You remember it like it was yesterday.
That new car smelled so good. Everything was clean and creaseless.
Look at it now. Time has got away and it’s lost its lustre.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to fall out of routine when it comes to keeping your car clean inside and out.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
From the obvious to the obscure, we’ve put together the definitive list of ways you can get your car clean. And keep it that way.
1. Avoid Eating Inside Your Car
We know this is near impossible. But as they say, prevention is better than a cure.
Fast food wrappers get left behind. Odours get absorbed by upholstery. Drinks spill. With so much that could possibly go wrong, it makes sense to wait until you arrive at your destination to enjoy that burger and fries. If you can hold off from eating in your car, you could save yourself hours of hard work every couple of months.
But let’s face it, accidents happen. So here are a few more tips...
2. Check Your Feet
Have you been working outdoors? Traipsing through mud or wet grass? Did you step in doggy-doo? Maybe none of the above. But it’s worth checking before entering your vehicle. And if you do a lot of outside work, consider grabbing a set of rubber floor mats to capture the mess. Your carpets will thank you.
3. Cabin Air Filters
A leading cause of bad smells is a dirty cabin air filter. If your car is fitted with one, remove and replace it in line with your service manual, or more regularly if you’re sensitive to smells. And while you’re at it, running your AC on full speed max heat for a few minutes every few weeks will help dry out any odour causing condensation in the bottom of your AC unit.
4. Be Quick To Clean Up
If you spill something, clean it up immediately. Make it a point to quickly clean up messes when they happen and they’re less likely to build up, stain or become hard to remove.
5. Keep A Rubbish Bag
By keeping a dedicated bag for rubbish in your car, you’re able to stay on top of messes before they get out of control. And you’ve got somewhere to throw unexpected leaking items, or rubbish, that can be disposed of easily later.
6. Clean AC Vents
Use a paintbrush or foam brush to penetrate narrow or hard to reach areas. You’ll want to have a small vacuum handy too; to quickly suck up dust and dirt as the brush removes it. Otherwise, you’re just transferring mess from one location to another.
7. Care For Your Cupholders
Between spills, condensation and carelessness, they’re likely rife with an icky mix of sticky mystery crud. Use a cotton bud dipped in a mixture of water and cleaning solution to really get in there and scrub until every gluey dribble of grime is gone.
8. Wipe & Polish
Store a pack of cleaning wipes in your glove box so you can give surfaces a good wipe down whenever it’s convenient to do so. Upholstery wipes have a light conditioning agent which will help to keep your surfaces in pristine condition.
9. Clean Mats
Your mats take a lot of wear and tear. So they need extra tender loving care. Vacuum regularly to remove debris. Then spray them with stain remover and toss them in a bucket of warm soapy water and they’ll look brand new.
10. Cleaning Vinyl
Stubborn, dried on dirt and grime can be easily removed from vinyl and leather surfaces with a Magic Eraser. For vinyl surfaces where dirt has really buried itself into the surface, dilute some dish soap with water and scrub with a toothbrush.
11. Cleaning Cushions
Dust, crumbs, and lots of other little things have a way of settling into the creases and seams of your seat cushions. Using a fine-bristled brush or toothbrush is a great way to get those niggly little bits out into the open so they’re easier to vacuum up.
12. Conditioning The Dash
Want to give your dashboard a quick makeover? Baby oil and a clean rag can be used to condition and polish it. This trick works great on leather surfaces too.
13. Shampoo Seats
Dilute all-purpose cleaner and then grab yourself a scrub brush or some washcloths. You're going to have to put some muscle into it, but with plenty of scrubbing, your seats will end up looking just like new. Just be sure to use white or un-dyed rags so no colours bleed into your upholstery. Alternatively, you can hire a wet upholstery cleaner for a day for about $40 from most hardware stores.
14. Traveling With Pets
If you travel with furry, four-legged friends, lay down blankets (or better yet, a pet hammock) across the back seats to avoid tufts of pet hair from sticking to your upholstery. Remove it when you get home and the pet smell with go with it.
15. Attention To Detail
Be thorough. Search every nook and cranny of your vehicle for trash and remove it all. Especially if it's been a long time in between cleanings. Trash has a way of hiding itself deeper and deeper away over time.
16. Always Take Something With You
A good philosophy to adopt: every time you exit the car, take something with you.
It could be an errant food wrapper or a child’s toy that’s been trapped under the passenger seat for the last six months.
17. Windscreen Wipers
Windscreen wipers streaking but it’s not quite time to replace them yet? Simply grab some rubbing alcohol and paper towels and give your wipers a little rubdown to clean them up and stop them from smearing your windscreen.
18. Clear Up Cloudy Headlights
What’s the secret to saying goodbye to cloudy headlights for good? Toothpaste. Just squeeze a bit of it onto a clean cloth and start scrubbing. Because toothpaste is a mild abrasive, dirt and grime start coming off instantly.
19. Clean The Tops Of Your Windows
When it’s time to clean your windows, remember to begin the process with them rolled down halfway. This allows you to also clean the tops of the windows, which get neglected if you wash them all the way rolled up.
20. Dryer Sheets For Your Grille
Bugs, dead and dried, have always been one of the more difficult things to remove from your car’s bumper and grille. Until now. Simply wetting everyday dryer sheets with warm water will remove those pesky pests better than any commercial bug removal product out there.
21. Schedule Regular Washing
Fall into a regular routine when it comes to washing your car. Set up a schedule for washing your own car or taking it to the local car wash. If you can stick to a schedule, you’ll never have to worry about a dirty car again.
22. The Occasional Wax
Waxing adds a sacrificial layer to your car’s top coat that protects it from damage. It adds shine. Creates a barrier between your paint job and airborne contaminants. Fills in shallow scratches. And reduces friction between your car and debris; preventing paint chips.
23. The Clay Bar
Even after a final rinse, small bits of grime or dirt can still be present on the surface of your car. The best way to remove those is by simply taking a regular clay bar and dabbing the top coat. Those bits will come off straight away.
24. A Better Smelling Car
Create a non-toxic, homemade air freshener by filling a small mason jar ¼ full with baking soda and five drops of your favourite essential oil. Cover with a breathable fabric like lace or burlap. Screw the lid ring into place, give it a shake and set in your cup holder for up to six weeks of fragrant bliss.
25. Park Under Cover
If the option is available to you, park your car in a garage or covered car port. The elements can be brutal on your paint job. And birds love using it for target practice.