How to Clean Car Floor Mats: Rubber & Cloth

Your car floor mats can look brand new again with a few simple cleaning methods

Clean and gray rubber car mat in front seat car floor

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Every time someone gets into your car or truck, they likely bring a bit of mud, sand, gravel, or other outside dirt with them. And all of that gets on your car floor mats. So it's important to know how to clean car mats, including cloth, rubber, vinyl, and custom molded liners. You can clean your car mats at home or even at a car wash if it provides the supplies.

Cleaning floor mats regularly is essential to keep up with the dirt. If there's a noticeable mess, you should wash your car floor mats promptly. Otherwise, a quick cleaning weekly to monthly should suffice, depending on how often you use your car. Here's what you need to know to make your car mats look like new with some household cleaning products.

Before You Begin

The first step when you clean dirty car floor mats is to remove them from the vehicle. It's much easier to tackle stains and debris if you're not contorting yourself inside the vehicle. Plus you shouldn't have potentially slippery cleaning products around the gas, clutch, and brake pedals or extra moisture inside the car.

While you have your mats out, give your car interior a good vacuuming. If you don't have a car vacuum, a lint roller like the Evercare Mega Lint Roller with a 42-inch extendable handle can work to trap dirt and pet hair.

What You Need

Supplies

Tools

  • Vacuum
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • White cloth
  • Hose or water bucket
  • Medium-bristle brush
  • Towel
Materials and tools to clean car mats

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Clean Cloth Car Mats

Usually made from nylon fibers, cloth car mats are coated with a water-resistant, nonslip backing. 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.

    Then, with the mats lying flat, vacuum each one well on both sides. 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. Treat Stains and Replace the Mats

    Now is the time to tackle any stains, such as grease or food, just as you would on your carpet at home. Use a commercial spray-on carpet cleaner suitable for the stain, following product instructions.

    It's also possible to use a DIY cleaner to remove a carpet stain. Try blotting with a mixture of 2 teaspoons dish soap and 2 cups of warm water, using a clean white cloth. You also can mix a solution of oxygen bleach and water, following label instructions. This is good for older stains, but it can discolor some carpets. So always test a carpet cleaner on an inconspicuous spot first.

    Then, make sure the mats dry completely before returning them to the vehicle.

    Tip

    To help absorb odors, you can clean your car mats with baking soda. Simply sprinkle the mats with baking soda, and rub it in with a soft-bristle brush. Allow the baking soda to sit on the mats for at least 30 minutes, and then vacuum it up.

    Commercial spray-on carpet cleaner passing over black car mat

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Clean Rubber, Vinyl, and Custom Molded Car Mats

Cleaning any of these types of car mats is even easier than cloth mats. The simplest way is to remove them from the vehicle, grab a hose, and blast away the dirt. But you also can clean rubber car mats without a hose by using a bucket of water and scrub brush. This method is especially useful for cleaning car mats in winter, as you might not have access to a hose.

  1. Rinse and Scrub

    Use a hose to blast dirt and debris off your rubber car mats. Or wash your car floor mats using a bucket of warm water and a medium-bristle brush. For stuck-on messes, mix a solution of a few drops of dish soap with warm water, and scrub the mats with that.

    Never use harsh chemicals, such as chlorine bleach, which can damage rubber car mats. Also, never spray them with a silicone-coating, such as Armor-All (which is used to clean and protect rubber in general), because it can result in slippery mats.

    Medium-bristled brush scrubbing rubber car mat

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Hang to Dry

    The mats must be fully dry on both sides before they can go back into the car. Hang them over a sturdy clothesline to drip-dry. You also can wipe them with a towel if you're short on time.

    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. Vinyl mats are not as flexible and long-lasting as rubber, but they 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 your vehicle's interior, 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.