There is a lot of information out there on car care, auto detailing and the right (or wrong) products for each step in the process. This list of helpful car cleaning tips will help you get the job done right the first time and keep you from wasting time, money and water.
Do you know what the most versatile automotive cleaning product you already own is? Is it true that hot temperatures and bright sunlight are your worst enemy when washing your car? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.
Be responsible – Try a waterless car wash. A TON of water is wasted each time you take your car to the carwash or wash your car in the driveway at home. Beyond the obvious issue of wasting gallons and gallons (up to 140 per wash) of water, that water – and all of the chemicals, brake dust, tar, and other debris in it produce a toxic run-off that seeps back into the streams and other water sources in your neighborhood. Instead of wasting water and polluting your environment, try a naturally derived, spray-on-and-wipe-off car wash. The results are great, and your impact on the natural world is lessened significantly.
Microfiber towels are key – trash those old t-shirts and towels. Microfiber towels are the only way to go when cleaning your car. They are lint-free, will not cause scratches and will not cause streaks. Imagine your car’s windows and mirrors sparkling clean without even the slightest swirl or streak from your glass cleaner! High quality microfiber towels contain ultra-fine fibers that are machine knit to create tiny loops. These loops absorb a great deal more liquid than a regular cotton towel – they can hold 8 times their weight in water! Additionally, electrostatic properties in microfiber towels cause them to literally attract dust and dirt, which allows you to lift grime up and away from the surface, rather than just wiping it across it. The only downside to microfiber towels is that they do require special care. Microfiber towels should be washed with detergent only – NEVER use bleach or softener as it will destroy the electrostatic charge that is so helpful for cleaning. Also, the towels should be either hung to dry or dried on low or no heat to avoid melting the synthetic fibers. When cleaning with microfiber towels, spray your car care product onto the towel first, NOT directly onto the surface. This will keep over-spray onto other surfaces to a minimum and keep you from cleaning the same surface twice.
Don’t clean your car in the sun. If you can avoid it, never clean your car in direct sunlight or high temperatures. Whether you are washing the exterior of the vehicle, wiping down the dashboard, or polishing the windows, any liquid you spray on or in your car will evaporate very quickly in the sun or heat. Evaporation is an issue for two reasons. First, you’re putting the time and energy into cleaning the car – why make the job longer and more difficult by having to constantly re-spray and re-wipe areas over and over again? Even pure water will leave behind spots and streaks if it evaporates on the surface of your car. Second, consider the effect evaporation of chemicals can have when cleaning the interior of your car. The liquid turns to gas and is inhaled by you and your family members, posing a potentially serious health risk. If at all possible, clean your car in the shade to make the process more efficient and to avoid endangering your health. This is yet another reason to opt for non-toxic car care products.
Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. This might seem pretty obvious, but vacuuming as much of your vehicle as possible will make cleaning a lot easier. Don’t vacuum just the carpets and upholstery – get out those attachments and suck the dust off the dashboard and out of those little nooks and crannies. The more you vacuum up first, the less you’ll have to wipe down later. Always remember to vacuum first, before any other interior cleaning, so that you avoid re-contaminating freshly cleaned areas when the dust starts to fly.
You already own many great car cleaning tools. Think of all the items you have around the house that could make car cleaning easier. Q-tips are perfect for cleaning out those little spaces where dust accumulates, such as the air vents. Have some canned air on the computer desk? “Dust Off” is great for blasting dust off of your computer keyboard AND out of crevices in your car’s console, cup holders or other small spots. A soft paintbrush is a great tool for detailing your dashboard. Keep household items like these on hand for car cleaning and you’ll have a vehicle that’s been cleaned thoroughly and efficiently.
Don’t do the job twice – clean glass last. Cleaning your windows and mirrors last will prevent any re-contamination likely to occur from other car care products over-spraying onto the glass. Don’t forget to roll the window down halfway to clean the top edge of the glass, and try up-and-down, side-to-side strokes rather than a circular motion to ensure the entire window has been cleaned and polished.
Avoid any products containing ammonia or silicone. Ammonia and ammonia fumes cause plastic, rubber, vinyl and leather to crack and dry out, and it will also damage aftermarket window tinting. The last thing you want to do when trying to improve the appearance of your car is prematurely age it with ammonia! Some interior protectant products contain silicone, which will turn your dashboard and other surfaces yellow with time. Silicone also leaves behind a residue that will attract dust, causing you to have to clean more frequently.
Dishwashing detergent = NOT car wash. It is popularly believed that dishwashing liquid is a convenient substitute for car soap. Unfortunately, just like it can dry out your skin, it also dries out the paint on your car by stripping away the polymers. Regular use of dishwashing detergent as car wash will accelerate the oxidization of the paint, causing it to look old, flat, and dull. Avoid ruining your car’s paint – opt for a waterless car wash.
You don’t need a clay bar to remove dried-on tree sap. Don’t have a clay bar? Don’t even know what a clay bar is? Not a problem. There are incredibly powerful all-purpose automotive cleaners on the market that can tackle hard to clean spots like bird droppings, bugs and fresh tree sap, but for dried-on sap, use mineral spirits. Apply mineral spirits to the spot and then very gently wipe the sap away with a quality microfiber towel. Be sure to be as gentle as possible while wiping up and away from the car’s surface.
White vinegar is a car care cure-all! White vinegar is undoubtedly the most versatile cleaning agent you probably already own. It can be used to clean those winter salt stains from your car’s carpets, eliminate odors, polish chrome, prevent frost from forming on your car’s windows, and clean the grime off your wipers that causes them to drag across the windshield and blur your view. It can also remove even the nastiest messes from your car, including chewing gum from carpeting and old stickers from your bumper. Here are some handy recipes:
– Remove salt stains from carpets – mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Apply to the stain and wipe away with a microfiber towel.
– Polish chrome wheels with full strength white vinegar and a microfiber towel. Use a second towel to buff your chrome to a bright shine.
– Prevent frost from forming on your windows – mix 3 parts white vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray your windshield and windows at night and wake up to frost-free windows!
– Remove chewing gum on carpeting and old bumper stickers – apply full strength white vinegar to the area. Allow it to fully saturate the problem spot and then gently loosen and remove. Use an old card to scrape off stickers.
– Eliminate odors – mix 1 part white vinegar to 20 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution into your car’s air intake and then run the AC at full blast for 10 minutes.
– Stop windshield wiper blurring – apply full strength white vinegar to a microfiber towel and wipe down the length of your wiper blades several times to remove dirt and debris.