Written by Lisa Truesdale. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.
It’s simply a fact of a car owner’s life: Whatever you step in outside of the car, you’ll deposit inside the car. This means anything that touches the bottom of your shoes -- dirt, mud, snow, rain, sand, gravel, tar, chewing gum, dog poop -- is invariably going to land smack-dab on your car’s floor mats.
Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to clean all types of car floor mats, courtesy of our cleaning experts here at Puracy.
Rubber or plastic car mats not only catch ALL dirt and debris that comes their way, they’re also the easiest type of mat to clean, since they’re waterproof and you can rinse them off easily. For maintenance reasons we recommend using rubber or plastic car mats in all vehicles. Follow these easy steps for cleaning rubber or plastic car mats.
When cleaning your car mats, you don’t want any dirt and debris that you brush off to remain in your vehicle. It’s also far easier to clean them once they are outside of the car. So if your car mats are removable, always remove them before cleaning.
Shake each mat separately, or whack it against the driveway or another hard surface like a tree to loosen any dirt, gravel, sand, etc. If anything sticks to the surface of the mat, scrape it off with a soft-bristled cleaning brush, a rubber spatula, or a plastic scraper.
The force of the water pressure should help to further dislodge any remaining dirt or grime that’s sticking to the mat.
If dirt and debris remain on the mats after washing with a hose, then you’ll need to wash them with Puracy Natural Dish Soap. In a bucket, mix one ounce of dish soap per 3 gallons of warm water. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and use it to wipe any residue off each mat. You can also massage them with a soft-bristled cleaning brush for regular cleaning, or use a stiffer brush for tough spots.
Expert Tip from Puracy Founder Sean Busch: I love microfiber towels for most cleaning applications, but use caution when applying them to floor mats. The main reason is that if there’s adhesive, for instance, on the surface of your floor mat, then it likely now has sand embedded. If you use a microfiber towel, then the sand will end up in the towel. It is difficult to remove sand from the nap of microfiber towels. Sand trapped in a towel, even after multiple washes, can end up scratching paint, electronic screens, and so on if you use that same towel to clean your vehicle in the future.
Use the hose to remove any remaining soap suds on the mats.
We recommend drying plastic mats by resting them at an angle against your house, garage or (clean) car tire. This ensures: 1) the surface you are resting it against is clean (vs. resting against a tree in the dirt/grass), and 2) any residual water drips down while also evaporating. For rubber mats, we recommend shaking the water off and putting them on a clean horizontal surface in the sun. Don’t put them on top of your car and and don’t put them back inside your vehicle until they’re fully dry. You can put them on top of your trash and recycling cans, drape over a step ladder or fence, or place them on your driveway (if clean). After they’re completely dry, give them a final shake before putting them back in the car.
Warning: Never put car mats made of rubber or plastic into your washing machine. The same goes with your drier. Carefully follow the instructions above to safely clean rubber or plastic floor mats.
Because floor mats made of fabric or carpet can really soak up liquids and become stained or smelly, they’re not as easy to clean as the rubber or plastic kind. But if you follow these simple cleaning steps, you’ll have pristine, fresh-smelling mats in no time.
As with rubber mats, you want to remove them before cleaning whenever possible. Doing so will make them far easier to clean, and you’ll also avoid spreading dirt and grime on your seats, floors, or other car parts.
Shake each mat gently to loosen any dirt, gravel, sand, etc. You can also hit the rubber backside of the mat against a tree or a stone wall.
Vacuum both sides of your mat using the upholstery brush attachment (if your vacuum cleaner has one). You can also use an air compressor with a blow gun attachment.
See “How to Remove Stains from Fabric or Carpet Floor Mats” below. Wait for the treated areas to dry before proceeding with step 5.
To clean the entire surface of your fabric or carpet floor mats, follow these steps below depending on your method of cleaning...
Use a Steam Cleaner:
If at all possible, use a steam cleaner instead of carpet shampoo, as it uses only water and, when done properly, is still highly effective. Cleaning expert and Puracy Co-Founder Sean Busch recommends the Dupray Tosca Commercial Steam Cleaner, or for a more affordable option, the Dupray ONE Steam Cleaner.
Many steam cleaners, including those sold by Dupray, come with a special triangle attachment with a microfiber towel connected to it. The steam lifts everything into the towel. This method is so effective and removing dirt and grime that you can clean both your car mats and your entire vehicle carpet with it. You may also discover that you rarely need to pretreat stains. Check out this video for a quick overview of this steam cleaner in action.
As an added bonus, the usability of these versatile steam cleaners extends well beyond your vehicle. You can also use a steam cleaner to sanitize countless surfaces throughout your home, as well as to clean everything from the dirty grout in your bathroom to the fabric couch in your living room, all without the use of chemicals.
Using a Carpet Cleaning Machine:
Most auto detailing professionals (and amateurs alike) prefer to use a carpet cleaning machine to clean floor mats. We recommend the Bissell Little Green Clean Machine or a full-sized Bissell Professional Carpet Cleaner. The latter needs to be used carefully to avoid damaging your mats, so pay close attention to the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions. You need to clean the cloth floor mat in the same fashion as you would the carpet in your house. (For in-depth instructions on how to clean carpet, see our related post: The Best Way to Clean Carpet to Remove Stains, Odors, and other Stubborn Messes.) Ensure the hard surface it rests on is clean and be prepared to hit it from multiple angles to avoid having the mat lift off the ground.
Clean by Hand:
If you don’t own a steam cleaner or carpet cleaning machine and you don’t have time to rent one, then you may need to clean your fabric car mats by hand. If so, follow these simple steps
Cleaning in the Washing Machine:
Lighter-weight cloth mats can sometimes be washed in your washing machine. You’ll first want to check your owner’s manual or with the manufacturer of your floor mats to verify whether they can be placed in the washer. If the answer is yes, then clean them in a standard top-loading washing machine, not a front-loader (because the mats are rigid and you’ll want them to soak in water while sitting upright). Launder with Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent; it’s made with plant-based enzymes that remove stains and eliminate odors. Set your machine on a delicate setting, agitate and hold for an hour, and make sure to use both a pre-rinse cycle and an extra rinse. Once finished, lay the mats flat in the sun to dry. Never place them in the dryer, as this can ruin the adhesives that hold the mat together.
To dry cloth mats, first shake the water off, then place them on a clean horizontal surface in the sun. Don’t put them on top of or inside your car until they’re fully dry. Give them another shake before putting them back in your vehicle.
Expert Tip from Puracy Co-Founder Sean Busch: When it comes to cleaning cloth car mats, check your local weather forecast and select a day that has the most sun and the lowest relative humidity. Next, start in the morning, as this will allow your removable mats to sit out in the sun all day to dry. If you do it in the evening, then you are drying during the darkest, wettest time of the day. By choosing a warm, sunny day and starting in the morning, you’ll end up with the best results.
Use Puracy Natural Stain Remover to remove any stains on your mats. It’s the only natural stain remover on the market that includes all six plant-based enzymes (our closest competitor only uses three). This means that it gets right to work on hundreds of different types of stains. Here’s a closer look at each plant-based enzyme we use, along with the particular type of stain it removes:
Follow these simple steps to easily remove any type of stain from your carpet or fabric car mats:
If you’re dealing with a recent spill that is thick or chunky, you’ll first need to remove the excess with a spatula or spoon. Try to remove as much as possible so you can work solely on the stained floor mat without rubbing any extra dirt or grime into it.
If the stain is fresh, then diluting with warm water will make it easier to remove the stain later.
Blot the stain with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. If you’re cleaning up a sticky or dark-colored stain, then you may need to slightly dampen the cloth with warm water. Keep blotting the stain until your cloth doesn’t pick up any additional color.
Wait at least 15 minutes to allow the plant-based enzymes in our natural stain remover to work their magic. For stubborn or difficult-to-remove stains, saturate the affected area and leave the solution on your car mat overnight before proceeding to the next step. The longer you wait, the better your results will be.
Fill a bowl with plain warm water. Saturate a clean microfiber cloth in the water and gently wring it out. Press the damp cloth into the stain and move back and forth with light pressure to pull the stain remover from the surface. Rinse the cloth in the plain water, wring it out, and repeat until all of the stain remover is “rinsed” from the surface.
Before proceeding with cleaning your car mats, let the damp spots dry naturally, preferably by letting them sit in the sun. It is far easier to spot stubborn stains once the mats are dry. If any stains remain, then re-treat them by repeating steps #2 through #5 above.
Once you know how to expertly clean your car mats, you won’t worry as much when you can’t scrape all the gunk off your boots before driving off. Always treat spills quickly, keep plenty of clean microfiber cloths on hand in your glove compartment, and refer back to the directions above to leave your floor mats looking squeaky clean and spotless!