Disclaimer:  If you are eating anything right now, I suggest you stop before reading any further.

We have used the Rug Doctor numerous times for our house.  We may have used it on a car mat or two on our former car.  But I never really stopped long enough to try it on our van.

We own a 2006 Honda Odyssey.  We bought it two years ago, and it looked pretty clean at the time.  The floor mats were a little worn looking, but it was five years old by then.  Even the salesman mentioned something about the floor mats looking a little dirtier than normal.  He suggested we might look into buying new floor mats soon.  We tried not to suppress the laughter.  But he was talking to a family of five who already had experience in filthifying the floor mats of minivans.  (Mommy totalled the previous minivan two years ago, which is why we bought the Honda.  Our previous minivan’s carpets were dirtier than the said Honda’s.)  But in our minds, we knew the van had just been detailed.  While the carpets didn’t look great, we sort of chalked it up to “clean dirt”.  The carpets were “clean”, but stained.

Take the inherited dirty/worn floor mats, and add two years’ worth of wear and tear, and a few roadtrips.  You wind up with something that looks like this:

Yep, gross.


Close-up. Like you needed it.


Driver's side mat


One of the seats.  I believe that’s a chocolate milk stain near on the lower back and near the seat belt.  Sort of a brownish, subtle layer of muck.  Perplexing to me, considering there is a child’s car seat covering it at all times.

I will never own cloth interior again.


Am I embarrassed about posting pictures like this?  Not at all.  I figure that most people who own minivans and who claim one or more dependents on their taxes probably have a similar situation going on.  The sad thing is, our van was considered clean before I did the carpets.  Clean as in, “honey, I just cleaned the van”.  Which translates to hauling three WalMart bags of trash, toys, and crayons out of the van, vacuuming the inside, and washing the exterior.  To us, that’s cleaning the van.

But…we rented this machine for a little incident inside our house.  (See today’s earlier post:  Using Vinegar in a Rug Doctor.)  And I decided to take advantage of it, and get our money’s worth out of the rental.  Plus, we’re putting 5,000 miles on our van in the next three weeks, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some deep cleaning.  (Yes, I was avoiding the huge mountain of laundry that needed to be folded.)

To clean the floor mats and seats of our van with the Rug Doctor, I used the same solution in the Rug Doctor that I did while cleaning the carpets in my house.  I also used the upholstery attachment for this job.

  • 1.5 – 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • Hot water
  • 4 – 5 drops lavender essential oil

I sprayed each mat down with full strength vinegar first (with a spray bottle), then let it sit for about 20-30 minutes.  While that was sitting, I filled the Rug Doctor with the above ingredients.  I then went over the mats and seats (and a few other spots in the van) with the upholstery attachment.

Shampooing floor mats and seats helps me understand my OCD friends a whole lot more.

I have no words...

Sludge from the seats.

I was prepared for some muck to come out of the car mats.  I was NOT prepared for what was going to come out of the seats.  At first, I thought the brown gook was from chocolate milk.  But it was like this on all four captain’s chairs (the other three looked pretty clean to me).  The rear seat wasn’t as bad, but it was still pretty gross.  Mind you, I went over each chair about four times.  It was so so sooooo gross.  You really have no idea what kind of grime you’re wallowing around in until you clean it.  Blech!

I went over the floor mats about four times also.  I could have been there all day with some of them, but I was running short on time by this point.  The end result is not perfection, but they are much better than they started out.  And they are seven years old, so I am having a little grace with it…

Looking better


Driver's side mat, after cleaning.


After of the chocolate milk seat.


And if you are having a hard time deciding if there is a remarkable difference or not, here is the (horrifying) proof.

Hold me...


I have NEVER seen black water come out of the carpet in my house.  I’ve seen brown.  I’ve also seen gray.  Black made my stomach churn.  This was just from my van.


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2 Comments on Using the Rug Doctor and Vinegar in Your Car’s Interior

  1. [...] machine and home-made solution did to my van’s interior!  Click here for the post titled Using the Rug Doctor and Vinegar in Your Car’s Interior. [...]

  2. LoAna Cooper says:

    Several years ago, I bought a spot bot…. it is well worth double what I paid for it.

    It doesn’t substitute for the occasional full carpet cleaning, but it does great on spills. I use vinegar and water….. you set it on the carpet stain, and it scrubs and suctions….

    It also has an attachment for furniture, that works well on car upholstery.

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