Interior coatings. Fabric guards. Hydrophobicity. Anti-microbial. These terms can make protecting your interior sound daunting, but it really isn’t. It’s actually quite easy. Today I’m going to share how to apply fabric guard to floor mats (and other fabric surfaces in your car).
Normally I like to say that the best way to keep an area of a vehicle clean is to not let it get overly dirty in the first place. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for the floors of our interior. Along with the seats and steering wheel, this is the part of the vehicle we touch the most often. And because we’re constantly touching it, we can’t avoid getting it dirty. So the next best option is to protect it, and protect it well.
Why Should You Use a Fabric Guard?
That’s where fabric guards and coatings come in. Your carpet sees all of the dirt, mud, and road salt from your shoes along with the odd stain from coffee, ice cream, crushed berries, tree sap and who knows what else. Having a barrier of protection between you and the carpet is the best way to keep it looking new as well as being easier to maintain.
When you spill a liquid on untreated carpet, the weave of the fibers allows the moisture to soak in and sometimes even trap it inside. That makes it a lot harder to clean especially if you’ve waited too long. Liquids tend to float on top of fabric guarded carpet, similar to the way water beads on your freshly waxed paint. It’s much easier to grab the spill and pull it up long before it’s able to soak in.
Tip: If you spill something in your car, ALWAYS clean it up as soon as you can. The longer you leave a stain, the harder it is to remove. Eventually, it can cause permanent discoloration.
My go-to product for protecting carpet and fabric is Gtechniq I1 Smart Fabric. I’m a fan of Gtechniq’s other protective coatings for interior surfaces (like C6 Matte Dash and L1 Leather Guard) as well as their lineup of ceramic coatings for paint, wheels and plastic trim. I1 Smart Fabric provides the same quality results as these products and is easy to use.
Gtechniq I1 Smart Fabric uses Biocote anti-microbial technology so not only does it create a waterproof surface, but it kills 99.9% of bacteria as well. Using this could be a good idea if you’ve recently purchased a used car and want to remove any “leftovers” from the previous owner.
How to Apply Fabric Guard:
This could be slightly different depending on your product of choice. In the case of Gtechniq’s I1 Smart Fabric, it’s super simple. The prep work is going to be the majority of the job. When using these products, it’s important to get the surface as clean as possible first. That makes all the difference in how well the product works and how long it will last.
What You’ll Need:
- An interior cleaner like this one, dedicated carpet cleaner, or all-purpose cleaner diluted 10:1
- A firm bristled brush
- Microfiber towels
- A vacuum
- Fabric guard product
We’re going to be using a “damp shampoo” method to clean the carpet, but first, it’s a good idea to vacuum up any loose dirt and debris. If you leave this stuff there and skip to the next step, it’ll just create a muddy mess as soon as it gets wet. That’ll make the task even harder, so just take the 5 minutes to suck the loose stuff up.
Now your carpet should be free of any loose dirt and pet hair and only the stains and embedded debris will remain. We could take the easy way out by pressure washing or steam cleaning the mats, but excessive water is the enemy in this case. In order to apply the fabric guard, the surface needs to be completely dry. Using a more aggressive cleaning method could mean you’ll have to wait for days for the carpet to dry up.
Using this method, we’ll be breaking the cleaning down into lighter layers. Doing multiple “damp” passes is the idea here in order to keep the carpet from getting too wet. On a relatively new car, you might be able to get away with only doing one pass. For medium to heavily soiled cars, you’ll likely need to do this at least 2-3 times.
Spray your cleaner on the mats thoroughly, but not enough to really soak them. You can allow it some time to sit and break down the dirt if you want to. I find that holding the mat up against a fence or wall makes it easier to spray the product consistently but do whatever feels comfortable for you.
Next, take your firm bristled brush and agitate the cleaner into the carpet. Depending on the cleaner you’re using, it might start to develop some suds or foam. This is great because it’s pulling the dirt and grime up into the foam.
Once you feel you’ve worked it in enough, grab a microfiber towel and scrub away as much moisture as possible. You should be seeing the dirt show up on the towel which means everything is working as intended. If your towel is still clean, either your carpet wasn’t dirty to begin with or you need to do a better job with the cleaner.
Now it’s time to check your work. Grab your vacuum and suck up any new debris that the brush or towel has loosened up as well as some of the moisture. The end result will tell you whether you’re ready to move on to the protection step or not. If you still see dirt or stains, start over again at Step 2. If you’ve done multiple passes by now and a stain still remains, it’s possible that it’s too stubborn to remove with this method.
This step doubles as preparation for the fabric guard. The vacuum will suck the fibers up so they stand in a uniform pattern. The product will do a better job of surrounding every fiber if they’re standing up vs matted down.
At this point, it decided to start raining on me (of course). I suppose it was Mother Nature’s way of reminding me to eat lunch! FYI, applying these products in the rain is a bad idea.
Give the carpet some time to dry out. If you’re cleaning the whole car, this is a good time to work on the rest of the interior. Once the mats are dry to the touch, you’re ready for the fabric guard.
For most products, this is usually a matter of just spraying it on and walking away. When using Gtechniq I1, I like to mist 3 light coats on. Follow the directions for whatever product you’re using. If you’re applying the product inside the vehicle, make sure you wipe off any surrounding vinyl, plastic or rubber. Allowing it to dry on these surfaces could create a gummy residue that’ll be hard to clean off.
That’s it! Your carpet is now thoroughly cleaned and protected. Gtechniq I1 takes approximately 24 hours to activate, so you should avoid getting it wet for at least that long. You might notice a chemical smell in your car at first, but don’t worry. That’ll go away. You can leave your car parked with the windows cracked if it’s a concern for you.
As you can see, applying a fabric guard to your carpet is nothing to be afraid of. Just make sure your surface is clean, and you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Now you can have the peace of mind knowing that if Little Billy spills his ice cream in your car, it’s not the end of the world.
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