Interior Care

How to Clean the Ceiling of a Car? – 4 Cleaning Solutions

Written by Howell Crist / Fact checked by Sam Howard

how to clean the ceiling of a car

The term for car ceiling is a headliner. You usually wash the exterior car but forget to clean car roof interior. You should care for the ceiling more often. Hence, let’s note the best way how to clean the ceiling of a car at home.

Tidying up the car’s roof isn’t the same as other parts. The headliner has 3 layers. The outside is vinyl, fabric, or leather. The middle part is foam. The inside is solid cardboard or fiberglass to shape the ceiling.

The foam and fabric can absorb odor and dust. They are the reasons that cause smells in your car. Besides, these materials are sensitive to moisture. If you oversaturate and scrub the ceiling hard, it can be affected permanently.

Way to Clean the Ceiling of a Car

1. General Cleaning


If the headliner has dust and dirt without markings, you need a few tools to clean car ceiling stains.

What to prepare

  • Wet-dry Vacuum
  • Deodorizer
  • A microfiber cloth
  • Car ceiling upholstery cleaner
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Essential oil (optional)
  • OxyClean

Step 1: Vacuum the headliner


Clean the roof of a car with a vacuum. It will capture all debris in the ceiling. To vacuum large areas, you can use an upholstery accessory. Make sure to use crevice attachment to suck up debris in tight corners.

Step 2: Car ceiling cleaning

Wipe down the residue with a clean towel to make sure all the loose debris is completely gone.

Step 3: Get rid of bad odors


Does your car have unpleasant odors? If yes, try to eliminate them with a deodorizer or upholstery cleaner.

  • Mix 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and ¼ cup of white vinegar. Add some drops of your favorite essential oil to have a homemade deodorizer.

This remedy is perfect for getting rid of cigarette smells. You can also add OxyClean to the formula beating tough odors.

The air freshener is liquid. You should spray a very thin layer on the ceiling to avoid soaking the fabric and foam. Too much liquid can separate the fabric and the foam. You can also spray the liquid on a cloth and dab it onto the roof.

  • Using an upholstery cleaner can remove scent as well. You need to spray it sparingly onto the headliner.

The bubble of this cleaner will appear to beat odor and dust. Now, use a soft-bristle brush to finish off dirtier areas.

Step 4: Re-vacuum the roof

Remove leftover cleaner with a wet/dry vacuum.

2. Spot Cleaning


For spot cleaning, you can use car ceiling fabric cleaner for upholstery. Using DIY headliner cleaner is a good substitution. They can bring you similar results.

Check if you already have the following tools and cleaners:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Gloves
  • A soft-bristled brush
  • Car ceiling cleaner
  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Liquid soap
  • A spray bottle
  • Baking soda
  • Baby powder/cornstarch
  • Vacuum
  • Alcohol

Step 1: Tidy up loose debris

To remove stains from car ceiling, you shouldn’t let it get soaked. If not, the moisture can damage the adhesive between layers. You can use a vacuum to clean dirt and dust on the roof.

You can also use a clean cloth to wipe out loose dirt. Never rub since you don’t want to push debris into the headliner.

Step 2: Apply car headliner cleaner


Wear gloves to protect your hands from irritation. Apply car ceiling stain remover to a soft-bristle brush, a cloth corner, or even to affected areas.

The upholstery cleaner can deal with coffee and soda stains effectively. Besides car roof cleaner spray, you can make DIY car headliner stain remover.

  • Mix 1 cup of warm water, ¼ cup of vinegar, and ½ tablespoon of soap. Blend the liquid carefully to have DIY car roof cleaning foam.
  • Mix 1 part of vinegar with 1 part of baking soda to have a bubbling paste.
  • Vehicle oil, food oil, or lipstick may leave new stains on the ceiling. Use cornstarch or baby powder to absorb abundant oil. Wait overnight before proceeding further.

Alcohol can clean car ceiling stains: oil-based stains, makeup, grease, ink, and crayons. Lacquer thinner also works on them well.

Step 3: Rub the stains lightly

Scrub the stains gently with the brush. You should brush them in small circular motions to have bubbles.

If you use a towel, just dab the stains with light effort. The cleaning solution cannot penetrate the foam.

You can use a car roof cleaning machine for removing stains from headliner. It is a super-soft drill brush to saturate the stains and remove them quickly. The drill brush doesn’t release any heat like a steamer.

Another option is to use a polisher with a microfiber finishing pad at speed 3 to remove stains. Remember to spray the cleaner onto the pad before running it.

Step 4: Wipe out excessive cleaners

You need to use a dry and clean cloth to absorb excessive cleaning solutions. Keep the towel firmly on cleaned areas. You can dab or rub in small circles to take off the stains.

If they are still visible, you can repeat the process several times until they’re gone.

3. Remove Stubborn Stains


Get stains out of car ceiling with a steam cleaner and a narrow nozzle. The required materials and tools are quite similar for small stains.

What to prepare

  • Upholstery cleaner
  • A stiff-bristle brush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • A steam cleaner
  • A narrow nozzle
  • A pair of gloves

Step 1: Loosen the stains

To protect your hand skin, make sure you wear gloves while working.

You have to loosen the stains with a wet brush. Spray the cleaner onto the brush and scrub in small circular motions.Then, dab cleaner as much as possible.

Step 2: Use a steam cleaner


Attach the nozzle to the steam and hold it 2 inches from the stains. Just spray enough water to clean the interior roof of a car. Don’t oversaturate the roof.

Step 3: Soak excessive water

Absorb the excess water with your towel. If the stains don’t leave yet, do these steps again.

4. Large Cleaning

If the car roof has numerous stains, you should clean large areas. Although it takes more time than spot cleaning, the result can be satisfying:

What to prepare:

  • Car roof cleaning foam
  • Sponge
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Wet/dry vacuum
  • Warm water
  • Soap
  • White vinegar

Step 1: Apply commercial or DIY cleaners


You can use car roof cleaning foam to spray a light mist onto the headliner. Wait for a while to have bubbles. The bubbles help break down and wipe off the stains without soaking the roof.

If you use aerosol cleaners, you need to clean your car in a well-ventilated space. Open the car windows for a day to remove all smells and dry the interior car completely. If not, mold and mildew will appear.

You can also use homemade cleaners instead of commercial ones.

  • Mix a bucket of warm water with some drops of soap. Dip the sponge into the liquid. Wring the water out of ¾ to avoid wetting the ceiling.

You can also spray the mixture onto the sponge instead. This way can clean cobwebs, dust, and dirt well.

  • Combine a bucket of water with white vinegar. Do the same as a soapy mixture. Vinegar is effective in removing grease, dirt, bacteria, and mold.

Step 3: Clean debris


After applying cleaners, wipe the headliner to remove debris. You need to let the bubbling finish, then brush the stains gently if you use foam cleaner.

Step 4: Rinse the affected areas

You can use a damp towel to rinse the cleaned areas. Otherwise, use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up excess liquid and remaining debris.

If the stains aren’t gone, repeat the cleaning process.

Helpful Tips

  • To prevent the build-up of dust and dirt, use a damp towel to clean the roof frequently.
  • If you see any spills, solve them immediately.
  • Never apply severe chemicals and solid materials to the ceiling.
  • Don’t leave the cleaners dry on the roof without rinsing. It will be tough stains you have to deal with in the future.
  • Spray a thin layer of liquid onto the headliner to avoid damaging the materials. Never let the cleaner expose the carpet or upholstery.
  • Be careful: water or vinegar can leave streaks on windows and windshields.


You should care for both the interior and exterior car. Therefore, learning how to clean the ceiling of a car is useful. You can solve stains on the roof easily without hiring car services. This post includes different cleaning methods for small or large stains.

Don’t forget to remove odors. Your car will become spotless and have a pleasant scent. Using commercial or DIY cleaners is up to you. A comfortable car will deliver you all the way.

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Our chief editor is Sam Howard. The vast market of car care necessitates extensive research. He entered the market, experienced the service, and reported customer feedback in order to provide the best advice and content to car owners. We have faith in him to turn our website into a reliable resource for all car owners.

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