DIY Weekend: How to Clean Your Car Like a Pro
By: Good2GoPublished: November 3, 2014
While some drivers leave the cleaning and detailing of their cars to the professionals, DIYers and car enthusiasts revel in spending their Saturday mornings washing, wiping and waxing their beloved vehicles. If you want your car to shine and sparkle like the pros, follow these tips.
Cleaning supplies you will need
Before you get started, make sure you have all of the necessary items for a thorough cleaning. Your basic car cleaning supplies will include:
- Car wash soap
- Garden hose
- Wash mitt
- Two buckets
- Rubber squeegee
- Microfiber cloths
- Window cleaner
- Car wax
- Compressed air
- Vacuum cleaner
- Hard brush
- Good ol’ fashion elbow grease
This is not an all-inclusive list as there are many other cleaning products and supplies you can use to turn your car into a lean, mean, clean machine.
Hand washing your car
Now that you’ve got all the tools of the trade, it’s time to get down and dirty. It is recommended that you wash your car by hand since it’s the best way for you to familiarize yourself with the shape of the car’s exterior. It’s also better than having some stranger from the car wash down the street rub their hands all over your baby.
Make sure you wash your car in a shady area or on a cloudy day as the heat from the sun will cause the water to evaporate quickly, leaving unsightly spots. With a garden hose in hand, start by cleaning the wheels and tires since they will most likely be the dirtiest part of your car, then work your way around the rest of the vehicle. You should also have one bucket for washing the car down with soap and another bucket used for rinsing, since the garden hose may not be sufficient.
When choosing soap for your car, avoid dish detergent and other harsh household cleaners. While it may get the car clean, it can also strip away any protective wax coatings. Using a car wash solution will help maintain your car’s finish. Take your wash mitt and work the car wash solution into a thick lather and begin wiping down the car from top to bottom.
If you are using a sponge instead of a washing mitt, don’t move the sponge in circles. This can create swirl marks or scratches. Instead, try moving the sponge lengthwise across the hood of the car and body panels. For the windows, use a streak-free window cleaner, and be sure to wash both sides of the windows.
When it comes time to dry off the car, don’t just let it sit there and expect Mother Nature to do all the work. As we mentioned earlier, when water evaporates, it can leave spots or mineral deposits on the surface of your car. When drying your car, make sure you do so quickly. First use a paint-safe squeegee to pull the majority of the water off the surface of your car. Then follow with a micro-fiber cloth to remove any excess droplets. Avoid using terrycloth as it can become matted over time and leave lint on the car.
Clean paint job
Car paint has gotten better over the years. Not only is it more durable, it also shines brighter longer. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain that off-the-lot look. Over time, environmental contaminants can leave stains on your paint job. Invest in a liquid paint cleaner that will help remove environmental chemicals that become stuck to the paint. These cleaners may also be handy in removing dreaded swirl marks from improper washing or drying.
Another way to clean your paint involves rubbing paint-cleaning clay onto your car. It’s a safe and easy way to remove dirt and stains from the paint. If you happen to drop your piece of clay on the floor, toss it. Dirt and debris from the ground will become stuck in the clay, causing scratches in your paint if you decide to reuse it.
Don’t forget to polish your paint for a smooth, clean finish. Car wax wears over time, but in between coats, that wax is hard at work absorbing stains and small scratches that could be detrimental to your paint job.
You can use either a paste wax or a liquid wax to polish your car. However, when it comes to the number of coats you should apply, don’t go overboard. Two coats of wax is sufficient (an initial coat and a second coat for any spots you may have missed), so don’t waste your time applying five coats for added shine and protection. Also, use a small amount of wax at time. Large globs of wax can leave smears and will come off more easily after it has dried.
Cleaning the interior of the car
Cleaning the inside of your car can be very tedious, but it’s necessary to maintain a vehicle you’ll be proud to drive around in. Start by removing every single item you may have in your car. That includes any personal belongings, décor, floor mats, seat covers, trash, etc. Next, take the floor mats and shake out any debris that is stuck inside. If your mats are muddy, rinse them off with the garden hose and set aside to dry.
On the inside, take the vacuum and use either the brush or hose attachment to remove dirt and debris. If there is a lot of debris stuck in the carpet fibers, take a large stiff brush to bring the debris to the surface. Use the hose attachment to get in between seat cushions and other hard-to-reach places.
For the dashboard and other interior surfaces, use a vinyl cleaning solution. If you don’t have any vinyl cleaning products, mild soap and water are an alternative option. Always use a clean paper towel or rag when wiping down these surfaces to avoid redistributing dirt and dust. Replace items back in your car and add a new car freshener to complete the job.
While we all can’t afford a self-cleaning car, a few hours on the weekend is the perfect opportunity to roll up your sleeves and show your car that you truly care about its appearance. Remember, a clean car is a happy car.
Have other car cleaning tips? Leave them in the comments section below.
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