As the snow starts to melt and we feel a little hopeful that spring will happen (remember Spring last year? Best two days of our lives ) you're ready to clean your car after the long (loooonnnng) hard winter. Maybe you’re even getting ready to start car shopping and want to get the most for your trade.
What’s the best way to get it done?
Pay for expensive detailing? DIY? Fancy cleaning products? Home remedies? Chemicals? Coconut oil?
We like it when you save money (and stress), so let’s focus on some simple steps to get you started.
Step One: De-Clutter the Interior
Step Two: Vacuum
Step Three: Wipe down the interior and glass
Step One: Kiss the Clutter Buh-Bye.
We commute, haul kids and friends and pets, eat meals, do business, and solve all the world’s problems from the driver’s seat. More of us are spending more time in our cars and we have the receipts (fast food wrappers, broken pens, solitary mittens, and crusty packs of gum) to prove it.
There’s probably garbage in your car, so start there. Toss (or recycle) and you’ll be amazed how much better things look once it’s gone.
But the de-cluttering isn’t done yet.
Yes, we know that Celine Dion CD from 1996 brings you joy, it brings ALL OF US joy, but when’s the last time you played it? Come to think of it, do you even HAVE a CD player in your car? Ok, Celine and all of her friends have to go. So does the broken umbrella, the half-used tin of Altoids from your first job interview, and the hairbrush (ew). Anything you’re not going to use again gets tossed or donated.
And we’re ALMOST through here.
The final piece is to remove and anything you DO plan to use again and set it aside. Taking out the work stuff, play stuff, and other life stuff you carrying with you will give you glorious, clutter-free space to clean. Don’t worry, you can put it back when you’re done.
Step Two: This is the Part that Sucks.
No! Wait, we’re talking about vacuuming!!
This is a great time to have a shop vac with a little power because you’re going to be dealing with upholstery and carpeting that are exposed to SO MUCH grime and grease and weather and grossness.
Pro-tip: For a light cleaning, your indoor vac would work, but, in general, you won’t be able to get the kind of ground in grime you’d reach with something with a little more power.
If you have floor mats, take them out and set them aside. You’re going to spend quality time with them later. (If you don’t have floor mats, get some. They’ll save you from the super-costly replacement of that interior carpeting.)
Here’s the fool-proof plan:
First, pick up anything that might get stuck in the vacuum hose and cause a clog. Things like bottle caps, gum wrappers, and small rocks can jam things up and waste cleaning time.
Vacuum from the top down starting with the ceiling and ending at the floor and clean every surface.
Move the seatbelts aside, pull open any pockets or storage areas, and spread apart any creases in the seat where gunk might collect.
Don’t forget the dash, the instrument panel, or the black hole between your seat and your cup holder.
Now, shake out the floor mats, brush them with a wire brush to loosen the ground in dirt, and give them a thorough vacuum. For the post-winter clean, scrub them with soap and water to remove any salty residue.
Pro-tip: (And it’s a little gnarly) Empty your vacuum right away when you’re done. The dead skin, grease, and dust mites will gum up the works and affect its performance if you leave them too long. (We did warn you it was gnarly.)
Step Three: The Clean Swipe
You could buy a different specialty cleaner for every surface in your car if you had the time, money, and patience. For general cleaning, though, you can do a great job with just three things:
- Glass cleaner – use one without ammonia to save your tinted windows.
- Household Cleaner – whatever you use at home, but avoid disposable cleaning clothes, they tend to leave residue.
- A few microfiber cleaning clothes – use a different one for each cleaner.
Pro-tip: Make sure your car is parked in the shade or inside for this step. Direct sunlight will dry things too fast and leave them streaky.
Spray the household cleaner on a clean cloth and start at the ceiling of your car (again). Wipe down the hard surfaces including all of the trim and lights. Save the windows, the clear covers to the instrument panel, and things like your back-up camera for now. Clean the dash and don’t skip the insides of door handles either. Add more cleaner to your cloth as you need it, but once it gets too wet (or dirty, or both) swap it out for a clean cloth. Save the dirtiest parts (like the cup holder) for last, and make sure your cloth is still clean enough to actually clean them.
Once you’re done, pick up a clean cloth and go for the window cleaner. Spray just enough cleaner on the cloth to clean the windows but not leave them wet. You may find that you have to make more than one pass at the glass, cleaning in a circular motion, to really get it clean. Use one last clean cloth and the window cleaner to finish up the instrument panel and radio. Check your car’s manual to find out what’s safe to use on any touch screen electronics though, ok?
And that’s it! SURE! It’s a big job, friend, but it’s worth it if you want to get every dime out of your favorite ride!
Cleaning to get ready to trade it in on a new ride? Don’t go anywhere until you check out info on our car loans!