How to Clean the Car Ceiling – Keeping the Interior Spotless

car ceiling steam cleaner

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When was the last time you cleaned your car ceiling? Let me guess, you can’t even remember! One-third of worldwide drivers tend to fully clean their vehicle once a year, which is a devastating fact!

Car headliner is a sensitive fabric material, which means it tends to absorb dust, cigarette smoke, and other filthy particles. A strong indication that your headliner is contaminated is when you notice a color change of the material, compared to when it was new.

So, how to clean the car ceiling?- Go through this article, and hopefully you’ll get the motivation to make your second home a cleaner place for you!

Car ceiling

The Headliner is made of tricot knit fabric, foam, and backing. Adhered to the inside roof of the vehicle. The fabric is attached to a thin layer of polyurethane foam, this fabric-foam composite is stuck to the inside fiberglass top of the vehicle. All of these materials combined make it serve a bunch of functionalities to the vehicle such as isolation, sound reduction, beautiful look, etc.

How to clean car ceiling (3 Methods)

Spot cleaning

Spot cleaning is done with a soft-bristle brush and a car ceiling (upholstery) cleaner which you can either get from an automotive shop or make it yourself. If you decide to go with the latter you are going to need:

Ingredients needed:

  1. ¼ cup (60ml) white vinegar
  2. a cup (240 ml) of warm water
  3. and ½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) of liquid soap

Mix them all in a spray bottle and you have your own DIY upholstery cleaner.


  1. Open all doors and have your car parked in a well-ventilated area
  2. Make sure you are wearing either nitrile or latex gloves when using the car ceiling cleaner.
  • Clean the car ceiling by moving the brush in small circles with light pressure. This way the upholstery will form bubbles and the cleaner will get deeper into the material and penetrate any stains. Avoid putting in too much pressure as you can end up damaging the adhesive that’s underneath the material.
  • After you’ve done that, get a dry microfiber cloth and hold it against the area you just worked the cleaner in – this way the cloth will soak in some of the cleaner. Then go over the spot the same way you did with the brush, in small circles, and take a good look at the results. If the spot/ stain looks lighter you’ve made good progress but if not you’ll need to repeat the same steps until you can’t see it anymore.

Tough stains

  • If any stains are hard to get rid of it’s time to get out the big guns which in this case is a steam cleaner. You don’t have to actually buy one you can rent a steam cleaner from your local home improvement store. Cleaning a stubborn stain with a steam cleaner is done after you’ve gone over the stain multiple times with the brush and car ceiling cleaner. A steamer is going to be the most effective against food stains and other resilient areas.
  • When using the steamer make sure you have 2 inches (5cm) space between the stain and nozzle. It’s best that you use the narrow nozzle or brush attachment and pull the trigger in short bursts. Exposing the stained area to a lot of water and heat can lift it off from the headliner and damage the adhesive under the fabric. After you’ve used the steamer, blot the stain with a dry microfiber cloth. If the stain is still visible go over it with the steamer and work in the cloth in small circles.

Deep cleaning

  • A deep cleaning of the ceiling is the type of vehicle maintenance that requires using different methods and cleaning supplies and lots of repetition. This time when using the cleaner make sure you spray some of it on the soft-bristle brush. Rub in the ceiling with the brush with back and forth strokes until you see the cleaner bubbling. Spray more cleaner onto the brush if you don’t notice any lather. Again if you see stains and other more noticeable spots use extra cleaner by rubbing it in with the brush in small circles.
    vacuum cleaner
    Cleaning the car ceiling with a vacuum cleaner
  • When you are done applying the car ceiling (upholstery) cleaner into the fabric it’s time to remove it. For this step, you’ll need a spot cleaner or a wet vacuum cleaner. Place the brush attachment on the nozzle of your device of choice and start sucking up the cleaning solution. Do this with the nozzle against the ceiling, starting first at the front of the vehicle and work your way towards the back. Go back and forth in 24 inch (60 cm) strokes across the entire ceiling for the best results. This step will also help remove smoke and nicotine residue from your vehicle.
  • Once the aforementioned steps are completed, let the headliner dry off completely. Give your vehicle about 24 hours with the windows open in a safe area. To ensure that the ceiling has dried off. To check if the headliner is dry run your fingers across the ceiling. If there are still stains visible after the headliner is dry and undergone all the above treatments you can try applying a more aggressive cleaning method or do a spot treatment. Remember some stains won’t come out all the way but ensure that you’ve lightened them as much as you can.