How To Clean A Car Headliner, the Best Cleaning Tips

If you smoke in your car or you frequently travel with a pet, then you may want to learn how to clean a car headliner properly. The headliner is one of the most overlooked areas when cleaning a car. Usually, the only time the headliner is noticed is when spots, spills, and odor have already accumulated in the area. By then, cleaning a car headliner with an upholstery cleaner may already be too late.

Making an effort to clean your car ceiling can make a huge difference when it comes to the smell and the overall feel of your vehicle. And if you’re new to cleaning your headliner, let us help you with some of the best cleaning tips.  

What you need to clean your car’s headliner

Be sure to have the following items ready when cleaning the headliner:

  • Car interior shampoo or cleaning product
  • Clean water
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Small soft brush
  • Steam cleaning machine
  • Fans

Instructions, How to Clean a Car Headliner

Whether you want to remove water stains from a headliner or you want to know how to get stains out of headliner, cleaning and maintaining this interior part of your car may be classified into two: spot cleaning and deep cleaning.

Spot cleaning vs deep cleaning

Spot cleaning is removing dirt, stain, or a spill using very minimal methods enough to lift the dirt without affecting the headliner or further damaging the headliner. Meanwhile, deep cleaning is done to remove deep-seated dirt, grime, and stains using more aggressive methods. Deep cleaning can also remove icky smells and oils but may result in affecting the adhesive or glue that binds the materials of the headliner.

You need to be very careful in deep cleaning the headliner as this can result in sagging. The instructions we have are all about cleaning a fabric headliner, a very common. If your headliner is made from leather or vinyl, there are separate products to clean them. These products are available from a car detailing shop or garage.

Spot cleaning steps

1. Gently “sweep” the headliner with a soft dry brush.

To start spot cleaning, use an old soft toothbrush to gently sweep the area that needs cleaning. This will remove any dirt and dust on the surface before you proceed with cleaning. Use gently, soft strokes.

2. Use paper towels to lift oils and grime

If the area is wet or covered with oil and grease, use a piece of paper towel and cover the area for a few seconds. This will help absorb the oil and grease, so it’s easier to remove the remaining dirt. Don’t press too hard as this will only make the oil to move deeper into the material.

3. Use a car interior cleaning product

A cleaning product specially made for the car interior will help remove dirt without damaging the headliner material. You may clean a car headliner using foaming cleaner products. Use these according to product instructions. Use only one cleaning product at a time and always follow directions on how to apply this to your headliner.

4. Lightly scrub the area

Apply only a small amount of product on a microfiber cloth. Apply it to the area using light pressure. For light dirt and stains, apply to start from the middle of the stain moving outwards. Wipe the area with paper towels and assess the area if you need to reapply the product.

5. Let the area dry

When you’re satisfied with the results, dry the area using a fan. If you’re not going to use your car for a while, park it inside your garage with the windows down to naturally dry your headliner.

Deep cleaning

Deep cleaning

1. Sweep the headliner with a soft brush

Deep cleaning also starts with lightly sweeping the area to clean with a soft brush. If you want to deep clean the headliner, sweep the entire ceiling. You may also use a vacuum to completely remove all deep-seated dirt on the headliner.

2. Use a steam cleaning machine

A steam cleaning machine uses hot steam to lift dirt and dissolve it. But be very careful since applying too much steam on an area will lift the adhesive or glue that binds the headliner material to the roof of your car. So use it sparingly.

Steam clean the area using a tool that concentrates the steam on the dirt. This removes the dirt or stains quickly and deeply. Give one area at least two minutes of steam and be sure to work efficiently.

3. Let the area dry

Let the headliner dry out. Use fans to remove dampness. Keep your car in the garage with open windows to dry out the interiors quickly.

Using natural products

• Using baking soda to clean your headliner

Baking soda is an effective natural cleaner and deodorizer. It is effective in removing bad odors from a car headliner. Mix one part with water and make a paste. Apply this on the stain or dirt and let it remain for about 30 minutes. Use a paper towel to remove the paste. Reapply if needed. You may also use plain baking soda on car seat dirt and grime. Just sprinkle some on the seat and remove it after 30 minutes.

You may also want to know, can you manually move an electric car seat.

• Dish soap and water to clean the headliner

Use plain dish soap and water; place the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray this on the stain and lightly scrub with a soft toothbrush. This works well in removing oil and grease.

Other interested Articles:

How to Clean Black Cloth Car Seats


Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about cleaning a headliner

Can you use lemon or vinegar to clean a headliner?

No, these products are highly acidic and can change the color of your headliner.

How much is professional car interior cleaning?

Car headliners are a part of professional car interior cleaning and the rates vary depending on where you are located, the type of car or vehicle you have and other factors

How to clean leather headliners? What do professionals clean car upholstery with?

A good leather cleaner is best for cleaning leather headliners. Ask your car dealership for recommendations to preserve the quality of your leather headliner.

Final Words

Now that you know how to clean a car headliner, you may now maintain your car at home like a pro. Maintaining your car headliner will not just remove dirt, grime, and bad odors but will also extend the life and the value of your vehicle. 

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