How to Clean Interiors Properly: Spot Organic vs Inorganic Messes

Dirty Car Interior

This article has been a long time coming. Around 9 years ago at the detail shop we own and manage, we ran into an issue with a stain on the headliner of the car. It was a black mark that the detailer just couldn’t get out. He noticed how caked on it looked and went straight for “purple” (our heavy degreaser product). No matter how much they sprayed and how much they rubbed it, it wouldn’t come out. Jim, the owner, comes down and looks at the stain then looks at the product. He analyzes the situation and grabs “yellow” (our everyday organic cleaner) and sprays it once or twice on a cloth then it wiped right off.

Basically, here is what happened. The guys use “yellow” as their everyday type cleaner because over 90% of all messes in a car are usually organic: food, liquids, dirt…etc. So as you can guess, “yellow” is our organic cleaner. However, when the detailers saw the stain, they immediately assumed the worst and reached for “purple”. Purple is our degreaser for inorganic messes that they use for things like grease, oil, some ink stains…etc. So since this product is used less often and made for these “tougher” stains, it was thought to be a stronger cleaner. In fact, the stain on the ceiling of the car was some sort of caked on dirt. This is why the degreaser didn’t work; and really all they needed was a little bit of organic cleaner.

There are two categories that spills and stains fall under: Organic and inorganic. By identifying which category the mess fall under, the more precise and efficient you can be with your product, time, and effort. By learning the simple difference, you can learn how to clean interiors properly.

Break the mold of the All-in-One cleaning product. Plain and simple, they really don’t work all that well. You need to be more precise with your approach. Here’s how we got hooked on the science of it:

The Need to Assess THEN Attack

Let’s bring this back to the idea of All-in-One cleaning products. They’re inefficient and really just like a shotgun approach. They have some ingredients to clean many types of messes, but nothing concentrated enough to really attack at full force. This leaves you with the need to spray more and scrub harder to try and make the stain go away.

By knowing the simple fact that over 90% of all stains are organic, this should tell you where you should spend most of your money. Get a good organic cleaner. That is unless you are a mechanic and spend most of your time with grease covered hands. But for the better portion of us, a degreaser will be less commonly used. Knowing this will help you be more efficient and get a better job done in the future.

Organic Explained

Organic messes are stains that contain elements that are found in nature. They contain Carbon, Hydrogen, and other elements found in the Periodic Table. Generally these molecular chains need to be broken down by the use of a solvent in order to be properly removed.

Examples of organic messes include food, liquid, dirt, body oil and water based ink.

Inorganic Explained

An inorganic stain is one that’s origin is not found in nature like animals or plants. Instead it is a man made compound. These messes are cleaned by using an inorganic (man-made) solvent and oxygen to chemically alter the stain in order to be removed.

Examples of inorganic messes include anything petroleum based, oil, grease, some inks, and some clothing dyes.


Because the chemical make up between these messes are so different, we can’t possibly expect any one cleaner to do a great job at both. That’s why for most of you, a good organic cleaner is going to be the best option. If you do run into some grease or oil stains from time to time, don’t bother with the organic cleaner. It won’t work for that. So hopefully with this knowledge, you’re going to do a better and more efficient job cleaning the interior of your car from now on.

If you have any thoughts, concerns, or examples you would like to share; please feel free to leave a comment below or reach us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @drbeasleys