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OCDetails 08-15-2011 10:43 AM

Extreme interior cleaning
I did some grizzly cleaning on a Honda Odyssey this weekend. The thing hadnít been really cleaned beyond just vacuuming for something like 6 years. This is exactly the reason I wonít ever have tan, beige, white, brown, or any other color of leather in my car other than black, dark grey, charcoal, or something like that. Light colored interiors are just a nightmare to keep clean and they take forever when you do need to clean them. It wasnít as hammered as some vans Iíve done have been. The kids going in and out of this did a good job of not spraying soda all over the ceiling or having the family zoo shed their fur in it every day, so the bulk of the cleaning was on the hard surfaces and the leather.

For the leather I used the Wolfgang Leather Cleaner and then ultimately the conditioner. Iíve found for really dirty seats it is best to use something which is dedicated to cleaning to get the best results, otherwise I would have used something like Poorboyís Leather Stuff. That works really well too. This van was being repurposed to be used as a shuttle for clients to and from the hangar with their private plane, so I really wanted it to look its best.

The process as just a lot of elbow grease. I used a carpet brush with nylon bristles that really do a great job on getting in the grain of leather seats and getting the dirt out without damaging it. I wouldnít suggest just any carpet brush for this kind of work though. Youíll see the one Iím talking about down there with the side rails. Anyway, spray the cleaner on the seats, let it soak just for a second, and then brush it out using circular movements. That is really the key. Scrubbing back and forth doesnít get nearly the result that circles get you. It is the same advice your dentist will give you about brushing your teeth, actually.

I did wipe the seats down with Meguiarís Interior Detailer real fast before applying the conditioner just to make sure I got all the streaks and the grain was really clean. The difference was night and day. If I had brought a good camera with a flash then I would have taken pictures of the interior before I took it all apart and cleaned it and then after I put it all back together. It didnít even look like the same van. But the purpose of this is just to talk about cleaning a couple of the surfaces, so here are the seat pictures.

Taking the seats out is obviously the best way to clean them. Anytime that is an option for you I would highly recommend it. Especially in a van where getting them out it easy. For a van it is even more important because youíll want to have access to the plastic covers over the anchor points for the seats anyway.

The side rails where you step in were also a mess. Typical for this color, actually. Cleaning them required using a little elbow grease as well. That and Tuff Stuff. I love that stuffÖ. It is ridiculously versatile.

Since Iím using the same brush for carpets, plastics, and the seats, it is important that I clean it out to avoid just driving more dirt into whatever Iím trying to clean. I keep some all purpose cleaner and water handy so I can wash it out after each project to keep it clean. Just a tip you might want to consider. Keep your tools clean and you will have less frustration down the road.

Iíve got a whole case full of interior cleaning tools. Retired tooth brushes, brass and steel brushes, nylon brushes, dusters for vents, all sorts of picks and wedges which are also handy for engine detailing, a couple blades, and a little multi tool with a screw driver and pliers and stuff on it. These tools are ridiculously handy to have around. I bought a really cheap dremel thing several years ago which came in that nifty little case. It has been the best case for interior tools I could have ever imagined. It slides perfectly under the Autogeek detailing bag I have too, so that makes it even better. :)

Vans and SUVs can take a ton of time if you do them right. I spent 5 hours on the interior and 2 hours on the exterior of this vehicle. Good thing it was white or it would have taken longer. Because of the color inside it just took extra time because every piece of dirt shows. On a darker interior you may not get it quite as clean because you just canít see the dirt you are leaving behind. That saves you time, but it doesnít mean the vehicle is clean. I have an Odyssey myself and it takes me just as long to detail it when I do my yearly full on cleaning. My rule is to clean it as if it was as dirty as you can imagine it is even if you canít see the dirt. You know it is there, so clean it anyway. Find a process and stick to it regardless of whether or not you can see the dirt. If you havenít cleaned your leather seats in a couple years and they just donít look that dirty, clean them as if they were anyway. They probably are filthy, but you have just been too close to the forest to see the trees. Many people donít realize their leather is getting this dirty because the change has been so gradual that they didnít notice Iíll tell you that when the owner saw the difference on this van, he was absolutely shocked at how dirty it had been. He didnít even realize it had gotten so bad. So get some good tools and clean em up! :)

Magic Marker 08-15-2011 11:01 AM

Awesome work and pics... I have to ask how much did you charge for that?

Grrupt 08-15-2011 11:09 AM


but what do you use on dirty seat belts?

Magic Marker 08-15-2011 11:12 AM

Oh, I live the Sharpie in your tool box....Great way to hide little scratches ;)

OCDetails 08-15-2011 11:23 AM

The Sharpie comes in really handy. I use it to blacken screws that are scratched up or to touch up scratches and wear spots in other areas. I had to use it on the dash on this van, actually. For whatever reason the black was wearing off the very edge of the dash above the speedo cluster, so I dabbed them up so they weren't so obvious. Mismatched black is not as obvious as white spots showing through black.

I cut this guy a deal. I've been doing a lot of work for this family lately, so I cut my rate a bit and only charged him $300 for it. I spent a good six or seven hours on it, so I definitely earned my money on this one. My van is the same as this one other than the color, so I knew what I was getting myself into. I just really wanted to do a good job and impress the socks off them. It worked. They are tossing around some other ideas to use me for which could include a full time job doing this for their company, so I'll just have to see what happens.

OCDetails 08-15-2011 11:24 AM


Originally Posted by Grrupt (Post 3511066)

but what do you use on dirty seat belts?

Same process. Let the Tuff Stuff soak for a bit and then scrub away.

FJuan 08-15-2011 11:44 AM

Thanks for the write-up! My wife has a '01 BMW 325i with the light gray interior and her seats look exactly the same (dirty) as those seats. I've tried rubbing them with leather cleaner several times and still couldn't get them to look clean enough. Thanks for the tip with the brush, I'll be trying this next time around.:)

subiedad51 08-15-2011 11:44 AM

Awesome Job. So there's still hope for my Wife's Murano.

OCDetails 08-15-2011 12:31 PM

You can use Tuff Stuff on the leather too, just in case you wanted to give that a try. I would just highly recommend you have some good conditioner on hand to apply right after. Tuff Stuff has some stronger cleaners than what is normally used on leather, but as long as using it isn't an every week part of your process, then it works just fine for a once in awhile deep clean.

OCDetails 08-15-2011 12:32 PM


Originally Posted by subiedad51 (Post 3511116)
Awesome Job. So there's still hope for my Wife's Murano.

Well, in your case there isn't much hope. No matter what you use on the interior, it is still going to be a Murano. ;) lol

mdzowner 08-15-2011 04:56 PM

jebus man your a wizzard with detailing. you should open a shop in md. most here suck

subiedad51 08-15-2011 05:01 PM

LOL - Come on you don't like the Murano interior :) It's a face only a mother could love.

BAC5.2 08-16-2011 03:54 AM

I'd love some tips on cleaning the perforated leather in my Outback.

kateviliams 08-16-2011 04:57 AM

you did a great work and thanks for sharing it with us.

OCDetails 08-16-2011 09:25 AM


Originally Posted by BAC5.2 (Post 3512159)
I'd love some tips on cleaning the perforated leather in my Outback.

Same process. Just use a leather cleaner and scrub. With perforated leather you will want to use a gel type conditioner if you want to avoid getting the holes all filled up. That is where I've found Poorboy's Leather Stuff to be really great at. Give that product a shot and I have no doubt your leather will come out looking great. You have to order it online, but there are about a zillion online retailers that carry it.

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