The Ultimate Guide to Car Cleaning

They say that your car is a reflection of you. Even if this isn’t true, it would be foolish not to take care of such an expensive investment. It’s so easy to clean a car these days; all you have to do is get the right products and follow the steps laid out for you. But which are the best products, and what steps to follow? Let’s get started.

Benefits of Car Cleaning

Car cleaning is not just about making your car look good. It also has many benefits, such as:

1. Gives Your Vehicle Longer Life

When your car is clean, it looks more attractive and appealing. You can also expect better performance from your vehicle because the engine parts get proper ventilation and airflow, as well as protection against dust particles and other external factors such as UV rays. 

2. Keeps You and Your Family Safe

Regular cleaning also helps maintain the overall health of your vehicle by eliminating all kinds of germs and bacteria that may cause diseases if they remain inside the cabin for too long.

In addition, dirt accumulates in every nook and cranny of a vehicle — especially in areas like under the hood — which can cause malfunctions that may lead to accidents if they’re not fixed right away. 

For example, dirt can clog up oil filters or air filters so that they stop working properly, which could lead to serious problems such as overheating or engine failure while driving (in extreme cases).

3. Your Car will Smell Better

If you have pets in the car or eat food while driving, the smell can be overpowering and unpleasant for those around you. A good cleaning routine will help eliminate smells left behind in your vehicle’s seats, carpets, and upholstery.

4. Helps Maintain Resale Value

A clean car always looks better than a dirty one — no matter what kind of vehicle you drive or how much money you spent on it. You’ll be able to recoup more money if you sell your vehicle when it’s clean rather than filthy and covered in mud or dirt from sitting outside all winter long.

5. Extends The Life of Your Vehicle’s Paint Job

Keeping your paint job pristine can help extend its lifespan by years — especially if you live in an area where rain, snow, and salt are common during the winter months. 

If you live in an area where rain is common year-round, having a clean paint job will also help prevent rust from forming on your vehicle.

Types of Car Washes

There are many different types of car washes, each offering a different type of cleaning. Some are simply basic hand washes, while others offer full-service washes with extras like underbody cleaning and waxing.

1. Hand Wash (Self-Serve)

The most basic type of car wash is the self-serve hand wash. These are usually located in gas stations or grocery stores and allow you to clean your car yourself. While you can’t get any more basic than this, these types of washes still offer some benefits over other types of washes:

  • They’re convenient

You don’t need an appointment or even a drop-off time — just pull up, spend as much time as you want washing your car, then pay at the register when you’re done.

  • They’re cheap

Hand wash prices are generally lower than other types because they require less labor (on both sides).

2. Touchless Car Wash

These automated facilities have no brushes or sponges and use high-pressure water to clean your vehicle. They’re often considered more economical than other self-service facilities. Also, they’re faster and less labor-intensive for the owner.

3. Full-service Wash

These facilities typically employ attendants who wash, dry, and polish your vehicle for you. In many cases, they will also vacuum out any loose dirt from between seats and in crevices that you can’t reach with a standard wand.

4. Wash & Dry Only

Some self-serve hand wash facilities will also offer “wash & dry only” services where they spray down the exterior of your car with water only and leave it to dry on its own. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to worry about drying your car afterward since the hand wash facility does it for you.

Cleaning Your Car at Home

Cleaning your car at home is easy, inexpensive, and fun. You can take care of the cleaning yourself or have a professional detailer do it for you. Either way, make sure to clean your car regularly.

1. Gather Supplies

You’ll need the following:

  • Water
  • A sponge or rag
  • Microfiber cloth
  • A bucket for the dirty water and another for the clean water
  • Car wash soap or shampoo
  • A hose or bucket of water for rinsing (optional)

2. Use a Microfiber Cloth

The first step to cleaning a car at home is to use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the exterior of your vehicle. This will remove any dirt or grime collected on the outside of your car, and it is an effective way to prep your vehicle for further cleaning.

3. Wash the Wheels and Tires First

If your wheels and tires are dirty, the first step in cleaning your car is to wash them thoroughly. Use a wheel brush to scrub off any brake dust or other dirt that may have accumulated on the rims, spokes, or lug nuts. 

Rinse them with water from a hose or bucket, and then dry them with a towel. If you have access to a hose, you can spray water directly onto the wheels to remove any remaining dirt and grime.

4. Vacuum

Vacuuming is essential to keeping your car clean, but it doesn’t have to be a full-on task. Simply take out the vacuum head and go over each seat individually with it. If there are any loose pieces of dirt or hair that got caught in the seats, this will pick them up without much effort on your part.

5. Apply Car Wash Solution

After you have wiped down your car with a microfiber cloth and done vacuuming, you can move on to applying a car wash solution. This can be done with a spray bottle or with a sponge, depending on what type of surface you are using. Some people prefer using sponges because they tend to be easier to maneuver when washing larger vehicles, such as SUVs or trucks.

Other people prefer using spray bottles because they allow them more control over where they are applying soap and water. Either way is fine as long as you are using soap specifically designed for washing cars.

6. Clean the Windows

Use glass cleaner on the inside and outside of each window to remove dirt, smudges, and fingerprints. If there’s an interior layer of glass between your vehicle’s front windshield and back window, clean that too. 

Apply glass cleaner liberally with a microfiber cloth (or paper towel) on both sides of the window until it’s free of all residue.

7. Rinse Thoroughly

After applying soap and water to your vehicle, you should rinse thoroughly before moving on to another step in your cleaning process. This will ensure that all excess soap has been removed from your car’s exterior so that it does not leave streaks or spots on your car’s surface.

Use a sponge or cloth to wipe away excess water from all surfaces of the car, including rims, tires, and wheel wells. Do not worry about getting every bit of water off at this stage; just focus on getting rid of most of it until only a small amount remains after you have finished wiping it down. 

Use a damp towel to wipe off any remaining standing water from the car’s body.

8. Clean the Upholstery

The upholstery on your car is difficult to clean because it’s made up of lots of different materials (fabrics, plastics, leather) that can be damaged if they’re not treated properly. It’s important to know what type of material your seats are made out of so that you know how best to clean them:

  • Fabric

Fabric upholstery is usually challenging to clean; just be careful not to let any water get through the cracks in the fabric because it could cause damage below where nobody sees it.

To clean your fabric upholstery, mix a cup of vinegar, a few drops of dish soap, and about a gallon of hot water in a bucket. Dab the mixture into the stain and scrub the stain out with a brush. Rinse the seat with clean water, then use laundry detergent to remove any remaining stains.

  • Leather

Leather upholstery is another story entirely; it’s easier to clean than fabric. If your leather is still in good condition but has stains, try cleaning it with a damp cloth or a special wipe. Using the wrong products and sponges may also scratch the leather, so clean it gently without using harsh chemicals. 

9. Wax and Polish the Exterior

Waxing and polishing are two different processes that both serve different purposes. Waxing helps protect the paint from oxidizing (that’s when it starts to turn dull), while polishing helps remove scratches in the paint job that may have been caused by rocks or bugs hitting your car as you drive down the highway. 

However, both are important for maintaining your vehicle’s appearance over time.

Tips For Getting Your Ride Looking Its Best

It’s easy to let your car slide into a state of disrepair, but when you make cleaning a regular habit, it doesn’t take long before you have a shiny, clean-looking vehicle.

Here are some tips for getting your ride looking its best:

1. Prepare for a Thorough Wash

Before you begin washing, make sure to check for any loose items or valuables inside your vehicle. Remove all loose objects from compartments in your dashboard and glove box, as well as from under seats and between seats and doors. 

Also, remove any valuables like cell phones, wallets, and purses from the cabin as well as from under seats and behind seats.

2. Clean the Interior First

If your car looks good from the outside, it has to start from the inside out. You don’t need special products or tools for this task; just grab some paper towels and cleaning solutions and get started.

Start with the floor mats, then move on to wiping down all surfaces inside your vehicle, including seats, cup holders, consoles, and door panels. This will take some time, but it’s well worth it when you see how much better everything looks after being cleaned up.

3. Use a Quality Sponge or Towel

There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing the type of sponge or towel for washing your vehicle’s exterior surfaces. Some people prefer using sponges because they’re easy to find at any local department store; others prefer using towels because they have a better grip and can be used for other household tasks. 

For most people, the best choice is to use microfiber towels. These are made of super-fine strands that trap dirt and grime while being gentle on your vehicle’s paint finish.

4. Use Car Shampoo Only

Use a high-quality shampoo explicitly made for cars, not household products like soap or detergent. These will strip wax protection from the paint and leave behind residue that attracts dirt and makes it harder for you to get the surface clean later on. 

5. Don’t forget to Clean the Cup Holders and Console

The cup holders and console are one of the most difficult parts to clean in your car. They are exposed to all sorts of moisture, dirt, and dust, which makes them hard to clean.

Use a wet cloth to wipe these surfaces down. You can also use dish soap or mild detergent if needed. Make sure you rinse off the detergent after cleaning so as not to leave any residue behind.

Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Your Vehicle

Here are some mistakes that most people make and should be avoided when cleaning your vehicle:

1. Using Bleach

Bleach is harsh and can strip away the protective coatings on your vehicle’s paint. It will also leave behind a chemical smell that lingers for days or weeks.

2. Using the Wrong Products

Your car needs specific products to clean it properly, and those products aren’t always what you think they are. Remember never to use a household cleaner on your car because it can damage the paint job or interior fabric.

3. Using too Much Water

Water can ruin your car’s finish if you’re not careful about how much you use when washing it off. You should only use enough water to remove the dirt and then dry everything with a towel afterward, so no water remains on the vehicle’s surface (or inside any crevices).

4. Using the Wrong Cloth to Clean Your Car

Avoid using a paper towel or an old T-shirt on your car’s body, as they may damage and scratch the paint. Moreover, a sponge or bathing towel is not suitable for your car’s paint either. Instead of using all these fabrics, use a soft microfiber cloth.

5. Not Using Lubricants

Not using lubricant is another mistake that most people make. Use a spray wax when your car is completely dry to lock its coat and shine.

6. Washing Your Car in Harsh Sunlight

Do not make the mistake of washing your car in the sunlight. The main reason is that the car’s surface will be hot in direct sunlight, and the heat will evaporate the water you will be using to wash the car. 

Wait for the sunset, and then wash your vehicle to get a good shine (it is for summer only). 

Recommended Car Cleaning Products

Here’s a look at some of the best car cleaning products you can use on your vehicle:

1. Car Wax

Good car wax will protect against UV rays and pollution and make the paint job look shiny and new. A quick way to tell if your car needs waxing is by looking at its shine. If there is no shine or it looks dull, it’s time to wax.

2. Car Wash Shampoo

If you’re washing your car by hand, then a good quality car wash shampoo can help clean off dirt and grime from your vehicle. These shampoos are usually available at most auto parts stores or convenience stores.

3. Dryer Sheet

Lint-free dryer sheets are great for removing dust from upholstery, carpeting, and other surfaces inside the car, such as dashboards and consoles. They also help eliminate odors from fabric surfaces like seats and headrests.

4. Degreasers

You’ll want to use a degreaser on surfaces like the engine bay or undercarriage. A good degreaser will remove all kinds of oil, grease, and grime without leaving any residue that could damage your paint job over time.

5. Window Cleaner

Windshields tend to be the dirtiest part of any car’s exterior because they’re exposed to the elements 24/7 — rain, snow, and mud can cover them with grime quickly if they aren’t cleaned regularly. 

A good window cleaner should be able to remove all kinds of stains from windshields and side windows without leaving streaks behind.

6. Wash Mitts

Wash mitts are great for removing tough stains from vehicles without scratching their surfaces. They come in different sizes depending on how dirty your car is and how much detail work you want to do. 

Wash mitts are usually made of microfiber, which is soft and gentle on your car’s finish.

7. All Purpose Cleaner

This is one of the essential products to have on hand. It’s a multi-surface cleaner that can be used to clean just about anything in your car. You can use it to clean upholstery, dashboards, carpets, vinyl, and plastic surfaces.

It’s great for cleaning up messes from food, drink spills, and pet accidents.

8. Car Paint Sealant

A car paint sealant is an easy way to protect your vehicle’s paint job, especially if you live in a city with harsh winters. The sealant creates a barrier between the car and the elements, which helps prevent damage from occurring. If your car already has some damage on its exterior, a sealant will help protect that area from further damage.

9. Snow Foam

Snow foam is a type of car wash soap designed to help remove dirt and grime from the exterior of your vehicle. It works by foaming up into a thick lather, which allows it to penetrate deep into the small crevices and cracks on your car’s bodywork. This lather can then be safely rinsed off with water, leaving behind a clean surface.


As we wrap up, a quick reminder that the most important thing to realize when it comes to car cleaning is that there’s no wrong or right way. With the list of tips above, you should be able to keep your car looking clean and pristine.

So, go ahead and experiment with different combinations of different cleaning products. You might just discover the perfect combination that gives your car the personalized shine it deserves.

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