Owning a car is a huge advantage in today’s world, but it can be tough to keep it clean and looking beautiful. A car picks up grease, grime, and dirt every time you take it out for a spin. Knowing how to wash a car is an essential skill, and it pays for itself in a short time.
When you know how to clean a car, you don’t need to worry about expensive trips to a detailer to clean away bird droppings or give the interior a once-over. This guide provides you a comprehensive look at how to wash your car without turning to the automatic car wash.
In this article, you’ll learn how to prepare your car for a wash, how to clean the car interior, and how to get the car’s exterior looking like you just drove it off the lot. We give you the essential details you need to save money and keep your car beautiful. Your bank account will thank you, and so will your automobile.
- Washing a Car – Preparing the Car
- How to Clean a Car Interior
- Clean the Center Console
- Clean Your Dashboard
- Get Your Inside Windows Clean
- Remove and Clean Your Floor Mats
- Vacuum the Car Interior
- Clean Your Seats
- Air Out and Freshen Up Your Car
- How to Wash Your Car Exterior
Washing a Car – Preparing the Car
When you want to learn how to wash a car, you need to start with the prep work. It might not seem like you need to do a lot of advance work when you wash your car, but a little extra attention at the start will make the entire process much smoother. Taking a few minutes to gather gear and get your car ready for the wash will pay off many times over.
This section examines the steps you should take to prepare for your car wash. We show you where you should move your car before washing it, what equipment you need to stage, and how to clean out your car ahead of the wash. Your vehicle will be ready for a good scrub down.
Move and Secure the Car
Washing your car isn’t as simple as walking outside on a sunny day and sudsing up the exterior. Your vehicle might not be ready for cleaning. You need to make sure your car is in a good location for the wash, and you also need to ensure that the vehicle is secured and ready for the soap and water.
Move your car to a shaded location before you begin your cleaning. When you wash your car in direct sunlight, the soap and water dry too quickly and leave streaks and dull spots on the car’s finish.
You also need to make sure that the interior and exterior are secured and ready for cleaning. Roll up all windows, retract all antennae, and ensure that the hood and trunk are closed and prepared for their big day.
Gather Your Gear
Before you start cleaning, make sure that everything you need is available and within reach. You don’t want to be halfway through the cleaning job only to discover that you’re missing a key component, after all.
Create a list of everything you’ll need to wash your car’s interior and exterior, and then make sure you’ve staged all of it before you get your hands wet.
Make sure that you have a ton of rags, paper towels, and chamois or microfiber cloths. You’re likely to need more of them than you might think. After everything is in place, you’re ready to get dressed and start cleaning.
Wear Proper Clothing
Washing your car is a refreshing treat on a hot summer day, but many of your washes will happen in less-than-ideal conditions. It’s easy to get chilled and miserable during your wash if you don’t wear the correct clothing. Take a few minutes to get dressed before you start your wash.
Your car wash clothing doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but try to ensure that you’re wearing enough to keep you warm in a breezy and splashy environment. Consider earmarking an old pair of pants and a shirt as your designated car wash clothes, and keep them in the garage for easy access.
Clean All Debris from Your Car
After you’ve moved your car, staged all gear, and gotten yourself adequately attired, you still have one more task to perform during your prep work. Your car is probably full of random bits of your life, such as yoga mats, toys, car seats, and more. Clean all of that wreckage out of your car before you proceed with the wash.
Remove anything that isn’t attached to the car’s interior. Pull out any trash, luggage, or anything else that you find floating around the car. This moment is an excellent opportunity to relieve your car of anything extra you’ve been hauling around. By the time you finish your preparation work, your car’s interior should be empty and ready for a proper washdown.
How to Clean a Car Interior
Now that you’ve prepped your car and yourself, it’s time to start your cleaning. When you clean your car, focus on the interior before you move on to cleaning the exterior. When you wash your car’s exterior first, you risk getting it dirty again while you clean the interior.
When you clean from the inside out, you keep everything neat and looking sharp. This section covers how to wash your car interior.
You’ll learn how to use household items such as an old toothbrush and a vacuum to get your car’s insides looking their best. We show you how to clean a car interior from top to bottom and still have enough time to get the exterior sparkling.
Clean the Center Console
Your center console is a prime spot for dirt and grime to gather in your car. Most consoles have tons of buttons, switches, and nooks and crannies. These areas are ground zero for all kinds of dirt and gunk build up and need lots of attention when you clean your car’s interior. A little extra care and elbow grease on your console will pay dividends.
Make sure you use an ammonia-free glass cleaner, as ammonia can melt some plastics in your car’s interior. There are many window washing recipe options among which you can choose.
Begin scrubbing with the toothbrush in a circular motion on any dirty spots. Then, spray a little cleaner on a rag and wipe down all surfaces. Replace the cloth when it gets dirty.
Clean Your Dashboard
Your dashboard is the other primary gathering spot for dirt and grime in your car’s interior. Everyday activities leave your dash dusty and ready for a good cleaning. You won’t believe the difference a clean dashboard can make to your driving experience.
The best way to clean a car dashboard is to begin in the same way as you do when cleaning the console and use your toothbrush to loosen any dirty areas on the dashboard. Use a gentle circular motion to dislodge all debris and make it easier to wipe away.
Spray some cleaner into a rag and wipe down all dashboard surfaces rather than spritzing the dash itself. Clean the edges and hard-to-reach spots by covering a flathead screwdriver with a cloth and running it along the border of the dashboard to ensure you cover the entire surface.
Get Your Inside Windows Clean
Your car windows need to be bright and clean if you want your car to look good, and that starts with a good cleaning of the interior glass. Automobile windows pick up all kinds of dust, streaks, and smudges through regular use, and when you have children, those smudges add up quickly.
Give your interior windows a proper wash to ensure they continue looking great. The best way to clean car windows is to wipe them vertically on the interior, and horizontally on the exterior, or vice versa. If you have any streaks when you are finished, you can tell which side of the glass they are on.
Don the gloves to avoid leaving new smudges. Spray cleaner into a cloth rather than onto the window, and use a circular motion to clean the glass.
Repeat until the glass is clean and replace your rag when it gets too dirty. When you’ve wiped away the cleaner, use a dry cloth to polish away any streaks.
Remove and Clean Your Floor Mats
Most cars include floor mats as protection against heavy foot traffic. You track lots of mud and dirt into the car every time you enter it, and your floor mats take the worst of the abuse.
It’s vital to make sure that your floor mats are clean when you wash your car. Fortunately, you can get them looking amazing without too much heartache.
Remove the mats from the car, and shake them to get any loose dirt and debris out of the mat. If the mats are plastic, hose them down, scrub them, and let them dry before putting them back in the car.
If the mats are carpet, apply carpet cleaner as needed, vacuum the mats, and allow them to dry before replacing them in your car’s interior.
Vacuum the Car Interior
Now that you’ve gotten the initial cleaning out of the way and are beginning to understand how to wash your car, you get to tackle your first big job. Your car interior is full of loose dirt and debris, and it needs a good vacuuming every time you wash the car.
Vacuuming your car will reduce health risks to you and your family, and it transforms the car’s appearance. It’s like having a whole new car.
Move the seats back and forward to reach every spot of the floor. Use a crevice tool to hit most of the tough-to-reach places in your car. Vacuum from top to bottom, beginning with the ceiling and dashboard and concluding with the carpet, and give yourself enough time to get this step right.
Pay special attention to the crevices in your seat and around the console. Use a commercial or homemade automotive carpet cleaner on any stains or dirty spots you find on the floor.
If an area is particularly soiled, it may require repeat treatments. After cleaning, allow the carpet to air dry and then vacuum the cleaner residue away, as well.
Clean Your Seats
Your car seats take lots of abuse without complaint, and they need some TLC to remain looking and feeling good. Use your car wash as an opportunity to get your car seats back to factory condition. A few minutes spent on your car seats will pay you back in comfort and health.
Your cleaning approach will change depending on your seat covers. If you have leather seats, apply saddle soap or another leather cleaner and conditioner with a clean cloth. Use a soft brush to work in the cleaner, and wipe the seats down when you finish cleaning.
If you have cloth seats, apply a natural upholstery cleaner like vinegar and baking soda or club soda to stains. Using a homemade interior car cleaner has the added benefit of saving you money since you likely already have the basic ingredients on hand in the pantry or underneath the kitchen sink.
You also know exactly what is in your DIY cleaners so you can feel comfortable using them around your family and pets.
You could also use a commercial upholstery cleaner to stains or dirty spots, but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions to let the cleaner do its job. Always vacuum the seats after they have dried to clean away any lingering debris and leave them smelling fresh and looking their best.
Air Out and Freshen Up Your Car
Congratulations! Your car’s interior is clean! Now, before moving on to the exterior, make sure that your car’s cabin smells as good as it looks.
To ensure that your work lasts and your vehicle stays looking and feeling clean, freshen up the air. A little scent will mask unpleasant odors and make every drive a bit more pleasant. Keeping your car smelling good is a huge part of knowing how to wash a car.
Put five drops of the peppermint essential oil on a clothespin’s surface, and let it dry. Place basil or another herb in a plastic sandwich bag, add the clothespin and store the bag.
Pull out the clothespin after a few days, and clip it in your car. You’ll have a fresh herbal and mint scent as your reward.
How to Wash Your Car Exterior
After you finish getting your car’s interior looking gorgeous, turn your attention to the car’s surface. Your car’s body takes impressive amounts of abuse over time, including torrents of rain, mounds of snow, and lots of oil, tar, and dirt.
To make sure that your automobile keeps looking as lovely as the day you bought it, you need to know how to wash a car’s exterior. This section takes care of how to clean a car exterior thoroughly and well.
You’ll find out the tricks and tips for car care that can make your car’s body gleam once more. We show you how to remove sticky objects from your vehicle without damaging the paint, how to use the bucket system to get your car clean, and how to wax your vehicle when you finish the wash.
Get the Buckets Ready for Action
A big part of any successful endeavor is making sure that you have a working system. If you’ve got everything down to a science, you’ll move through your tasks quickly. This approach is correct when it comes to washing a car, as well.
A tried-and-true washing process ensures that your car looks beautiful after every wash. The bucket system is an efficient way to organize your wash and is a fantastic cleaning method.
Fill both buckets with fresh water, and add one of many specially formulated car cleaning products to one of them. There are lots of excellent homemade car wash soap recipes available if you prefer not to use commercial products.
Do not substitute liquid dish soap or another unsuitable cleaner, as these can strip your car’s wax or damage the paint. Use the soapy water bucket to soak your cloth, and use the bucket with clean water to rinse them.
Rinse the Car with a Hose
After you’ve got your buckets set up, you get to tackle the car itself. The first step to take when cleaning the car’s exterior is to give the entire vehicle a high-pressure hose-down. Hitting your car with plain water dislodges any debris and cleans much of the car on its own.
Always start with a pressure wash before moving on to soap and scrubbing. Use a controllable nozzle to manage the water flow.
Watch the hose’s water pressure and adjust it as needed; too much pressure can blast away the paint along with the bug or bird droppings. Work from the top of the car on down, and spray down the wheels wells and tires, too.
Remove Sticky Debris
If you drive around the city, you’ve probably got some souvenirs on your car to show for it. It’s easy to pick up all kinds of sticky debris on your car body when you drive in a busy town or out on the open road. You need to remove tar from a car, as well as sap and other sticky substances before proceeding.
You may have even added a few sticky items of your own in the form of bumper stickers. Cleaning your car means removing all of these eyesores to get your vehicle nice and shiny again.
Sometimes a nice blast of water is enough to get rid of debris. For more stubborn stains you need a little extra help. To clean bugs off a car, remove tar, or to remove bird poop from a car body or windows, WD-40 is your friend and makes an excellent bug and tar remover. Spray a cloth with WD-40, and cover the stuck-on waste with the wet towel.
Let the fabric sit for at least five minutes, and then use another cloth to wipe away the loosened matter. Don’t bear down too much to avoid damaging the underlying wax and paint surface.
To remove bumper stickers, avoid options that might take off car paint along with the sticker. That means not using nail polish remover or a razor blade to clean away the bumper sticker. Instead, pour boiling water on the sticker, and scrape it off with an old credit card or a blunt plastic scraper.
Soap and Scrub the Car
After you’ve removed any stuck-on objects, it’s time to get down to business and start soaping up your car. It’s tempting to rush through this step, as it isn’t a lot of fun to slowly soap and rinse your vehicle.
But, a rushed wash is a sloppy one that will result in missed patches of dirty car. Instead, have a systematic approach that ensures you won’t miss anything.
Divide your car into sections, with the first section being the top of the vehicle. Soap, scrub and rinse a section entirely before moving on to the next one. Clean from the top of the car to the bottom to keep you from having to wash a section more than once.
Pull your mitt out of the soapy bucket, and scrub each section using an up-and-down motion rather than a circular one, as a circular movement can create swirl marks on the paint job. Rinse your wash mitt in the clean-water bucket as needed, and give a touch-up to any spots you might have missed. When you’ve cleaned off all dirt, rinse the section with clean water, and continue to the next section.
Hand Dry the Car
You haven’t finished your wash when you complete your rinse. You still need to make sure that your car doesn’t dry on its own. If you air dry a car after you wash it, you run the risk of leaving water spots, streaks, and other blemishes on the vehicle. Instead, use clean chamois or microfiber cloths to get your car dry and spot-free.
Begin by using a drying towel to blot away any large wet areas. Then, use the cloth to lightly polish away any streaks. As with the soaping and scrubbing, make sure that you use an up-and-down motion and not a circular one. Change out the cloth when it gets too wet.
Clean Your Car’s Wheels
Your car’s body and interior are all cleaned up and ready to go, but you can’t neglect your tires. Tires touch the road and are therefore the dirtiest areas on your car.
They get coated in brake dust and road dirt, which gets on the wheel wells and your car’s paint. Take the time to get your car’s wheels clean and sharp. Use a commercial wheel cleaner to cut through the layers of grime and clean car rims and tires so that they shine with the rest of your sparkling vehicle.
Use the same type of bucket system you used for washing the car. Fill a bucket with fresh, clean water, and fill the other bucket with water and tire cleaner. Soak your sponge in the sudsy bucket, and use it to apply the soap to your tires.
Scrub at the tires, rims, and spokes with a scrub brush. When you’ve cleaned away all of the dirt, spray the tires with water to rinse them.
Finish Your Wash with a Wax
Now that you’ve gotten your car clean and looking spiffy, you need to protect it the right way so that you don’t have to clean it again next week. Make sure to apply a clear coat of wax whenever you do anything to strip it away, and that includes when you wash your car. Knowing how to wash a car and apply wax will help you keep your vehicle in top form.
Cut a clay bar into several equal-sized pieces, and spray clay lube on a section of your car. Run a portion of the clay bar over the sprayed area to pick up tiny dirt particles. When the bar moves smoothly and without bumps, clean off the lube and continue to the next section.
After you’ve used the clay bar on the entire car, it’s time to wax. Apply a small amount of polish to a cloth, and rub it into the vehicle using an up-and-down motion. Try to apply several thin layers instead of a single thick one.
When you’ve applied all of the wax, use a chamois to buff the car. Use the same up-and-down movement to avoid creating swirls on your vehicle.
We hope you had a fantastic experience exploring our guide on how to clean a car. Our cars are key components of our lives, and we need to take care of them if we want them to last.
A clean car is a longer-lasting car. Our guide shows you how to wash your car from top to bottom and inside to outside. With our assistance, you’ll be ready for your next wash.
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