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November 3, 2013

News & Features

Get your car's interior clean while keeping it green

Special to NWautos

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Scott Riekstins, of Green Auto Detail, cleans a floor mat by using steam at Club Auto Kirkland. (Linda Hughes / NWautos)

The Pacific Northwest is a harsh environment for auto interiors. Mud gets tracked onto carpets, mold and mildew grow under floor mats, dogs slobber on windows and shed on seats. Then there's the spilled coffee, the fast-food remnants and all the weird things that kids leave behind: gum wads, crushed cereal and Lord knows what else.

Many companies can make your car's interior look almost as good as new, but some specialize to appeal to eco-conscious urbanites by using environmentally friendly processes and products.

Corry's Cleaning & Restoration, which has six branches and is known for its dry-cleaning service, offers "green" auto interior detailing at its Laurelhurst facility.

Area cleaners
    Want a green clean? Here are some local companies that offer eco-friendly auto-interior detailing. Some are mobile and will come to your home or workplace.
    Corry's Cleaning & Restoration
    Interior detailing at Laurelhurst location, 206-525-8266, corryscleaning.com
    Eco Car Café
    Branches at Northgate Mall and First Hill, 206-619-6334,
    ecocarcafe.com
    Green Auto Detail
    Based in Kenmore, 425-503-7743, greenautodetail.com
    The Green Diablo
    Mobile service covering the greater Seattle area, 253-951-4347,
    thegreendiablo.com

"It started with the fact that Corry's dry cleaners is a green cleaning service," says company spokesperson Whitney Stewart. "So it was natural to carry that over to auto cleaning — especially in the Northwest, because a lot of people care about the environment here."

Scott Riekstins, who owns Green Auto Detail in Kenmore, has been in the business since the 1980s and figures he has logged more than 30,000 hours scrubbing cars. When he started out, he and most auto detailers would use the same kind of degreasers on upholstery as they would on engines. The chemicals were pretty nasty.

Now, he says, steam is the greenest cleaning method, and the one he has used for the past 10 years. It has several advantages over other types of dirt extraction.

"It's a little more work, but I think it does a better job," Riekstins says of his steam cleaner, built in Everett. "It's like an espresso machine. It shoots out steam and gets carpet or upholstery so hot that it melts the dirt, and I then transfer it onto a towel."

Steam cleaning uses water as a solvent, yet keeps the surface dry. With other extraction methods, the carpet stays wet for days, which can cause mold spores to proliferate.

In a typical interior detailing, first Riekstins pulls the floor mats out of the car, pressure-washes them and hangs them up to dry. After using compressed air to purge dirt and debris from nooks and crannies, he vacuums the carpet and seats, then goes to work with the steam cleaner.

For consoles, dashboard and doors, he uses a degreasing agent he makes from nontoxic ingredients. He charges from $130 to $260 per vehicle, depending on its size and level of filth.

Riekstins says consumer response has been favorable to his green approach, "especially from moms who don't want their babies breathing chemicals" from harsh solvents and degreasers. "It's the future of auto detailing," he says. "Everybody is going green, everybody wants something that doesn't have Mr. Yuk stickers on it," referring to the labels that warn children to avoid poisonous products.

He also uses an ozone generator to remove noxious odors instead of masking them with perfume, as some other methods do. The generator even works on tobacco smoke.

Of course, if you don't regularly transport soccer teams or hairy canines, you can do a reasonably good job of green-cleaning your car's interior. Vacuum carpets and mats, and wash vinyl and plastic with a mild dish soap, water and microfiber towels, and nobody will be tempted to place a Mr. Yuk sticker on your windshield.

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