Pro Tips for Cleaning Your Car
Having a clean car makes for an enjoyable commute everyday and given that according to AAA we spend nearly 30 hours per month in our car it’s important to keep it clean. You likely have most of the tools for a good cleaning already and with our Pro Tips you can easily have it sparkling.
Vacuum Cleaner – A vacuum cleaner with attachments and an extension hose works perfectly to get in between tight spaces of your car. A steam cleaner can also help with cloth upholstery but is not necessary.·
Cleaning products – Surfaces like vinyl and plastic are usually just fine with an all purpose cleaner. Upholstery and carpeting requires specially formulated cleaning products. Most stores carry rug and upholstery cleaners, some have a built in brush which can be helpful for getting out stuck on debris.·
Wiping and Polishing – Various types of cloths from terry cloth to lint-free cloths are needed for scrubbing and polishing. Microfiber cloths are very versatile and readily available.·
Brushes and Applicators – Vents, upholstery, and tires can all benefit from a good brush. Getting dust from vents is easy when you use an air compression can (find them where computers are sold). Your cleaning products should also indicate what type of applicator works best.
Now that you’ve gathered the tools, follow these steps for a perfectly clean car:
1. Carpets and Floor Mats – This is a great place to start because they tend to accumulate a lot of debris. Cleaning these will make an instantly noticeable difference. If your car seats are full of debris we recommend wiping those down to the floor first before vacuuming your floors.
Remove the floor mats and vigorously shake the dirt loose. Some mats have deep indentations to trap water and melting snow, dirt can become caked between the grooves. If you are not able to remove everything with a shake you can use a stiff brush to loosen debris. Clean between the grooves with your vacuum. Once all the mats are dirt free wash them with soap and water and allow to air dry completely. Vacuum the carpet and use different size vacuum attachments to clean in crevices.
2. Seats – There are 3 main types of material used for car seats – leather, vinyl and cloth. Each require different cleaning methods. Give your seats a thorough vacuuming before applying any cleaner.
Leather – Synthetic car grade leather can be difficult to keep looking fresh and new. Lighter color leather can turn dingy if not properly maintained. A good leather cleaning product is essential for cars with this type of seat. Spray or apply per directions, work into the material with a clean cloth and dry the seats with a fresh microfiber cloth. After a few hours of drying time apply a leather conditioner.
Vinyl – Cleanup is quick and easy. Many products that you may already have will work fine including some brands of glass cleaner (spot check). Spray the seats with the cleaner and wipe with a rag. Use a second cloth for drying. After an hour seats should be fully dry.
Cloth – The trickiest of materials to clean, some extra elbow grease and heavy duty cleaning may be necessary. A steam cleaner can help with stubborn marks. A multipurpose upholstery cleaner works will but special stain removers should be used if necessary. Be cautious with cloth as excess liquid can develop a musty odor on interiors.
3. Windows and Mirrors – A glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth can work wonders when cleaning glass surfaces. However, make sure you are cleaning glass, not plastic. For example, gauge covers on the front console are usually made of plastic. For this, you can use an all-purpose cleaner.Pro-Tip: Spray cleaner on the cloth not the glass itself to avoid streaking.
4. Front Panel – The front panel is the most visible area as the driver. With all of the knobs, switches, vents, and dusty nooks and crannies, it can seem difficult to clean – but not if you have the right tools.
Dashboard – Whether your dashboard consists of leather, vinyl, or some other material, it can be one of the most difficult parts of the interior to clean. The angle of the windshield in some cars can create hard-to-reach areas on the dash, and worse, it tends to be the most dusty area in your car. Vacuum all the dust before you apply a cleaning product, making sure to reach as far as possible during the entire process. After cleaning, you may want to apply an interior dressing appropriate for the material to keep it from fading or cracking from exposure to sunlight. Console – The many buttons and controls in your car can be a nightmare to clean. Dust can get into every crack and crevice. There is a simple trick to fix this. To make yourself a specialized implement to clean the tightest spots and grooves on your console, simply wrap a cloth around the tip of a flat-head screwdriver. The key is to use the thinnest cloth possible so as not to make the screwdriver head too bulky to do the job. Air Vents – Air vent grills are not too difficult to clean, but can be extremely tedious thanks to their many parts. Using the proper tools can quicken the job – and a soft, long bristle brush and a can of compressed air can clean those dirty vents in no time. Using the brush, wipe off as much of the vent grill as possible – this will take care of most of the dust. To give it that brand new look, fire a few jets of air from the compressed air can onto the grill. Compressed air canisters can be purchased from most office supply stores for less than $6 a can.
Unless you drive a significant amount, a thorough interior detailing every six to eight months should be sufficient. The first time you detail the interior of your car, expect it to take longer, especially if it has not been cleaned in a while. However, if you continue to detail your car at regular intervals, it will maintain that “new car” look and feel for many years.
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