How to tackle different stains inside your car

Oil, ink, food, and everything else
by Manskee Nascimento | Jul 21, 2017

They're unsightly, grossly irritating and don't belong anywhere inside your cabin. I'm talking about stains. It's like a Victoria's Secret show and the gorgeous gals start strutting their stuff on the catwalk, when all of a sudden Barney shows up in lingerie. Eww! That's how stains make me feel and I'm sure you'd agree!

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Well, it's time to knock out Barney, err, stains from your car's interior. Let me show you how:

1) Oil/Grease. Oil can be a tough one but don't fret. It's still removable.

*On upholstery, simply clean the area first with a vacuum and a horsehair brush to loosen dirt on and around the stain. If you have a steam cleaner, apply hot steam directly onto the stain. This will help loosen it up. 

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Get some baking soda, dab a generous amount on the affected area, and leave for 10-12 minutes. This will help lift the oil or grease from the fabric. Vacuum the baking soda from the area and repeat if necessary.

Once you've almost completely removed the stain, finish off with a dry cleaning solution (commonly found in automotive sections in stores) by spraying it onto the stain and the area surrounding it. Use a clean terry towel to wipe it off gently dabbing pressure onto the spot. Allow to dry with the windows open.

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*For carpeting and fabric mats, you can use one part quality dishwashing soap diluted with five parts warm water in a spray bottle as a degreaser to help lift the stain out if the above-mentioned approach didn't work completely.

2) Ink. The approach for removing such a stain is easier than you think. All you need is a gentle yet powerful enough solvent such as 70% isopropyl alcohol to release the ink from fabric.

*For upholstery, grab a cotton pad and heavily soak it with isopropyl alcohol. Dab the pad on the inked spot with moderate pressure allowing the alcohol to penetrate the depth of the stain. The alcohol should have an immediate effect on the stain (making the ink liquid again). With a dry cotton pad, start absorbing all the ink. Alternate these steps repeatedly until favorable results are met. Finish with a dry cleaning solution and clean terry towel, followed by air drying.

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For your delicate ceiling liner, you can employ this approach but with an extreme degree of care. To prevent future stains, apply fabric protectant when the surface is clean and dry.

*For leather and plastics, you can still use 70% isopropyl alcohol. When it comes to plastic, I wouldn't worry too much as long as you apply protectant afterward to prevent it from having lightened spots. 

Regarding leather or pleather, you have to be more conservative and go with a leather cleaner (not conditioner) from a reputable brand and a soft terry towel. If the ink has ingrained itself into the material, you can carefully use isopropyl alcohol but be very precise using a cotton bud. Make sure to test the alcohol in an inconspicuous area first to see if the leather/pleather adversely reacts to it. Always finish the job with a quality leather conditioner. 

3) Food stains. If you and your family frequent fast food drive-thrus and eat inside your vehicle, there's always a possibility of getting coffee, ketchup, soda, soy sauce, or chocolate stains on your upholstery. These types of stains are the most hideous and stubborn ones (especially when not treated immediately) in my experience. 

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There are a few hacks for these:

*You can start by wetting the stain with cold water, sponge ammonia directly on it, then dab with a dry, absorbent terry towel. Allow to dry and check if you need to repeat the process. Never wipe. Just dab in order for the stain not to spread further. 

*Use dry cleaning solution or stain-removal products with Oxy found in automotive retail stores. Keep the treatment localized and always do a spot check before tackling the stain full on.

*Mix one tablespoon of your trusty dishwashing liquid to two cups of cool water in a spray bottle and shake well. Squirt some of that solution onto a clean terry towel and dab away. Always wait for area to dry and repeat if necessary. As I've said before, evenly coat your upholstery with fabric protector to shield it from future incidents.

Note: Act with urgency every time a food spill occurs in your vehicle. I highly recommend carrying a detailer kit in your trunk for such situations.

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4) Stains from your body. I find these stains easiest to deal with: sweat, body oil, lotion, sunscreen, make-up. 

*Dry cleaning solutions have always worked for me in tackling this issue.

*In the case of leather/pleather/plastic, a leather cleaner in a slightly diluted form should clean these areas in a snap.

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PHOTO: Manskee Nascimento
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