So your vehicle has become dirty enough to cause you just a little bit of shame. It happens. With a busy schedule and tight budget, cleaning a car is often the last thing on your mind. Luckily, the problem of a dirty car is completely fixable – and, even better, you can do something about it without breaking the bank.
There are a lot of expensive car care products out there that will certainly make your vehicle gleam in the sun, and by all means use them if you want. But these tips are so easy on the wallet, you may already have many of the materials in your house.
Pro tip: While these recommended solutions are generally harmless, it's always a good idea to test on a small, unnoticeable area first to be sure it won't damage the fabric or paint on your car.
Washing Your Car Mix a little hair conditioner and clean water for an inexpensive car wash that’ll make your vehicle’s finish shine, repel water and look like it was just waxed. Choose a conditioner that includes lanolin as one of its ingredients for even better results.
You can skip the water all together with Optimum No-Rinse Car Wash. It doesn’t require you to rinse your vehicle after washing it, saving you time while reducing your water usage. Not having to rinse the vehicle means you can wash it in the garage, and if you live in an area where you pay for your water, you’ll be saving money here too.
Shining Up Paint Tar, tree sap, bird droppings, and dried bugs are notoriously difficult to remove. You can save elbow grease and money if you use a little WD-40 instead of bug and tar removers. Spray a little on whatever it is you want to remove – including old bumper stickers – and wash it off. For stubborn spots, use a cloth and some gentle rubbing to help speed the process. If you want to go really budget, try peanut butter or shortening on the sticky spot. They can work wonders.
Scrubbing the Windows Choose vinegar, instead of ammonia. Ammonia can harm some window tints. Just to be on the safe side, choose a window cleaner that doesn’t contain ammonia, particularly when cleaning the windows inside the vehicle. If you want to save some money, make your own window cleaner. Combine one cup of water with half a cup of vinegar and a quarter cup of alcohol. Mix well and spray away.
Try using crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels to clean your vehicle windows. Newspaper is more durable than paper towels, doesn’t leave any paper residue like some towels can, and it’ll otherwise just be heading to the recycling bin.
Sprinkle some cream of tartar on the dry windshield’s exterior, wipe it down with soapy water, rinse and dry for a sparkling, streak-free view. Your vehicle’s windshield won’t taste better afterward, but it sure will be cleaner.
Cleaning Interior Surfaces Don’t put away that WD-40 just yet. Their usefulness with cleaning the exterior extends to the interior of your car as well. WD-40 can also help remove gum and grease on the interior fabrics and surfaces. Spray a little on the spot you want removed, rub it gently with a cloth and then with some soap and water and, voilà! The stain is gone.
Make your interior shine by cooking up your own interior “dressing.” Mix one part fresh lemon juice with two parts olive oil. Dab some on a soft cloth and get to work rubbing it into the vehicle’s interior plastic and vinyl surfaces – being careful to avoid the steering wheel and gas and brake pedals. Polish and rub in the residue with another clean, soft cloth and you’ll have an interior that looks, and smells, great.
Removing That Smell Ever notice how great food smells? How about a freshly turned dirt field in the spring or that first lawn mowing of the season? Now, take that same food, dirt, and grass clippings, put them in your car for three months, roll up the windows, and let the sun beat down. Yuck. That’s where charcoal’s odor-absorbing properties come in. Place a small bag of charcoal under a seat and leave it there to help remove odors and serve as a dehumidifier.
Baking soda with a pleasant-smelling herb, such as lavender, mixed in can also help replace offensive odors with pleasing ones. Sprinkle the mixture on the floor and fabric seats, let it set for a few hours or overnight and then vacuum it away.
Fighting Stains A water-vinegar mixture and a spray bottle can remove stains just as well as many commercial cleaners can. Simply spray it on the stain and then blot it with a wet cloth. For grease or oil stains, try sprinkling corn starch on the spot and leaving it there for a few hours. The starch should help absorb the grease and it can then be removed by vacuuming.
Use these car-cleaning secrets regularly to transform your less-than-pristine vehicle into one that looks and smells a whole lot better! Your passengers will thank you.
Interior: There are at least two reasons why you should want to keep your car upholstery in tip-top condition. Number one, a spotless interior can be a strong selling point when it's time to part ways with your noble steed. And number two, haven't you heard the old saying that "You can judge a person by the cleanliness of his or her seats"? No? Maybe that’s just us. Bottom line, part of your ownership strategy should be keeping that upholstery spic and span.
Here are our top tips for accomplishing this mission.
Be Protective As a car-seat steward, one of the worst things you can do is leave your upholstery vulnerable to attack. Instead, you should regularly apply a shield of sorts to minimize any future damage, like what you’d do for nice suede or leather shoes. For cloth seats, that means picking up something like Scotchgard's Auto Interior Fabric Protector, which effectively adds a protective layer to your upholstery that causes spilled liquids to bead up on the surface for easy removal. It won't change the look or feel of the fabric, yet it'll make your seats both oil- and water-repellent. For leather, try Leather Nova's leather conditioner, which restores dry leather to full suppleness and adds water-repellent properties, too. We also recommend the magical 303 Aerospace Protectant an industrial-grade product that provides UV protection and repels oil, water, dirt, and mildew.
Stay Shady Leaving your upholstery in the sun is a surefire way to age it prematurely. Although protectants like 303 Aerospace add UV-resistance, there's no substitute for the shade. But you can't always park in a garage, right? That's why a dashboard-mounted sunshade is an indispensible tool. Sunshades reflect harmful UV rays with their silver coating, and they also keep your interior much cooler than it would be otherwise, helping to guard against upholstery fading and/or cracking.
Having wrestled with many ill-fitting standard sunshades, however, we strongly recommend seeking a fitted alternative. Covercraft and Heat Shield, for example, let you select your car by manufacturer and model to ensure proper fitment. You'll pay more for the custom design, but trust us, it's worth it in the long run.
Apply Elbow Grease As Required When spills happen – that's a "when," not an "if" – you've got to be ready to call in the reinforcements. Of course, if you've applied a protectant ahead of time, it might be as simple as grabbing a paper towel and wiping up the beaded liquid. But what if you've got a real stain that needs to be removed? For cloth upholstery, Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is the best spray bottle you can buy. It's pH-balanced and environmentally safe, according to Mothers, yet it's strong enough to pull out stains that have been there for years. And there's no need to rinse with water or use any other product; just spray and wipe. Couldn't be easier. As for leather, our money's on Mothers again – the company's Leather Cleaner does a great job of removing discolorations and restoring the leather's natural hue. Just remember to add your Leather Nova conditioner (Mothers also makes a good one) afterward for a full treatment.
Know When To Call a Pro The nice thing about all of the above is that they're steps you can easily take on your own. But that doesn't mean you should DIY everything in this category. If your cloth or leather upholstery develops rips or tears, for instance, we don't advise heading out to your garage with a needle and thread. Many folks don't realize that upholstery repair is a thriving business, and your shop will often be happy to perform some cosmetic surgery for a reasonable price. If you try it yourself, on the other hand, you'll probably just end up paying the pro to clean up your mess, so you might as well save yourself the extra time and money upfront.
In another instance, you might find yourself in a situation where the cleaning products just aren't working no matter how hard you scrub. Don't panic. You're probably working with one or two products, whereas professional upholstery cleaners have a full arsenal of specialty tools for tough jobs. These days, you can even find a mobile upholstery cleaner who'll come to you with a well-stocked truck. Local review aggregators like Yelp.com are invaluable here for sorting out which vendors deliver consistently excellent service, particularly if the vendor will be visiting your home.
Keep It Classy Cars are just like us: as they age, they start drifting away from that like-new look and feel. But keeping your upholstery fresh should be easy peasy if you follow our tips. A little effort goes a long way here, and both your current passengers and the car's next owner will think you're pretty great.
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