The Ultimate Guide to Car Cleaning

Owing a car is an accomplishment for most people and an easy thing. But, not everyone is familiar with the art of keeping their car clean and healthy. People might opt for car wash services once in a blue moon and think they are maintaining their car properly; well, they are wrong. You can clean your car regularly at home, and it is not difficult – all you need to have are some car wash chemicals, handy tools, and have good knowledge on the topic. Let’s discuss car cleaning in detail. 

But here’s the catch: a regular car wash is not enough to keep your car in a clean and pristine condition. And here comes the process of car detailing. 

What is Car Detailing?

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In simple words, auto detailing or car detailing refers to the process of restoring a vehicle to a new-like condition. Car wash and detailing can include everything from cleaning, washing, polishing, to restoring. Moreover, it includes exterior and interior restoration. 

Two Major Elements of Car Detailing 

Complete car detailing process includes both interior and exterior detailing. 

1. Interior Detailing 

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The interior of a car includes all its inner surfaces, such as leather, vinyl, plastic, carbon fibers, natural fibers, etc. Various methods are utilized to clean these surfaces, ranging from vacuuming to steam cleaning. Compared to exterior detailing, interior detailing requires a lot more effort and time. Depending on the environment you live in, and where you park your car, different types of allergens and debris can take shelter inside your car. 

Following are the most common steps of interior car detailing:

  • Vacuuming

This step includes vacuuming the seats, floor mats, shelves, headliners, trunk, rear seats, and sometimes even under the hood. 

  • Brushing and Steam Cleaning

Unlike regular car wash, this process of car detailing gets you in every nook and corner of the car using a detailing brush. Special cleaning chemicals and brushes are used in this step to clean mats and carpets and difficult-to-reach areas in your car. This step eliminates accumulated dirt and stains. 

  • Leather Cleaning

Leather soap, leather cleaner, and saddle soap are used to clean all your car’s leather surfaces, including seats, headrests, center console, etc. 

  • Glass Cleaning

A glass cleaner is used to clean the glass surface inside the car to maintain its shiny appearance. 

  • Re-Vacuuming and Wiping

This step involves vacuuming the interior of your car one more time to get rid of any dust left in the cabin. Once all the debris is removed, the windows and dashboard of the car are wiped clean using a cleaning chemical to restore the car’s original glow and shine. 

  • Perfuming

After performing all the steps mentioned above, a deodorant is sprayed in the car to leave it with a pleasant scent. Your car will smell like new after this last step. 

2. Exterior Detailing 

Exterior Detailing 

This part of car detailing includes vacuuming, cleaning, and restoring the original condition of the car’s external components, such as wheels, rims, windows, bumper grills, and other visible components. Special cleaning products are used for this purpose, including polishes, wax, detergents, degreasers, etc. 

Unlike regular car wash, exterior detailing includes much more than just a quick wash of exterior components. An expert car detailer will make sure to restore your car’s exterior to new-like condition using glass coating or applying a high-quality shielding paint sealant.

Following are the most common steps of exterior car detailing:

  • Washing and Drying

This step is like a regular car wash – using high-powered spray to get rid of all the dirt on the car, followed by handwashing the rims, tires, door jambs, glass, etc. 

  • Claying

Your car might have some scratches or impurities that cannot be removed using regular detergents – in this case, a clay bar is used to get rid of those things. 

  • Polishing

Cars lose their shine and polish after some time due to various factors, such as UV rays. Therefore, the exterior of your car is polished using high-quality polishes to restore the original shine of the car. 

  • Sealing

A sealant is applied after polishing the car to lock its shine for some time. Here, you may opt for a glass coating that provides an extra layer of protection to your car and gives it an amazing shine. 

Other common (but can be expensive) car detailing services may include:

  • Trim repainting
  • Bumper repair
  • Paint touch-ups
  • Headlight polishing
  • Glass chip repair
  • Engine detailing and engine pressure cleaning

Top Benefits of Keeping Your Car Clean 

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Before going into the procedure of cleaning your vehicle, let’s first go over the advantages of keeping your car’s body pristine. For beginners who are good at keeping their ride waxed, it will last longer. Wax ensures that natural dirt and salt deposits do not gather on the surface, hence saving from corrosion. 

  • Washing the interior and exterior will extend the car’s life.
  • Safer driving
  • Improves the chance to get a higher resale value and keeps the car in shape
  • Increases your satisfaction rate and enhances the experience
  • Ensures healthy and a smooth ride
  • Provides comfort to the highest level
  • Ensures premium and fresh look every day
  • Saves a significant amount of money in maintenance and repairs 

Types of Car Washes

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Now you know the several benefits of car washing and what you will gain by keeping your car sparkling; let’s talk about some types of car washes. Your options include car detailing, automatic car wash, and hand washing. Each type has its pros and cons. You can try all and see what suits you the most.

Two Well-Known Exterior Wash Methods

Are you looking for easy methods to get your car deep cleaned? The following are the two widely used methods that will make your life and car washing effortless:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
IPELY 4 Pack 100g Car Clay Bar Auto Detailing Magic Clay Bar Cleaner
SoLiD 6 Pack Multipurpose Plush Microfiber Edgeless Cleaning Towel for Household, Car Washing
Maxshine Super Fluffy Microfiber Wash Pad for Car Detailing, Home Cleaning
Chemical Guys CWS20764 Extreme Bodywash & Wax Foaming Car Wash Soap
Rubbermaid Commercial Products Plastic Round Food Storage Container for Kitchen
The Grit Guard Insert (Red) - Fits 12 inch Diameter Bucket
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable, Cleaning Pads with Durafoam, 10 Count
365 by WFM, Baby Wipe Refill, 100 Count
Farnam Leather New Total Care 2-in-1 Leather Cleaner & Conditioner, for use on All Leather, 6 Ounces
SHINE ARMOR Fortify Quick Coat - Ceramic Coating - Car Wax Polish Spray

1. Two Bucket Car Wash Method

This one is the most effective car wash method as it provides you enough supplies for the perfect wash. The bucket method has two parts. You use one bucket to wash the wheels and smaller car parts. The other one is used to rinse and add the finishing touch for a quality wash. 

For this method, drying towels, wash pads, good quality car soaps, and two see-through buckets are all you need to clear your car. For each bucket, try to use less than four gallons of water. To make a perfect cleaning mixture, always use the best quality car soap, and use it only in the required amount.

For a thorough wash, remember to use Grit Guards. These will make your work much easier by separating the dirt from the grime. In this car wash method, your rinse bucket is more important than you think. It will give you the finishing touch you need. 

To get rid of the leftover dirt from the parts, grab the wash pads and spend some time cleaning the dirty parts to a shine. 

2. Three Bucket Car Wash Method 

This method is kind of similar to the previous one (two-bucket method). Unlike the two-bucket car wash method, in this one, you will need two buckets for the washing part and one for the rinsing. Start by taking approximately three to four gallons of water in the bucket and finish the initial washing. Wash all the parts to get rid of the dirt with Grit Guards at the bottom of the bucket.

After you are done with the initial washing, grab your second bucket, and make a water soap mixture. Spray it on the car parts to clean off all the remaining dirt. To give the wash a satisfying finishing, use the third bucket and spray only water. Get rid of all the soap, and clean the parts until you are satisfied. And that’s a wrap!

Steps to Cleaning a Car at Home 

Steps to Cleaning a Car at Home 

The essential steps for a dealer-quality car cleaning consist of prepping and washing the car, cleaning the wheels and tires, and vacuuming the interior. Beyond these, the following are some additional pointers you should take care of for a guaranteed shiny finish:

1. Make the Headlights Shine 

No one likes cloudy headlights as they make it harder for others to see your vehicle on the road and give your car an old vibe. To shine up your headlight covers fast, consider using non-gel toothpaste instead of buying an expensive kit. Toothpaste can remove buildup on the headlight covers as it has a gentle abrasive. To apply toothpaste, you can use a microfiber cloth. 

And yes, remember to opt for a toothpaste that includes baking soda or offers whitening action. 

2. Spend Extra Time on Every Corner

You will need to allocate some serious time to the nooks and crannies of your car, besides just making the headlights shine. No matter how meticulous you are about eating, crumbs can get anywhere, and getting them out of tight spots can be a bit tricky. To reach the tightest spots, use a flat screwdriver head covered with an old toothbrush or a cloth. 

Moreover, to ensure you get all the crumbs, you must also use a vacuum attachment. 

3. Clean Your Cup Holders 

If your car doesn’t have removable cup holders, then it can be tricky to clean them. But don’t worry, you can use an all-purpose cleaner and a pair of old socks to remove stains and spots. Some spots and stains can prove to be stubborn. In this case, use a wooden skewer to scrape them off, and do not forget to vacuum anything that scrapes off from those cup holders. 

If your cup holders are removable, instead of scrubbing, throw them in the dishwasher. Set your washer to the rinse setting, and that’s it – your machine will do all the dirty work. 

4. Pay Attention to the Floor Mats 

Floor mats are one of the overlooked and hardest working areas of your vehicle. They can be torn quickly and take the brunt of what is on your feet. The floor mats can look tattered quickly if they do not get a little regular TLC. However, cleaning them depends on the type of mats you have in your car. For example, you can wash your fabric-covered rugs in washing machines. But first, loosen tough, stuck-on messes by treating the mats using a stain remover. You can always use a gentle cycle and throw in a little detergent. 

On the other hand, for rubber mats, go for a simple wipe down with an all-purpose cleaner and microfiber cloth.

5. Remove Gunk From Upholstery 

If you have leather or vinyl seats and struggling to remove gunk from them, you can use a magic eraser. Wet the magic eraser and test a hidden, small portion of your upholstery. If that works fine for you, use the magic eraser to gently clean the stain and gunk from the seats. 

If you still cannot remove the spots, you can make a mixture using ¼ cup white vinegar and mix it with ¼ cup of olive oil. Apply this DIY mixture on your car’s leather seats and rub it using a clean towel until the seats look clean. Using this tip will leave you with cleaned, disinfected, and beautiful car seats.

6. Use Baby Wipes to Keep the Interior Clean 

Once your car looks well-polished and hygienic, keep it that way. To get rid of spills and other problems that can affect your vehicle’s interior, keep baby wipes with you. They work great in cleaning steering wheels, dashboards, and other surfaces. Another best thing about them is they are available everywhere. 

You can buy them online or from your local store and put them in your glove compartment to clean unexpected messes and stains anytime, anywhere.

7. Improve Your Car’s Scent 

After you have cleaned your car, there is one important thing left to do. Last but not least, make sure your vehicle smells amazing. You can use a deodorant in the car, but maintaining a good smell for the long term can be challenging. But, there is one cleaning hack that can do the trick. For that, spray the interior with baking soda – it is well-known for nixing odors related to spills, food, and pets. On top of everything, it will also keep the interior of your car clean and smelling fresh.

Additional Tips for Taking Care of Your Car’s Leather Interior

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You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust buildups and stray crumbs. Go for a two-in-one leather cleaner. It will clean the seats and condition them with natural oils. To apply it, use a clean, soft towel, and remember to do it often. Moreover, use a circular motion as you apply the product to massage it into place.

To extend the life of your leather seats, place a sun blocker or sun shield when parking your vehicle for a long time, especially in summers. Vacuum the leftover dirt and debris off of your car seats. Apply your preferred leather cleaner and leather conditioner, and do not forget to wipe dry the remaining leather cleaner with the help of a microfiber cloth. Practicing these things can make your car look brand new.

Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Your Vehicle

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Only use Automotive Soap and Detergent

You should not use the detergent or soaps you use to wash your clothes for your cars. They can be bad for your car’s paint and damage the clear coat of the vehicle. Instead of using a kitchen degreaser, detergent or soap, use an automotive soap. These soaps neither strip the wax nor damage the car’s paint.

Do Not Wash Your Car in the 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). You can wash your car whenever you want in winters, except when it is snowing or raining.

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. 

Do Not Use Just Any 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 them, use a soft microfiber cloth. 

Conclusion 

Cleaning your car can be a tough job as it requires patience and hard work, but it will add years to your car’s life and make it look brand new all the time. Do not worry if you are a beginner and do not have the knowledge – you will learn everything with time. If you love to keep your car spick and span, you should know everything about cleaning the car’s exterior and interior. You can also opt for car detailing services if you find it hard to get into the nook and crannies of your car. 

We hope this guide helps you keep your car neat and clean for its lifetime.