How To Clean Cup Holders In Car Consoles (Sticky Spills)

Image Credit: duallogic via Envato Elements

Image Credit: duallogic via Envato Elements

How To Clean Cup Holders In Car Consoles (Sticky Spills)


Drinks spill in cars and trucks all the time. Sometimes it’s minor. Other times it’s a minor catastrophe. No matter what cup holder mess you’re facing, this short tutorial will give you the tips and tricks you need to make the clean up process a snap.

Let’s dive into the details of cleaning car cup holders.

How To Clean Cup Holders In Car Consoles

To effectively clean most car cup holders, first clean out trash, coins, and larger debris.

Spray them thoroughly with a quality all purpose cleaner.

Scrub them with a detailing brush.

Wipe them out with an absorbent microfiber towel.

Follow up with a interior protectant.


How To Get Dirt And Crumbs Out Of Cup Holders

Removing dirt and crumbs from your console cup holders is fairly straightforward, but there are a couple methods that you can use depending on your preference.

Let’s go over the tools and techniques.


Using a shop vac to vacuum crumbs out of cup holders is a simple and effective method. It won’t get the cup holders completely clean but it will remove the loose debris and dirt.

Remove any coins, trash, or other bits that may be sitting in your cup holders. Some cup holders have rubber liners or inserts that should be removed before you try to use a vacuum.

After you have removed all the trash, any inserts, and larger loose debris in the cup holders, vacuum as much crumbs and dirt out as possible.

Try not to rub the vacuum inlet against the console or inside the cup holders to avoid causing surface scratches. This is especially a concern if the plastic attachment or hose end is particularly scuffed up. You may want to sand the frayed bits around the inlet to help prevent scratching the car interior.

Cleaning Slime

Cleaning slime is a good alternative method to using a vacuum. It’s a sticky gel-like material that will stick to and pick up dust, dirt, and other loose bits. A slime isn’t going to remove sticky residue, dried spills, and other adhered dirt or oils.

Just like when using a vacuum, you’ll need to spray the car cup holder with an multi purpose cleaner and scrub it with a detailing brush to break down oils and residue.

Once you’ve finished scrubbing the the car cup holders clean, wipe them out with a microfiber cloth to soak up the used cleaner and remove any remaining residue from inside.


How To Clean Sticky Car Cup Holders

Once the cup holders have been vacuumed out, you may be left with a bit of a sticky mess. Sticky cup holders are very common unfortunately, but they are easy to clean with the right tools and cleaners.

All Purpose Cleaner

Spray the sticky cup holders with an all purpose cleaner. There are several great all-purpose cleaners on the market. You can use a liquid cleaner or a foaming cleaner.

Using a detailing brush, scrub the cup holders thoroughly to remove any remaining stuck on dirt, crumbs, and dried drink spills. All-purpose cleaners will also break down oils from fast food or body oils from frequently touched surfaces as well.

Wipe away the used cleaner with a microfiber cloth. Use the cloth to clean any spots that may have not gotten thoroughly cleaned with the detailing brush. Repeat the process if necessary to clean any areas that may have been missed.

I always recommend following up using cleaning produces on interior trim and parts like consoles and cup holders with an interior protectant.

Hot Water And A Few Drops Of Dish Soap

Water and dish soap can make for a good cleaner. It won’t have the same cleaning power as all purpose professional cleaners, but it can get you most of the way there. If you prefer to avoid more harsh chemicals, this may be a preferred method for you.

You can either put some soapy water in a spray bottle or simply dip your clean cloth in the warm water and mild soap solution and begin scrubbing the cup holder thoroughly. The warmth from the water, cleaning action of the soap, and the friction from scrubbing should remove dirt and stickiness reasonably well.

This method will take more time and elbow grease, but it should still get the job done well. If you do find some hard stains that are problematic to remove, you may want to pick up a professional cleaner so you won’t have to spend hours working when the right tools will get the job done more quickly.

Steam Cleaner

An excellent tool for professional detailers is a steam cleaner. Steam works faster and more effectively than all purpose cleaners and requires little or no scrubbing. It does mean you need to either purchase or rent a steam cleaner however.

Warm steam will break down oils and dried spills quickly and easily. You can then easily wipe out the now clean car cup holders with a microfiber cloth to remove stains and moisture that has collected.

A steamer is a great tool for a detailer to have in their arsenal. If you are a professional detailer or an avid home detailer, this is a tool you should consider picking up.

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How To Get Liquid Out Of Cup Holders

It’s easy to spill a drink while driving. Hitting a bump, a sudden stop, or a turn taken too quickly can tip your cup over and soak your car’s interior. Often, the liquid contents will pour directly into your car cup holders and need to be removed without making the mess even worse.

Microfiber Cloth

A microfiber cloth is a super absorbent material that is great for absorbing spilled liquids. Whether the liquid is coffee, soda, or just water, a small microfiber cloth can absorb a large amount.

Simply slowly push the microfiber cloth down into the car cup holder, being careful not to cause the liquid to overflow. Continue pushing it down until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

With a second microfiber cloth, or part of the first one if it isn’t saturated, wipe away the remaining droplets.

Depending on the type of liquid, you may have a sticky mess that needs to be cleaned up. If so, spray the cup holders down well with an all purpose cleaner to break down the sticky residue or remaining stains and scrub with a detailing brush if necessary.

Wipe out the car cup holders with a clean microfiber cloth to remove the used clean and any remaining liquid.


Wet/Dry Shop Vac

Wet/dry shop vacuums are essentially just regular vacuums that are designed to also safely suck up liquids. They’re a little overkill for vacuuming up a small spill, but they are commonly owned by many people these days and used for lots of cleaning tasks.

A wet/dry shop vac can suck up spilled drinks from your cup holders and they can also pull some liquid out of your car carpet and seat upholstery.

You’ll likely need to follow up with an all purpose cleaner to remove any liquid stains or stickiness left behind.

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How To Clean Removable Car Cup Holders

Some vehicles come equipped with a removable car cup holder. It’s obviously much easier to clean car cup holders that are removable. You can take them to your kitchen sink and clean them with dish soap and hot water.

This type of cup holder is usually just a removable plastic insert or something similar. Scrubbing them with soap, water, and a detailing brush will get them very clean and make removing tough stains a lot easier.

Another excellent method to clean cup holder washable inserts is to run them through your dishwasher. Most cup holders of this type will get amazingly clean in your dishwasher and have no problem dealing with the higher temperatures. Although I do recommend you only put them on the top rack of your dishwasher.

How To Keep Cup Holders Clean

Keeping cup holders clean is possible with a little planning. It’s not usually practical to avoid having food or drinks in your car or truck. But you can purchase a cup holder insert to make clean up easier when you inevitably need to do so.

Cup Holder Inserts

There are various types of inserts, from ceramic cup coasters, rubber inserts, and even adapters to help grasp more awkward sized cups and containers.

DIY Inserts

Some people suggest cupcake liners, coffee filters, paper cups to keep your cup holders and car clean. I personally find those ideas a little less appealing.

Travel Mugs

Using travel mugs with closing lids is much more effective at avoiding future messes, although that isn’t always possible since you may get drinks from a drive through or when you’re somewhere that you don’t happen to have a travel mug handy.

Cleaning Supplies

Keeping a old rag and some cleaner in your glove compartment allows you to handle the mess before it has a chance to leave stains or dry and become sticky if it’s a sugary drink.


Whether you’re dealing with dust, dirt, and crumbs, or stickiness from a spilled soda, you should now be armed with the knowledge to make that cleaning process quick and easy.

Good luck and happy detailing.

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