The Best Way To Clean Your Car Floor Mats

Yes, all car owners know that washing and waxing their car regularly is car maintenance 101, but admit it, many of us pay more attention to how clean and glossy our car looks on the outside than whether it is clean and properly maintained inside. And one of the most problematic interior items is the floor mats, which very quickly gather dust, mud, moisture and start to develop unpleasant odors. But worry not, as learning how to clean your car floor mats properly is as easy as one two three with our step-by-step guide.

How To Shampoo and Clean Car Floor Mats

General Steps For All Mat Types

The majority of car floor mats these days are made from rubber or cloth. Before you start to deep clean or shampoo your car floor mats with cleaning solutions, follow these basic, general steps for all types of floor mats:

1. Remove mats from the car: Most car floor mats these days are removable for easy maintenance. No matter what material car floor mats are made from, take them outside to proceed with cleaning. Unless yours belongs to a few that are built into the car, then you’ll need to clean them inside your car, all the while being careful not to create a wet mess and ruin our interior. 

2. Remove hardened buildups: If your floor mats have developed some caked up mud or hardened residue, it’s best to use a scraper to remove these trouble spots first before vacuuming.

3. Pre-deep clean vacuum: Again, regardless of the material of your car floor mats, use a vacuum (handheld vacuums are most convenient in this case) on both sides of the mat to suck up all the dust and large particles from the mats, given that your mats are dry. In case they are damp, it’d be difficult to vacuum. What you can do is hand them out to dry, or sprinkle some baking soda with a light hand on the mat to absorb moisture; this would get rid of unpleasant odor as well. Let the baking soda sit for about 20 minutes, then you’re good to vacuum away.

4. Shake off remaining particles: Lastly, just to make sure you get rid of any remaining deeply embedded dust or large contaminants, hit the mats against the wall or any hard surface. 

For Rubber Car Floor Mats

Now it’s time to deep-clean your floor mats with water and some cleaning solutions. Rubber floor mats are much easier to clean than cloth floor mats. After the pre-deep clean steps above, your job is now easy:

1. Wash with a hose: First, use a pressure garden hose on the dirty side of the mats to briefly remove any loose buildups like dried mud or food remnants. If you don’t have a hose at home, you can have your floor mats pressure washed when you go for a car wash. Or else, you’d do okay with a bucket of warm water, you’ll just get your hands more dirty.  

how to clean car floor mats
Rubber car floor mats are easy to clean, and best done with a pressure hose. Photo credit: INFINITI of Clarendon Hills

2. Apply soap: Now mix some regular soap or dish washing liquid with warm water, add some baking soda if needed for that extra cleaning and deodorizing power, then apply the solution onto the mats with a brush. The fizz from the baking soda also helps lift out hard caked up particles. Then just give the mats a thorough wash with your garden hose. If you don’t have baking soda, you can mix soap with water and use a spray bottle to distribute the solution.

3. Dry the mats: Again, let the mats dry thoroughly before putting them back into the car. Shake them against a hard surface to lose some water, then use a clean cloth to absorb as much moisture as possible. If you’re washing your mats at an auto shop or car wash station, you might not have the time for your mats to dry completely before driving off. Alternatively, you can put the mats back in, switch on the air conditioner on full heat, set the location switch to feet warming and flip the fan switch to full power to blast warm, dry air onto your mats to dry them quickly.


For Cloth Car Floor Mats

For cloth mats, there are many options, depending what you have on hand and how deep you need the deep cleaning to be:

1. Deep clean using:

  • The washing machine: The easiest option is to put your car floor mats in your home’s washing machine using regular washing detergent. Most car floor mats are dark in colour, but in the rare case that yours have some noticeable stain, apply some spray stain remover on the problem spots first before throwing your mats in the washing machine.
  • A power washer: If you’re taking your car to a car wash, you can take advantage of the power washer there to deep clean your car floor mats.
  • A steam cleaning vacuum: You might have on hand a hand-held steam cleaning vacuum, the ones that many people use to conveniently steam clean home carpets, curtains that are too big to put in the washing machine as well as cleaning the interior upholstery in one’s car. 

OR manually: 

  • Carpet cleaners: For the purists who prefer to use a specified professional cleaning product for different cleaning jobs, look for spray-type carpet cleaners suitable for cloth mats. You can also use a car upholstery cleaner if you already have one. Spray the carpet or upholstery cleaner on the mats and leave on for 30 minutes. By then, the solution will have penetrated the mat. Now use a hand brush to work the cleaner thoroughly into the mat and brush off remaining debris as you go.
  • Shampoo: It’s perfectly fine if you don’t have a special carpet or upholstery cleaner. You can use shampoo instead, and also use a stiff brush or a deck scrubber brush to work the diluted shampoo into the mat. Scrub in one direction and remove any remaining contaminants, then use a clean cloth to wash off the soap with clean water. If needed, use a clean, absorbent cloth to absorb some of the moisture.
  • Baking soda: There are also chemical-free, safe cleaning solutions that you might have in your kitchen: baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda not only removes stains but also neutralizes unpleasant odor from pets, dirt and dampness. Alternatively, you can wet a stiff scrub brush with some water, dab it into the baking soda and work it into your mats to give it a more thorough clean.
  • Vinegar: White vinegar is a superb homemade solution for removing white stains caused by road salt. Mix a spray bottle of equal parts of hot water and white vinegar, spray onto the mats and scrub with a stiff brush. 
  • Salt and peanut butter: This might sound strange, but applying some salt and peanut butter on chewing gum on the mats, then using a stiff brush is the best way to remove chewing gum remnants without making it worse.

2. Vacuum dry

Once you are done with deep cleaning your car floor mats, vacuum them again whether they’re dry or damp to remove any remaining particles and get rid of some of the moisture. If your mats are damp, you’ll need something extra strong to suck up water. It’s best to use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner with hose attachments for their sucking power.

3. Air dry or use a dryer

Before placing your mats back in the car, remember that they need to be absolutely dried, either air dried or in a dryer, since damp mats will give off that unpleasant musky smell. If you dry cloth floor mats in the dryer, you might want to use a razor to remove any excess fur balls afterwards. In case you hang the mats out to air dry, feel free to spray on some clean fresh scent like tea tree oil before hanging them out in the sun.