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How to Clean Your Car | Tips on Cleaning & Keeping the Car Clean

Updated on February 25, 2014

Spring Cleaning Your Car

Who says the car doesn't need a good spring cleaning too? Winter is just as hard on our cars as it is our home if not more so. The salt, the snow and the windows being up all winter have certainly left their marks but when you think on it, early last fall was likely the last time you gave your car a good, thorough cleaning and the autumn beauty has surely left it's mark as well.

For those of us who live in 4 season climates, there are many elements besides dirt and dust that ruin our cars and keep us from being able to keep them clean.

Without further delay, let's kick up the music, grab an ice cold beverage and enjoy this beautiful weather we've been longing for while we give that car a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Buffers Make Quick Work Of Making Your Car Shine!

Did you wax your car in the sun?

If you did, then you may have baked wax into the paint and can't get it out. You have a hot date and want the car to look perfect but don't have time to have the hood buffed out. Try vegetable oil or Crisco. A VERY light coat of veggie oil applied with a soft cloth will have that hood shining like new. Now this is just a temporary fix for that date tonight and the area will collect road dust quicker than usual but it will definitely keep your date from telling you that you shouldn't wax your car in the sun.

Cleaning the Outside of Your Car

Cleaning the car is really something we all have our own way of doing and products that we like to use. There are however a couple things you may want to consider when washing the outside of your car.

First, getting a tan while washing the car is something that many of us like to do but the truth is, you shouldn't be washing or waxing your car in the sun. The sun will bake products into any hairline cracks you may have in your paint job and getting them out is nearly impossible without professional help or tools. I learned this the hard way with my first car.

Find a nice shady area to park your car and rinse it down real good prior to soaping and sponging it down. This pre-soak will knock off a lot of dirt that can scratch the car as you wash if you don't. Now you can soap it down and re-rinse. Work on one area at a time to avoid soap spotting. Start at the top and work your way down as you wash switching sponges or rags halfway down. Switch again when cleaning your wheels. You don't want to drag dirt from the wheels or lower body back to the top of the car or let them build up in your sponge to scratch the surface of your paint.

Lastly, dry the car to avoid spotting. Don't just let it sit since this will encourage spotting. Use a soft, non-abrasive cloth or towel and spread it out on the car using a dragging motion to dry, not a rubbing or circular type motion. You don't need elbow grease to dry this beauty. Then when waxing, do small areas at a time. Don't coat the car down and then wipe clean. You don't want to leave the wax on your car for too long.


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These are your door jambs. Grease those hinges while you're here.Here's a closer look. That gap there loves to collect leaves and dirt and then rot through the rocker panels.Another dirt and leaf collector area is the trunk lid jamb.Leaves and tree buds love it in here.I clean mine regularly and there are already a few sneaky ones in those vents again.
These are your door jambs. Grease those hinges while you're here.
These are your door jambs. Grease those hinges while you're here.
Here's a closer look. That gap there loves to collect leaves and dirt and then rot through the rocker panels.
Here's a closer look. That gap there loves to collect leaves and dirt and then rot through the rocker panels.
Another dirt and leaf collector area is the trunk lid jamb.
Another dirt and leaf collector area is the trunk lid jamb.
Leaves and tree buds love it in here.
Leaves and tree buds love it in here.
I clean mine regularly and there are already a few sneaky ones in those vents again.
I clean mine regularly and there are already a few sneaky ones in those vents again.

Areas of the Car We Forget to Clean

Rims? Check. Windows? Check. Body? Check. Door jambs, trunk and hood lids, chassis???

So the car looks shiny and clean but we don't want to have rust end up eating its' way through from the inside out. Some of the most important areas to clean on our car are the ones that no one sees.

Be sure to pop the hood, open the doors and lift the trunk to clear out nature's little gifts. Leaves, "helicopters" and dirt love to collect under and in these areas. If we leave them untouched, rusting will be heavily promoted by having rotting leaves that collect and hold moisture in these areas. Not to mention that under the hood there is venting that is being blocked up with this debris.

Also, let's spray out the wheel wells and the under body of the car. For those of us that live in snowy winter areas and have our roads covered in salt consistently, we want to be sure we've sprayed this off as well.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
No touch...hmm???Perhaps washing our car with sandpaper would be good too.Does it suck?At a dollar a pop, yep, I'd say it sucks.Yep. This sucks too...money that is. Note that these prices aren't per wash, there per every few minutes.
No touch...hmm???
No touch...hmm???
Perhaps washing our car with sandpaper would be good too.
Perhaps washing our car with sandpaper would be good too.
Does it suck?
Does it suck?
At a dollar a pop, yep, I'd say it sucks.
At a dollar a pop, yep, I'd say it sucks.
Yep. This sucks too...money that is. Note that these prices aren't per wash, there per every few minutes.
Yep. This sucks too...money that is. Note that these prices aren't per wash, there per every few minutes.

Avoid the Drive-Thru Car Wash

I believe in the old saying, "If you want something done right, then do it yourself." Though coin operated car washes are convenient, the no touch types are often just that. They leave important areas untouched. On the other hand, the bay type washes that you do yourself can be damaging to your car's paint. The spray hose may be fine but look at that brush they provide. Does that look like something you really want to rub all over your car? I don't. They are often dirty from the previous user and really, a scrub brush on your car's paint? That just doesn't even sound right, does it?

Even the vacuums there aren't the best way to go. Often you put your money in the machine only to find out the suction on the unit isn't that great and then you run a marathon to try to get the job done before your timer runs out. If you're like me, you usually find that despite your best effort, the timer runs out with about 2 square feet to go and your have to put another $1 in the machine to finish up. A shop vac or household vacuum with a hose will give you all the time in the world to do a good job sweeping out your car. You will even have time to sweep the trunk and floor mats that you normally skip to avoid the additional $1.


These aren't the only way to keep the car smelling clean and fresh.
These aren't the only way to keep the car smelling clean and fresh.

Tips for Keepng the Car Clean and Smelling Good

Ahhh. Look at that beauty. Now we can hardly wait to cruise it and show it off at the hot dog stand or little league baseball game. Wait, what? Messy hot dogs and baseball dirt? No way!

After having slaved over this sweet ride for a couple of hours, how to keep it clean is the trick. Though the thought of making our kids walk home from the game has crossed our mind, there are things we can do to help protect our day of hard work. The following ideas have helped me to keep my car clean and smelling good over longer periods of time than I used to. Perhaps they'll help you too.


Air Freshening Technique

Which of these air fresheners do you use most?

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Tip
Explanation
Keep towels in the trunk
Dirty uniforms, unexpected rain...the towel in the trunk will at least keep it from being ground into the seats.
Change of clothes
Too much dirt or water for a towel to handle? Keep an old pair of shorts and a t-shirt in the trunk. Nothing for a fashion show but will definitely save your car some grief.
Tap your shoes
Tapping your feet together or on the rocker panel will knock off some of that dirt you're tracking around.
Floor mats
Most of us have them but rarely do we shake them out. Every so often, just shake this out to keep it from spreading around the floor so much.
No ashtray
As a smoker, I know how dirty and smelly this habit can be. Don't use the ashtray. As a matter of fact, don't smoke in the car. It does ruin resale value as well.
Dryer sheets
The handy little sheets absorb smells of all sorts. Toss one under the seats and you'll notice a difference for sure. Smells will be at least neutralized.
Napkins
Keep a few of these in the car for quick clean ups as they're needed.
No paper cups
Your fast food paper cups will lose their bottoms if left in the car too long. Don't leave these in your cup holders overnight to avoid the syrup it will leave you after a couple days.
No messy foods
Avoid eating foods that can stain or make hard to clean messes in the car.
Take out the trash
Nearly everywhere you might stop today has a trash can. Don't let the trash build up and you'll likely avoid surprise smells in the car.
Fabric protectors
Spray those seats with some type of fabric protector to make clean ups easier.
Armor All
This actually attracts dust if applied to thickly. If using this type of product, use it sparingly and work it into the leather.

Try These Techniques Next Time You Clean Your Car

  • Use newspaper to clean your windows instead of cloths or paper towels for less streaking.
  • Try a water/vinegar mix to clean your windows. (approximately 15:1 mix)
  • An old toothbrush or soft bristle paint brush can help get those hard to reach crevasses.
  • Use a stiff bristle brush on the carpet ahead of your vacuum to speed up the process and do a bit better of a job. Especially when getting up that pesky salt from the winter.
  • Shaving cream can stop glass from fogging up. A very light application could help your car.
  • Waxing the windshield will help water bead up and run off.
  • Seat covers always help protect a seat but ones with backs will help what those little feet do to the back of your seat as well.

Keeping the Car Clean Will Help Make it Last

Okay, so the car won't just last because you keep it clean but you'll be more likely to keep up on other maintenances items if you're proud of your car. Let's face it, it's a lot harder to want to pay to change the oil or rotate the tires when we just don't like being in our car. By simply keeping our car clean in all the necessary places, we can not only keep it looking nice but keep it from rusting in many cases and that we all know keeps us liking our car longer. Once the rust sets in, the love begins to fade and we begin to walk swiftly away from our car in the parking lot instead of looking back a time or two to show it some love.

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    • profile image

      Jessie 4 years ago

      Thanks for all the tips! I use a lot of them now. I used the newspaper tip for the windows yesterday, turned out great. I swear by this product called silver surfer from this site called cleanstuff.com, it gets that gross black stuff of my tires in no time. I really do need to clean my car almost weekly, if I don't, it starts to look like a dumpster.

    • snerfu profile image

      Vivian Sudhir 4 years ago from Madurai, India

      Very good article with a lot of details. Thanks for the advice.

      snerfu.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 4 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Wow, Cre8tor these are great tips! Excellent hub...well written!

    • Cre8tor profile image
      Author

      Daniel Robbins 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you very much golfcart and Denise. I really appreciate your comments. I will soon try the Fabreeze idea too.

    • golfcart34 profile image

      Amanda Tallman 4 years ago from Vermont

      Awesome hub! I actually just washed my car today as a matter of fact. One neat trick I learned when I did auto detailing about ten years ago was to spray some Febreeze into the vent at the front of the car (right where the wipers are) to help keep the car smelling good. We mostly used this trick on the non smoking cars that people smoked in anyway. I've never thought of using dryer sheets, though.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent hub. I loved the simple and thorough explanation you give point by point, as well as the table. Great photos-and useful tips about the car washing bays. Rated it up and U/I/A

    • Cre8tor profile image
      Author

      Daniel Robbins 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you Marlene. I too was grateful when being told about that and it really works.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      There are so many wonderful tips here. I especially like your idea about the dryer sheets under the seat.

    • Cre8tor profile image
      Author

      Daniel Robbins 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Nare, allie, and wayseeker. I'm glad you liked it and am glad you found it useful.

    • wayseeker profile image

      wayseeker 4 years ago from Colorado

      Really nice work here--I needed this one. I like to clean my car in the Spring, and this will give me some much needed ideas. I especially like the ides for cleaning windows. I have problems with this all the time and your suggestions here may get me through all year long.

      I absolutely love the practical value of the hubs you write, Cre8tor. Voted up and useful all the way!

      wayseeker

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 4 years ago from Scotland

      Great hub. I like the tip about the shaving cream.

    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 4 years ago

      Excellent hub! I like the photos very much :)

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