From pet hair to crisp packets, your car can easily get filled with dirt and rubbish.

Not only will giving your car a proper clean make your passengers feel special, but it is also an often-neglected aspect of car maintenance that is worth dedicating some time to.

Read on and find out how to clean your car’s interior and exterior effectively, so that you can drive in style.


Which Cleaning Tools Do I Need to Clean My Car?

To effectively clean your car, you may wish to obtain:

  • Bin bags
  • A microfibre cloth
  • A sponge
  • Glass cleaner
  • All-purpose cleaning spray
  • A handheld vacuum
  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Disinfecting spray
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Window cleaner

Before you use any products, read their packaging carefully.

Not all car cleaning products are all-purpose, so you could unintentionally damage the paint, coat, or other finishes if you aren’t careful.

Please note that older cars may need a cleaning regimen that involves clays, waxes and polishes to protect the paint.


When Should I Clean My Car?

Whilst it may seem like a good idea, cleaning your car on hot, sunny days isn’t always the best option.

The sunlight can dry the soap before you wipe it down, leaving a streaky finish behind.

If you do wash your car on a hot day, do so early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid this.

Similarly, it is best wait until any wet weather has passed so you can wipe away water spots.


Cleaning Your Car's Interior

Before you begin to clean your car’s interior, you need to get rid of any rubbish that may have accumulated in the foot wells and under the seats.

Take the car mats out. If they are made of rubber, you can use a hose or pressure washer to clean of the thickest layer of dirt.

You can use soapy water to wash them on both sides, before leaving them to dry.


Vaccum Your Car

You can use an interior detailing brush when you vacuum the interior of your car.

There are plenty of car vacuum cleaners on the market, or you could use a cordless vacuum instead.


Clean Your Car's Dashboard

Wipe your dashboard down with a microfibre cloth and use a multi-purpose cleaner to remove any dirt or sticky residue.


How to Clean Your Car Seats

To clean your car seats, begin by running the vacuum over to pick up any crumbs and debris.

You can use an interior detailing brush when you vacuum the interior of your car.

There are plenty of car vacuum cleaners on the market, or you could use a cordless vacuum instead.

You can use car wipes to get rid of stubborn car seat stains – be sure to purchase wipes designed for fabric or leather car seats depending on which type your car has.

If you have cloth car seats, you can spray upholstery cleaner or shampoo on the seats little by little and rub in with a soft brush. Best to do this when the weather is mild so that the seats dry quicker.

If the seats are especially dirty, you may need to use a carpet extraction cleaner.

As for leather car seats, you will need to use a specific leather upholstery cleaner. Follow the directions on the product and then use a clean microfibre cloth to rub it in.

If your car has vegan leather car seats, vacuum and the use a microfibre cloth with warm water to wipe the seats. You can buy faux leather cleaning products and follow the directions on the product.

In all cases, be sure to read the packaging on any cleaners carefully and refer to your owner’s manual if needed to ensure you use the correct products for your vehicle.

We would recommend you clean your seats early in the day in mild weather, so that they have a chance to dry naturally.


Cleaning the Inside of the Windscreen

Please note, when cleaning the car windscreen, it is best to start from the outside and finish by cleaning the inside and topping up your wiper fluid.

This makes it easier to spot any leftover smears and smudges.

To clean your car windscreen, you will need glass cleaner and microfibre cloths.

Give the windscreen a wash with water and a brush.

Dry the windscreen completely, then spray half with alcohol-based glass cleaner.

Do not use ammonia-based cleaners, as this can cause damage.

In smooth strokes, clean the windscreen from top to bottom and side to side using a clean microfibre cloth.

Do the same with the other half and then buff the glass with a second clean microfibre cloth.


Clean the Car Mats and Carpet

You may need to remove your car seats in order to clean the footwell.

If you are removing seats with airbags, you must disconnect the negative battery cable and wait for 20 minutes.

You can then slide the seat forward and remove the screws in the back – and then repeat the other way.

Tilt the seat and disconnect any cables or harnesses before you carefully remove it.

To remove the car mats, fold the edges of the mats over and lift them away from the vehicle.

Leave them to dry on a flat surface, like a driveway – not on a walkway where they can be a potential trip hazard.

To clean your footwell carpets, you should hoover first using a brush with stiff bristles.

Use hot soapy water to get rid of anything that has become embedded in the mat.

You can shampoo the footwell, spraying the carpet with a carpet cleaner and rubbing this in with a microfibre cloth.

Use a wet vacuum – if you have one – to remove the carpet shampoo and give it another wipe with your cloth.


Floor Mats

Brush the surface layer of dust off of the floor mat, and shake it outside of the car.

You may want to wear eye, nose and mouth protection during this task.

Hoover the floor and use a pressure washer or hose to bring any ingrained dirt to the surface.

Work carpet shampoo or washing detergent into the mat and rub with a microfibre cloth.

Hang the mat up to dry on a washing line or fence – they must be fully dry before you return them to the car to prevent mould from growing.


Clean the Seat Belts

Seat belts can get dirty easily because we touch them every time we get in the car.

You can mix liquid soap with warm water in a spray bottle or use fabric cleaner to clean them.

Opt for a soft-bristled brush so that you don’t damage them.

Spray an even spritz of your chosen cleaner onto the seatbelt – but not too much.

Use the brush and work downwards avoiding circular motions to scrub away any impurities.

Use a clean microfibre brush in the same way and then wrap a towel around the belt to dry it on both sides.


Clean Your Air Filter

You can use a clean cloth and a portable vacuum cleaner to remove any dust or dirt from inside the housing once you have safely removed the air filter cover.

Fit the new air filter once the housing is clean – taking care to follow the instructions as you do so – and refit the filter cover.


Cleaning Your Car's Exterior

Use a hose or pressure washer to clean any dirt off of your vehicle’s exterior.

Take your soap or wash wax and apply this to the top – make sure that you move downwards to avoid dirt getting into places you have already cleaned.

Wash down parts you’ve soaped before moving on to avoid soap marks.

Remember, leaving a car to dry naturally can leave streaks behind – so take some time to properly dry your car using a microfibre cloth.

When the exterior is dry, you can open the boot and doors and use a damp cloth to clean between the cracks.

Take another damp cloth or sponge to clean the wheels.

You may wish to wax or polish the exterior once the car is clean.

This can protect the car for longer, meaning you won’t have to wash it as often.

If you really want to take care of your vehicle, why not consider performing some basic car checks to save doing maintenance later on?

You can check the condition of your car's tyres, brakes and battery.


Clean Your Brakes

This is a more intense job, as it requires jacking the car up and supporting it on an axle stand.

You should clean the brake individually once the car is securely off the ground - using the wheel nut to take the wheels off one at a time. 

Once the first wheel is off, you will have to remove the brake calliper so that the brake disc is fully accessible - you can do so by taking out the calliper bolts.

Set the calliper aside once it has slid up and off the brake disc.

You can then remove the brake disc to clean it. Remove the few bolts that hold it in place and set the brake disc aside. 

You can clean it using an old rag and brake cleaning fluid. 

Please note that a line of rust around the disc rim is normal. 

Be sure to check for signs of brake wear. 

The brake disc should be replaced if you notice any heavy pitting or score marks.

When you've cleaned them and you're happy with their condition, you can put them back in place and screw them in tightly. 


Clean Alloy Wheels

To clean your car’s alloy wheels, you will need a specialist alloy wheel cleaning product.

You cannot use vinegar or WD40, as these can leave traces of dirt and brake dust behind.

You can use a pressure washer to remove loose dirt, or otherwise use a brush and a wet sponge.

We would advise that you wear rubber gloves whilst cleaning your wheels as the fine dust particles and cleaning products used can cause skin irritation.

Remember to rinse away any remaining product after following the instructions on your alloy wheel cleaner.


Cleaning the Outside of the Windscreen

You should clean the outside of the windscreen first, following the same steps as listed above to clean the inside of the windscreen.

For the outside, you should also lift up your windscreen wipers – or use wiper maintenance mode if this applies to your car – and give the windscreen a wash with water and a brush.

Make sure to give the rubber of the windscreen wipers a good clean with screen wash, as this can extend their life and enhance their performance.


Cleaning Your Car Headlights

Headlight casing can become cloudy or yellow due to oxidisation, wear and tear, dirt or water vapour.

To restore your headlights, you should first use a car shampoo.

Then, you can choose any of the following to restore the headlights:

  • Toothpaste
  • Baking soda
  • Wet 400 grit sandpaper
  • Cola
  • White vinegar

You can apply toothpaste with baking soda to your headlight lenses using a toothbrush. Leave this to dry and then wash it away with a cloth and warm water.

Alternatively, you can use wet 400 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of the headlight – having already taped off the paintwork to prevent any accidental damage.

Wipe with a towel to finish.

You can also spray or soak a sponge in cola and rub this on the headlights before washing this away with a cloth and warm water after 5 minutes.

If you choose to use white vinegar, the process will take a bit longer.

You will need to remove your headlight lenses and fill a container with vinegar that is large enough for you to submerge the casing.

Soak this in white vinegar for an hour, then use a sponge to rub away dirt and rinse before reinstalling.


How Do You Get Rid of Car Smells?

To get rid of a bad car smell, you first need to locate the source of the issue.

Most odours become trapped in the fabric of the car’s interior – a deep clean with the hoover should help.

Open the car doors whilst cleaning can let fresh air in and help lingering scents escape.

A carpet cleaning spray can help to get smells out of the mats and carpets.

You could even use a steam cleaner to kill any mould and spillages that you might not have otherwise noticed.

Be sure to use your air conditioning every so often – even in winter – to reduce moisture and get rid of unpleasant smells.

Hang up an air freshener and your car will smell good as new! Just don't hang one from your rear-view mirror - this could result in MOT failure.



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