When you care about your appearance and how you’re perceived, by extension you also care how your car looks. A well-maintained car makes you look like you care and impresses the people you think are most important.
But you can’t just sponge down your car and expect it to impress more than a casual observer. If you really care, you have to go the extra mile. Let’s take on the finer points of how to make your car a clean machine.
First off, never wash your car when it’s in the sun. The heat will make the water evaporate too quickly, which leaves dirt and cleaning chemicals sitting there. Your ride will look worse than ever. It’s better for your car’s finish to avoid scrubbing whenever possible, so use a lot of water.
Heavily rinse your way from the top down and then apply soap and rinse again. Make sure you use a different scrubber for the underbody than for the main body, or you’ll scrape your finish with underbody debris. Make sure you dry off the outside with a chamois to avoid mineral build-up. The classic rule is to use 100% cotton 100% of the time if you want your pant job to keep looking like new.
Be sure to very carefully clean the area around the doors that you can’t see when they’re closed. Then make sure the drain holes at the bottom of the doors are clear by using a small, sharp tool to punch through any accumulated debris in the holes. This will keep water from pooling inside the doors and rusting them from the inside out. Use soft-bristled toothbrushes and q-tips to clean the door jambs and sill plates.
Before you start cleaning inside the car, remove everything that isn’t attached to the interior. It’ll save you a lot of time to get it all out of there rather than trying to clean around things. This is also a great time to decide what you actually want to keep in there versus what has accumulated by chance.
Clean your floor mats with shampoo in a wash tub, and scrub them thoroughly with a stiff bristle brush. Then rinse them with water until it runs clear, vacuum them with a wet/dry vac and dry them in the sun if you can. Don’t use the same brush for the mats as you do for other upholstery, because these are likely the dirtiest surfaces in your car.
For grease, carefully scrub with a strong detergent. Allow the detergent and your finesse to do the work instead of trying to muscle through it. Scrub like an asterisk or a compass rose, moving in several different directions to pry out the stain from every angle.
If you have salt in the carpet, start by dry scrubbing it with a stiff brush. You can even use a wire brush. Alternate between wet scrubbing and vacuuming until the salt is out. For general cleaning, use a soft-bristled brush and a mild shampoo. Make sure to clean the seatbelts as well as the seats and carpet.
A great way to get in and around buttons is to wrap a plastic knife in fabric and lightly moisten it. A surprising amount of dirt can accumulate between buttons. In slightly larger areas, a soft-bristled tooth brush works very well. You can start cleaning the dash with a moist cloth, and then progress to using a dry pastry brush or detailing brush to get in the vents and other small openings. You can use baby oil to fill in small scratches on plastic parts of the dash, such as instrument panels.
There are some smells you won’t easily get out of a car. In some cases, such as barnyard and baby odors, you’ll have those for as long as you have the car. In a case where there’s a pet odor, dog is the hardest to remove. You can pick up the hair by wrapping pieces of masking tape around your hand and blotting it up.
While you’ll use a lot of tape, with patience you can get it all. Don’t steam clean your car like you would your home’s furniture or carpet. The humidity will damage your electronic components. Sometimes Febreze car vent clip is the best you can do.
For internal windows, use one part car wash solution mixed with twenty parts of hot water to get the windows clear. Ammonia contained in home glass cleaners can do bad things to vinyl, so you want to avoid those products. Use a pillow case to clean windows. It will leave very little lint and doesn’t cause streaks.
In Conclusion: When you want to detail your ride like a boss, you have to be as obsessive as a boss. Be careful what products you use, both chemically and tool-wise. Make sure you start out gently and don’t be afraid to use plenty of water. When you get done, you’ll be proud of your results if you’ve taken your time and done the job right.
For more car detailing tips, please check out: How to Make a Car Cleaner | Wheels, Tires, Headlights, Seats.