A Carpetless Interior Gets So Much Filthier Than You Think

If you’ve ever been in a greasy old car, you know exactly what this smells like. (Photo Credits: Andrew Collins/Jalopnik)

Ripping out interior carpeting and laying down a layer of gritty, grip-tape style truck bed liner is a popular modification for Jeeps and trucks. It is extremely cool and tough looking, but after scrubbing the stuff for a few hours, I’m closer to contracting a soil-borne illness than having a clean truck.

That’s the kind of floor my International Scout has. The theoretical advantages to ditching carpet for bedliner include less grossness when waterlogged and better resemblance to a hardcore off-road vehicle. Obviously it also offers some rust inhibition and ding protection versus a bare metal floor, too.


Major cons to ditching your carpet would be the significant loss of sound deadening and temperature insulation. But on a vehicle like a Wrangler or an old International Scout, you don’t have much hope of staying comfortable in those regards anyway.

Flip through any 4x4 forum and you’ll find at least a few posters talking about how much they love it and how easy it is to clean. I think the line of reasoning is that a truck bed is easy to clean, just hose it out, so surely the same applies when the same stuff is on the inside.


To which I say no, and no. If you’ve ever “just hosed out” a bedliner’d truck bed you know that it clings to little chunks of dirt forever. To really make it look new-clean you’ve got to scrub it hard with an aggressive (but not too caustic) soap/degreaser and a brush that’s tough (but not too sharp) then rinse it all over again.

Except that dulls the finish. No worries, you can hit it with some tire shine to blacken it up and beautify it again. Until the next time the bed gets used, or anybody steps into it with a boot, and crams dirt right back into those crannies you spent half a day shining.


But you don’t demo your carpet and bedliner your interior if you’re the type of car owner who’s going to fuss over a few specs of dirt floating around. The guy who owned my Scout before me certainly didn’t.

I know this because the dirt and mud and stickiness and loose change and gas receipts are so deeply fused to my truck’s interior, most of it withstood hours of assault with picks and brushes and cleaning spray. Who knew dusting off an old work truck would be as labor-intensive as excavating an archaeological site.


I started with a vacuum, just to get the loose stuff up. But I was quickly frustrated to find that the “loose stuff” actually needed to be dislodged with a brush. I used one with nylon bristles to mitigate the risk of tearing down to bare metal.


The brush released clouds of undoubtedly disease-riddled dust, which I tried to suck up as quickly as possible with my vacuum. I pretended I was digging up a dinosaur to make the process a little less tedious.

But even before the handle on my brush broke this process began to feel futile. There was just too much greasy grossness caked into the skin of the bedliner to remove with these soft bristles.


My next step was chemical intervention. Surely a little light degreaser would loosen the deep stickiness, I thought!


Turned out, yes, kind of, but it mostly just turned the California desert on the floor of my Scout into a Louisiana mud bog. Stuff was coming up out of the cracks alright. Endlessly. I’d scrape until the brush was clogged, and the section of floor I’d been working on stayed the same. Over and over again.

Scrubbing the degreased wetness started feeling as hopeless as the gentle dusting. And the corners of the floor were still occupied by globs of thick, goopy gnarliness.


The last weapon I was willing to try was a pick. Like a little dental tool, a pick is exactly what it sounds like. (It’s for picking.) I used it to successfully dislodge chunks of dirt that had moulded around some wiring, bolts and screws.

As that garbage gave way, a chasm opened up in the lower left corner of the driver’s footwell. A secret passageway. A tunnel, made by rust, into the inside of the truck’s front left fender. I should have known not to clean this truck too hard; even the Cali-raised ones are rotting.


But I was reinvigorated by curiosity. I plunged my pick into the hole, extracting screws and wires and loose change and dirt. So much dirt.


These trucks are notorious for collecting crap inside their fenders, but man. I must have pulled a kid’s sandbox bucketload out at least and a day later there’s no indication I’ve drained the cavity. That one will have to wait for another day. Like the day I can afford a new set of fenders, because clearly these are held together by rocks and refuse.

For now I’d just be happy to remove the most apparent layer of filth from the claws of my bedliner. Unfortunately trying to do that is like fighting Medusa with a boxcutter. You know, if scrubbing dirt was like cutting off the infinite heads of a mythological monster with a substandard tool.

Here lies my Harbor Freight brush, which didn’t have what it takes.

Whether or not my floor really is beyond the point of no return remains to be seen.


All I’m saying for now, besides “look how nasty my 40-year-old farm truck is,” is you better think long and hard before ripping up your carpeting and covering your car in this stuff. And if you do, make sure you keep a good brush handy and clean it on the regular.

Once too many layers of dirt get lodged into this liner, you might never be able to recover it.

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About the author

Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL