Classic Car Interior Valeting Tips

| Editorial | July 22, 2016

Due to the popularity of our recent car valeting article The Ultimate Exterior Wash Guide Classic Cars HQ team has gone on to produce a new guide; this one cantering on Interior Valeting; Carpets, Upholstery, Dashboards, trim, switches, nobs and buttons.

So read more to find out how the professionals keep the nations classic cars gleamingly clean.

1. Roof Liners; a great place to start.
fancy roof liner
Use a rubber brush or vacuum cleaner brush to initially scrub and rub down the headliner of the vehicle. Many classic car headliners are not engineered like modern cars so be careful when brushing as this can loosen the headliner if excessive pressure is placed upon it. Working from the front to the back simply brush gently the headliner and look out for any stains or marks which may require particular attention. Smoking in cars was very popular back when these cars were new so be on the lookout for stained and discolouration in the headliner and think about using some household (non-bleach) carpet shampoo here.

2. Seats Next; Leather vs. Cloth.
leather seats
The level of trim and upholstery material in your classic will vary from make to model and manufacturer and as such the way in which you clean the inertor of the car will vary. Some classic cars leather might even be synthetic as ‘Elephant skin’ was a popular choice at the time and for this reason a leather cleaning spray, chemical free soap and chemical free cleaner would be required for the interior trim. Simply spray on the non detergent cleaner and then work it in with a brush, allow some time for the fluid to penetrate. Once pre cleaned in this way then take out your leather soap and spray it liberally on the leather section you are cleaning – do not spray the whole seat – only work a section of the seat at a time with the soap as it can dry on and mark sensitive leather. Work in circles again with a brush then take a lint free, clean cloth and wipe the surface of the leather in straight lines. Do no rub in circles as this may loosen the leather dye. Repeat the process over the remainder of the seats, any leather arm rest and leather door cards in this manner. If your steering wheel is leather you should clean this at the same time as the seats.

3. Cleaning dashboards, plastic, wood and metal trim pieces
Metal and wood dashboard and interior trim was a very popular choice for early car makers due to the hand built nature and easy malleable nature of these materials, last cast interior trim pieces make from Bakelite and plastic were new materials at the time and as such the deterioration of the plastic is a likely occurrence in many classic cars. Early plastic is very brittle by modern standards and responds well to hand cleaning only in classic cars due to its easy to break nature. Silicone spray is a great thing to use but can often leave plastics looking wet and shiny, alternative products are available which don’t leave as much shine and they come in the form of creams which are applied with a cloth. Spit is a free and brilliant way to treat early plastic pieces as this also has some natural shine and long lasting treating effect for plastic. Wood can be cleaned with household furniture polish likewise seatbelts which might be sticking and not retracting quickly can also be wiped with furniture polish. Metal should be polished by hand with a metal cleaner – removing metal trim from the car can be a good idea as many metal polishes create a lot of dirt during the process. If your steering wheel is wood you should clean this at the same time as your dashboards and wooden trim.

4. Glass, screens and mirrors
when cleaning the inside of the glass remember to wind down the window a little and wipe the top of the window edge where it meets with the rubber trim, you should spray some silicon spray down the rubbers and gullies and wind the window up and down a couple of times, repeat the process so that the windows glide easily. This often helps old electric window motors to run a little smoother and faster too. Windscreens are often the dirtiest window inside a car use a glass polish and be sure to do the windscreen well as this will be constantly in the drivers eye line.

5. Carpets
The final instalment in an interior clean are the carpets and floor mats. Take out the floor mats as you will vacuum and clean this outside the vehicle and later refit them. Once out, use a rubber brush to brush down the carpets and collect any dirt into the middle now use a dustpan to remove any of this or your fingers too. Once you have picked the biggest bits, stones and any large twigs out fire up your hoover and start to vacuum the front and rear carpets. Move the front seats to the fully forward position and to vacuum the rear move the seat to the fully rear position and vacuum the back carpets or ideally if you have time, remove the four or so bolts that hold the seats fast to the floor and vacuum the whole carpet in one go, later taking car to refit the seats straight and flush to the floor. If you choose to take the seats out you may find it easier to get into the cracks and crevices at the side of the front seat between the centre console – if you don’t take out the seats – you will need to use a long, thin pickup extension on your hoover and a long, thin brush also helps to move the debris about a bit without having to take out the seats. You may also choose to dye your carpets at this time, black carpets dye particularly well, likewise brown carpets. White or cream carpets may require a wet and dry shampoo from time to but dyes are a great way of covering up and restoring your interior carpets to former glory, you can also use them on seat coverings and dashboards but, ensure that you only apply with a damp sponge and in a cool, dry place which is out of direct sunlight.

6. Rear parcel shelves and boots
Easy enough to clean if the boot is empty but, should it not be then simply empty it out somewhere as you will need it free and clear of stuff to clean. Boots in classic cars are often not lined, but carpet, wood and cardboard is commonly found in the boot area. Clean the carpet as above but again remove completely from the car is possible and clean outside. Beating the dust out of the carpet is sometimes done but be careful not to split or crack the carpet by hitting it too hard nor with a blunt object. Check inside the boot now for any corrosion or rust penetration, check the rear suspension upper mounts and check the petrol tank, fuel sender as these items can be easily spotted with the carpets out. Check for any water ingress and remove any collection of water with a wet and dry vac. Dry the area and treat with oil or rust treatment. Brush out any debris and vacuum the floor pan in the boot too, you can fold the rear seats forwards and you should vacuum the backs of these and behind, down the sides and around the edges. Spray the carpet with dye and refit.

Now you could spray some air freshener or leave an odour eating air freshener in the car as some of the cleaning products used may give off a bit of a smell and often leather cleaners and dye need a bit of time to set in before you sit on them or walk on the treated areas and as such allowing your classic to settle down over night before you use her is a very good practice.


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