When it’s time to detail your car’s interior, one place that’s overlooked is the headliner. We can’t answer how those foot prints ended up on your interiors roof – but we can tell you how to clean them up.


Spot Clean

You’ll Need:

  • Microfibre Cloth
  • Interior Cleaner

Sometimes only a small section is stained, therefore you only need a microfiber cloth and a small amount of cleaner.

Step 1: Use your microfiber cloth to wipe the area, removing any loose particulate that’s stuck to your headliner. Aim to remove any loose bits without rubbing deeper into the fabric.

Sometimes this is all it takes, however continue to step 2 if you’re unsuccessful.

Step 2: Apply a small amount of cleaner to a microfiber cloth, and rub with the grain (if visible). During this step you want to apply light pressure, enough to work the solution into the headliner surface but not deep into the underlying foam.

Step 3: Blot the area with a dry section of your microfiber cloth, removing excess moisture.

Step 4: Check once the area has dried if the stain has been successfully removed.


Full Surface Clean

You’ll Need:

  • Soft bristled brush
  • Interior Cleaner

If you want to clean the whole headliner instead of a small section, a light surface clean will give you excellent results.

Step 1: Apply a light coating of interior cleaner to the headliner. Read the instructions that are provided with your specific brand.

Cleaners that create a foaming action work best to loosen up trapped dirt, helping to remove stains.

Step 2: Allow the solution to work its magic, a general rule of thumb is the longer it’s left – the better results you will see. Read the bottle for specific advice.

Step 3: Brush the mixture into the material, working with the grain if visible. Ensure you reach every part of the material, if you miss a section it may be evident after cleaning!

Step 4: Let it dry out completely – depending on how heavily saturated the material is it may take several hours. You can re-apply this cleaner as many times as needed, if it’s been neglected for a while it may require multiple treatments.


Deep Cleaning

Some stains just won’t budge, specifically nicotine residue from smokers or greasy stains. Fortunately there are solutions, but the heat and moisture from deep cleaning can wet glue that holds your headliner together. This can cause it to sag in places, causing permanent damage that requires a replacement.

For this reason it should be a last resort, and shouldn’t be exercised too regularly. You have been warned!

You’ll Need:

  • A portable carpet cleaner
  • Hot Water
  • Cleaning Solution

Step 1: Fill the portable cleaner with a mixture of hot water and product.

Your product should provide the correct ratio of water to concentrate.

Step 2: Turn on the machine, allow extra time for preheating. Always use according to manufacturer instructions!

Use a narrow upholstery attachment if supplied, this helps to remove the most moisture from the material to leave it as clean as possible.

Step 3: Start in a corner, working your way to the other side of the car. Move at a steady rate to ensure even coverage without saturating the material too deeply.

Step 4: Ensure even coverage by overlapping each stroke by half an inch. Getting an even clean is important, especially on lighter materials.

Note – don’t forget the release the trigger between strokes, otherwise water will spray everywhere (ask me how I know…).

Step 5: After covering the whole headliner, allow to dry. Ideally windows down on a hot day.

Step 6: Once dried, lines from the cleaning attachment can persist. Running your hand over the material will agitate the fibres, removing these residual lines.


As you can see the cleaning process doesn’t need to be difficult. But due to the nature of your interior headliner it’s important to take care. In older cars the fabric can hold a considerable amount of dirt, causing unpleasant smells.