How to Clean the Interior Roof of a Car? – 3 Most Effective Methods

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to clean the interior roof of a car

The car ceiling, also known as the headliner, is usually the most ignored part of the car interior. But eventually, you may notice it get dirty and retain an unpleasant smell. So cleaning it is just as important as cleaning the other parts of the car interior.

Depending on how dirty it is, it may either require some minor scrubbing on stained surfaces, some scrubbing and steam cleaning on tough stains or cleaning the entire ceiling by scrubbing it and using a wet vacuum. Read further for more details on how to clean the interior roof of a car.

Step by Step Instructions to Get Stains Out of Car Ceiling


There are three methods for cleaning a car ceiling. Which method you will use will depend on the ceiling’s cleaning needs. The three methods are spot cleaning, tough stains, and deep cleaning, all described below.

Method 1: Spot Cleaning

This is the appropriate method for cleaning only a small area that has stains and/or dirt.

What You Need:

  • Microfiber Towel: You need these absorbent towels to clean and dry the ceiling.
  • Soft-Bristled Brush: A soft-bristled brush is abrasive enough but gentle for cleaning, which makes it good and safe for scrubbing the car ceiling clean.
  • Upholstery Cleaner or Homemade Cleaner: To ensure safety for car interior cleaning, use only a cleaner available at any automotive store or other trusted stores.
  • But you can also create a homemade cleaner with white vinegar, liquid soap, and warm water, which you would mix in a spray bottle. You can see how to create it on step two.
  • Latex or Nitrile Gloves: You can wear either for protecting your hands as you use the cleaner, which can cause irritation.

Step 1: Clean off Surface Dirt and Dust From the Car Ceiling With a Microfiber Towel

Gently wipe over the dirty area with a microfiber towel, or you can also use a soft-bristled brush. You must not exert too much force on the ceiling or bang it, as it is a delicate part of the car interior. Also, do not rub the dirt and dust deeper.

If the area is no longer dirty, you’re done with the cleaning. But if not, you’d still have to proceed to the following steps. You may also gently wipe or scrub all over the ceiling to ensure that all dirt and dust would be rid of.

Step 2: Scrub the Surface Using a Soft-Bristled Brush With Cleaner

You can clean either with a commercial upholstery cleaner or a homemade cleaner.

If you choose to use a homemade cleaner, you can create one by thoroughly mixing it in a spray bottle. Make it with a quarter cup or 59 ml of white vinegar, a half tablespoon or 7.4 ml of liquid soap, and a cup or 240 ml of warm water.

Wear latex or nitrile gloves to prevent your skin from being irritated when you clean.

When you clean the ceiling of a car, you must not spray the cleaner directly at it, as that can make it too wet, which could cause mildew.

Instead, spray the cleaner onto a soft-bristled brush or microfiber towel to prevent mildew growth and to be able to control cleaner application better.

Then with the soft-bristled brush or microfiber cloth, gently work the cleaner onto the stains in circular motions to make a lather.

Don’t use too much pressure and cleaner to prevent the glue and foam beneath from getting wet and avoid damaging the ceiling.

Step 3: Wipe the Surface With a Microfiber Towel

Lastly, you’re going to dry the area using a microfiber towel. Firmly hold the towel against the surface to let it absorb the moisture. Then rub it in small, circular motions.

This would help lift the stains off. If you still notice some stains after wiping, repeat step two.

Method 2: Cleaning Off Tough Stains

This method would be used when you’re going to deal with tough stains like accidental food stains and other hard-to-remove stains.

What You Need:

  • Stiff-Bristled Brush: A stiff-bristled brush would be suitable for cleaning tough stains.
  • Upholstery Cleaner: You would be using an upholstery cleaner for the initial stain cleaning before using the steam cleaner. It may not clean the surface, but it helps to lessen the stains.
  • Steam Cleaner: A steam cleaner works effectively in removing stains and dirt by creating pressurized vapor that would penetrate the stains and loosen the dirt. It usually comes with a narrow nozzle attachment and brush attachment.
  • You may either rent or buy one. You may also go with the option of buying the relatively smaller spot steam cleaner.
  • Nitrile Gloves
  • Microfiber Towel

Step 1: Agitate Stains Using a Stiff-Bristled Brush With Upholstery Cleaner

For precaution, put on some nitrile gloves before cleaning to prevent your hands from being irritated.

When you’re all set, spray some of your stain remover for car ceiling on the stiff-bristled brush but not the ceiling to avoid loosening the adhesive on the fabric. Then lather and loosen the stains using the brush with a cleaner in small circular motions.

After lathering and loosening the stains, wipe the area you worked on. Remove as much of the stains as possible along with the cleaner you wipe away.

Step 2: Steam Clean the Stained Surfaces

When you steam clean the car ceiling, you can use either the narrow nozzle attachment or brush attachment that comes along with the steam cleaner.

Hold the attachment about 2 inches away from the stain and shoot the steam at the stains.

Try not to oversaturate the surface, as the adhesive of the fabric underneath might get damaged.

Step 3: Dry the Area With a Microfiber Cloth

After steam cleaning the stained area, blot it dry using a microfiber towel. If you still see stains on the surface, apply more steam to the stain and rub it with the microfiber towel in small circular motions.

Method 3: Deep Cleaning

This method is best used when the car ceiling has stubborn and large dirt marks, including accumulated stains from smoke and nicotine.

What You Need:

  • Large Stiff-Bristled Brush
  • Upholstery Cleaner or All-Purpose Cleaner: Either would work perfectly for the task.
  • Latex Gloves
  • Wet Vacuum or Spot Cleaner: The process would involve sucking out moisture from the car ceiling. Either of these two could be used.

Step 1: Scrub the Car Ceiling Using a Stiff-Bristled Brush With Cleaner

For a deep clean inside roof of car, you must do it in a well-ventilated place and wear latex gloves.

Spray your cleaning solution of choice on the large stiff-bristled brush. Reminder again, to not spray your cleaning solution on the car ceiling, as it can destroy the adhesive on the fabric.

After applying the solution on the brush, scrub the ceiling using gentle pressure and long strokes going back and forth, creating a lather.

When no more lather is being formed, apply more of the solution on the brush. More prominent stains would require the application of more solution and scrub in small circular motions.

Step 2: Suck Out the Moisture and Dirt Using a Wet Vacuum or Spot Cleaner

When using the wet vacuum or spot cleaner, also use its brush attachment.

Work from the front of the ceiling going toward the back, moving the attachment in 24-inch strokes going across the ceiling to suck up all the moisture and dirt efficiently.

Step 3: Let the Car Ceiling Dry for 24 Hours

After the wet vac or spot cleaner has sucked out most of the moisture from your car ceiling, you’re going to have to let the remaining moisture air dry within 24 hours.

If you got your car parked in a safe, secure area like in your garage, you could leave open the car windows to air out the ceiling.

Step 4: Redo the Cleaning if There Are Still Visible Stains

When the car ceiling has finally dried completely, see if there are still stains on it. If you notice some, you can do a spot treatment. But heavier cleaning should be done if spot treating didn’t get rid of the stains.

However, there are just some stains that can’t be cleaned off completely. The best you can do to such stains is lighten them as much as possible.


For a spotless car interior, you shouldn’t only clean the surrounding interior but also the interior roof above you. When you find that it needs some cleaning, follow the steps for the appropriate cleaning method listed in this tutorial on how to clean the interior roof of a car.

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