Is Cleaning Car Headliner Safe?

You may have never even thought about what the interior roof of your car might be called, but it’s referred to as the headliner.

When you’re cleaning the interior of your car, it can be hard to know where to start- it seems a lot more effort than cleaning the car’s exterior.

Is Cleaning Car Headliner Safe?

When it comes to the headliner, though, it’s quite easy to effectively clean, as long as you know how to do it safely and properly.

The following article will break down all you might need to know about cleaning your car’s headliners, which is a completely safe process when done correctly.

What Is The Headliner Of A Car?

The headliner in a car is the fabric that is attached to the vehicle’s interior roof, or ceiling. It’s taped onto the ceiling and provides both heat insulation and sound insulation.

Plus, it’s a lot more aesthetically pleasing than if there were no fabric attached at all.

They tend to be made either from plastic or the same kinds of materials that go into carpets. Some would be a mixture of both, but headliners with materials close to carpet materials are the most common kinds of headliners.

The innermost layer of most headliners will be made up of a soft foam, which would be covered with either cardboard or fiberglass. It’s this layer that is covered with the fabric.

Before we get into the actual process of cleaning the headliner, it’s important to break down the risks of cleaning your headliner incorrectly, and the damage this could cause.

Is It Safe To Clean Your Car’s Headliner?

Cleaning your headliner is perfectly safe, but only if you’re using the right cleaning solutions, and using the right technique.

If you use the wrong kinds of cleansers to clean your headliner (or if you use the right cleansers but apply them in the wrong way), it could lead to major damage to your headliner.

A common result of cleaning your headliner in the wrong way is a sagging headliner. This means that the tape, which is the only thing attaching the fabric to the ceiling of the car, starts peeling away.

The costs to repair your car’s headliner can be fairly high. It depends on your car, but it could cost you as much as $400 to get fixed.

What Should You Clean Your Car’s Headliner With?

So, if most standard cleaning solutions (eg. the ones you likely have in your home) are unsuitable for your car’s headliner, what does that leave you with?

Luckily there is a wide range of products dedicated exclusively to cleaning the upholstery of vehicles. Look for something like the Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet and Upholstery Stain Extractor.

Anything labeled as a car upholstery cleaner or stain remover (or fabric cleaner) should get the job done. You can usually buy these types of products with brushes, as well.

The best kinds of car fabric cleaners come in spray bottles. These will be the easiest products to use on your upholstery.

If you’re in doubt about the effectiveness of your cleaning product, test it on a more hidden area than your headliner. This will give you a good indication of how the liquid reacts to your car’s fabric.

If you haven’t purchased a brush with your cleaning solution, any soft brush will work. You’re also going to need around three microfiber cloths.

How To Clean Your Car’s Headliner

Is Cleaning Car Headliner Safe?

The process of cleaning the headliner is not something to leap right into- you must know exactly what you’re doing because using too much of the cleaning solution (or even too much water) can end up damaging the fabric.

There are three methods you can choose from when you’re cleaning your car’s headliner. These are surface cleaning, spot cleaning, and deep cleaning.

If you’re only cleaning one specific part of your headliner (because, for example, there’s a permanent marker stain up there), then you’ll probably get away with just a spot clean.

But if you’ve got large stains or smells to contend with, then you’ll need to go with either a deep clean or a surface clean.

Let’s look at each of these methods individually.

The Surface Clean

If you’ve got more than one mark on your headliner (or if you tried to clean a small mark with a spot clean but it wasn’t effective enough), then you’re likely going to need to do a surface clean.

To do so, spray your fabric cleaner or stain remover on the entire affected area, making sure the solution is distributed evenly.

There will be instructions on your spray that will tell you how long you should leave the solution to soak in once you’ve sprayed it. Wait this length of time and then get your soft brush and, carefully, brush the fabric.

Make sure you’re getting the entire area that you sprayed.

You can use your microfiber cloths or towels to get rid of any excess moisture. Then, leave the headliner to dry.

This should do the job for most stains or smells, but if it’s not quite effective, then you’ll need to either make do or try a deep clean.

The Deep Clean

A deep clean will be the last resort, so you should only go to these measures if you have to. Whatever the stain, you should try a surface clean before you attempt a deep clean.

The reason deep cleans should be the last resort is because any excess moisture or heat produced by this method can lead to damage, sagging, or both.

You must clean the headliner with care, otherwise, you could interfere with the glue holding the fabric to the ceiling of the car. If this happens, you’ll likely need to replace your entire headliner.

To deep clean your headliner, you’re going to need a steam cleaner. Make sure you check whether your steam cleaner needs a specific brand of fabric cleaner.

Mix water with your cleaning solution and get your steam cleaner ready. Apply whichever attachment is required, ideally a small, non-abrasive attachment.

Switch on the heat cleaner and let it heat up. Once it’s hot enough, move it across the fabric of the headliner as gently as you can. Move it quite quickly, though, so you don’t oversaturate specific parts of the fabric.

Once you’ve gone over the entire headliner, let it dry. Don’t use the car until the headliner is completely dry.

The Spot Clean

For single small stains, you might get away with just spraying upholstery cleaner (or any product specifically targeted at car fabric) on the affected area and then wiping with a microfiber cloth.

Don’t apply too much pressure, though- you don’t want the liquid to seep into the foam of the headliner.


Cleaning your car headliner can be a stressful endeavor, which is the main reason most people don’t even attempt to clean small stains on the ceiling of their car’s interior.

Whether you’re doing a spot clean to get out small stains, or a surface clean to get out bigger stains (or, as a last resort, a deep clean), it’s crucial that you make sure you’re gentle with the upholstery and only use products designed specifically for car fabric.

If you’re careless in your approach to cleaning your headliner, it could lead to permanent damage, which can cost hundreds of dollars to get repaired.