An untidy car can make for a stressful commute, and the dirtiest part of your car is usually the floormats. The good news is that they aren’t hard to clean.
You might think of floormats as a grimy appendage to your car that you wish you didn’t have to deal with. But they’re important. Not only do they help protect the actual carpet covering your car’s floor, but the fact that they’re removable makes cleaning them much easier and, hopefully, leaves you only having to do a light vacuum inside the car.
Floormats come in two basic styles: fabric that looks much like a tough carpet and hard mats made from vinyl or rubber. How you clean them differs a bit, but we’ll go over it all.
General Cleaning Tips
When it comes to pulling out those floormats and giving them a good cleaning, some things work better than others. Of course, the first step you need to take is to pull the floormats out of the car. Don’t put them on the ground if it’s dirty, though; pick a clean spot on your driveway, in your garage, or even find a way to hang them.
Having the right tools for the job is also important. You will need:
- A hand vacuum or a floor vacuum with a hand attachment
- A scrub brush
- Some cleaning spray or a bucket with soap and water
- Carpet cleaner, if you have carpeted mats that are stained or particularly grimy
It’s important to note that some vehicles have built-in floormats. For these, you’ll want to vacuum to them and then carefully clean them with a damp cloth. You can also use a carpet cleaning machine, so long as it’s one that’s pretty good at sucking up extra water. The last thing you want is standing water left in your vehicle to cause mold.
If your mats aren’t particularly dirty, you can probably get by with just a hand vacuum. For dirtier mats (or if you cart pets around and have to deal with hair), you’ll need something a little stronger.
You can use your standup vacuum or even the hand attachment on your vacuum if it has good rollers for pickup. Go ahead and vacuum both sides of the mat.
If your car has vinyl floormats, which are ideal for easy cleaning, you’ll be able to skip the vacuuming part. Vacuum both sides of the floormats.
There are many tricks out there for washing floormats.
- Spray down vinyl mats with your garden hose, scrub them with some soapy water and a stiff brush, and then rinse them off again. You can use dish soap or laundry detergent mixed in the water. We’ve seen people us pressure washers for this, but we don’t recommend it. It’s too easy to damage the mats that way.
- Wash carpeted mats in your washing machine. They’re bulky, and you won’t want to put anything else in the wash with them, but it does work.
- You can also wash carpet-style mats with a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush.
You need to make sure you’re cleaning both sides of your car’s floormats. You’re also going to want to remove stains from them if they’re really messy. What you use for stain removal can depend on the type of stain. Something that removes a soda stain might not get rid of an oil stain.
- Carpet stain remover: Since the carpeting in your car, and on your carpeted floormats, is much like the carpet in your house, you can use a stain remover made for carpets. Purchase something with Oxy cleaning power. You can even use a carpet steamer if you have one handy.
- Clothing stain remover: You can use your laundry room stain remover whether you’re washing your mats in the washing machine or by hand. Again, something like OxiClean is the best option for getting out tough stains.
After you’re done washing floormats, you’ll want to dry them before you put them back in your car.
You can towel dry vinyl mats, but your carpeted mats will need to air dry. Leave them lying in the drive, hang them on the porch, or hang them on a clothesline. Do not dry them in the dryer. Drying them in a standard dryer can damage the mats and possibly even damage your dryer.
At the Carwash
If you prefer using a carwash instead of the soap and sponge method, most facilities have things that can help you wash your floormats.
At DIY carwashes, you’ll often find hooks like the ones shown in the picture above. Clip your mats to them and hit them with the same pressure washer you use to clean your car. Most have a way to dial down the pressure you’re using (some even have a floormat setting), and we recommend using it to avoid damaging your mats.
The only problem with this method is that you don’t have a way to dry carpeted mats and you certainly can’t hang around waiting for them to air dry. We recommend taking them home and removing them there for a while to dry completely.
Some carwashes also have automatic floormat cleaners. You insert the floormat at the top of the device; it washes them, drys them, and then delivers them back to you.
These work okay for relatively thin, carpeted mats—the kind that usually comes stock with your car. You won’t want to use them for vinyl mats or thicker custom carpeted mats.
Keeping Your Car’s Floormats Cleaner
Aside from cleaning them when they’re dirty, there are other things you can do to help keep your floormats cleaner for longer.
- Don’t eat in the car.
- Use cup holders to avoid spilling drinks.
- Kick as much dirt, snow, and other debris as you can off your shoes before you get in the car.
- Keep a trash bag or can in your car for trash. Fast food bags on the floor can quickly lead to rotting food on your floormats.
- Keep some microfiber cleaning cloths handy for quickly soaking up spills before they stain.
Keeping your floormats clean will also help keep your car smelling better. When dirt, grime, and food get crammed into your car’s interior, it can add some pretty nasty aromas to your commute.