Auto Detailing – Most of us set time aside every spring to give our homes a good cleaning. What about our cars? Sure they may get washed and a periodic vacuuming throughout the winter months but do they really get a good cleaning?
If you are fortunate enough to have an extra couple hundred dollars laying around you could take your car in and have it detailed by a professional. If not, then the task falls on you. I have a few helpful tips to share with you to make this task a little easier.
First, make a car cleaning schedule. Every Thursday in our home is Errand Day, which is part of Home Organization schedule. One of the things on my schedule for Thursday is to clean my car. If my car is dirty or not, I wash it and vacuum it. You’d be surprised at how quick it is to clean if you are doing it every week. If you are sticking to your car cleaning schedule, detailing it in the spring will be a breeze.
Let’s get ready to clean!
Some things you might need to get started:
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Now, turn on your radio, the louder the better and make sure that you are tuned into some lively, shake your booty music. Everything is better with music! Ask the Seven Dwarfs they like to “Whistle While they Work”.
Start by cleaning the inside and then finishing up on the out side.
Here are a few Auto Detailing tricks
The easiest way I found to clean the vents is to use a cotton swab or a sponge brush dipped in a multipurpose cleaner. I actually prefer the sponge brush because the texture is a little rough and it helps to scrub away any dirt or allergens that are stuck to the vent.
Wipe down the dashboard with a little water and cleaning solution. Once it’s dry, apply a very small amount of Vaseline using a clean rag. Wipe away any excess with a clean rag. This works wonderfully at conditioning the dashboard and giving it a nice shine. I think it works better than Armour All.
When washing the car, if you run across any areas that soap and water just won’t clean try using a Mr. Clean Magic Sponge. You’ll be surprised at what it can do. On the right is a picture of my door handle, I couldn’t get the black marks to come off until I used the Magic Sponge. Check out how clean it is now.
For dirty windshields, use club soda instead of glass cleaner to get them clean. There’s something about the carbonation that works really well to cut through stubborn dirt.
Here are a few additional tips from our readers:
- Use baby wipes to clean the windshield ~ Desmond Marshall
- To clean the outside of the car, add one cup kerosene to 1 gallon of water, it will help repel rain water ~ Desmond Marshall
- De-greaser works for removing de-icer ~ Jacqueline Gaumitz
- Use furniture polish on dashboards ~ Laura Rowe
- Use olive oil on dashboards, just be sure to wipe off excess ~ HHS Choral Booster Club
- Use a wet dryer sheet to remove bugs from the headlights and hood ~ Melanie Gardner
- To your final bucket of water add 8 drops of glycerin. Apply to car and dry with a chamois. It will make your car shine for weeks and repel bugs and sap ~ Nutty Bird
- Use Scrubbing Bubbles on the dashboard, it won’t leave a residue ~ Heather Lunstra
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. I only recommend products or services that I personally believe will add value to my readers. All opinions stated are strictly my own. Read our full disclosure policy for more information.
Kim Vealey says
Great tips…I'll be sending my truck your way for further car detailing research!!
[email protected] says
This is awesome Robin! My cars would be in heaven! Ha ha, with six kids being this clean would be a miracle! Pinning!
Just do what I did; they made the mess, they clean it. I had my three toiling away today. My 7 y/o was on window duty, my 10 y/o on armor all, and 12 y/o vacuuming. Lot less work for me and they got the reward of allowance.
Mandy Hank says
Great idea for the vents- it's so hard to get into those areas.
What great tips! Thanks so much, girlie!
Good resource thanks for the tip!
jacquelynn gaumitz says
Degreaser also works amazing at getting de icer off
The magic sponge work great, just be careful not to use it to often. It does take a little of the finish off. I like the idea of the sponge brush, much easier then a cotton swab. Thank you
Wow, love the idea of a foam brush to clean the vents. I just cleaned my van today and was hoping to find an alternative to expensive armor all, but as I was cleaning I was bemoaning how dirty the vents were. Thinking I have another chore for tomorrow. 🙂 I'll try the vaseline on my husbands jeep.
Buy a foam paint brush with a width thin enough to be wedged easily into vents, use a razor blade to cut the brush to there are two thin foam “inserts” on the brush. Dip into cleaning fluid and insert into vents for a deep clean! Repeat with all vents.
I also wrap foam around Popsicle sticks for really small, tight places.
laura rowe says
I have never used vaseline- but i have used furniture polish and it does great too!
HHS Choral Booster Club says
Olive oil is good too. The trick is to make sure you wipe off the excess.
Melanie Gardner says
Wet dryer sheets are amazing for scrubbing off bugs on the front and headlights!
nutty bird says
Glycerine in your final bucket of water, for the outside! Eight drops per bucket and chamois off. It gleams and repels flys and tree sap. Just hose them off, your car will look newly cleaned for weeks.
Heather Lunstra says
My friend owns an upholstery shop and works on classic cars, he uses scrubbing bubbles on dash and it doesn't leave any residue.
How do you clean up cloth upholstery? The car is 7 yrs. old and has light plush seat that have started looking dirty. We don't sit in our car with dirty clothes on but it sure looks like it. I was going to try some upholstery cleaner or Dawn Liquid but it's winter time and it wouldn't dry well now. Any suggestions?
Alicia Childre says
I use Resolve upholstery cleaner in spray bottle. When u are done with the vehicle for the night, spray your entire seats down with the solution. It dries overnight. Next day, seats are clean and car smells fresh.
Marcia Brock says
Clean cloth seat colors with Tuff Stuff. I was told by someone who used to work in a car dealership that they used it to clean the cars they took in as trade ins.
Yes, Tuff Stuff is a wonderful product. It got melted brown crayon out of s very light tan car. I even use ot in the house on rugs a hard grime on my tile floor in high traffic areas.
Where do the sponge brushes come from?
Robin Buster says
They can be purchased from a hardware store. They can be found by the paint brushes.
You can also get them in your craft store
Bob Patterson says
Angela Best says
I buy those brushes by the bag full for a buck at our dollar store. Cheap, cheap.
Thanks for the tip, I know where I’m going next time I need some brushes!
How can the black rubber around exterior of windows be repaired. It looks like it is rusting. And fading.
I use Black Magic in a spray bottle. You can get it at Walmart in the automotive cleaning section. It’s only 3.00 and works great. I just spray it on a towel and wipe all the black faded areas and they look brand new again. Try and keep it off your paint. Doesn’t ruin it just messy to remove. Good luck.
Joshua Wylie says
Forgot one, for an extremely faded dash you can do even more to bring that dark luster back. Take a rag and on top of the baselines areas dab on some gasoline from your rag. This gasoline will grab in the oils from the vaseline and leave a longer lasting black shine than just the vaseline alone. To enhance this look even more, take a match to the applied areas to burn off excess and bring out that true black finish.
Robin Buster says
Travis Re says
small amount of transmission fluid on a rag gets headlights crystal clear
RJ Byrd says
Be careful with Mr clean sponge it's a fine grit sand paper and will remove the clear coat
Thanks for the tips,but furniture polish on dashboard is a no-no. and if I may share, baking soda is awesome in removing bugs on headlights,hood and fender. also if anyone has a recipe or tips on removing Grout will greatly appreciated. thanks in advance.
'Shout' in the aerosol can ( must be aerosol ) works wonders in and outside of the home. My husband even uses it instead of 'goop' for his hands, smells way better too. Use it to get road tar off of your car or inside to get the icky residue from dirty hands and arms off the door handles, steering wheel and center console. It also conditions instead of drying out your surface.
milo cushman says
I have a sun roof and left it partially open and it rained. Now I have water stains. Any idea how to remove them?
Sorry I can’t think of anything!
I used to detail cars and here are a few tricks I used..
For the water stains,try lime away,it works really well for water stains,mineral deposits it I’m not sure about the car though,so do a little test spot no one will notice,.:)
And a great stain cleaner for carpet,seats,seat belts,I use it for cleaning everything but the windows and dashboard,windex and armor all I use on those..:)
Last thing,toothpaste works great on dull headlights,get an old scrap of jeans and rub till it shines..:) Rinse well after,then buff with clean cloth..
To freshen,spray a little free breeze and then put a dryer sheet or two under the car seats..:)
I forgot to add its Simple green is the cleaner I use,it works on everything and smells ok..:)
Try wiping the water stains with vinegar and warm water.
Use toothpaste to buff the tiny scratches out of your headlights. They’ll be nice and clear again!
Dolph Hoover says
This post is very informative thanks Robin. Those horizontal ventilator holes are a pain to clean by the way. I now have a clue for the specific spot where they cannot clean in the car wash.
Robin if your looking for a good cleaner that cleans EVERYTHING try a product call “Allsome” it is yellow and comes in a spray bottle and can be bought at the Dollar Tree. I have found this to be the BEST cleaner I have ever used ! Can not be used on glass or mirrors but everything else it is great. No need for magic sponges or other cleaners again.
I believe it’s “Awesome” not Allsome. And wouldn’t Vaseline or olive oil be a magnet for more dust and dirt?
I am a detailer and dawn is a great cleaner for all the vinyl you can also wet a rag and go over the upolstery. With a little elbow grease you would be surprised. Please don’t use armor all or vasalin or any oils, dirt just sticks to it Making it harder to clean next time. Good luck and have fun.
DIY Buzz feed for deep cleaning your car. Nothing was mentioned on how to clean your seat belts. I’ve tried dawn dish soap, car cleanes, ammonia and they still don’t come clean Do you hae any suggestions.
Try Grease Lightning. It’s great for cleaning a variety of hard to clean items.
Lol. This is actually pretty interesting. You could also do with a low cost professional wax, u know.
If you use a magic eraser. Be careful because it will remove your wax finish also. Don’t rub too hard on paint.
Janice Stewart says
Inside the door where the fuel cap in located gets extremely dirty. So I just use all-purpose cleaner or a wet wipe to scrub the inside and leave the door open a minute or two to dry.
Make sure the fuel cap is fastened tightly and whatever cleaner you use dries quickly!
David McElhiney says
If any of your bloggers have vehicles with chrome hubcaps or bumpers, use liquid or paste car wax. Apply with a clean rag until it turns cloudy, then wait a few minutes, wipe clean and you get a mirror finish.
Mahi Yacht Cleaning says
I like the Vaseline idea, however i give it a try i always used baby oil that works well too.
In the car there are so many different areas that have to be cleaned in their own unique ways. Thanks for the vents cleaning tips.
What’s the best way to get a shine on aluminum wheels that have gotten dirty from brake dust?
Sorry that I don’t have a better trick up my sleeve, but good ole’ soap and water is how I clean them.
liz n. says
A paste of Dawn dishwashing liquid and baking soda, about 1/4 cup Dawn and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Mix well, then rub into the wheels with a damp cloth or paint on with a foam brush. By the time you finish applying the paste to the last wheel, you can start rinsing the paste off of the first wheel. You can also scrub gently with a plastic bristle brush if there are any stubborn areas. Rinse off with the garden hose and dry the wheels with a clean cloth.
Tom Prokipchak says
Try using mop and glo on vinyl tops and dashboards
You should never use Vaseline or oil on your dash. Anything that gives your dash that “shine” is hurting it in the long run. The heat will melt it and end up either cracking your dash, or fade the color very fast. Try using “Aerospace 303” spray, which can be found on Amazon. It will last a long time, and not harm the interior of your vehicle.
I’m sorry but I disagree! One of our vehicles is over 14 years old and we have used Vaseline to polish the dashboard ever since it was new. We lived near Palm Springs where the heat is pretty intense and we have not had an issue with melting, cracking or fading, in fact, the dashboard looks as good as it did the day that we bought it.
I financed my teenage years working for a professional detail house. Since then, I’ve maintained my personal vehicles to that standard or better. I drive a 2002 BMW M3, and people I meet can’t believe it’s 14 years old. The secret is never let it get too dirty. Wash and wax in straight lines, never go in circles. Swirls are almost impossible to repair without heavy compounding by hand (in straight lines :). Never use petroleum products on the inside or outside of your vehicles. Beside the fumes, they are also carcinogenic. Clean all leather and dash surfaces with mild soap and water. Glossy dashboards create a very dangerous glare on the inside of your windshield. Dish detergent is made to cut grime and grease. Don’t use it on your paint unless you plan to wax it right after. Once you start smearing oils all over everything inside and out, dust will stick to it. And you’ve entered into a never ending cycle of lubing all your car surfaces. Save that stuff for the engine. The best thing to remove bugs is a good coat of wax beforehand, and a spray wax detailer for the ones that remain after washing. If you scrub hard, or use something abrasive like a dryer sheet, or magic eraser, you may as well be using 1000 grit sand paper. Feel free to dispute or ask questions.
I respect all of your opinions however, all of the tips that are described in this post are ones that I’ve personally used since we purchased our car back in September 2001. We’ve always used petroleum jelly on the dash, the key to using it is to put it on and immediately wipe it off to take away the tackiness. I’ve never had a problem with dust sticking to it and the dash is in as good of shape as it was the day that we bought it. As for the magic sponge, you can see from the before and after pictures that were taken 12 years after we purchased the car that it hasn’t caused any damage to the paint.