Cleaning a car can be very, very expensive. Not just because the chemicals cost a lot, but you also need a lot of them. Each do different things and therefore, you have to buy them all to clean each surface properly. But what if you could use something from your kitchen to clean your car? It wouldn’t only save you money, but save you time, as well.

So I put together a test. Four ways of cleaning a car’s carpet, each at a different price point. I compared each method on one mat, and concluded that I’m an idiot. But other than that, was there a difference in cleaning performance?

Baking Soda – £1.00

This can be found in most kitchens, especially if you like to bake cakes. In regards to carpets, it reacts to the acidity of odours and stains and can, if left for a while, clean a carpet to a certain extent. To make the most of it, pour a good amount over the carpet and either brush it deeper into the fabric with a brush, or agitate with your fingers. Leave it for as long as you can, overnight if possible, then use a vacuum to remove the excess.

I found that it did slightly affect surface stains although it didn’t remove them, but more importantly, it removed the majority of the odour. For a product you can find for almost no money at all, you can’t go wrong.

Cheap Upholster Cleaner – £3.50

I used the Halfords branded cleaner for this test, and although it was only a fraction of the price of the more expensive cleaner I’ll talk about later, it did a fine job. It went on just fine with a slightly soapy odour which I wasn’t too bothered about, but using a microfibre towel I was able to get a slight lather.

Scrubbing from side to side and up and down resulted in the majority of the stain being removed, however a slight odour did still remain. Plus, the soapy odour I mentioned earlier remained and wasn’t overly pleasant.

Expensive Upholster Cleaner – £10.00

For this test I used Maguiar’s carpet and plastics cleaner. It’s completely pH neatural which means it matches the pH of what you’re using it on. Basically, it doesn’t damage the surface or leave behind a strange residue like an all-purporse cleaner would. I should also note that this has deodorising properties and smells amazing – it’s reminiscent of the ‘new car smell’ which is longed for by many.

On scrubbing it creates a thick, bubbly lather and once it’s mopped up, leaves the material spotless. It also completely removed the foul odour which I think was from an iced coffee which slightly leaked in the back. As you can guess, it stank.

Steamer – £299.99

So this is where it gets expensive, but once you buy the steamer itself, all you use is tap water. Eventually you’ll make your money back, but it would take years for the average Joe to use enough chemical to make this economical. On the other hand, a steamer can be used to clean other things, as well, such as windows, plastics, and even your engine bay and sills if powerful enough.

I used a microfibre towel wrapped around the nozzle of the steamer to agitate the fabric, and this is where it all went wrong. Being bright green and cheap, the heat of the steam made the dye transfer onto the mat. I told you I was an idiot.

Apart from this, it did actually clean the material completely while removing the odour, too. I backed it up with the Maguiar’s cleaner once the pores of the material were open after the steam to make doubly sure, too.

Conclusion

For the average person wanting to keep their car clean, I must say the Halfords/cheap cleaner would be my go-to. But if you drive a lot and want to keep your car expertly clean like I do, the Maguire’s product is the one to go for. The steamer is overkill for someone who isn’t going to be cleaning everyday, as that’s the only way it becomes economical, but does give brilliant results.

The baking soda on the other hand is a great mid-week top-up, and can be used after a thorough clean after using a chemical, but on its own it doesn’t quite do it for me. It helps, but I’m personally looking for a complete clean, not a ‘that’ll do’ clean.