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How To Clean Your Car Headliner -3 Easy Ways

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So you’re driving down the road in what you think is your squeaky clean car when you chance to look up. And then facepalm moment– stains, dirt, grease, and grime. Ah, the horror! Don’t jump out of your seat quite yet. There’s still hope for your car headliner, aka your car’s ceiling. You don’t necessarily have to rip it all out and install a new one. You can save both time and money by thoroughly cleaning your car headliner. Here are 3 easy ways to clean your car headliner.

Why do you need to clean your car headliner?

Car headliners are made of a soft foam-like interior covered with materials such as suede, fabric, vinyl, or even leather. Over time and due to daily use, most car headliners become dirty, discolored, or stained. This is usually because of smoke, dust particles, and sometimes a leaky roof. Keeping your car ceiling in fine fettle needs some regular attention and cleaning.

What you’ll need to clean your headliner

·       Microfiber towel

A microfiber towel is car cleaning 101. If you want a clean car headliner, a microfiber towel/cloth will be involved at some point. So, if you haven’t yet invested in a decent set of microfiber cloths, do it now.

·       Boar’s hair or other soft-bristled brush

Like the microfiber cloth, all types of car headliner cleaning will need a brush. You will need it to remove loose material during spot cleaning, to scrub the entire headliner during surface cleaning, and to scrub after steam washing during the deep cleaning. So, whatever cleaning procedure you use, make sure you have a soft-bristled brush of some sort on hand.

·       Commercial or homemade fabric/upholstery cleaner spray

The type of cleaner you require depends on the type of stain on your headliner. We’re fine with using commercial upholstery cleaners for water-based stains like soda and coffee. Alternatively, you can whip up your own DIY upholstery cleaning solution with warm water, white vinegar, and liquid soap, etc. Fill up a spray bottle with the cleaner of your choice.

·       Steam cleaner

If your headliner is grimy and smelly, too, you’ll most likely need to use steam cleaning to get rid of stubborn stains and rank odors.

·       Vacuum cleaner

A vacuum cleaner is more on the lines of ‘good to have but not mandatory’ when cleaning car headliners. A vacuum cleaner is used to catch some of the dirt that gets loose during cleaning.

Clean Car Headliner

Now that you’ve got all your cleaning supplies ready, let’s get down to the actual car headliner cleaning. We’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to clean your car headliner.

Three ways to clean your car headliner

1. Spot clean your headliner

Spot cleaning is ideal for headliners with only one or two problem spots.

A. First, remove loose debris stuck on the headliner by wiping with a microfiber cloth or brushing it out with a brush. Make sure not to rub the dirt particulates into the fabric of the headliner.

B. Next, wipe the stain away with a microfiber cloth. Lightly saturate a tiny area of the cloth with your upholstery cleaning spray, or just spray the problem area lightly. Then gently wipe the stain with the moist portion of the towel. Because you’re cleaning only the problem spots, you only need to apply the car ceiling cleaner to the surface of the headliner. It’s not necessary to let the cleaning solution/liquid soak in.

C. Finally, wipe away any excess moisture with a dry microfiber cloth, allow it to dry completely, and check to see if the stain is gone.

2. Surface clean your car headliner

If the stains/dirt on your headliner is spread over a larger area, you should consider surface cleaning.

A. Spray upholstery cleaner evenly across the entire headliner, being careful not to soak it. You should give specific attention to the regions, corners, and crevices around the lights, overhead console, and sunroof that are extremely grubby.

B. Let the cleaner sit for a while to work its magic on the stains. If you’re not happy with the result, you can reapply and repeat the process.

C. With a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub the entire headliner. To ensure an even clean, make sure you work on each area of the headliner. If you don’t brush little nook and cranny, the stains may show up once it dries.

D. Let the headliner dry completely by blotting any moisture using a microfiber towel. After that, let it air dry. This could take an hour or two, depending on how wet it is.

E. If the stains persist, repeat steps one through four. Tough stains may require a second cleaning. However, if the second surface cleaning does not yield results, you will need to deep clean your car’s headliner.

3. Deep clean your car headliner

If surface cleaning does not work, you will have no option but to deep clean your headliner. The reason you don’t want to employ deep cleaning procedures right away is that if not done properly, it could damage the glue that holds your headliner in place.

A. Heat up your steam cleaner following the device’s manufacturer instructions. It’s time to work on the headliner once the steam cleaner has heated up. Check if you need to use a cleaning solution or water in the device.

B. Once the steam starts to fill your car, steam your headliner in sections. Hold the steamer over each part for a few seconds to remove odors and tough stains. Do not prolong this step. The deeper the steam penetrates, the more the glue in the headliner melts. This will almost certainly result in a sagging headlining.

C. Scrub with a soft-bristled brush or microfiber cloth, and vacuum or dust off the dirt that gets loose.

D. Let the deadliner dry completely to prevent the adhesive from failing and mold and mildew from growing. You can open the windows and doors of your car and air dry or use a couple of fans to speed up the drying process.

E. You may notice some tracks on a car’s headliner after cleaning and drying it. Running a clean hand over them will readily remove them, but only after the headliner is completely dry.

If you’re short on time or not sure if you can do this at home – just don’t. Drive over to a friendly neighborhood car wash near you and get your car deep cleaned by folks who know what they’re doing. Before we leave you and your stain-free car to get back on the road, here are answers to a few questions we thought you might have.

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How do you clean cigarette smoke from a car headliner?

Spray the smoke stain on the upholstery or carpet cleaner. Leave it awhile so that it gets time to do its work. Then gently wipe or dab the to clean the headliner from smoke stains. If you’re looking to get rid of the cigarette smoke smell, well, you’ll need to check out our blog on how to get rid of the smoke smell in your car.

How do you get water stains out of a headliner?

If you leave your sunroof cracked open by accident, or if your sunroof is not closing properly, you can have unattractive water stains. If you catch it on time, just use a dry microfiber cloth to absorb the moisture. It’s crucial to let it dry completely before attempting any stain removal. Then buy some upholstery stain remover and follow step b in the spot cleaning method mentioned above.

How do you get grease out of a car headliner?

The easy way out is to spray your headliner with a store-bought carpet and interior cleaner. Spray a wee bit of the solution on a corner of a microfiber cloth. Then gently dab till the grease goes away. Finally, dry your headliner by gently wiping it with the dry part of the microfiber cloth.

Read our blogs for information on the best airport parking and hourly parking spots near you and the most affordable insurance for your car.


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