How To Clean a Car’s Headliner (With Pictures)

Have you noticed that your headliner is super dirty and needs cleaning? Driving with open windows adds dirt to the headliner. This is why usually the driver’s side is dirtier than the other. Smoking in the vehicle also contributes to a dirty headliner.

But then again, you probably have heard that cleaning a headliner can make it soggy. You are correct. Cleaning your car’s headliner improperly can cause it to sog.

In this article, I am going to walk you through a complete step-by-step guide on how to clean a car’s headliner the right way. This task will be super cheap. it doesn’t require any tools, and will take you around 30 minutes.

Key Takeaway

How To Clean a Car’s Headliner

  • Spray a headline cleaner on the dirty spots and let it soak.
  • Mix interior cleaner soap with lukewarm water and add it to a spray bottle.
  • Soak in a sponge and squeeze about 2/3 of the liquid.
  • Scrub the headliner.
  • Wipe the area with a clean microfiber towel.
  • Repeat until you get the desired results.

What is a Car Headliner?

How To Clean a Car's Headliner (With Pictures)

It sounds like it has something to do with the head, doesn’t it? It’s actually not so obvious! The car headlinerOpens in a new tab.

If you ever enter a vintage car, you might notice that the floor and doors are made out of metal or wood, but the inside ceiling is usually covered by fabric or leather. That material covering up there is often referred to as “headliner”.

Even though I’m sure most modern cars have their roofs covered in this way too, they’re also using textiles for other parts of the interior. Nowadays you can buy all kinds of materials for your headliner: from inexpensive vinyl to Faux-Fur or even carbon fiber imitation!

There are also companies that offer headliners made out of organic materials like cotton or hemp, but they can be more expensive. Most vehicles that I have seen have a headliner made out of fabric.

The headliner is pretty easy to maintain. Every once in a while you can clean it with a wet towel that will absorb the dirt. If you have a stain, then you will require a headliner cleaner.

How To Clean a Car’s Headliner

How To Clean a Car's Headliner (With Pictures)

Cleaning a car’s headliner is an easy task. However, since the headliner is attached to the roof with glue, you have to be very careful. Adding too much water or using the wrong headliner cleaner can cause the headliner to sog.

I have cleared my afternoon schedule in order to provide you with a simple yet detailed step-by-step guide on how to clean a car’s headliner:

1. Required materials

How To Clean a Car's Headliner (With Pictures)

To effectively clean your car’s headliner, you will be needing the following materials:

2. Safety first

How To Clean a Car's Headliner (With Pictures)

Before you start cleaning your car’s headliner, it is important to put on some gloves and safety goggles. The truth is that you will be working with chemicals and you will be cleaning the headliner which is above your head. A lot of the cleaning products will end up on your hands and head.

Not sure how your skin reacts to cleaning products, so it’s best if you wear long sleeves and wear gloves, and safety goggles.

Pro Tip: When you are cleaning the interior of your vehicle, always start with the headliner first. This is because when you clean the headliner, there would be a lot of water dripping down into the vehicle.

3. Clean the stains first

How To Clean a Car's Headliner (With Pictures)

When you start cleaning your car’s headliner, it is important that you first clean the small stains and marks. To be honest, some of these stains and marks are very stubborn. You won’t be able to get them off simply by soap and water.

This is why you need a headline cleaner that actually works. I have been using this headliner cleaner a couple of times and I am very satisfied with how it removes stains.

Simply spray the headliner cleaner on a clean towel or directly on the stains and marks. Then, grab a clean towel and wipe the dirty spots. Make sure that you turn the towel on to a clean side after each wiping. Repeat this process until the stains or marks are completely gone.

4. Prepare the warm water and soap mixture and soak the sponge

How To Clean a Car's Headliner (With Pictures)

Add some warm water to a bucket. The water shouldn’t be boiling, just warm. Then, add the interior soap cleaner into the water and mix it well. I usually use this interior soap cleaner and you can get it from

If you have an interior cleaner that doesn’t have to be diluted in water, don’t worry. Just get a bucket with warm water and don’t add anything to it.

Soak the large sponge into the warm water and soap mixture. Then, wring it out about 3/4 of the way. Make sure that you don’t leave too much water on the sponge because it will cause the headliner to soak.

5. Clean the headliner with the sponge

How To Clean a Car's Headliner

Use the sponge to clean the headliner by loosening the dirt in about 15-inch by 15-inch sections a time. Overlap the sections so you don’t end up with water spots. If you feel like the headliner is still dirty, you can go ahead and repeat this process until you get the wanted results.

If you got an interior cleaner that doesn’t require to be diluted in the warm water, just soak the sponge into the warm water and then spray the cleaner onto the sponge and scrub the headliner.

6. Wipe the headliner with a clean towel

How To Clean a Car's Headliner

After you scrub 15 by 15-inch sections of the headliner, you need to wipe it with a clean towel. You will probably need more than one clean towel to clean the headliner. This is because I always like to turn the towel to a clean side once I wipe the headliner once.

Plus, it is important that you collect the excess water with a dry and clean towel so it doesn’t stay on the headliner and cause it to sog over time.

7. Clean the visors

How To Clean a Car's Headliner

The visors are commonly overlooked when it comes to cleaning. The visor is used to block the sun so we can drive without having to wear shades. So, make sure to give some love to this important part of the car interior.

Use the same interior cleaner, sponge, and towel to spray, scrub, and wipe the visors. Repeat the procedure until the visors are completely clean.

Best Headliner Cleaner

Best Headliner Cleaner

The headliner cleaner made by chemical guys is probably one of the best upholstery cleaners that I have ever used. It is used for cleaning fabric headliners. The reason why I really like this headliner cleaner is this:

  • Removes Set-in Dirt, Odors, and Deep Stains – With foaming bubbles that penetrate deep into fibers, this headliner cleaner may be used to dissolve and remove set-in dirt, odors, and stains from automobiles carpets, fabrics, and upholsteries for professional detailing results.
  • The hydrogen peroxide and other oxygen-based cleaners lift and remove dirt particles and stains from deep within fabrics for fast, thorough cleaning with the Fabric Clean’s foaming action. With a microfiber towel or a hot water extractor, float particles straight to the surface for simple cleanup.
  • THE POWER OF YOUR DRILL IS AVAILABLE TO YOU – The Carpet Brush Drill Attachment works hard so you don’t have to. Why not put your drill to use? Instead of scrubbing back and forth for hours, attach the Spinner to your drill and get deep-cleaning results right away.
  • DIRT, GREASE, AND MORE – The Carpet Brush Drill Attachment’s nylon bristles work in tandem with the strength of your drill to clean deep inside pores and remove tenacious stains and dirt. With the simple to use and inexpensive Spinner Multi-Surface Brush, you’ll save time and money.
  • Spray down surfaces with maximum coverage with the Secondary Container Dilution Bottle, which accurately dilutes your concentrated chemicals to produce custom solutions for all of your specific cleaning demands and expertly spray down areas.

Igor Iwanowski

I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018. I specialize in Brake systems, dashboard warning lights, EGRs, general engine problems, EVAP and Emissions issues.

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