How to Clean Car Mats

Clean and gray rubber car mat in front seat car floor

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Think about how many times someone gets into your car or truck. Each time they bring along a little bit of the outside dirt, mud, sand, tar or gravel with them to the car's interior on their feet or shoes. Now think about that cup of coffee you spilled or the Hawaiian Punch stain from a juice box or the Chinese food containers that leaked or the potted plant that turned over when you took a corner too quickly. All of that mess landed on your seats or car mats. Might be time to give them a good cleaning.

How to Clean Different Types of Car Mats

The first step in cleaning any type of car mat or trunk mat is to remove it from the vehicle. It's much easier to tackle any stains and clean the mats if you're not contorting yourself inside the vehicle. Plus you don't need potentially slippery cleaning products around the gas, clutch, and brake pedals or extra moisture inside the car. While you have them out, give the interior carpeting a good vacuuming. If you don't have a vacuum, a lint roller like the Evercare Mega Lint Roller with a 42-inch extendable handle works great to trap dirt and pet hair.

What You Need


  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Water


Materials and tools to clean car mats

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Clean Carpet Mats

Usually made from nylon fibers, carpet mats are coated with a water-resistant, non-slip backing. Most of these mats match the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) floor covering installed at the factory. They are available in various thicknesses and levels of plushness and can be standard sizes or custom-made.

  1. Shake and Vacuum the Mats

    Give the mats a good shake to remove as much loose debris as possible. With the mats lying flat, vacuum each one well on both sides to remove dirt particles. If the mats are wet, use a wet/dry shop vac to draw out the moisture.

    Black car mat being vacuumed while lying flat

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Clean Any Stains

    Now is the time to tackle any specific stains like grease and food just as you would on your carpet at home.

    If the mats are heavily-soiled, use a commercial spray-on carpet cleaner to clean the entire mat. Follow the product instructions and be sure that the mats are completely dry before returning them to the vehicle.

    Commercial spray-on carpet cleaner passing over black car mat

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee


To help absorb any odors, sprinkle the mats with baking soda and rub it in with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the baking soda to sit on the mats for at least 30 minutes and then vacuum.

How to Clean Rubber, Vinyl, and Custom Molded Liners

Cleaning any of these types of mats is even easier than carpet mats. Simply remove them from the vehicle, grab a hose, and blast away the dirt.

  1. Rinse and Scrub

    Use a hose or bucket of water to wash away any dirt or debris. For stuck-on messes, use a medium-bristled brush and a solution of dishwashing detergent and warm water. Never use harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach which can cause damage and never spray with a silicone-coating like Armor-All. No one needs a slippery mat.

    Medium-bristled brush scrubbing rubber car mat

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Hang to Dry

    While the cleaning is easier, the downside of using the hose is that the mats must be fully dry on both sides before they can go back into the car. Hang the mats over a sturdy clothesline to drip-dry. If you absolutely don't have time to allow the mats to air dry, wipe them off with a dry cloth or paper towels. It's still a good idea to use your air-conditioner or heater to help the drying process if you place slightly damp mats back into the car.

    Gray rubber car mats hanging dry on clothesline

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

About Rubber, Vinyl, and Custom Molded Liners

Rubber car mats are more durable and better for heavy-duty vehicles or for any vehicle that is exposed to extreme environments. Rubber mats are opaque, available in a variety of colors, remain flexible for many years, and stay in place well thanks to grippers on the underside of each mat.

Solid vinyl mats can be clear to allow the carpet to show through or opaque in a variety of colors. Similar to rubber, solid vinyl mats are not as flexible and long-lasting but are usually less expensive. Car mats can also be made of extruded vinyl fibers attached to a flexible backing similar to industrial doormats. These are manufactured by 3M and are called Nomad mats.

If you are looking for the ultimate way to protect the OEM carpet in your vehicle, custom molded floor liners are the top-of-the-line. More rigid than most mats, these protectors cover much more than just the floor of the car. They are molded to fit into the floor well and rise several inches up the sides of the car to trap any spills. They can even be molded to go door-to-door over the rear seat hump.