Keeping your car clean is just as important as keeping your house clean – it’s basically a reflection on how clean you are as a person, and everyone who has an untidy car is basically telling you all you need to know about themselves. However, no matter how uncluttered and tidy your car is, you should have a deep cleaning every now and then. This is the only way to really get rid of that stale feeling in your car.
In today’s article, we’ll be showing you how to clean your car deeply to ensure that it always has that brand-new car smell.
Let’s get started!
Equipment You’ll Need
A vacuum cleaner – this is the most obvious tool you’ll need, and make sure to have a vacuum cleaner with an extension hose and hand-held attachments. The hose will allow you to reach those difficulty-reached areas, while the attachments will be handy when you start cleaning carpets and tight, hard-to-reach nooks.
Cleaning products – most chemical cleaning products that you have lying around the house are enough for this job. You’re going to need to clean vinyl, plastic, and upholstery surfaces, alongside carpentry.
Brushes and applicators – since you’re not going to be applying those products with your hands, you’ll need different-sized brushes – these are absolutely necessary for cleaning dust from air vents and other places that are hard to reach. Sponges, rags, and brushes are the best way to go.
Wiping and polishing materials – if you want to clean your car really well, you’re going to need a whole assortment of towels and rags – ripped cloth towels and fine cloth rags for cleaning and polishing. Microfiber cloths are the best for achieving a beautiful shine on surfaces without the worry of scratches. Just make sure that there aren’t any residual chemicals on the rags.
Step 1 – Decluttering the Car
If your car is already tidy then feel free to skip this step, but if you need to declutter your car, then you should know that it’s the first step in any good cleaning job. Bags, toys, magazines, bottles, pillows, etc. – are just some of the things you could find in your car. Remove all the trash from your car, as well, and have it completely empty.
Step 2 – Carpets and Floor Mats
We suggest that you start by cleaning your carpets and your floor mats. These places actually tend to be the dirtiest, and some people argue that you should actually clean them last because dust will be collecting on the floor once you get that done, but you’ll actually vacuum the floor once again when you’re finishing with your cleaning.
Once you’ve uncluttered your car, it’s time to start with the floor mats.
It’s best to remove the floor mats from the car and firstly shake them vigorously, this will make the dirt fall off. It’s best to wash them using a pressure washer, but if you don’t have that, then a brush with stiff bristles and some water will get the job done. This is where you place your feet, and the soles of your shoes and boots can definitely get dirty – especially if it’s raining and snowing, so the mats can actually be quite tricky to handle. Clean between the grooves with your vacuum cleaner’s bare hose nozzle.
Once you’ve actually cleaned your mats well, feel free to wash them out with your garden hose, after which you’ll hang them out to dry in the fresh air.
When you’re cleaning your carpet, you’re going to want to vacuum the whole thing completely and make sure to use the various attachments to clean crevices and areas around the seats that are more difficult to reach.
If you want to make your car really clean, feel free to buy a steam cleaner, as there are hand-held models which will suck the dirt right out of your car! If you’re not interested in that, there are numerous commercial carpet cleaning products that will still work. There are many chemical products that cost less than 10 dollars and are going to get the job done very well – the only difference with the steam cleaner is that it’s much quicker and it requires less effort.
Most products require that you put them on and brush them into the fabric with a medium-hard brush. It’s going to require some force, for stains and problem areas, but it really shouldn’t be a problem to clean your fabric. Make sure to wash your carpet, but not get it too wet – you don’t want mildew and mold growing in your car. Use a dry towel to dry your carpet if you make it too wet during the cleaning process.
Sometimes, you may come upon a stain that’s very difficult to get rid of – then it’s best to use an industrial-strength or specialized cleaning product. These products are also usually no more than 10 dollars, and they can truly work wonders.
Something that’s a common problem with carpets is chewing gum matted into the floor – just rub it with ice cubes for several minutes – it will turn brittle and you can feel free to pry it off.
Step 3 – Seats
We’re going to be covering leather, vinyl, and cloth seats, as those are the three most common types, and all need to be handled in different ways.
Vacuum your seats before you get started with working on them
If you have leather seats, then you should know that you’re at an automatic disadvantage! These luxurious seats take a lot of work to look beautiful, clean, and new. Dirt and grime will become embedded to the seat with time, and you’ll see that they might even change lighter-colored leather to a dingy shade. On the bright side, there are leather cleaning products that are great for the job, so all is not doomed.
Buy a leather cleaner and spray it on the seat, and work it into the material by rubbing it in with a towel. Make sure to constantly flip the towel over, just so you’re sure you’re cleaning with the clean side of the towel. Once you’re done, use a microfiber cloth to dry the seats.
Once it’s been a few hours and the seats have dried completely, use a leather conditioner to keep the material supple. There are also products that let you wash and condition the leather at the same time, so feel free to buy a product like that.
If you have vinyl seats, you’re not in that much trouble and it won’t take you too long to clean them. You most likely already have the products that are needed to clean vinyl seats, and even some glass cleaners are good enough for this.
Most products have labels that clearly say what they’re compatible with – find a product that’s good for vinyl. Spray the car seats with the cleaner and wipe it with a rag. However, make sure you’re not getting any of the solutions on other parts of the interior – just on the seats – you don’t want to damage your car. Wipe the seats down completely, and use a different cloth to dry the seats. Let the seats dry completely – this will take about an hour, after which you’re ready to go.
If you have cloth seats, you need to take good care of a few things – stains and odors. If you have tough stains or bad odors in your seats, you’re going to need to apply different products.
If you’re just giving your seats a general cleaning, then a multipurpose upholstery cleaner can work very well. However, if you have any tough stains on your seats, you’re going to need to get a specialized stain remover. There are also common household odor elimination sprays if your seats aren’t smelling fresh.
The thing with cloth seats that definitely needs to be taken with a point of concern is just how wet you’re getting them. These seats will take that moisture in, so you never want to get them too wet. If the fabric drinks too much moisture it won’t dry properly, and your car will be left smelling musty.
There’s a method you can use to minimize the use of harsh chemicals in your vehicle, you can sprinkle baking soda on the seats and vacuum it after several hours – this should leave your seats smelling nice and fresh. The longer you let the baking soda sit, the more odor will it absorb?
Step 4 – Mirrors and Windows
Mirrors and windows can usually be taken care of with a simple glass cleaner, and all you need is a microfiber cloth to apply it. When you’re doing this, be wary not to clean plastic – make sure to clean glass, as plastic can be cleaned with an all-purpose cleaner.
Tinted windows can be tricky, as a part of tinting is part of the window, while another tinting is just a sheet that’s applied to the inside of the window. You can easily damage it with cleaning products – especially the ones containing ammonia. If you’re worried, contact the shop that applied the tinting and ask them for advice.
Always spray the cleaner on the cloth, not on the glass itself, as this will reduce streaking. You also won’t be getting the cleaner on other parts of your car that may be damaged by harsh chemicals.
Also, roll your windows down a bit so you get that small part on the top of your window – people often forget that the window actually enters your car and you’re never seeing your window fully when it’s closed.
Wipe exterior glass surfaces horizontally while wiping interior glass surfaces vertically to make sure that you always know what side is streaking – if you’re battling with streaks.
Step 5 – Panels
Your dashboard is often the most difficult part of the car to clean – regardless of what material it’s made from. The angle of the windshield in some cars can create hard-to-reach areas on the dash which is always a bother, and it’s also going to get very dusty.
Make sure to vacuum all the dust before you apply a cleaning product, and always try to reach as far as possible with the vacuum cleaner. There are also interior dressing products you can apply to your interior after cleaning – this is to make sure that your panel doesn’t crack from overexposure to sunlight.
Since dust tends to get into every crack and crevice, it’s likely that you find cleaning the console hell. To get this process over with, wrap a cloth around the tip of a flat-head screwdriver. Make sure to use the thinnest cloth possible, so you don’t make the screwdriver head too bulky to do the job. Even though a metal screwdriver wrapped in cloth won’t damage your car, feel free to use a plastic knife if you’re worried.
Use a soft, long bristle brush and a can of compressed air to clean your air vents. This is usually an easy job, but there are many small parts that tend to be a bother. Use to brush to wipe off as much of the vent grill as possible as most of the dust will be taken care of this way. After that, fire a few jets of air from the compressed air can on the grill to clean it additionally.
Step 6 – Odors
Cigarette smoke and pets are usually causing the most lingering odors, and they’re sometimes difficult to remove. However, before you decide to buy a product that’s going to remove the odor, make sure to check whether the thing causing the odor is hidden somewhere in the car. It shouldn’t be, since you’ve already cleaned everything, but just in case.
No product can neutralize a horrible odor if you haven’t removed the source. However, if you’ve determined that the odor is coming from the upholstery or the carpet, use the odor removal product to neutralize the unpleasant smell. These products will usually take care of even the hardest smells, and you won’t have to worry about them returning to bother you anymore.
However, if you’re smoking in your car or if you travel with pets on the regular – the odors will return. A car deodorizer goes a long way, but it still won’t be able to get rid of all the smell. You can also use an old plastic food storage container that won’t be missed and fit it beneath the driver’s seat. Cut one-quarter-inch slots into the lid, and fill the container with lumps of charcoal. Snap the lid back on and hide it under the driver’s seat. Charcoal helps to absorb nasty odors and it will freshen the interior of your car without you needing to use car deodorizers.
Car deodorizers are usually better at masking the smell, not getting rid of it.
Tips and Tricks!
Here’s a list of tips and tricks you should definitely keep in your mind if you want to clean your car well!
Lubricate the hinges of your hood – to do this, wipe the hinge area with a clean rag and spray it with white lithium grease or a few drops of ordinary motor oil. Work the oil into the hinge by moving it a couple of times, and make sure to get the oil on both sides of the hinge. Always wipe away any excess oil, as it will only collect debris.
Replace the carpet – it can happen that your carpet is simply too old and used, and there’s no solution to your problem other than replacing the carpet. You can buy preformed carpet specifically for your car’s make, model, and color and install it yourself. This process usually isn’t costly, and it doesn’t take longer than an afternoon to install the carpet.
Scrape off the stickers from the inside of your windshield – these stickers become visual hazards as they’re collected, and they can be pulled off if you can get under a corner and carefully pull them free at a 90-degree angle. You’ll need to use a degreaser to take care of the gummy residue that sticks to the windshield once you’re done.
Microfiber mitts are better than sponges – sponges capture and hold dirt and grit in their large pores. This dirt will stay put when car cleaning – it’s as useless as cleaning your car with a shovel. We recommend that you get yourself a microfiber cloth mitt, as you can wash the dirt out when you rinse it.