How to Remove Stains & Odors From a Headliner

Written by corey m. mackenzie
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The headliner in your car gets dirty from dust in the air and holds onto odours, such as smoke and food. A dirty headliner can make your whole car smell bad after awhile, so cleaning this part of your car's interior is essential if you want your car to look and smell clean. Depending on the material of your headliner, vinyl or fabric, the cleaning process varies a bit. You can clean both types of headliner; however, vinyl is easier to deodorise, because it's not porous like fabric.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Vacuum
  • Vinyl and/or upholstery cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Water
  • Scrub brush
  • Spray bottle
  • Distilled white vinegar

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  1. 1

    Vacuum the headliner, whether it's vinyl or fabric, with a hand vacuum or a vacuum cleaner's hose extension. Vacuuming gets rid of a lot of surface dust, as well as some of the accompanying odour.

  2. 2

    Spray the headliner with automotive vinyl cleaner (if it's vinyl) or upholstery cleaner (if it's fabric). For fabric headliners, recommends testing the cleaner on a small area first to make sure the upholstery cleaner won't discolour the fabric.

  3. 3

    Dampen a sponge with water, and scrub the headliner. Next, scrub the headliner with a soft-bristled fabric brush or shoe brush. This loosens any remaining dirt.

  4. 4

    Rinse a vinyl headliner with a clean, damp sponge. For a fabric headliner, allow it to dry, and then vacuum the headliner again.

  5. 5

    Mix 1 cup water and 1 cup distilled white vinegar in a clean spray bottle. Shake it well to mix the vinegar and water. Lightly mist the headliner. This solution naturally deodorises any remaining odours. The vinegar odour usually dissipates within one hour.

Tips and warnings

  • suggests using a dry cleaning pad on extra tough stains.
  • Vacuum the headliner every time you vacuum your car--this prevents dust and dirt build-up.
  • You may not be able to fully clean and deodorise a ripped fabric headliner. When odours penetrate the foam backing, you may need to replace the whole headliner.

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