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How to Deep Clean Your Vehicle at Home

BY: Keith Benline
Washing a car in the driveway.

Washing your car is a go-to sunny day activity and a great way to ensure that your vehicle stays in top condition. When cleaning, you can also take the opportunity to look closer and identify any maintenance work that your car may need. Cleaning your car correctly can prolong its life and can help you spot items that could require a mechanic’s attention.

A weekend DIY car wash can be fun; however, to get your car looking like it just rolled off the showroom floor will require some effort. The small details can make a difference and add up to a genuinely superior cleaning job. We’ve compiled some exterior and interior car cleaning tips to help you get your vehicle looking new.


Wash with Suds

One of the best ways to clean your car is to get it as soaped up as you possibly can. Just spraying it with water isn’t going to be enough to get all the dirt and grime from the road off the surface. Instead, use a high-quality car soap and make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies you can find.

Work in Sections

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting every inch of your car clean is to separate it into sections. Similar to mowing the lawn, working in individual sections first will allow you to concentrate on each piece in detail instead of trying to tackle everything at once. For example, start with the hood of your car before making your way to the door panels before ending with the trunk. This method will also allow you to see the progress you’re making as you go.

Use a Clay Bar

Some patches of dirt and dust won’t come off as easily as others. If you have stubborn debris like tree sap or embedded dirt, running a clay bar in a single direction can help remove them. Be sure only to apply as much pressure as you need to get the dirt off as using too much can damage the paint.

Rub in Polish

Polish is an all-too-often overlooked aspect of the car washing process. Going through all the steps, including polishing, is the best way to clean your car. Put a dime-sized amount of car polish onto a soft microfiber cloth and rub it into the surface until it has fully absorbed. Work in sections until you have polished the entire exterior.

Wax the Exterior

Wax is another step that is often forgotten when thinking about how to clean your car. Wax can help protect the polish and keep your car looking cleaner for longer. Use a spray-on wax for convenient application and rub it in with a damp microfiber cloth. Then, wipe down any excess wax with a dry, clean cloth.

Wash Window Tops and Bottoms

The tops of windows can easily be forgotten about when you clean your car. Roll down the windows ¼ of the way after washing and rinsing the exterior, making sure to get the areas in the seals at the top of the door frame. Use a non-abrasive window or glass cleaner and a soft, microfiber towel to make sure you get a streak-free polish.

Clean the Windshield with Steel Wool

Your windshield bears the brunt of all the dust and dirt that gets kicked up off the road. To get that deeply embedded dirt off, a small pad of light-grit steel wool works wonders. Work in circles and press lightly with soap and water to help remove some of the more troublesome debris. Another great trick is using a small amount of rubbing alcohol on your wiper blades. This can help you from smearing your windshield after all your hard work to get it clean.

De-Cloud Headlights

Like your windshield, your headlights are the first things that get covered with grime and can become foggy. When this happens, there is no better cleaner than plain old toothpaste with baking soda. Rub a fingertip’s worth of toothpaste onto the wet headlight and scrub it off with a damp towel. The grit of the baking soda will help clean and remove stuck-on dirt.

Detail the Grill

A big part of cleaning your car thoroughly is making sure you’re cleaning in areas that aren’t readily apparent. For example, bugs, brake dust and other debris can get stuck in the slats of your vehicle’s grill. You can clean it out using a small towel between the slats and keep that dirt from getting into your engine and radiator.


Brush Out Air Vents

The air vents for your heater and air conditioner are traps for dirt and dust and can be very difficult to clean without removing. Then, that dirt ends up getting pushed out into the car the next time you turn on the A/C. Use a small paintbrush or a vacuum with a smaller bristle brush attachment to get in between the vent’s slats and get that dust and debris out.

Clean Door Jambs

The small spaces between the seats and doors of your car’s interior can easily get dirty without you knowing. They are also one of the first things someone sees when they open the door to get into your car. Make sure to remove any errant trash that may have ended up down there while you’re vacuuming.

Use a Lint Roller on Upholstery

Lint rollers or bristle brushes are some of the best cleaning products if you have cloth upholstery in your car’s interior. They can pick up the small pieces of dirt and debris that end up getting stuck and ground into your seats or floor mats. They also work great for your child’s car seat. Plus, they are portable enough to be carried in the car at all times for quick touch-ups here and there.

Vacuum as You Dust

One of the best tips for a truly clean car is to keep a vacuum handy as you are wiping down the steering wheel, dashboard and center console. Vacuum up any dust that ends up on the seats or floor to prevent it from staying in the atmosphere and settling elsewhere. This is a great way to keep your car’s interior clean for longer.

Use a Magic Eraser on Leather

A Magic Eraser is another one of the best car interior cleaning products you can have handy. It works wonders on scrubs in vinyl and leather seats and can get rid of all kinds of different marks. Just like lint rollers, they can also be kept in the car at all times for spot cleaning.

Clean Small Crevices with a Toothbrush

Your vehicle has many small crevices and places for dirt and debris to get stuck. That’s why one of the best car interior cleaning tips is to get a toothbrush and use it to get down deep into those hard-to-reach places. Just be sure to throw it away afterward, so you don’t accidentally use it in the bathroom later.

Put Mats in the Washing Machine

Your car’s floor mats accumulate most of the dirt that you bring in from the outside. Luckily, most car mats are machine washable, and they can be cleaned just like a regular load of laundry. However, be sure to check whether or not they can go in the dryer before you put them in there.

Use a Baking Soda Air Freshener

One of the downsides of standard car air fresheners is that they tend to run out quickly. Baking soda is a great air freshener that lasts a long time and neutralizes odors in the air. Sprinkle baking soda in the carpets for longer-lasting freshness.

Remove Pet Hair with a Squeegee

Another one of the best car interior cleaning tips that isn’t well known is that you can get pet hair out of your upholstery with a squeegee. Run it along the grain of the nylon and watch the hair start to ball up for easy removal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  •     What household items can I use to clean the outside of my car?

When combined with some warm water, white vinegar is an excellent cleaner that can dissolve many types of stuck-on debris. Standard dish soap can also be used as an inexpensive exterior soap. Just be sure not to use anything too abrasive on your vehicle’s paint and test things out in an inconspicuous area before using it on the whole vehicle.

  •     Why does my car still look dirty after washing?

If your car still looks dirty after washing, it is usually because you ended up missing a few spots. This is why it is so important to clean in sections as you go. It can ensure that you get every inch of the vehicle clean and you won’t find dirty spots after it dries.

  •     How often should cars be washed?

Ideally, you should clean your car once every two weeks. This will prevent dirt from building up and becoming difficult to remove later on. However, if possible, washing it once a week is even better and will keep your car looking pristine for a lot longer.

Go Beyond Cleaning Your Car with EnduranceAdvantage

Keeping your car clean is important, and keeping it maintained properly is even more essential. If you want to be sure that your car stays in good shape both inside and out, EnduranceAdvantage offers up to $3,500 in maintenance coverage, including regular oil changes and routine maintenance.

Simply present your Endurance contract at any licensed repair facility or ASE Certified technician, and they will take care of everything else. Request a free, no-obligation quote today!

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