How To Clean Cloth & Rubber Car Floor Mats

So, you just spent two hours washing and drying your car. You even went back and got the spots you missed. You cleaned the tires and wheels and applied tire slick.

It looks just like you drove it off the showroom. Then, you open the door. Oops, you're only half finished.

I know, I know, the floor mats can wait until next time. How many times have we said that? Have you ever heard the saying, that a car is not clean until it is cleaned inside and out?

Got dirty floor mats? You can fix that. All it takes is time, effort, supplies and know how. This article supplies you with the know how.

Floor Mats

Just to clarify, this article covers the removable mats which go on the floors. Permanently attached car flooring is a topic for another article.

Floor mat finishes make a difference not so much in cleaning time but in drying time. Carpeted mats require much longer drying times. We cover both carpeted and rubber mats in this article.

Prepping Your Floor Mats

The secret to professional-looking cleaning is in the preparation. Prepping determines what kind of cleaning job you end up with. It is the indispensable key to the cleaning process.

Remove the mats. Use a stiff whisk broom and sweep the floor you just removed the mats from. Sweep thoroughly. Be sure to get the areas in the crease between the floors, the dash wall and the doors.

Take each mat one at a time and shake it vigorously. This should remove the surface dirt first. Next use the whisk broom and sweep the mat from top to bottom while holding it by one end.

Fold the mat back as you work your way down the entire surface. Folding it opens up the carpet fibers so the bristles of your broom can get down to the base of the mat. This removes accumulated dirt.

Pay special attention to the foot pad area of the mat and the edges where the mat has stitched borders. After sweeping, shake vigorously a second time.

Lay the mat flat down on a firm surface. Use a strong vacuum cleaner and slowly move it over the mat. Press hard enough to force the suction deep into the mat fibers.

Cleaning Cloth or Carpeted Floor Mats

Cleaning By Hand

Gather your cleaning supplies. You need a bucket, cleaning product and a soft bristle brush. The parts stores stock all sorts of mat cleaners.

This is not a product sales or recommendation article. Use your own judgment and read the product labels to make sure your cleaner is safe for your mat carpet.

Hold the mats up vertically and spray them, one at a time, with water. Use enough water pressure to penetrate the carpet fibers down to the base.

Mix the cleaner into the water. Dip the brush into it and get it fully saturated with the cleaning mixture. Use the brush to scrub the mat.

Guide the brush from side to side and back and forth creating a four-direction cleaning pattern. This gets the fibers from all directions.

Let the cleaner-soaked mat sit for two or three minutes and go over it again with the brush and cleaner from the bucket. Let stand another two or three minutes; then, rinse thoroughly. Hang to dry. Repeat the process with the other mat.

Cleaning By Steam

Follow the exact prep process to clean any vehicle removable floor mat. Be sure to remove all the loose dirt possible.

To clean with steam, hang the prepped mats from a sturdy, taut line that won’t sway or move when the pressure of the steam hits it. Spray the mats with water in a top to bottom motion. This should remove even more surface dirt.

Apply the steam in a slow, back and forth motion from top to bottom. Do not leave the steam nozzle in one spot for an extended time. Steam can damage the fabric if not used carefully.

Repeat the process as many times as needed until you see the dripping steam is clear. Leave the mats hanging to dry.

Cleaning By Pressure Washer

Again, follow the same prepping process. Lay the mats on a firm surface that won’t move under pressure washer force.

Be careful with pressure washers. Many of them are extremely powerful, so powerful in fact, they can damage mats.

Select the right pressure washer tip designed for cleaning carpeted surfaces. Different pressure washers will have slightly different tips for different kinds of cleaning.

Use the pressure washer with the same motions and cleaning process as you did with the steam cleaner. Be careful not to get too close to the mat for too long in the same spot.

Pressure washers penetrate the carpet fibers deeply due to extreme pressure. You need to allow extra time for mats with carpeted finishes to dry after pressure washing them.

Cleaning Rubber Floor Mats

Cleaning By Hand

Rubber floor mats are a lot easier to clean than carpeted mats. The surface is bare and much easier to clean more thoroughly. Only the molded creases and crevices are challenging.

The biggest cleaning challenge with rubber mats is the raised printing of brand names and all the little hard-to-reach areas letters create.

Hold the mat by one corner and shake vigorously. Brush the surface thoroughly with the trusty, stiff broom. Wet the mat and let the excess water run off.

Spray the mat with cleaner. Leave the cleaner on to allow it to lift the dirt. Use a stiff, damp brush and scrub the mat. Use the same four-direction scrubbing method.

Rinse the mat. Repeat the process for any stubborn, remaining dirt. Hang the mat and let it drip dry.

Cleaning By Steam

Prep the rubber mat just like cleaning it by hand. Shake it. Sweep it, hang it and lightly rinse it. Hold the nozzle of the steam cleaner close to the mat.

Do not hold it too close for too long. The high temperature of the steam can discolor some mat finishes.

Use a slow, sweeping, back-and-forth motion from top to bottom. Continually check the color of the water running off the bottom of the mat looking for clear water. Let the mat hang to air dry completely before reinstalling.

Cleaning with Pressure Washer

Prep the mat just like the other two methods of cleaning. Select the right tip for the pressure washer so you get the desired pressure and spray pattern for cleaning rubber surfaces.

Hold the pressure washer tip close to the surface of the mat. Use a similar motion and coverage method you used with the steam cleaner. Continue to go over the mat as many times as necessary to remove stubborn, ground in dirt.

Just like the steam cleaner, be careful not to hold the tip of the pressure washer too long in one place. Again, it's high pressure can damage the mat finish. Leave the mat hanging to air dry.

After the mat is dry, check it for any spots which may need more cleaning. Spray cleaner directly on the troublesome spots and let stand according to product instructions before scrubbing and rinsing again.


Be sure you do a good job of preparing your mats for a good cleaning before attempting to clean them. Removing excess dirt before getting down to the long standing dirt reveals any areas which need special attention like stains or streaks.

Prepping the mat sufficiently is the best way to get a professional look and thoroughly clean finish. Properly brushed and pre-cleaned mats respond much better to cleaning efforts.

Additional Tip

You may want to consider some of the vinyl finish restoration products for your cleaned, rubber mats. Simply follow the back-of-the-can instructions to give your old, worn, but freshly cleaned rubber mats that new look.