It's never a bad idea to "deep clean" your car's interior every couple of months, maybe every three months, to preserve that "fresh car smell" as long as possible and make it more comfortable to drive and ride around in too.
However, washing your car mats isn't always as simple as dumping them in the washing machine, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best. No, the easiest way to wash your car mats is with a pressure washer (in a carwash) - but we dig a little deeper into that in just a moment.
Below we run through (almost) everything you need to know about getting your car mats clean with as little headache, hassle, and as little frustration as possible.
Let's jump right in!
Can You Put Car Mats in the Washing Machine?
Truth be told, whether or not you will be able to stick your car mats in your washing machine safely - and have them come out clean rather than destroy the mats AND the washer - has a lot to do with what the mats are made out of.
Fabric car mats (nowhere near as popular today as they were in the past) can generally be pitched in your washing machine - alone - spun on gentle with a little bit of detergent, and you'll be good to go by the time the cycle finishes.
Rubber mats, however, should never find their way inside your washing machine.
Not if you like your washing machine, that is!
Those machines will bounce around inside your washer like a rubber brick, banging and bumping into everything but never coming clean. There are much better ways to clean those rubber mats (and we highlight them below).
How to Wash Carpet Car Mats?
Learning how to wash your car mats all on your own will save you a lot of time and money, headaches, and a lot of frustration.
Below we run through three different options to help you hit the ground running, getting your car mats cleaned (and smelling fresh) every time you look to do a little detailing.
As we highlighted a moment ago, machine washing is only something you want to do when you have 100% fabric car mats in your vehicle.
These car mats are notorious for getting filthy - muddy, crunchy, and just filled to the brim with dirt, dust, and gunk - but a quick spin through the washing machine will have you holding car mats that are better than brand-new in record time.
You do want to spin those car mats on low, though. A gentle cycle agitates just enough to free dirt and debris without causing the mats to abuse the inside of your washing machine along the way.
You will want to use a little bit of detergent as well.
Not a ton - you don't need a ton - but just enough to pull out all the gunk, grime, and caked-on funk that your fabric mats have picked up since their last cleaning.
You can do handwashing with any type of car mat you are dealing with.
Fabric car mats can be dunked inside 5-gallon buckets filled with warm soapy water, scrubbed vigorously, and then rinsed, and repeat the process as necessary until you get them clean.
All that's left is to wring them out and leave them to dry in the sun.
There's nothing wrong with that approach, and you'll get pretty solid results without too much manual labor.
If you want to speed things up, you can bust out a pressure washer at any local carwash (those pressure wands in self-service/pull-up carwashes) and spray your mats down while you clean the rest of your vehicle.
Pressure washing blasts all that caked-on dirt, debris, and funk from your carpeted floor mats.
Best of all, because you are hitting your mats with high pressure, there's not going to be a ton of water that soaks in or stays on the mats' surface.
You could also always run those mats over to the high-powered vacuums and give them a once or twice over.
The vacuum will pull any extra moisture left behind from the pressure washing out of fabric mats (along with some of the caked-on mud and debris that didn't want to come free from the initial pressure washing).
How to Wash Rubber Car Mats?
Washing rubber car mats is a relatively straightforward process, too.
It's not all that different from washing carpeted car mats.
Rubber car mats can be hand washed in record time.
First, you'll want to give them a dip in that same 5-gallon bucket with warm soapy water.
Pull them out, scrub them down with a sponge, and get as much of the caked-on debris off as possible.
Dip back in the bucket, rinse, and repeat the process as much as necessary until you're happy with the finished product.
You could also use a garden hose to spray those rubber mats down, using a little bit of extra pressure to jet away dirt and debris and anything else caked on the rubberized surface.
Leave those rubber mats out to dry in the sun, and they'll be ready in just a couple of hours. Maybe even less!
Pressure washing your rubberized mats is the perfect way to clean these car accessories.
Pressure washing will guarantee you get a deep and consistent clean without having to scrub, without having to get a bucket and soap, and without having to do anything other than jet water across the mats themselves.
Pull the mats out, prop them up against the carwash wall, and then hit them with high-pressure water to rinse them off.
After that, blast them with a jet of carwash soap (there's almost always a setting available to do just that), and then repeat the rinsing process.
You'll end up with rubberized mats that are squeaky clean.
Flap them out a couple of times to get surface water off, and you are rocking and rolling.
Can You Put Rubber Car Mats in the Washing Machine?
No, it's not a good idea to put your rubber car mats inside a washing machine.
First, your washing machine isn't designed to handle rubberized materials. It's not going to love being "fed" floor mats this big, this heavy, or this inflexible.
Secondly, your floor mats can be cleaned faster and more effectively using a garden hose, bucket, or pressure washer at your local carwash.
You'll be happier with the finished result, and you won't have to worry about ruining your washing machine in the process.
How to Clean Car Mats with Bad Stains?
What if you are dealing with carpet car mats that have particularly nasty stains you just can't get rid of?
Good old-fashioned carpet spot remover - the same stuff you probably use in your home if your pets have accidents - gets the job done just as well with carpet car mats.
To spot-treat your carpet car mats, you're going to want first to clear the area of dirt, debris, and other gunk that's caked on.
After that, apply just a little bit of spot remover to the impacted area (after checking that it's not going to discolor the fabric) and then allow it to set up for anywhere between five minutes and 30 minutes - or maybe more.
All you'll have to do from there is scrub a little bit, work the fabric spot remover deeper into the material, and then use a damp rag to pull any of the excess (as well as the stain) out completely.
You should be good to go!
Homemade Carpet Mat Stain Remover
Believe it or not, a quality homemade carpet stain remover can be cooked up with stuff you have around the house.
For example, .5 cups of liquid laundry detergent mixed with .5 cups of liquid fabric softener and .75 cups of ammonia - all dumped into a gallon of warm water - will give you one of the most powerful carpet cleaners you've ever used.
Hydrogen peroxide works well as a homemade carpet and spot remover, too. Don't go crazy with it - you want to mix a teaspoon of it into a bit of non-gel toothpaste - and scrub liberally to get the best results.
Best Way to Keep Car Mats Clean
The best way to keep car mats clean is to give them a good scrubbing at least every three months (even more frequently than that, whenever possible).
You don't need to do a deep clean from top to bottom all the time, but you do want to vacuum your car mats regularly and try to clean them if something spills on them.
If you've tracked mud, sloshing around in snow or sleet, or notice your mats getting particularly dusty, it's probably a good idea to vacuum and clean them.
Homemade Carpet Mat Freshener
Baking soda is the best homemade carpet mat refresher you can get your hands on.
Just sprinkle a little bit of baking soda on your carpet or rubber floor mats, and then let it go to work.
Your floor mats will be deodorized and noticeably fresher overnight!