How to Clean Car Carpet Without a Machine

Photo from Turtle Wax

In this guide, we are going to teach you how to clean car carpet without a machine. Most people have their own particular routines for maintaining the outside of your vehicle, but what about its inside?

Cleaning your carpet is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy car interior. But what if you don’t have a vacuum or extractor?

Don’t worry! You can still clean your carpets with just some good old-fashioned elbow grease and cleaning solution. It might take more time, but it will also save you from all those expensive bills for electricity!

Why You Should Clean Your Car Carpet

One of the dirtiest places in the car is carpet. Not only does it get dirty easily, but it’s also a germ magnet due to its proximity to the ground and your body.

There’s no telling what kind of germs are sitting on your carpet flooring at this moment – from viruses to bacteria from pets or even human shoes and food crumbs you’ve just finished eating.

If you think about all the people that go inside of your vehicle, the germs are more than just alarming. If nothing was done to clean it up, your car can act as a disease-spreading machine!

What’s even worse is that people frequently eat in their cars, whether they’re on the way home from work or running errands. That means that people often have food spills on their carpet, and that constant contact with your shoes can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

How to Clean Car Carpet Without a Machine

Most carwash services offer different interior detailing packages. On average, steam cleaning with carpet shampoo could cost around $75.

But did you know that many car care professionals avoid steam cleaners? Because car steam cleaner may damage your car if not used properly. Along with this, they are costly and bulky to use.

So, are there any alternatives to car steam cleaning? Yes! There are safer and cheaper ways of getting rid of germs and dirt from your car carpets.

Step 1. Acquire the Necessary Cleaning Materials

To clean your car carpet, all you need is your bare hands and few small products. You can find these items at home, while others are cheap items on car supplies or your local hardware.

1. Carpet or upholstery cleaning solution – Today there are a variety of upholstery cleaners in the market. They cost $5-$20, depending on their key features. One thing that you should consider is disinfecting formula.

A closed environment such as your car’s interior can become a breeding ground of bacteria from food debris and dirt.

Tip: Also, look for a carpet cleaner with an odor-eliminating feature. The accumulated dirt and grime usually produce a mildew smell in your car.

We have a separate guide on getting rid of mildew smell. Moreover, look for products with “no water” or ready to use label, as you won’t be using a steamer or extractor.

2. Spray bottle – Depending on the cleaning solution that you purchased, some needs to be diluted first. So read the label and instructions first before you proceed.

Some carpet cleaners like Turtle Wax Power Out! already come in a spray bottle. If that’s the case, you can just use it instead of buying another.

3. Sponge – This is optional and depends on the type of cleaning solution that you’re using.

4. Brush – For carpet cleaning, any kind of brush that is not too soft will do. Look for brushes with nylon brushes that can penetrate the carpet and remove grime. Brushes with harsher bristles can are durable and perfect for any cleaning solutions.

5. Microfiber cloth – The best microfiber cloths for car interior cleaning are those made from terry cloth or flannel. These materials can absorb liquid and clean away spots on your car carpet. You can find them at any local store.

Alternatively, you can also use old towels since these are usually thicker than flannels and terry cloths you might find at home.

Turtle Wax Power Out! Carpet and Mats Cleaner and Odor Eliminator

-Power Out! Carpet and Mats Cleaner is a two-in-one cleaner that deep cleans carpets, rubber mats, and upholstery.

-With a specially formulated Odor-X odor eliminator to help remove odors caused by pets, cigarette smoke, food, and mildew, this spray leaves behind a soil repelling silicone shield of protection to stop odors from coming back.

-And with its detachable micro scrub brush that reaches deep into carpet fibers; you can clean in tight spots without worrying about scratches or residue left on your materials.

Buy on Amazon

Step 2. Prepare your car for carpet cleaning

Cleaning a removable carpet is much easier. However, most cars have upholstered carpets. Don’t worry you can still easily clean them, but make sure to dry them properly afterward.

Before you proceed here are some preparations you need to do:

Make the steering wheel and gear shift accessible for easy cleaning.

Take all the trash and unnecessary objects from the car. This includes coins, food wrappers, cigarette packs among others.

Take out the floor mats carefully, roll them and shake them out outside the car. Lay the mats on the floor or working table.

Clean the rubber mats with soap and water and water hose. Make sure to clean both sides of the mats and set them aside to dry.

Sweep the leftover dust and debris on the carpet before you start cleaning them. If you a vacuum, your carpet will be a lot easier to clean.

Step 3. Mix your carpet cleaner

Before you start, make sure you have all the necessary cleaning materials available and a mild detergent solution that you can use to mix with your carpet cleaning solution.

Step 4. Spray the cleaning solution onto the carpet.

Photo from Turtle Wax

Every cleaning solution is different. Read the instructions on the cleaning solution carefully. Dilute the carpet cleaning solution into your spray bottle if needed.

It is best to use distilled water to ensure there are no trace minerals left after cleaning. Don’t forget to use warm water.

Spray the cleaning solution onto the carpet and make sure to cover all the areas of the car floor. Be careful in applying the cleaning solution.

Just apply a small amount and start in a smaller area. Remember that this guide is about how to clean car carpet without a machine.

It means you won’t be using any steamer or extractor, thus it will take too much time to dry. You make start at the driver’s seat then go into other areas.

Step 5. Clean the carpet using a brush

Photo from Turtle Wax

After spraying the carpet with the solution, you should wait at least 2 minutes for the cleaning action to take effect.

Break down all the specks of dirt by brushing them. Make sure to brush the carpets thoroughly. You may need to agitate stained areas a bit more.

Photo from Turtle Wax

Using microfiber cloths, absorb the solution and any remaining dirt. Make sure to cover all areas of the carpet with the flannels.

Step 6. Let the carpet dry

After cleaning all areas of the carpet, open all doors and let them dry. Typically it would take up to 2 hours for the newly cleaned carpets to dry without using any machine.

However, the drying time may change depending on your climate and weather conditions. Another factor is the amount of cleaning solution that you have sprayed.

Congratulations! You have learned how to clean car carpet without a machine.

Remove Bad Smells From Your Car Carpet

As mentioned above, you should let them dry completely. If there are pets in your family and they’ve peed on your car carpet, then this could take up to 24 hours for the smell to disappear.

If there’s a lingering bad odor after leaving the car doors open for some time, try using baking soda and sprinkling it over the carpet.

Leave the baking soda for a day to let it absorb all the bad smells and moisture from your car. Then vacuum them out.

You may also use clean cloths instead of paper towels when cleaning because they are more absorbent and will help collect as much liquid as you apply on the carpet.

ANGRY ORANGE Pet Odor Eliminator and Carpet Cleaner Concentrate

If you have pets you can also try ANGRY ORANGE Pet Odor Eliminator. This product is designed specifically to remove all pet urine, vomit, feces, and other smelly debris from your car carpets.

It works effectively on any type of car interior materials such as mats and carpets without damaging them.

Prevent Tough Stains On Your Carpet

To prevent stains, you have to make sure that your carpet is always clean. You can vacuum the carpet every week to keep them fresh. You may also try a good-quality mat where most people place their feet inside the car to keep it as clean as possible.

Another thing that you have to remember is not to let water stay for a long time on your car carpet. Make sure that you remove water spills immediately as they are more prone to get a stain from the wetness.

If your car carpet gets dirty fast, then brushing it often with a brush will help prevent bad odor and stains from forming. Frequent cleaning of the car carpet also prevents odors from mildew as they are more likely to grow when you neglect cleaning your carpets for a while.

How long does it take to clean carpet without a machine?

Depending on your skills, it may take less than an hour to clean all the carpets including the trunk. Another factor is the dirtiness of the carpet. If you are a beginner, it may take up to 2 hours. Just be patient and do not rush. You will improve a lot over time if you regularly clean your car.

Reasons to Buy Car Carpet Cleaning Solutions

Enjoy a clean and fresh car. Cleaning your car is just as you would your house. It brings out a healthier environment for everyone. You and your passengers will surely enjoy the fresh air and clean surfaces of a clean car

Maintain your car. As we have mentioned at the start of this guide,  basic car maintenance doesn’t stop with checking what’s under the hood or regular change oil. Maintaining your car’s interior will increase its resale value in the future.

Clean up stains. No matter how we take care of our car, accidents happen (coffee stains, food stains, ink, pet stains) and we need to clean it up. With a good carpet or upholstery cleaner and a brush, you can clean all those stains.

Home use. You can also use car upholstery cleaner at home. 

Should You Invest in a Car Carpet Extractor?

The answer is, it depends. Carpet cleaning machines are powerful but they cost a lot of money. If you need to clean your car more than twice a year, then you should invest in one.

But if you only need to clean your car once or twice a year, then you can simply opt for carpet cleaning solutions available online and save your money.

Either way, it’s important to invest in a good carpet cleaner especially if you are consistently experiencing foul smell issues in your car. Regular clean-ups will not only keep your car fresh and looking great but also extend the life of your car seat coverings.

Should You Invest in a Vacuum Cleaner?

A vacuum machine would be a good investment to speed up the cleaning process. You can do the majority of the job using a vacuum machine and only use carpet cleaners when necessary.

However, do not use your household vacuum cleaner as it may leave scratches on your car carpet. That’s why we recommend you invest in a good portable or handheld vacuum.

Heres a Youtube tutorial from Detail Groove:


Have you ever noticed how cars smell bad when they are left for a long time? That’s because the carpet can get soaked with sweat, oil, and other liquids.

Carpet cleaner machines such as steam cleaners or extraction systems might be an expensive investment. But it is worth your while if your car has heavily soiled carpets!
If not that then just use some good cleaning solution and brush to clean them out now and then.

In this guide, you have learned how to clean car carpet without a machine. This can be frustrating work but doing it the right way will result in minimal hassle and no odor afterward!
Remember not to go overboard with liquids when cleaning out your carpets.

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