How to Dye Your Auto Carpet: Car DIY

After 30 years exposure to sunlight, carpet can become faded and need to be rejuvenated.
After 30 years exposure to sunlight, carpet can become faded and need to be rejuvenated. | Source

Is the carpet in your car faded or stained? Does it now clash with your new seats or repainted exterior? You can re-dye the carpet to its original color, spray on a different color or install new carpet. It depends mostly on how much time, money and effort you want to put into the project.

Clean it thoroughly

Unless you already know you’re going to replace the carpet, the first step is to clean it thoroughly. I just used a vacuum on the 1981 Celica in the photos here. That’s not good enough because everything else depends on how clean you get the carpet fibers. If you own or want to rent a really good wet shop vac, you could do this step yourself, but it might be wisest to have the local carwash shampoo the carpet for you. The video demonstrates this part well.

Watch a Pro Clean and Dye Auto Carpet

"Before" shot. Front seats have been removed. Seat belt tongues were masked to keep them shiny.
"Before" shot. Front seats have been removed. Seat belt tongues were masked to keep them shiny. | Source
"After" shot. The color in the foot-wells now matches that under the seats. The flash makes this look less black than it really is.
"After" shot. The color in the foot-wells now matches that under the seats. The flash makes this look less black than it really is. | Source

Dyes

Dyes are not designed to change the color, or not by much. They can restore and darken (but never lighten) the color that was there. They soak into the individual carpet fibers. It is important to brush the carpet every which way in order to work the dye down to the “roots and scalp.” The video starts to demonstrate dyeing a dying carpet at about 4:40.

The before and after photos here of black carpet show some difference, but not as much as there should be. I didn’t follow these instructions because I hadn’t written them yet. I used the wrong kind of coating simply because it was what I had on hand. I also did the brushing wrong. No need to elaborate.

Spray-on coatings

SEM and other companies make spray coating specially designed for carpets. This is not any ordinary rattle-can paint!
SEM and other companies make spray coating specially designed for carpets. This is not any ordinary rattle-can paint! | Source
"Before" shot showing right rear foot-well and rather bald carpet on the drive-shaft hump. By the way, this would have been a prime candidate for replacing the entire carpet!
"Before" shot showing right rear foot-well and rather bald carpet on the drive-shaft hump. By the way, this would have been a prime candidate for replacing the entire carpet! | Source
"After" shot of the right rear foot-well and part of the hump--greatly improved, even though still quite bald.
"After" shot of the right rear foot-well and part of the hump--greatly improved, even though still quite bald. | Source
"After" shot of the drive-shaft hump, the worst part of this carpet.
"After" shot of the drive-shaft hump, the worst part of this carpet. | Source

Coatings

Coatings can make a somewhat greater color change than dyes can, but they have their limitations. And if you’re changing the color by much, you need to be sure to go all the way to every edge and surface, which means removing the seats at least, and maybe the whole carpet.

SEM and other companies make spray coatings specially designed for carpets. This is not any ordinary rattle-can paint! And it's not the kind that's "for vinyl and fabrics;" it's for "vinyl, fabrics and carpets."The small print on the back of the SEM can has instructions that aren’t necessarily intuitive, so read the fine print. After a two-inch column of how to use it on vinyl and flexible plastics, it gives different directions specifically for carpet. I won’t go through all of it here, but here’s my paraphrase of the part after the cleaning and preparation:

  1. Spray a light coat. Immediately brush in all directions.
  2. Wait 3–5 minutes. Repeat step 1.
  3. Wait 5–10 minutes. Brush again in all directions to ensure no fibers are stuck together.
  4. Vacuum it.

New kits or cut-your-own

If you’ve decided to be thorough enough to remove the carpet, then new carpeting is often more cost-effective than dyeing or coating it. Laying new carpet, however, has its own challenge, and that comes to fitting it. When re-installing the carpet, it will tend to pull or wrinkle if you stretch it too much or too little when bolting something back down. This is true whether you are re-installing the original carpet or replacing with new carpeting. It helps a lot, though, if the new carpet is molded in the shape of the floor-pan.

Buying a kit that is pre-cut to fit your make, model and year of car should come close to fitting, but there are often inaccuracies, holes that need to be cut or lined-up, etc. Some kits are easier to work with than others, so it is wise to check the online DIY forums for your make, model and year to find out their recommendation. Google e.g. [diy forum camry]. After you’re into a forum that looks promising, you can specify the year, seat configuration, etc. that might pertain. Prices are about $145-$200 for the passenger compartment, even less for some two-seaters.

It is cheaper to go down to the upholstery shop (or online) and buy carpet by the yard, starting at about $35. Auto carpet differs from household carpet, so be sure to ask for the right kind. This will be cheaper than the kit, but you have to overlay the old one as a pattern for cutting. The decisive factor may be how many edges need to be finish-stitched, which is more likely in the trunk than on the floorboards. If all edges get tucked under door sills and trim panels, it’s a lot easier—you don’t have to cut too accurately or stitch it. But watch out for compound curves that aren't as easy with flat carpet as with molded carpet.

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6 comments

Rismayanti profile image

Rismayanti 5 years ago from Tropical Island

exellence useful hub.. thanks


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Whoah, I didn't even know that dying an auto carpet was an option! Great guide!


Howard S. profile image

Howard S. 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia Author

Well, hello again in a whole 'nother context! (hehehe)

It sounds like dye is definitely the option of choice. First be sure you get all the chlorine out. Otherwise it's going to keep working against you every time you dampen it. Then make sure you have a dye that is a perfect match so you won't have to blend out from the spot. Then just keep treating that spot until you're satisfied it's as good as it's gonna get! Let me know how it goes!


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 5 years ago from East Coast

You couldn't have had more perfect timing! I was just complaining yesterday about the lovely bleached spot on the carpet in the back of my car from my husband taking my car to get more chlorine for the pool. I bet if he had used his car he would have been much more careful - but that's a whole other topic. Someone else told me to dye it and I had not even thought about that. Thanks for these great tips!


Howard S. profile image

Howard S. 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia Author

Thanks, Rudra. I forgot, but had intended to say that removing the seats is the hardest part--or rather re-installing them. And these were small ones that I could carry (awkwardly) by myself. Imagine one of those newer ones where everything's electric, etc. Some even have a side air bag inside the seat back. All this complicates it. In those cases, it's probably best to use the dye method, shoving the seat all the way forward and then all the way back.


Rudra profile image

Rudra 5 years ago

One of those very hard things to do.

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