A Step-by-Step Guide On How To Clean Your Car

Simple guide on the best way to clean your car interior, including how to clean your inside car windows, carpet & fabric, leather or faux leather car seats.

Every year is the same: spring rolls around and suddenly we are confronted with the need to spring clean our entire home, and our vehicles are no different. Cars are infamous for acquiring mess and dirt that can seem impossible to clean. We’re going to explore some techniques to make sure that you can drive into the next season in a car that is clean, tidy and ready for all the adventures summer might hold.

A simple tidy-up can go a long way

It may seem like a given, but removing the debris that gathers around your feet is the first step; once the empty water bottles, sandwich wrappers and empty bags from under the seats are gone, it will seem like the job is already half-finished and you’ll be inspired to get working on the details.

Busting the dust

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of dust is not in fact dead skin! Granted, in places like your home or your car there’s going to be an increased amount of skin particles, but for the most part, dust is an equal distribution of dirt, pollen, pollution and, yes, a bit of skin. Though a little gross, the good thing is it lifts fairly easily.

Using a microfibre cloth, you want to start from the top of your hard surfaces and work your way down, allowing any dust not removed by the cloth to fall to the floor (don’t worry, that comes next). In order to avoid scratching your screens and other smooth surfaces, you have a couple of options. 

Your first choice is a cleaning gel. There are multiple options available and each is as satisfying as the last.

Coming in the form of a malleable, semi-solid goo, many of them are anti-bacterial, so as well as safely lifting dust from hard-to-reach places, they also ensure that any harmful germs are killed off.

The next option is compressed air; the kind you might use to clean your computer. The nozzle is perfect for getting into those hard-to-reach areas, like the seams around your radio and the inside of your air vents. Hold onto that compressed air as it’s going to come in handy again soon.

Breaking out the hoover 

The brush attachment to your hoover will go a long way to loosening the dirt that gets pressed into the fabric of your car, so be sure to give the whole interior a sweep with the vacuum. One of the most common complications reported is the difficulty in removing embedded dog hair from the upholstery; the link below will show you exactly how to do this with ease.

If the precision nozzle on your hoover isn’t cutting it, then a handy alternative is to once again use your compressed air. The ultra-fine nozzle means that it can reach places your hoover can’t, such as the crevices in your seats, blasting out anything that has been missed that can then be sucked up and disposed of.

Making your dashboard gleam

Once you have successfully removed all the dust, you can reach and have hoovered away all the debris: it is time for a dashboard deep clean. Apply some all-purpose cleaner (your new best friend when it comes to detailing your car) to a micro-fibre cloth and give all of your hard surfaces a thorough cleaning, paying close attention to any areas that have acquired that mysterious sticky residue. Be sure to not apply the cleaner directly to the dash as this can leave the plastic looking patchy in places.

Once you have cleaned the dash, it is time for a polish. Many companies provide an abundance of car-specific polish, some of which can be reviewed here. But if you don’t have any of this on hand, you can always rely on some dependable furniture polish. Try to give every inch equal attention, but be careful not to overdo it. Too much polish on things like your indicators or steering wheel can make it very dangerous while driving; no one needs a slippery wheel. 

How to clean car seats

Finally, it is time to get to your seats. These are often the most difficult to clean, and also usually the most stained. We’ve all had a passenger spill their morning coffee when hitting the occasional speed bump. The first thing to take into account is what sort of material your seats are made out of.

Leather and faux-leather upholstery are the easiest to clean, since most stains should just wipe right off. For leather, you can invest in a designated leather cleaner, though it is easy enough to make your own. Mix 5 parts warm water to 1 part gentle dish soap and dampen a cloth with it. Be careful not to use an excess, as too much water can stain the leather.

Faux-leather is much less work, and once again: you will need your all-purpose cleaner. Spray some onto a microfibre cloth and take your time going over the material, ensuring that you get deep into the seams that you dusted previously. This shouldn’t take too long, and the most difficult part will probably be not being disgusted at the colour your cloth is likely to turn into. 

The most difficult seats to clean are most definitely the ones made of cloth. These are likely to absorb many things that touch them, and trying to remove stubborn stains by hand is liable to spread them. Your best bet here is to rent an industrial power vacuum, often available at the larger supermarkets. Using warm water with the tiniest amount of dish soap mixed in, spray the seats liberally before using your power vacuum over every inch. You will probably need to do this a number of times to get that new car finish, but you will be amazed at the difference. 

How to clean internal windows

Windows are a mystery; they develop a layer of grime so gradually that drivers often don’t notice how dirty they’ve become until they’re squinting at the road. Whether your windows are covered in children’s handprints or slobber from a dog, the fact remains that they will almost certainly be in need of a good clean.

Obviously, the first thing you are going to need is glass cleaner; this can either be a purchased product, or you can make your own. If you choose the latter option, all you will need is a solution of 50% alcohol, 50% water and a single cap of white vinegar. You will also need a packet of micro-fibre cloths; it is important that you don’t use cloths that have been used for other purposes, otherwise you could end up smearing dirt around the glass!

The first step is to use one of your cloths to wipe the windows down thoroughly as this will remove any excess dirt and help prevent scratches. Once all your windows have been sufficiently dusted, it’s time to get to work. Spray a couple of squirts onto a clean cloth (not directly onto the window or windshield) and make small circular motions on the glass, remembering to reapply your solution when needed and swapping out your cloth when it gets dirty.

Each time you finish a window, finish off the task by taking a dry cloth and wiping up and down to give the glass a brilliant finish. For best results, try to clean your windows somewhere out of direct sunlight, as this will prevent rapid evaporation and the resulting streaks on the glass.

Cleaning the carpets

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the carpets suffer the most wear-and-tear of any part of the interior of your car and as such can be difficult to clean. However, if you manage to stay on top of your cleaning by dealing with any spills as soon as they happen, then you can make life easier for yourself.

Firstly you are going to need to break out your hoover again; use a wide brush head to lift any grit, dirt and other detritus from the fibers and a precision nozzle to get into every nook and cranny. Make sure that you have removed as much as you can before moving onto the shampooing, remembering to get under the seat and into other hard to reach places.

Due to how much each carpet goes through, it will probably be in your best interests to invest in a reliable carpet shampoo. It is important to follow the instructions on your selected shampoo as you need an even coverage across the treated area, but too much moisture can leak into the fibres and allow mould to grow which can be harmful to your health. Using a soft-bristle brush, work the shampoo into the carpet and ensure that everywhere gets an equal amount of attention.

Proper drying is imperative; some may choose to use something like a hairdryer to speed up the process, but the best thing that can be done is to ensure your car is in a safe place, open all the doors and let the natural breeze air the car out. If you feel that the carpets are too damp, you can blot with paper towels before you set the carpets to dry.

This is just a quick guide on how to get your car looking snappy. If you instead want to spend a day cleaning your car from top to bottom, this guide leaves no stone unturned and should leave you with a car that you could have just driven out of the dealership.

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