HomeAutomotiveCarsA Detailed Guide on How to Clean Car Headliner

A Detailed Guide on How to Clean Car Headliner

The headliner of the car often gets neglected when it comes to car maintenance. Unlike other functions that affect the performance and life span of your car if you don’t keep them cleaned, a dirty car headliner doesn’t make much of a difference. But it can look unsightly. There are various kinds of stains that can get on the headliner of your car.

If left as it is, it can increase the risk of getting attacked by bed bugs and decrease the value of your car when you sell it.

Clean Car Headliner
Image by Flickr

That’s why, it is important to clean your car headliner periodically, if not Regularly.

Top 3 Ways to Get Stains Out of Your Car Headliner Without Any Hassle

1. Using Upholstery Cleaner to Brush the Stain Off

The easiest way to remove stains from a car headliner is by using an upholstery spray and a brush.

Materials you need

  • Upholstery Spray – $20 to $30, you can purchase it from any drugstore
  • A soft bristle brush – $18 to $25, can also be used to clean leather seats of the car
  • A microfiber towel – $5 to $10
  • Latex gloves – to protect your skin from getting irritated

How to do it

Spray a little amount of upholstery cleaner onto the brush and rub on the stain. Keep rubbing in circular motions until it forms a thick lather. Let it sit for a while and blot the foam away. If the stain is very small and easily removable, then use a soft cloth instead of a brush. Make sure to never spray the cleaning solution directly on the headliner as it can soften the adhesive keeping the headliner fabric stick to the roof.


Always wear latex gloves as cleaning solutions can irritate your skin and cause issues like contact dermatitis. Also, open the car windows to allow proper ventilation and let the spot dry.

2. Using a Steamer to clean the car headliner

If the stains are too tough that cannot be removed using an upholstery cleaner, then a steamer might be better. It lifts the stains and eliminates the need to scrub the headliner, possibly causing damage to the fabric.

Materials you need

  • A small end steamer – $40 – $50 either rent or purchase it from home improvement stores
  • Microfiber towels – $5 – $10

How to do it

Read the instructions carefully on how to operate the steamer. Since it uses pressurized water vapors to penetrate and loosen the stain, it is ideal for stubborn stains. Keep the nozzle of the steamer at least 2 inches away from the stain and start the machine. Keep steaming the stain until you see it visibly softened. Use a microfiber towel to blot the spot dry. If necessary, rub in a circular motion to remove the stain.


Do not steam the same spot for more than 2 minutes as it can oversaturate the spot and render the adhesive in the headliner ineffective. Make sure to ventilate the car after cleaning the stain.

3. Using Vacuum Cleaner to remove the stains

If the focus of your cleaning isn’t just one spot but the whole interior of the roof, then you should use a vacuum cleaner.

Materials you need

  • Cleaning solution – $10 to $15, either upholstery spray or DIY
  • Microfiber cloth or soft-bristled brush – $15 to $20
  • A handheld vacuum cleaner or a regular one
  • Latex gloves – $2, for protection against skin irritation

How to do it

Wet the cloth or the brush with cleaning spray. Rub the entire headliner and scrub the stains clean in long back-and-forth strokes. Keep at it until the ceiling is covered in lather and bubbles. You can work in sections if it’s difficult for you to manage the whole ceiling. After you have adequately taken the stains off, turn on the vacuum cleaner to remove the solution. Make sure to do it quickly before the solution has time to dry and set in the fabric. You can also clean the foam using a wet blotting cloth before vacuuming it.


Do not use a lot of cleaning spray as it can damage the headliner. Wear thin latex gloves to avoid skin irritation. Keep the windows closed while you’re spraying the cleaning solution because it can dry quickly. After vacuuming allow some time for proper ventilation.

How Much Does It Cost to Have Your Car Headliner Cleaned?

Cleaning the car headliner regularly is an investment that saves you hundreds of dollars in the long term. If you clean it yourself, it merely costs you a few bucks in terms of supplies and a bit of your time. Getting it professionally cleaned may cost you as much as $200. The cleaning also depends on the type or model of the car you own. If the headliner becomes dirty to the point where even professional cleaning can’t get the stains out, then you’ll have no choice but to replace it.

On average, replacing a car headliner costs about $350. You can avoid this expense by cleaning it often. That’s why here is a detailed guide to removing stubborn stains from your car headliner and keeping it clean.

How to Make a Diy Cleaning Solution for Your Car Headliner

If you don’t want to use chemicals that might be harmful to your skin or if you have certain allergies, you can DIY your own cleaning solution. It is made from common household items that have cleaning properties.

Materials Required

  • White vinegar – 59 ml (1/4 cup)
  • Warm water – 240 ml (1 cup)
  • Liquid dishwashing soap – 7.5 ml ( ½ tablespoon)
  • A spray bottle


Add all the ingredients to the spray bottle and shake well until it forms a homogeneous solution. It is advisable that you use the same measurements but you can increase the quantity of the ingredients if you want a stronger cleaning action.

How to Get Different Kinds of Stains Out of Your Car Headliner

The cleaning of the car headliner also depends on the kind of stain it has. Various types of stains require different methods. Here are some of the common stains that can dirty your headliner on a daily basis and how to clean them effectively.

1. Cigarette smoke

Smoke can cling to the fabric of the car headliner, making it not only dirty but also smelly. Smoke can come either from cigarettes or vehicles. In order to clean it, using a vacuum cleaner is the best option. However, if the smoke has also darkened the headliner fabric, then wet a microfiber towel with upholstery spray and wipe the ceiling. After this, vacuum it normally.

2. Soda or Beverage stains

Stains from pop soda and cold drinks can also get on the headliner. They can become stubborn if your beverage contains caffeine because it leaves deep stains that are difficult to remove. You should clean them as soon as you can. Use a soft bristle brush and wet it with upholstery cleaner. Rub it in a circular motion on the stain. Wipe it off with a clean towel and let it dry. You can repeat the process if the stain doesn’t get out on the first try.

3. Makeup stains

Sometimes you can accidentally smear makeup on the headliner. It can be your lipstick, mascara, or foundation. In order to clean it, using your makeup remover is the best option. Be careful as to not smear the stain further. Blot the makeup stain and put pressure on each press to penetrate it. If the stain still remains after blotting it with makeup remover, use alcohol or acetone.

4. Loose Dirt

Loose dirt from the road can also settle on the headliner. If it is simply dusty, you can use a vacuum cleaner or a duster to clean it. But if it has settled stubbornly, then you should use the first method described in this article.

5. Skid Marks

Moreover, skid marks from moving stuff in and out of the car can also be hard to get rid of. A cleaning solution works fine for them. However, instead of using a soft bristle brush you should use a brush with stiff bristles. Take precaution in using it though, as it can tear the fabric of the headliner.

6. Oil or Grease stains

Most stains are easily soluble in water and therefore can be removed without any hassle. On the other hand, oil and grease stains are not soluble in water and hence, very difficult to clean. In order to remove greasy stains from the car headliner, cover the stain with a good amount of baking soda or baby powder. Leave it overnight to absorb the oil and wash it with an upholstery solution in the morning.

How to Keep the Car Headliner from Getting Dirty

Precaution is always better than cure. It is easier to keep the headliner of your car cleaner than it is to use different methods to remove stains every month. Here are some tips you can keep in mind to avoid getting your headliner dirty.

  • Drive the car with windows closed especially on dusty roads and during rainy weather. Dirty water can splash on the interior of your car which is really difficult to remove.
  • Do not smoke inside your car as it can make the car smelly and stuffy.
  • Be careful when eating and drinking inside, especially if you live in your car. Always stop the car beside the road before eating. It lessens the chances of food stains and drinks spilling.
  • Similarly, applying makeup in a running car also increases the chances of staining. Do it while the car is parked or better yet, in the washroom of rest stops.
  • If you have little kids, make sure they behave inside the car. Give something to keep them occupied during the ride. However, don’t give them paints as they are likely to paint on the ceiling or walls of the car.

Featured Image Courtesy: Flickr

Saad Shafiq
I love to understand, emphasize and describe facts and characteristics that surround us.

More from author

Related posts

Latest posts

Study Smarter, Not Harder: A Guide to Effective Study Techniques

A diversity of approaches can help you organize your learning process and improve academic performance while providing many additional benefits. Focusing on your strengths...

How to Build Team Spirit Among Employees? 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Teamwork

No man is considered perfect in this professional world. Everyone in the organization is totally dependent on others, making a team overall. “From the CEO...

The Ultimate Guide to Effective Time Management Strategies for Students

Mastering time management in student life is critical for success. Students face many demands on their time, from coursework and extracurricular activities to maintaining...

Want to stay up to date with the latest news?

We would love to hear from you! Please fill in your details and we will stay in touch. It's that simple!