How to Clean Your Car's Upholstery

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rsz what is hiding in your car upholstery

Oct 6, 2020

How to Clean Your Car's Upholstery

Although your car upholstery may look clean, its porous texture can be an ideal environment for germs, bacteria, fleas, and dust mites to thrive. Fortunately, there are some great tips and tricks in this article which can minimise these hidden health-hazards. Let’s take a closer look at what’s hiding in your upholstery, and what you can do about it.

Bacteria and germs

Sick passengers, pets, muddy shoes, sweaty gym clothes, sticky or unwashed hands, and dropped foods can all transfer bacteria and germs into your upholstery. Some germs can live over a month in your car! This means even though you transported a sick passenger in your car several weeks ago, you or your passengers can still pick up their bugs from touching the fibres of your car upholstery. Some common germs and bacteria found in upholstery are strains of the flu, e-coli, and streptococci.

How Do I Get Rid of Bacteria and Germs Out of My Car Upholstery?

  • Bacteria and germs thrive in a hot, moist environment. When possible, air out your car. Open your windows each time you get in for a minute or so to get some cool air circulating, which will limit the breeding and multiplying potential of nasty bugs.
  • Vacuum and deep clean your car seats regularly to limit exposure to unwanted germs. If you have children or pets that are often in the car with you this is especially important. Pets can bring in all sorts of nasties from outside which can be easily transferred to you and your family through your car upholstery. As children like to touch and play with everything that can get their hands on, and then touch your car upholstery, they can also be transmitters of germs and bacteria which can be passed on to the rest of your family.
  • Rug Doctor Machine with Hand Tool and Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner will easily deep clean your upholstery, disinfecting and killing germs in your car, and keeping you and your passengers healthier.
  • Keep a large plastic storage container in your backseat or boot to store wet or muddy clothes to limit their exposure to your car seats. Keep a lid on the container so the moisture doesn’t evaporate and create a humid environment for germs and bacteria to breed.
  • If you have a pet, try to settle it in one spot - such as the boot (if you have a larger car) or in a selected passenger seat. Sit your pet on a specific blanket or a sheet that you can regularly wash with hot water, a mild detergent and a dash of disinfectant to kill off any bacteria.
  • Keep hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes in your car to minimize germ and bacteria transference from hands to upholstery


Fleas are most likely to have been brought into your car by a pet, or a passenger who has been playing with an animal with fleas. Unfortunately, fleas breed quickly and your car can be an ideal environment for them. If you notice bites on your skin, or small white eggs across your upholstery and carpet then you will need to act quickly to get rid of the infestation.

How Do I Get Rid of Fleas Out of My Car Upholstery?

  • A flea bomb or flea powder. Use this as the label directs, and leave as much time as possible between using the product and getting back in your car, to allow more time for the fleas to be eradicated. Before getting back into your car to drive, vacuum your car after using this product to limit skin exposure and to remove dead fleas and eggs.
  • Give your car a thorough vacuum, getting into any gaps in between seats, under your seats, and the carpet. Seal, then throw away the vacuum cleaner bag as soon as possible to avoid a potential re-infestation somewhere else.
  • If fleas are a regular occurrence with your pet, talk to your vet about a flea collar or flea treatments to prevent the fleas from infesting your pet and therefore your car.
  • Rug Doctor Machine with Hand Tool and Upholstery Cleaner can kill, dislodge and remove fleas and their eggs quickly and easily.

Dust Mites

Dust Mites are microscopic parasites that live off dust. Dust is mainly dead skin cells that humans and pets shed. Dust mites do not bite, but they do irritate the skin and can cause rashes. Dust mites are one of the most common triggers of allergies, and can cause and worsen asthma, atopic eczema, and allergic rhinitis. Learn more about what dust mites are and the symptoms they cause here.

How Do I Get Rid of Dust Mites Out of My Car Upholstery?

  • Dust mites thrive in hot, humid environments so airing out your car regularly will lessen their survival rate. Remove damp clothing, outdoor gear or equipment, shoes, and open bottles of liquid that may contribute to the moisture content in the air.
  • Vacuuming regularly will reduce the amount of dust in your car, which is what the dust mites are feeding off.
  • If you have a pet, lay a blanket or sheet down that your pet can sit on to contain its shedding. Toss the blanket or sheet through a hot wash regularly with a mild detergent.
  • Rug Doctor Machine with Hand Tool and Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner can remove dust, dislodge and kill health-harming dust mites.

Keep yourself and your family healthy by keeping on top of the upkeep in your car. Create an unwelcome environment for germs, bacteria, fleas, and dust mites by reducing the humidity in your car by regularly airing your car, and containing wet clothing and equipment into a plastic storage box with a lid. Try to give your car interior a good clean once a month. Vacuuming and deep cleaning the upholstery and carpet will kill unwanted pests and germs.

Talk to us to get further insight on how to keep your car upholstery hygienic and clean.


Gina Gibbs

Author: Gina Gibbs

Gina is the Business Manager at Rug Doctor NZ. With over 20 years at Rug Doctor, she's dedicated to helping New Zealanders keep their homes clean and healthy. Outside of work, Gina enjoys hiking, reading, and enjoying Vietnamese and Asian fusion cuisine. Oh, and let's not forget her expertise in cleaning up after everyone, especially her two kids!