In many ways, our car is a home away from home. We spend time in it going to and from work, heading on vacation, or getting through your errands for the week. We spend more hours than we think driving around.
Over time, clutter can accumulate and the car can get dirty, and a dirty car makes for a grosser, more stressful commute that goes with you everywhere you drive.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways around this annoying little problem and to keep your car looking like new!
A common first rule for hotel housekeepers when cleaning rooms is to clear the clutter before you clean deeper. Move the seats up and see what’s underneath. You’d be surprised what lodges itself under your car seats. You could find pens, water bottles, pens, pencils, a stapler, three pieces of year-old gum… it could be anything. Clear the clutter and get a vacuum with an appropriate attachment to clean the floor and the foot mats by the gas and brake pedals and in front of the back seats.
From there, you can vacuum the seats and the carpet. Dispose of as much of the clutter as you can, and poof! You’re on your way to a clean car after only a few minutes!
Cleaning your air vents can be surprisingly effective when it comes to making your car smell fresh and clean. That’s right, you don’t necessarily need an air freshener to get a cleaner-smelling car. Besides, those air fresheners only last so long anyway, right?
You’ll need a cotton swab to start. Dip the cotton swab into a car cleaner and run it between the slats of your car vents, picking up dirt and dust along the way. You should be sure to get the vents below the console, too.
Replace or clean the cabin air filter in your car. Not only will this improve the smell in your vehicle but it’ll kill germs and eliminate any dust and dirt that may have been circulating through your cabin.
The upholstery of your car is usually made of one of three materials (possibly a combination of the three): cloth, leather, and vinyl.
Cloth upholstery can be difficult if there are stains involved. Thankfully, there are several upholstery cleaners on the market that can fight stains and leave the car interior smelling fresh and clean. However, with difficult stains, it may be best to use a standard carpet cleaner or spot remover. Use caution not to use too much product as excess moisture could create a mildewy, musty smell. To counteract this, sprinkle the seats with baking soda, allow it to sit, and clean it up afterward with a vacuum.
If your car’s upholstery is leather rather than the standard cloth material, it can be a bit more complicated to clean. As time goes by, leather gets embedded with dirt and grime. Leather cleaners are easy to come by and can make for quick work over that natural dirt and grime buildup. Simply spray the compound on the seat and wipe it clean with a towel, and all should be well. Keep in mind the leather cleaner is going to need a couple hours to completely cure. For extra credit you can apply leather conditioner to keep the leather feeling great and prevent cracks and other wear and tear.
Vinyl seats are the easiest to clean of the upholstery materials. You can even use something as simple as glass cleaner to take care of any messes.
Now that we’ve covered a few tips and tricks for your car’s interior, let’s shift focus to the exterior. It’s equally important to keep the exterior clean not only for looks but for the health of the car. Cleaning the exterior of the vehicle is just another step in any good routine maintenance plan for your car.
When you wash your car, be careful not to use household cleaners. What that means is you should avoid using dish soap or dishwashing detergent to wash your car. Those cleaning agents could strip the wax on your car and could damage the paint underneath. You can find detergent specifically formulated for washing cars; car paint requires extra care to clean properly. The car detergent may not be enough to get rid of the grime that accumulates toward the bottom of the vehicle. Normally grease, debris, and rubber accumulates over time toward the bottom of the car, commonly along the sides and front. Detergent alone may not be enough to remove this, but look around for a good bug and tar remover to use along with the detergent.
When you’re washing your car, try to avoid moving in circles. You may find, particularly if your car is older, that scratches appear when you wash if you rub in circles. Running the sponge lengthwise across the body of the car is ideal. If you drop the sponge, make sure you thoroughly wash it out first. Dirt, rock pieces, and debris can get picked up easily by the sponge, and you don’t want that rubbing against your car (or worse your windshield) for any reason.
When you’re done washing the car’s outside, it’s best not to let it slowly air dry if possible. There is a reason automatic car washes have some sort of drying system. If water is left to evaporate on its own, there’s the possibility it’ll leave mineral deposits behind from hard water.
Instead of letting the open air dry your car, it’s ideal to use a soft towel or a shammy cloth to dry the water. Instead of dragging the cloth across the car, blotting the water droplets is best to remove the water on the body. You may also want to use a small soft squeegee to wick the water away.
Again, no matter what route you go when it comes to drying, don’t forget to keep the cloth or towel clean and free of debris. This prevents scratches and any other type of damage to your car’s paint job. The towel-off process can be tedious, but that extra caution could save you a lot of annoyance in the long run.