Select Page


A professional car detail isn’t considered complete until the carpets are perfect. Unfortunately, that’s not always an easy task. Any detailer that has lived through the wonderful experience of cleaning and detailing a minivan used primarily as a bus for numerous children, will attest to that. And they will even regale you with stories about the experience if you ask.

Two Categories of Car Owners

I learned early on that car owners primarily fall into one of two categories. People who love cars and people who look at cars as nothing more than a mode of transportation. Minivan owners tend to fall into the latter. When they describe the minivan, they say things like, “it’s better than taking the bus.” It’s a means to an end. Getting them and their shit from point A to point B without breaking down.

Raised a Trash Panda in Their Minivan

Nobody loves their minivan. If ever there was a vehicle created for a single-minded purpose, it’s that. Hauling around the entire family. Check. Hauling the groceries. Check.

Don’t feel sorry for the customer while listening to them blame their children for the disgusting smell and ridiculous condition of their family bus. If they respected the vehicle, it would stay clean. So you smile politely as you double your normal rate because you are fairly certain they raised a trash panda in their minivan from birth to adult.

Charge More. Your Time is Valuable.

Don’t feel bad about charging more. Your time is valuable. And don’t accept their sob story about not being able to afford your price. If they are willing to let you spend hours of your day cleaning up their mess that accumulated over many years, then they should pay you for your time. If they balk at your rates and walk, then let them try and find another detailer. Personally, I would rather stay in bed than live through those kinds of horror stories.

Old School Detailers

Old school detailers have inferior equipment. Most of them just used an old shop vac, scrub brush, and a bucket. It’s a horrible way to scrub carpets and isn’t even close to a professional auto carpet cleaning, but they managed somehow. Other less professional detailers like to spray a chemical on your carpets, pressure washes the dirt out, and then drill small holes in your floorboards to let the water drain out. I know you think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’ve actually seen several car dealerships do this with really bad carpets they didn’t want to replace. It works, but the customer isn’t really happy when they can’t seem to figure out why their carpets get really wet during heavy rains when they drive their car.

Modern Technology for Auto Carpet Cleaning

That brings us to modern technology for auto carpet cleaning that all professional detailers should be using in this day and age. Professional heated carpet extractors will run about $1,500. So if your detailer does not have one, go somewhere else. If they can’t afford $1,500 for equipment that will increase their productivity by a few hundred percents then you don’t want your car near them. Heated carpet extractors will mix water and cleaning chemicals and heat that solution to 210 degrees. The handle attachment is for shooting the heated solution into your carpets and lifting the dirt back out with a very powerful suction system. It’s by far the fastest and best method for achieving the best results in professional quality auto carpet cleaning services.

How a Pro Handles Auto Carpet Cleaning

The reason you go to an experienced detailer instead of a newbie is because of things like this. Cleaning carpets in cars isn’t as easy as the public thinks it is. A good detailer will know how to pre-treat the carpet with specialized cleaners. Spots and stains are also treated with lifting chemicals to remove the stain once the heat hits it. We would also use a small buffer that has a scrub brush attached to it for really tough to clean carpets. This is how a pro handles auto carpet cleaning, how does your detail shop do it?

Training and Practice Equals Expertise

Everybody believes they can be a car detailer. Think about each time you see people in other professions doing their job. How often do you think to yourself, “wow, that’s an easy job that I could do in my sleep.” Clearly, you aren’t the only person that thinks that. Right now someone somewhere is watching a pro detailer working on a car and thinking the same thing.

The problem is that anyone that thinks this is always wrong. You might think it’s incredibly simple to work at McDonald’s. That anyone can do it. But could you? I’m a smart, successful business guy. But I know if I walked into a McDonald’s and was asked to cook burgers, it would take me a while. I’m sure there is some big button to heat up the fryer, but is there also a temperature setting? And where are the burgers? Is there a button to push that tells me how long to cook it?

It’s all about training and practice, which leads to expertise.

The fact is, without training for that burger-flipping position, we would all be lost. It’s the same for detailing a vehicle. And auto carpet cleaning has both a science and art to doing it right.

Poor Technique and Equipment Leads to Mold

A good car detailer knows to pre-spot sections of carpet that aren’t visible. We do this to test for color separation during the carpet cleaning process. Certain chemical cleaners can suck the color right out of many types of carpet.

And saturating carpet with water can develop mold if it’s not extracted quickly. Mold is a surefire way to get a claim filed against your detail shop liability insurance. Nobody wants the smell nor the bad health implications of a mold spore breakout within their vehicle.

Mold is one of those issues that you want to always be on the lookout to protect yourself against. I trained all my team members to know what mold smells like. This training helped numerous times. Like when we received a vehicle from a dealer client late in the afternoon one day. That seemed weird since they always dropped off in the morning or we went to them and picked-up. When my manager got into the vehicle, he immediately smelled the mold. I did too when I checked it.

I told the client we weren’t willing to accept responsibility for the mold. So we didn’t touch the vehicle until the dealer acknowledged the mold problem in writing and, more importantly, that it wasn’t us that caused it. We recommended that the front carpets be pulled out. The dealer wasn’t happy, but they agreed to it. When we pulled it, everything under the carpet was covered in mold. Someone had attempted to clean the auto carpet and saturated it badly in the past.

Properly Insure Your Detailing Business

This is also a good time to remind you to update your business liability insurance. Protecting your detailing business with the proper insurance is incredibly important. Plus, you want to be ready when a customer calls and requests you to fax or email them a certificate of insurance to prove you are insured. Savvy customers understand the importance of insurance coverage, especially if they have higher-end luxury vehicles.

Check out our proper insurance page for specifics as to what you should be looking for and asking about when it comes to insurance at your local shop. Mishandling your auto carpet cleaning job can result in destroyed carpets. How do you feel about mold and mildew, foul-smelling odor, and carpets that need completely ripped out and replaced?

Auto Carpet Cleaning

Your customers are spending good money to have their car professionally detailed. Make sure their car is fully protected by the proper equipment and insurance to do the job right. Auto carpet cleaning should make it look great when it’s done.

Dyeing Packages for Carpet

If the carpets don’t look great, you should recommend dyeing the color back to a new look again. Most detailers have dyeing packages for carpet, just don’t let them use the can spray paint colors on your carpets. It rubs off eventually and it looks horrible. Injectable dyes are better and look more like the real thing. Of course, just starting with professional auto carpet cleaning is the way to go, but there are additional more advanced repair and cleaning options if they are needed.

Check out of our AutoDetailGuide E-News Subscription.