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How to Clean Your Car Like a Pro

Updated on January 6, 2016

Getting the Right Tools

I have several tools that I consider must haves for achieving a professional looking interior detail job. Some of the tools are a matter of personal preference, but I've had great success using the list blow to clean my vehicle.

#1 A Small Shop Vac - Shop vacs are the ultimate for cleaning everything from tiny sand and dirt particles to Cheerios out of your car. I use one to clean the seats and carpet of my car, and its also helpful to get into cup holders and parts of my dashboard. I can recommend the Vacmaster brand that I use at home

#2 Wet Wipes / Wet Rag- You can use Lysol wipes, baby wipes or even a bit of soap and a damp washcloth. These are needed to scrub your steering wheel, dash board, shifter, and interior plastic parts. Steering wheels tend to be quite dirty and a rag is recommended for cleaning it.

#3 A Detailing Brush - These are small brushes with stiff bristles that get in all the tiny crevasses of your car. A detail brush helps you to brush debris out where your shop vac can pick it up.

#4 Rags and Soapy Water - A rag can help you scrub out stains and particularly dirty areas like the door jam or steering wheel.

#5 Q-Tips - They get in the teeny tiny spaces in your car, particularly around your steering column and round your dash.

#6 Cleaners- I recommend Simple Green for upholstery and Meguiar's Perfect Clarity Glass Cleaner for windows. I generally just use soapy water for other parts of the car when detailing but I keep Lysol wet wipes in the glove box for maintenance cleaning and sanitation of the steering wheel.

#7 A Lint Roller with a Rubber Pet Hair Scraper (Even if you don't have a pet hair issue) -The rubber brush attached to the handle of the roller is the most perfect tool for getting everything from stubborn lint and hair to fine dust off of your soft interior and carpet. If you can't find a lint roller / pet hair scrapper combo you can buy them separately.

The one I use looks like this

Start From the Top

Once you've started cleaning your interior, you don't want to spend your precious time cleaning the mats and carpet only cover them with dirt loosened when you clean the seats and cup holders. I usually do all the wet wiping of the steering wheel, dashboard, shifter, cup holders and plastic interior pieces first. After I've wiped everything down I move to using the small detail brush to push particles out into the larger ope areas of the car so I can easily shop vac them up.

Areas to Clean

  • Windows: Use glass cleaner or soapy solution to really make the inside of your windows shine. Don't worry about the exterior at this point. Dry thoroughly, taking care to erase any streaks.
  • Dashboard: Don't spray water or cleaning solution on your dashboard; instead, use your small-area tools and apply the cleaning solution to the tool itself, then carefully clean around knobs and buttons. Dry everything thoroughly right away to avoid streaks.
  • Steering wheel: Use wet wipes or a rag with a soapy solution to remove dust and stains. Dry thoroughly.
  • Upholstery: Vacuum seats with your shop vac and then remove stains using the same process as you did for carpets. Let the seats dry completely with the car doors open. You can finish with the sticky part of your lint roller to get any strangling mess.
  • Door jambs: Open the car door and wipe the metal and plastic parts with a soapy solution. Use Q-tips or your detail brush to remove any tougher stains and spots in the area.
  • Door interiors: Clean the non-cloth portions of your door interiors with your wet wipes or rag. Concentrate on all the little cracks and crevices that collect dirt and grime and remember to get the surface of electric button or the crank handle where dirt and germs often stick.
  • Center console: Use your detailing tools to make sure every seam and indentation in the console is thoroughly cleaned. Add a small plastic container if needed to organize cords, loose change, etc.
  • Carpets: Vacuum them thoroughly first, then remove any stains with stain remover and a brush. Let the carpets dry completely. For mild stains, dilute the solution with water in a spray bottle. Use as little moisture as possible to prevent mildew. Clean floor mats with the stiff portion of your detail brush and or the rubber brush on your lint roller and lay them outside to dry thoroughly.

Garnish With a Little Tree and Maintain

After you get your car sparkling add an air freshener to really recreate that professional clean feeling. Be sure to keep a package of wet wipes and your lint roller in the glove box so you can easily maintain your detailed car. Make an effort to touch up at least once a week and do the full vacuuming routine as needed.

Having a clean car will make each trip a happier one.

Do you detail your own vehicle?

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