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Cleaner Car Interior

15 Tips for Cleaning Carpeting & Upholstery in your Car

by Sandy Lindsey

There's nothing worse than buying a new car, and weeks later, it looks more lived-in than a 100-year-old house. Drive-thru food and drinks, kids with sticky candy, and drooling Fido also do their fair share toward making your car's interior — be it leather, cloth, or carpet — look beaten and worn. By maintaining the appearance of the vehicle inside as well as out, you retain the value of the car, which will help you when it's time to trade it in or sell it. Here are a few helpful hints to help you tackle the spills and spots:

1. Dilute coffee spills immediately with cool water and blot with paper towels or clean rags. If a stain remains after the spot dries, spray on a glass cleaner (yes, a glass cleaner!). Soak the area, allow to sit for five minutes, and blot. Glass cleaner cleans all types of carpeting and upholstery without leaving the soapy residue of most traditional carpet cleaners, which only attract more dirt afterward. Glass cleaner isnormally effective on even the most difficult stains. Once your carpet is cleaned it's time to Scotchgard the surface to limit further staining.

2. Most greasy carpeting and upholstery stains can be removed by rubbing on paint thinner with a clean, 100-percent cotton cloth. Then cover the stain with salt until the remaining grease is absorbed, and vacuum. Or cover the spot with cornmeal and let it sit overnight and vacuum in the morning. Note: Test the effect of the paint thinner on the colorfastness of the carpeting and/or upholstery in a discrete area first.

3. Hairspray will lift out pen ink stains on carpeting or upholstery. Salt will also lift the stain out of the carpet. Allow to sit until the stain is absorbed and brush off. Repeat if necessary.

4. Carsickness stains, from children, pets or adults, should be diluted and neutralized (vomit is acidic) with club soda or a mixture of baking soda and water.

5. Blood stains on carpeting or upholstery, whether animal or human, should be immediately covered with a paste made up of dry laundry starch and cold water. (Do not use hot water, as it will set the stain.) Allow to dry, then brush or vacuum the residue away.

6. Though you should never drink and drive, if alcohol spills while on your way home from the grocery store, beer and alcohol spills on your carpeting should be immediately diluted with cold water so they don't permanently change the color.

7. To clean vinyl seats quickly, wipe them with baking soda on a damp rag. Rinse with dishwashing detergent and water. Baking soda is gentler on vinyl than oil-based cleaners, which will cause the vinyl to harden.

8. For general carpet or upholstery stains, take a gallon of hot water, a generous amount of dish detergent, and add a cup of white vinegar. You'll need a hard bristle brush to work the mixture thoroughly into the carpet fibers. Let sit for 30 minutes. Blot until dry with towels or thick absorbent rags. (This also works well for pet stains).

9. To brighten a fading carpet, first vacuum, then use a sponge mop to lightly apply a mixture of a half cup clear ammonia to one pint of water. Test this mixture on a discrete area of carpeting of first. Note: Do not use ammonia on wool carpeting.

10. If carpeting begins to smell, sprinkle on 20-Mule Team Borax generously, then let it sit undisturbed for an hour before vacuuming up both dirt and unpleasant smells. If your dog goes off-road with you, you might be interested to learn that a second application of Borax will kill fleas and their eggs.

11. Carpet edges starting to fray? Paint carpet seams and edges with a liquid resin, found in craft and fabric stores, to hold the fibers in place.

12. Before your vehicle carpets begin to show excessive wear and tear, vacuum them just as you would at home. This will lift the fibers back upright and counteract the long-term ill effects of the dirt that's been pounded into it. If the situation is really bad, you might consider renting a steam cleaning-machine available at most supermarkets. If you do, be sure to bring up all the water when you're done, as stepping on a wet carpet only will damage the fibers further.

13. Spraying a mixture of five parts water and one part liquid fabric softener onto your carpets will lessen carpet static and remove the light shock that occurs when you touch metal objects.

14. If objects stored in the back of your sport/utility vehicle have left indentations in the carpeting, place a damp towel over the spot and press lightly with an iron on a low setting. The indentation will rise as the towel dries. Be careful not to leave the iron on the spot for too long as synthetic fibers can melt.

15. To keep car mats looking brand new, wax them with a liquid shoe wax polish. This will also make them much easier to rinse clean.

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