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How to Clean your Car to Sell

Updated on March 7, 2012

Cleaning your car

If you pay a visit to your local used car dealer, you will notice that every car on the lot is spotlessly clean and shining bright like a new pin. Even cars around 10 years old sit sparkling in the sunshine and look very tempting to the customer.

Used car dealers know all of the secrets to get their cars looking at there best, inside and out to give the customer the impression that the cars look great so they must be great runners.

We all know how to clean our cars, a quick hose down, then a wipe down, then dry it with a towel, on the inside we polish and vacuum and maybe even a spray of air freshener and it is done for another month.

But just how do the car dealers get their cars to look like new?

This article will expose the secrets of the car dealers so that when you want to sell your car, you too can have the advantage of a great looking car.

Pressure Washer

A pressure washer is the ideal tool to get all of the dirt and grime on your car.
A pressure washer is the ideal tool to get all of the dirt and grime on your car.

Pressure Washing the Car

Always remember to work from the roof of the car down.
Always remember to work from the roof of the car down.

Waxed Car

A waxed car repels rainwater and dust
A waxed car repels rainwater and dust

Tyre Black

Tyre black, makes Tyres Mud flaps and rubber feet mats look brand new.
Tyre black, makes Tyres Mud flaps and rubber feet mats look brand new.


If you want your car to look at it's best for re selling, a family wedding or for any other reason then you would be best to either hire or buy a Pressure washer which will remove even the worst grime from the body of your car.

For best results start hosing from the roof of the car moving the dirt from top to bottom, if you start at the bottom when you get to the top you are just moving the dirt to the bottom of the car and will have to clean it again. ensure that as you hose the car down not to go too close to the paintwork because the power in a pressure washer can remove the paint.

You will not get all of the grime and dirt with one wash but after your first wash you should let the water soak in for a while to help loosen those more difficult to move marks on your car.

When you have finished the first wash you could clean out the interior of your car which will give the water plenty of time to work it's magic.

Second Wash

Get the Pressure washer out again and re spray the whole car this time any grime or dirt that was stuck on should come off easier, again start from the roof and work your way down remembering to give the wheels a good blasting in the progress.

Soaping Up

When you have finished this it is time to soap the car some pressure washers have an attachment that allows you to spray soap directly on to the car but if yours does not then use a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge.

Dip your sponge into the soapy water and without applying pressure apply the sponge to the car roof and using a small circular motion wipe the soap on to the car once again remember to work from the roof down and remember to apply soap to the wheels and tyres and licence plates.

leave the soap on the car for at least 10 min before rinsing off.

Waxing Your Car

If after thoroughly washing your car it looks clean but not show room clean then you should consider a coating of car wax, this will bring back the shine to the paint work and make your car look like new.

Before waxing you should either wait until your car has dried out from washing or if you are in a hurry you should thoroughly dry your car off with towels.

The best way to wax is by using a clean damp towel, again starting on the roof and working down, work the wax into the paintwork using small circular movements, (Like in the movie Karate Kid) if the towel gets dirt on it turn it over as the dirt can cause scratches to your paint work.

Once the roof is finished go over the rest of the bodywork panel by panel replacing the damp towel if required, a well waxed car will repel water and it looks good too.

Although most people wouldn't recommend waxing the windows it can be a good way to shine them up.

Windows, Lights and Mirrors

To give a lasting shine to windows and mirrors wash with hot soapy water with white vinegar added to it, the vinegar helps to prevent streaks and repels insects.


To get your tyres looking brand new, you should invest in a pot of Tyre Black, paint it on to your tyres and they will look like new, you can also use Tyre Black on The protective rubber mats inside your car and the mudflaps.

Rubber door seals and window seals can also look brand new with tyre black, just take care to give it enough time to dry before closing doors or windows.

The Dashboard

Using a carpet cleaner on the upholstry

Vacuuming the Trunk

Cleaning The Inside of Your Car

When cleaning the inside of your car it is best to start by removing any trash from the floor, the glove box and between the seats, remember the inside of the trunk too.

Once all of the trash has been cleared the same rule applies for the inside of the car as the outside, start with the roof and work down.

Leather Interior

If the interior of your car is leather then wipe it down with a damp cloth, this will remove any dust from the surface before you give it a deep clean. a good tip for cleaning leather is to use vinegar in water scrub down the leather interior and leave to dry, after it has dried you will need to use a leather moisturiser such as armor all to prevent the leather from drying out. or even cracking.

Use the same method on seats and doors and any other leather surface.

Cloth Interior

With a cloth interior you have 2 options, you can either Shampoo the cloth or you can if you have one use a steam cleaner, remember again start with the roof of the car and work down, if you are using a steam cleaner it is just a matter of ensuring that you cover the whole surface and take your time for an even finish.

Shampooing your cars interior use a good quality carpet shampoo and add the desired amount of water, using a sponge or a cloth wipe down all surfaces until clean, remember to allow the interior plenty of time to properly dry out.


Glass, vinegar as we know is a great glass cleaner, it prevents streaks, it gives a great shine and of course it deters insects. just add a couple of caps full to a bucket of water and give the glass a wipe down with a cloth that will not shed hair onto the glass, my own preference is to use either a tea towel or a washcloth.

Another hot tip for cleaning the glass inside your car is to use the same thing as you use every day on the windscreen of your car, screen wash with water added leaves a streak free sparkling finish.


Plastic Dashboards and Centre Consoles

Most cars these days have a plastic dashboard and they can easily become ingrained with dust and dirt and look really grubby before deep cleaning a plastic dashboard, give it a wipe over with a damp cloth to remove any loose dust and hairs, then wash the dashboard or central console down with hot soapy water, add a little vinegar to the mix as the gentle acid works well to break the ingrained dirt down take a clean cloth and some cold water to wash the soap off then dry the dashboard or central console, the dirt should be gone but where is that new look shine?, the secret is to use a little baby oil straight onto a dry cloth, wipe over the dashboard or central console to bring out a natural shine.


For leather use the same method as above.

Seats and Floor

Pet hairs can be a nightmare to get out of the interior of your car, but with a little patience and ingenuity, they can be removed Duct tape is ideal for this task wrap some around your hand sticky side facing out and dab at the hairs with it, the stickyness of the tape will make easy work of those pet hairs.

Vacuum the seats and carpeting thoroughly before shampooing as above.


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    • fascialhealth profile image


      6 years ago from Limerick, Ireland

      I wish I had you on hand I have 6 months of jeep cleaning to do. It has transported piglets in a crate and the dog travels daily wet and muddy! Oh and he does love to ride shotgun. Can't wait for the next sunny weekend for a good clean up. It will be such a joy to have a clean vehicle again. Any tips for small areas of rust on body work? Thanks for useful info.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile image

      Karla Iverson 

      6 years ago from Oregon

      Great information! I'm about ready to give my winter-grubby car a spring cleaning. I'll be using your methods.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 

      6 years ago from California

      Useful information. Voted up.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is really helpful for women - we always need tips and guidelines on how to maintain things. Thanks for posting! Voted up and useful!

    • jimmythejock profile imageAUTHOR

      James Paterson 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks Ralph good to see you 80)

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Good information, Jimmy. Just like we do it in Detroit.


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