ASK LEXUS

“What’s the best way to take care of my Lexus carpet and seats?”

Before we get into the details of taking care of your vehicle’s interior, let’s clarify exactly what we’re talking about. Lexus interior care is solely a matter of light cleansing when needed. That’s about it.

The high-quality materials in your Lexus are designed to provide years of trouble-free service, and do not require any kind of specialty treatments or conditioning to keep them looking and feeling their best. In fact, some treatments and conditioners may contain agents that are potentially harmful to your vehicle’s interior.

So all you need to concern yourself with is cleaning it. And how is that done?

For answers, I spoke with Charles Hubbard, Senior Dealer Education Administrator at Lexus College. To get the conversation started, I asked him how he takes care of the interior of his own Lexus.

“What I do is vacuum it, give it a wipe with a damp microfiber cloth, and then immediately wipe it dry with another microfiber cloth,” Hubbard told me. “That’s pretty much it. My rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t need cleaning, leave it alone. The material will wear better and last longer.”

For most smooth surfaces—leather, plastic, and vinyl—it’s really that simple. Cloth and carpets are handled a little differently, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let’s look at the reasoning behind Hubbard’s three simple steps.

First of all, regular vacuuming. Is it really all that necessary? Absolutely. Keep in mind that small unseen particles could nevertheless leave big visible scratches if they are ground into the material. Hubbard also points out that dust particles can carry mold spores. For these reasons, surfaces should be free of loose material before you wipe them, and vacuuming is the best way to do it.

Second, let’s consider that damp microfiber cloth you’re using. We’re not talking about a soaking wet cloth here. And we’re certainly not talking about using a spray bottle to apply cleanser. We’re talking about using a damp cloth that has been dipped in lukewarm water and wrung out. If you think you need something a little more aggressive, a mild, ph-neutral soap is acceptable for cleaning plastics and vinyl. Leather can be cleaned using a 5 percent solution of mild wool detergent mixed in water. Again, just be sure to wring out the cloth before wiping the surface clean.

Finally, when you’re done, step three is to wipe off all excess moisture with a dry microfiber cloth.

Why this emphasis on minimizing moisture? Put simply, water is the enemy of your vehicle’s interior, and you should always avoid introducing more than is necessary. Certain areas are especially sensitive, such as the dash area, which contains sensitive electronics. Excess moisture can also cause some materials to bulge and pucker.

Cloth and carpet surfaces are cleaned a little differently. For these surfaces, Lexus recommends using a commercial foaming-type cleaner. Vacuum first, then use a sponge or brush to apply the foam, and rub in overlapping circles. Do not apply water. It is very important the carpets not be soaked through, due to the presence of electrical connections and wiring underneath. For this reason, the carpets should not be steam cleaned.

By the way, after you clean the carpets, be sure to properly secure the driver’s floor mat using the retaining hooks.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: what do you do in the case of a spot or stain that soap and water can’t take care of? For starters, take care not to exacerbate the problem with a commercial spot-remover or other specialty treatment. Your owner’s manual expressly cautions against using cleaners that contain benzene, gasoline, alkaline or acidic solutions, dye, bleach, thinner, and alcohol.

So what should you do?

“Take it to your dealer,” says Hubbard. “They have detail shops, and know the right steps to get stains out. Remember, these are the guys who detail the Lexus Certified Pre-Owned cars, and make them look like brand-new. Isn’t that who you’d want cleaning your car?”

Finally, a quick word about windows. Glass cleaner is fine for all interior windows, with the exception of the rear window, where it may cause damage to the rear defogger heater wires or antenna. Clean the inside of the rear window using a cloth dampened with lukewarm water, and wipe it in strokes running parallel to the heater wires or antenna.

—CLARK HEIDEGER, AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR