How to Clean Car Headliner

Published by Jeff Torres

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How to Clean Car Headliner

How to Clean Car Headliner

Car detailing and maintenance is an important aspect of caring for your car. Unfortunately, one often overlooked aspect when people clean their cars is the headliner. Knowing how to clean car headliner is essential to proper vehicle maintenance.

If you have a car, you should ensure that you clean your headliner regularly. Read on to learn how to do it and its benefits.

How to Clean Car Headliner

How to Clean Car Headliner

Benefits of regular headliner cleaning

Maintain hygiene and health

When you drive your car, you are in an enclosed space, and if it is dirty and filled with dust, it may lead to poor air quality inside

As you are in a closed space in your car, you’ll be breathing in all the dust and dirt particles. This may negatively impact your health, even more so if you suffer from allergies. That’s why cleaning your car’s interior and headliner regularly is a must to avoid any health issues.

Manage wear and tear

Not cleaning your car headliner regularly from dirt and dust particles also accelerates its wear and tear. With regular cleaning of the headliner, you ensure it does not deteriorate fast.

Ensure that you use the appropriate products for the headliner’s surface. If you use the wrong kind, you may accidentally damage the area.

Stain prevention and removal

When you regularly clean your car’s headliner, you prevent stains from appearing on it. But if there are already stains on your headliner, with the help of an interior detailing professional, you’ll have yourself a clean headliner. Or you can try some of the methods which we’ll outline below.

You can quickly learn how to clean headliner stains in car by using appropriate cleaning solutions and following expert guides.

Retain your car’s value

Another important reason for regularly cleaning your headliner and really the whole car interior is to retain its value. For example, if you want to sell your car down the line, a damaged interior and headliner will significantly depreciate its value. 

With a well-maintained appearance both outside and inside, your car can have a higher resale value. Buyers are more likely to be willing to pay more for a car that is in impeccable cosmetic condition.

Gather the necessary materials

Before you take on the task of cleaning your headliner, you must gather the necessary tools and supplies. Your list of cleaning supplies should include the following:

  • Steam cleaner
  • Vacuum
  • Cleaning gloves
  • Microfiber towel
  • Soft brushes
  • Warm water
  • Liquid soap or upholstery cleaner
  • White vinegar

Prepare the headliner for cleaning

Headliners typically consist of three layers. Usually made of cardboard and fiberglass, the layers are assembled to resemble a roof. 

These layers may be made of upholstered, vinyl, or fabric materials. Headliners made of leather and vinyl are less common. 

Before you start cleaning your headliners, you must prepare the area first.

  1. Begin by removing any personal items that are inside your car 
  2. Next, use the vacuum to gather any dirt and other debris inside the car, including going over the headliner. 
  3. Ensure the vacuum is clean before you go over the headliner to avoid leaving dirt marks. 
  4. If there are any existing stains on your headliner, then you should pre-treat them. Pre-treating stains by applying a cleaning solution with a soft brush makes it easier to remove them during the cleaning part.
  5. You may proceed to the actual cleaning part after applying the pre-treatment solution to the stains.
Prepare the headliner for cleaning

How to Clean the Roof of Your Car: Step-by-Step Guide for Headliner Cleaning

Apply upholstery cleaner or other cleaning solution

Evenly mist the headliner with upholstery cleaner, careful not to soak it. The areas surrounding the lights, the overhead console, and the sunroof should receive extra attention.

Give the cleaner some time to do its magic and remove the spots. You can reapply and go through the process if you are unsatisfied with the outcome.

Use a soft brush or a toothbrush

Rub in the cleaner across the entire headliner gently with a brush with soft bristles. Ensure you work on every part of the headliner to achieve a uniform clean. If you don’t brush thoroughly, stains could become apparent once the headliner dries off. 

If removing water stains, try using the following easy homemade cleaning solution.

  • One cup of water
  • A quarter cup of white vinegar
  • One tablespoon of dish soap
  • Put the mixed solution in a spray bottle

As you spray the solution over the water stains, use the soft brush or the toothbrush to rub in the solution with gentle strokes. Why we like toothbrushes for cleaning headlines is that a toothbrush can clean the hard-to-reach areas.

Microfiber towel 

After the solution is soaked in, you should use a microfiber towel to eliminate any remaining moisture. Once you are done, let the headliner air dry thoroughly. Depending on the moisture level, this could take an hour or two.

Strong stains might need to be cleaned again. However, you will need to give your car’s headliner a deep cleaning if the second cleaning doesn’t work as well.

Steam Cleaner for Deep Cleaning a Car Headliner 

Prepare the steam cleaner

Preheat your steam cleaner following the manufacturer’s recommendations. After the steam cleaner is heated, it’s time to start working on the headliner. Check whether the steam cleaner needs water or a cleaning solution.

Steam the headliner

Steam your headliner in portions as soon as the steam fills your automobile. To remove smells and stubborn stains, place the steamer all over the headliner for a short while.

You should avoid applying heat for too long on any place as the heat may cause damage. The headliner’s glue dissolves more quickly the deeper it penetrates with steam. There’s a good chance that this will cause the headline to droop. 

Removing moisture

You can go over the headliner with the microfiber towel if there is any remaining moisture. Otherwise, allow the headliner to air dry fully to avoid adhesive failure and the growth of mold and mildew. 

If you want to speed up the drying process, you may use a few fans or open the windows and doors of your automobile and let it air dry.

After the headliner fully dries, there may be some traces of the cleaner, which you can easily clear away with the microfiber towel. 

What Should You Do If the Fabric Comes Loose?

If you notice that the fabric of your headliner is coming loose due to the heat from the steam cleaner, you’ll need to reattach it. To do this, you’ll need to use glue specifically for gluing headliner fabric.

It is best to get a headliner glue in a spray can as it will allow you to apply an even coat all over. If your headliner is older, you may need to replace it with a new one before gluing it to your car’s roof.

You should avoid using any home remedies as a substitute for the glue. While you can use a homemade cleaning solution, a home remedy won’t be as effective when it comes to glue.

This includes solutions like duct tape, stapling guns, or pins. None of them are good long-term solutions. 

How To Leave Your Car Smelling Nice?

Even after cleaning your car’s headliner, unpleasant odors just like cigarette smells can cling to the headliner. However, there are several solutions you can try out to remove or prevent unpleasant smells. 

  • You may use a product specifically made for eliminating odors. But if you decide to go this route, remember to mist the headliner with the solution and not soak it. 
  • The next solution is a pretty inexpensive way to get rid of bad smells. You can leave a small bowl of white vinegar inside your car overnight, eliminating unpleasant odors. 
  • If the bad smell is lingering after you clean and dry the headliner, you may try using an odor bomb odor eliminator. This product should get rid of the lingering smells.
How To Leave Your Car Smelling Nice
Source: / Photo Contributor: Vladdeep


Learning how to clean car headliner is crucial to ensure your car is in top shape. Whether you use a homemade, upholstery, or a steam cleaner, as long as you follow the steps above, you’ll have your headliner cleaned in no time. 

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