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Looking for something to do on the weekend? How about cleaning your car, properly? These really useful cleaning hacks for your car will clean your car better and faster than ever – well, most of them… Some might take a bit longer, but will definitely be worth your while. We’ll share some car cleaning and detailing hacks from the pros in the automotive industry to help you restore that awesome new-car smell on the cheap…

Are you ready? Grab your sponge and bucket and let’s get to it!

car cleaning hacks

Interior Car Cleaning Hacks

Kids and pets can wreak havoc on a car’s interior – especially on upholstery. Instead of spending a fortune on a professional detailing, try these car cleaning hacks to restore your seats to their former beauty. 

Step 1: Remove dust and debris from everywhere

Grab a bin bag and throw away anything that’s lying around inside the car and in the trunk. Don’t forget the consoles, cup holders, ashtrays, storage compartments, and seat storage areas.

Clean small crevices in the dash  – Get into all those small areas using a make-up brush, q-tip, or a ball of cleaning slime. Check out the recipe here!

Step 2: Get into the crevices

Your steering wheel, dash and areas around the console can be hard to reach. Use the following items to remove any fuzz, dust and grime from those grooves.

  • Flat-head screwdriver wrapped in a soft cloth
  • Make-up brush
  • Q-tips
  • Compressed air
  • An old toothbrush
  • Foam craft brushes

Step 3 – Vacuum the car’s interior

This is your opportunity to reclaim any small items that were dropped in the car at some point. Simply put a sock over the vacuum nozzle, and turn the machine on. Remove the sock once you have found the lost item to clean the rest of the car interior.

Remove the rubber mats – Remove any loose rocks or dirt and place the rubber mats in the dishwasher on a short, hot cycle with a cleaning pod.

Before you vacuum – Add a few drops of lemon essential oil to baking soda and let it sit for a few hours. Then, shake up the mixture and sprinkle over your car’s upholstery before vacuuming to remove odors.

Vacuum all carpeted areas and upholstered seats – Be sure to use the crevice attachment to get into hard to reach areas and under the seats. 

car cleaning hacks

Hard-to-reach areas – Roll the seats backward and forward and use the long vacuum nozzle to get the dust out of those areas.

Remember the roof – Don’t forget to vacuum the interior roof using a soft brush vacuum attachment. This area tends to accumulate more dust than you can imagine!

Remove pet hair – Use a squeegee and a spray bottle to remove pet hair. 

Clean upholstery stains – Mix equal parts of vinegar, dish soap and club soda in a heavy-duty spray bottle. Shake it up well and spray on any stains in the upholstery. Use a soft scrub brush to work the cleaning solution into the seats and mats. Simply rub it in using circular motions. Use this same method for loose carpet mats.

Stubborn stains – Remove stubborn stains using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, lemon essential oil, and water, as explained here

Steam clean the car’s interior – Use a steam cleaner or shop vac with only water in to steam the seats and to remove the soapy mixture. 

Erase scuffs and marks – Clean vinyl or leather interiors using magic erasers. NEVER use magic erasers on painted surfaces.

Step 4: Treat the dash

Rub a small dab of olive oil or Vaseline into the dashboard – Not only will it leave your dashboard looking shiny, but it will help prevent moisture and son from deteriorating the material, which can cause cracks. You can use this tip on vinyl or leather finishes.

Step 5:  Clean the inside of the windshield

Safe driving depends primarily on a clean windshield. Use newspaper or a microfiber cloth and generic window cleaning spray to leave it sparkling clean.

Exterior Car Cleaning Hacks

There are several different parts to properly cleaning the exterior of your car. It all starts with removing stubborn dirt and bugs. These exterior car cleaning hacks will make short work of this painful process.

  • Use dryer sheets or baby wipes to remove smudged-on bugs from your windshield, grille and any other part of your car.
  • Use toothpaste and a toothbrush to clean your car’s headlights. 
  • Grab your conditioner (for your hair) and check if it contains lanolin. If so, use that to shine your car’s paint job.
car cleaning hacks

Bought a used car? Remove those pesky political, band, or family stickers using WD-40 or cooking spray. Simply apply a coat and wait a few minutes for the oil to loosen the sticker’s edges. You can also use a razor blade held at an angle to gently lift the edges of the sticker, but this can cause scratches to your car’s finish. As a last resort, apply a hot blow dryer and cleaning solution to the sticker to loosen the corners and pull it off.

  • Use cola to remove rust – You can spray cola onto just about anything to remove rust.
  • Use a tire brush (it looks a bit like a toilet brush) to clean your tires.
  • Clean the hubcaps and rims using a mixture of ½ a cup of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of dish soap and two cups of hot water. Scrub the hubcaps gently and rinse off with water.
  • Use a microfiber mitt and a bucket of water with a quality soap to wash your car. 

Fix Small Flaws at Home

Road trips and kids (or drunk friends) can spell disaster. These individuals are bound to drop things that, when left in the sun, can melt and make a sticky mess. Imagine a jelly bean, piece of chocolate, or just about any other type of candy, glue, wax crayons, or… whatever. The good news is that you can easily fix it using a clothes iron. WHAT?

Yep, you heard me. Simply place a thick piece of paper on the sticky upholstery, and apply the hot iron for about 30 seconds. When you lift the paper, the mess will stick to it and be removed from your upholstery. 

car cleaning hacks

Fix cigarette burns by gently removing the hardened edge using a soft toothbrush and a dab of mayonnaise. If it’s too hard, gently scrape it off using a sharp razor blade. Gently scrape some fibers off of a piece of fabric that matches the burned spot (floor carpets would work well!). Apply some fabric glue and press the fibers over the hole. Leave it to dry.

Protect Your Car

  • Mix equal parts water and vinegar together and spray it under your car to wash away salt from the roads and to prevent erosion. 
  • Place an old blanket or towel under your kids’ car seats to save time cleaning next time. 
  • Buy a back-seat pet hammock to keep your pet’s fur off your freshly cleaned upholstery. 
  • Cut sponge coasters out of kitchen sponges to prevent drinks spills and condensation from seeping into your car’s interior.

Remove Odors

There are many ways to make your car smell better. Obviously, using the car cleaning hacks to get rid of odor-causing messes should be the first step. However, if you want to keep your car smelling good on long road trips, try the following:

  • Place a wad of dryer sheets in your air vent.
  • Apply a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a wooden peg, and clip it to your air vent. Obviously, you want to avoid the lavender and other calming oils. Opt for energising oils such as citrus.
  • Place a full fabric softener refill bag somewhere in your car. As the car heats up, the smell will be released, leaving your car smelling like freshly laundered linens.
  • Add laundry scent balls or wax from your favorite scented candle  in a mason jar. For a lid, use a piece of cloth and keep it in place using a pretty ribbon or simply an elastic band.
  • Clean the vents – If your car still smells bad, it could be the vents. Mold in the air filters can cause a bad smell and lead to respiratory diseases. You will have to get this replace.
  • Use Lysol spray to get rid of bad smells in the airflow inlet. Simply shake the can for one minute, and then spray it evenly over the inlets for 2 minutes.

Of course, you don’t want to be using ALL these air freshening methods, as your senses will be overwhelmed. Simply opt for the one that works best for you. 

Car Storage Hacks to Keep it Clean

  • Place silicone cupcake liners in the cup holders to catch all the loose coins, hair clips, crumbs and other little bitties that land up in all the small areas of your car.
  • Keep a pack of coffee filters in the glove compartment for quick interior dusting on the go. This will prevent lint and save you money on expensive cleaning materials.
  • Use a plastic bag and a fresh clip as a trash receptacle in the car. This can be a lifesaver on long trips. 
  • Hang a rear facing shoe bag organizer or shower caddy over the front seats to store all your kids’ books, stationery, toys, and paraphernalia neatly.
  • Use a plastic cereal container with a bin liner as a trash can.
  • Buy a trunk storage organizer or use any box to keep your trunk tidy. Loose items can roll around in the back, causing you to wonder “what was that noise?”. Avoid the panic and just keep things neat.
  • Buy a grocery organizer to easily haul groceries from the store to the house. 
  • Place a yoga mat over the carpet in the trunk to prevent milk and other groceries and sweaty sports gear from causing smells in the trunk.
  • Use carabiners to hang handbags, umbrellas and other items onto the headrest for easy access. 
  • You can also use command hooks all over the car to hang up lighter items within easy access.
  • Place an ice pop maker (without the sticks) or acrylic makeup storage boxes into the center console to organize small items such as USB sticks, coins, and chargers. 

Keep the following items in your glove compartment:

  • Important documents such as your car’s registration and insurance papers, repair and service history, and mileage details.
  • Important contact information, such as emergency services, road service contacts, mechanic’s number, and family and friends’ contact details.

Use an old shower caddie as a trunk organizer, and store the following items in it:

  • Cleaning materials
  • First aid kit
  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • A plastic tablecloth

Make it SHINE!

Always dry your car by hand to prevent it from showing up water spots.

Smudgy windshield wipers? Wipe the wiper blades clean using a clean rag. If that doesn’t work, wash them with warm soapy water and remove the residue using rubbing alcohol. 

car cleaning hacks

Chipped windshield? If you can’t afford to have small chips repaired right away, buy a bottle of clear nail polish and apply a dab to the chip. This should help prevent it from running into a crack.

  • Remember to roll down the windows to remove any grime at the top of the window.
  • Get a showroom shine by rubbing a clay bar onto the car’s paint. 

There you have it! All our top cleaning hacks that will clean your car better (and faster) than you ever have. Do you have any car cleaning hacks to share? Tell us what we missed in comments below.