customers to keep them coming back. This is why, after initially vacuuming the carpets to pick up the pieces not embedded in the carpet and addressing any stains with the above miracle cleaners, you should double down with a steam cleaner or carpet shampooer. Despite steam cleaning being regarded by some as the “gold standard,” the fact is that it can do permanent damage to some carpet fibers and therefore, should be disregarded as an investment for professional automotive cleaners.

Carpet shampooing, on the other hand, uses water instead of steam and is much better for the life of the carpets. These use hot water mixed with a cleaning agent that is forced into the carpet, followed by a strong vacuuming that pulls the solution and the dirt with it out of the carpet. This process is sometimes called heat extraction. For a quicker turnaround, invest in a cleaning solution with drying agents that speed up the evaporation process, minimizing the potential for mold and mildew to develop in the carpets.

Taylor Presley
Carwash.com