Car mats are notoriously dirty – after all, that is where we put our feet after walking around in the great outdoors. They can also be the site of spills or accidents. How you should get them clean depends on what they are made of.
If you have fabric car mats, you can put them in a washing machine or use a carpet cleaner. Never put plastic or rubber car mats in the washing machine.
I will tell you how to machine wash fabric car mats as well as what to do to your rubber or plastic ones instead.
Which Material are Your Car Mats Made of?
This is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself – if you wash rubber, vinyl, or plastic in a washing machine they will be ruined. Likewise, fabric mats can be damaged by some of the products which are safe to use on rubber or plastic mats.
Rubber mats are somewhat less common than fabric or plastic because they tend to be damaged by chemicals easily. If you have a rubber mat, it will be stretchy to some degree and soft. Think of the texture of a gummi candy. These mats should not be machine washed. If they do get machine washed, you can almost guarantee they will be ruined, as laundry detergent is not rubber safe. Additionally, their smooth surface makes them easy to clean manually so there is no reason to machine wash them.
Fabric mats have a distinctive rough woven texture. You should make sure they are 100% fabric, as many car mats have small plastic anchors to stay attached to the floor of the car. If the mat has these then it is not machine washable. You can only wash fabric car floor mats without any plastic pieces in your washing machine.
This fabric is delicate to wash, despite its’ rough texture. Make sure to use appropriate settings to avoid the fabric disintegrating in the washing machine. To avoid the risks of machine washing, I generally use a carpet cleaner on fabric car mats.
Plastic mats tend to be hard and make a distinctive noise when flicked. They may be shiny or matte in finish. You should not wash these because not only could they melt, but they could also dent the inside of the machine as it spins. Instead, because plastic is not porous, it does not stain easily. To remove dirt and spills you can spray them down with medium to high pressure water or use a scrub brush for hard-to-reach areas.
Vinyl mats largely behave like plastic when you clean them and are not washing machine safe. They can melt (or the finish can peel off the backing) when exposed to heat. They are also hard, making them likely to damage your washing machine if you attempt to machine wash them. When cleaning, it is best to spray them down gently and scrub with a vinyl safe cleaner.
Can You Put Your Car Mats in the Dishwasher?
No, you should never use a dishwasher to wash things other than dishes. The dishwasher is not equipped to handle things that may be on your car mats like sand, pebbles, and hair. Additionally, in many countries the dishwasher is only connected to the hot water line, making the water inside the dishwasher scalding.
This will melt plastic mats, shrink, and warp rubber ones, and cause disintegration of fabric mats. There is no car mat that is dishwasher safe.
Can You Put Your Car Mats in the Dryer?
No, you should never put your car mats in the dryer. Materials used to make car floor mats are not heat friendly and should never be placed in an environment where they are exposed to elevated temperatures. When exposed to heat plastic or vinyl may melt, while rubber will shrivel up.
Fabric mats can fall apart if put into the dryer due to a combination of the heat and the spinning. Instead, air drying your car mats will prevent damage.
How to Clean Rubber Car Mats
1. First, remove the mats from the car and place them on a hard flat surface (like a driveway).
2. Use a Garden hose to spray off any loose dirt or debris.
3. If the mats still appear dirty after this initial spray, you can take a soft cleaning brush and scrub it down with soapy water. Dish soap is great for this, but you will want to avoid chemical cleaners because they might damage the rubber.
4. Gently rinse the soap from the mat using a garden hose.
5. Let the mat air dry somewhere it is not exposed to the elements, then replace back into the car.
How to Clean Plastic or Vinyl Car Mats
1. Remove the mats from the car.
2. One by one, spray them off with a high-pressure water hose. If you do not have one of these, a garden hose with your finger placed in the hole (making it smaller) can work.
3. If needed, scrub them down with a scrub brush and your choice of cleaner. Most plastics are durable, so you do not need to worry about damaging them this way.
4. Spray down each mat again to completely remove the cleaner. Otherwise, it may dry sticky.
5. Let the mats air dry, simply leaving them out on the concrete should be fine. Then, replace them in the car.
How to Machine Wash Fabric Car Mats
If you have fabric car mats without any rubber or plastic sections, you will be able to machine wash them. However, car mats are not designed to hold up to frequent washing, so they need a gentle touch. To prevent damage to your car mats, follow these simple steps:
1. Remove the mats from the car.
2. Remove any loose dirt by beating or shaking the mats rigorously.
3. Place the mats into mesh bags. You can find these sold in stores for washing delicate clothing such as rayon, lace, or wool.
4. Once the mats are in mesh bags, put them into the washer.
5. Select the gentlest cycle. This cycle is often labeled as one of the following
- Hand Wash
6. Set the temperature of the water to cold.
7. Start the cycle.
8. NEVER put car mats in the dryer. You must allow the mats to air dry.
When someone tracks mud into your car, or has an accidental spill, it can be tempting to toss the mat into the washing machine and hope for the best. However, most car floor mats are not machine washable.
You can only put fabric mats without plastic pieces into the washing machine. Even then, you must wash the mat carefully to avoid damage to the nap. I generally avoid washing machines altogether for this reason and use a carpet cleaner instead. For other types of mats, a garden hose and a scrub brush are your best friend.
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