The Ultimate Shampooing Guide: Mastering Car Carpet Stain Removal

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Updated on:

November 9, 2023

Car Carpet Stain Removal: A Comprehensive Shampooing Guide

If you regularly use your car, SUV, or truck, the interior is bound to get dirty, especially car carpets. Add kids or pets, and the situation can get even worse. Aside from occasional vacuuming, you probably don't pay much attention to your car's carpets, thinking that the floor mats will probably take care of most of the dirt and stains. Think again, though, as loose dirt, debris, and stains can creep under those mats and into the carpet underneath the seats themselves. Before you know it, you have an icky, smelly mess that is also ugly.

The more hours you spend in your vehicle, the greater the chance that you'll have carpet stains no matter how careful you are. As with other types of stains inside your car, they will range in size and severity. Your feet will also add to the damage, grinding in food, chocolate, candy, gum, mud, and whatever else that may fall on your car floor.

Knowing how to clean carpet stains will keep your vehicle looking great for a long time, especially when you use a steam cleaner like the Fortador PRO Max or the Fortador Volt Electra, both of which will make the job easier and more thorough. Cleaning stains from your car carpets does take hard work, but once you do so, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Here's how you can clean and deodorize your vehicle carpet without using any harsh chemicals.

Key Takeaways:

  • Prepare your car by removing trash, debris, and personal items, and gather the necessary cleaning tools.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the car floor, including pedals and under the seats, to remove loose dirt.
  • Pre-treat stains using appropriate car carpet cleaner solutions and scrub them before using a vacuum steam cleaner to deep clean the carpet.

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Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)


  1. Prepping your car and tools
  2. Pre-Treatment of car stains
  3. Using Steamer and Shampooer for car carpets stains removal
  4. Tips to keep floor in the car clean

Car Carpet Stain Removal:  Shampooing Guide

Step 1: Prepare Your Car for Deep Cleaning with Shampooing

Before cleaning the carpet, clean out your car by removing all trash and debris from the floor along with whatever you find on the seats. Remove all personal items too. By doing so, nothing will be in the way when you get down to the job of cleaning and shampooing. Remove the floor mats from the front and back seats. If they are carpet mats, you can prepare them the same way you would for the carpet inside your car. You can also clean vinyl mats with a steam cleaner, although you may be able to skip the step to pre-treat stains unless you see an old, stubborn stain that has discolored the surface.

Dirty car carpets

1.1 Assemble Tools and Materials

Gather everything you need before you start. Start with your steam cleaner. Whn you use either the Pro Plus or Volt Electra, you won't need a separate vacuum cleaner as both units have a vacuum extractor built into the machine. use the extractor for pre-cleaning vacuuming and to extract water following shampooing. Other tools that you'll need include:

  • Paper towels
  • Stain remover
  • Microfiber towels
  • Spray bottle
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Upholstery bristle brush
  • Rotary brush
  • Sponge
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice or essential oil
  • Hot water or Warm Water
  • Ozone generator machine for smell removal
vacuuming car cabin

Consider adding the Fortador Magic Brush to your arsenal to make the job easier while also giving your carpets a "like new" appearance. When combined with our stain remover OXI Dry Foam Shampoo, you'll get sparkling clean carpets that smell fresh too! You may use Fortador carpet shampoo in different strengths, depending on how heavily solid your carpet is.

Another task to do before shampooing your carpet is to mix homemade stain remover if you have a heavily stained car carpet. A mixture that works well is equal parts water and white vinegar mixed with dish soap to cut grease. If you use 1/4 cup each of water and vinegar, add one teaspoon of dish soap. For those who don't care for the vinegar smell, add a couple of drops of lemon juice or essential oil to the this mixture at spray bottle. Depending on the type of stains you have, you may need to add other everyday household items to remove them. We'll cover what you'll need below.

Step 2: Thoroughly Vacuum the Car Floor

Vacuuming the carpet is an essential part of the process as it removes dirt and other small loose debris. If you have caked-on road salt, take an upholstery brush to loosen salt, caked-on mud, and similar items. Now, it's time to vacuum the carpet, making sure to press the vacuum attachment firmly into the carpet surface. Remember to vacuum around and underneath the pedals and under the seats. You may need to use a nozzle attachment to get into tricky nooks and crannies and under the seats. If you have an SUV with removable seats, take them out before vacuuming and don't replace them until you have finished the entire cleaning process.

Pre-treatment of car rugs before shampooing

Step 3: Pre-Treatment Techniques for Combat Stains Effectively

Inspect the carpet to determine what areas require pre-treatment. For general stains, spray the vinegar, hot water, and dish soap solution in spray bottle and let it sit for a few moments before taking a brush to scrub it in. Use circular motions and then blot it with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel to remove some of the liquid. Organic stains like vomit and urine may also need a sprinkling of baking soda to help removal.

3.1 Removing Old, Tough Carpet Stains

For stubborn stains, mix equal parts of liquid dish soap, club soda, and vinegar in a bottle. Spray it on the stain and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before scrubbing with brush.

3.2 Mold and Other Dark Stains

Mix baking soda and warm water to make a paste. Take a toothbrush to work it into the stain and let it sit for several minutes before removing it with a damp microfiber cloth.

Learn more about Mold removal and Mold Odors removal
strong foam for shampooing car carpets

3.3 Try Glass Cleaner

Glass cleaner is famous for lifting stains, plus it doesn't leave behind a soapy residue and leave it free from any smells after evaporation. Soak the area in the cleaner for about five minutes and then blot it with a paper towel.

3.4 Removing Ink Stains

Take a bottle of hairspray and soak the stain with the solution. Wait for the stain to start fading, and then rinse with cool water.

3.5 Blood Stains removal

Saturate the area with a paste of laundry starch and cold water. Make sure that the water is not warm or hot as this will cause the stain to set. Remove with a damp cloth.

Some stubborn stains may require you to allow you chosen to sit for an hour or two. You may also have to repeat the process. Some stains may still be minimally present before using your steam cleaner but will be gone after shampooing and extraction.

Step 4: Restore Freshness with Steam Cleaning

You've already done most of the hard work by pre-treating the stains. Now, it's time for the steamer to do the rest. Fill the boiler with water and the detergent tank with the cleaning solution in the appropriate strength. Shampoo using the rotary attachment and the appropriate brush to work in the cleaner. Once you have shampooed the entire carpet, take the steamer and run it over the entire surface.

View this video to see how to use a Fortador steam cleaner on a vehicle's carpet. You can follow up with the extractor to remove excess moisture. Clean your car mats in the same manner.

Allow the entire carpet to dry completely. Examine the fibers to determine if any areas need additional treatment and then repeat the process where necessary. You now have a clean car carpet that smells good too, all without the use of harsh chemicals and odors free!

Car carpets cleaned from stains
If you have smoke smell inside your car, check this guide.

Step 5: Expert Tips to Maintain and Enhance Your Car Floor's Appearance

Spills and mishaps are bound to happen inside your car, but you can do several things to minimize the damage. First, you can apply a coating of Kevlar to the carpet fibers once they are dry. Our Ceramic kit will provide protection not only for your carpet but also for your upholstery and other interior and exterior surfaces. With a coating of Kevlar, stains will wipe off more easily while also making future cleanings easier.

If you have water spots on your car paint and windows, discover our full guide for water spot removal.

Follow these tips to minimize any damage that may occur:

  • Dilute spills like coffee or soda as quickly as possible by pouring water on the spill and blotting with a towel or a cloth.
  • Immidiately dilute vomit or urine accidents with baking soda and water and follow by blotting
  • Clean up after your pets by vacuuming frequently and sprinkling borax under seats to remove animal odors.
  • Minimize eating and drinking inside your vehicle.
Check our Guide for Odor Removal Inside car cabin

Keeping your car clean is on you, but try as you may, sometimes it's just impossible. By vacuuming and shampooing the carpet regularly with a steam cleaner, you'll avoid ugly stains and keep the cabin fresher and healthier.

About the Authors

Ugur Sezmis
Renowned in the world of Professional Detailing, Fahrzeugaufbereitung is not only a master in restoring automotive brilliance but also a distinguished Rupes Trainer based in Germany. With a commitment to perfection, he enhances car aesthetics while sharing his expertise through top-notch training.
Yvan Lacroix
With 40+ years in detailing, I've been a Brand Ambassador, VP, and Global Director. Founder of Répare-Brise franchises. Globetrotting to spread efficiency, quality, and profit insights. Let me elevate your detailing career for enhanced quality, profits, and time management.

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