How to clean your car using simple products at home

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Cleaning your car needn’t be difficult and you don’t need much by the way of specialist products. All you require is some buckets, some microfiber cloths, dish soap or another mild detergent and other products below are optional.

Before following this guide, read your vehicle’s owner manual, they will recommend particular products to avoid and the ones to use to maintain your car’s interior.

  1. First, take out any loose items from the car. Empty out your car, placing all the loose items together, perhaps on a blanket or towel to keep them clean and stop them going walkabouts. Don’t forget all the cupholders and incidental storage cubbies. You’ll probably find about £50 in small change during this process. This will then enable you to move to step two. 
  2. Lift out the carpet mats. If you can, lift out the carpet mats, placing them somewhere safe for washing and vacuuming later.
  3. Sweep the floor. Grab a dustpan and stiff bristle brush and agitate the carpets and flooring to pick-up the worst deposits of stones, dust and muck. This will save your vacuum in the long term.
  4. Vacuum. Install the nozzle accessory and hose to your vacuum and begin working methodically from the top down. You can vacuum the headlining if you wish, then move down the cars trim pieces, to the seats. Give extra attention to the seats, especially in the folds and pleats that form the crevices in between the seat squabs and bolstering. Stitching lines are also areas to focus on. If you have one, use a brush extension on the vac, that will prevent scratching the trim panels as you work to suck debris from every nook and cranny. Once you’ve done the interior, vacuum your carpet matting.
  5. Wipe down. When the car is fully vacuumed, fill a bucket with warm water and add some dish soap or similar mild detergent. Then, carefully wipe around the dashboard, doors and trim. It is particularly important you clean your door handles, gear stick, radio buttons and climate controls. When doing so, make sure your cloth is only lightly damp and not dripping wet, as it could cause electrical problems. You should keep changing the water before it gets dirty and cloudy. Don’t forget your steering wheel, studies have shown left uncleaned it can become four times less hygienic than a public loo seat. If you’re worried the mild detergent could damage your car, try it on a spot out of sight first.
  6. Wipe the seats. Use your cloth to gently wipe down leather seats. You may wish to add a leather conditioner afterwards. For cloth seats, a neat trick is to use a product like Woolite - diluted. Though it is designed for clothes, it's said to help plump up fabric fibers and prevent fizz.
  7. Clean the glass. Interior glass panels pick up all sorts of smudges and smears through use. Use a glass cleaner to restore their clarity and shine and don’t forget the cargo area glazing if you have pets.
  8. Leave the doors/windows open. If it is safe to do so, leave your doors and windows open to allow the interior materials to dry and breathe. This will prevent a musty odour developing and keep the inside smelling fresh.
  9. Optional, get an air freshener. A high quality air freshener can help maintain the pleasant smell of your passenger cabin. The strongest ones are oil based and can last some time. Those retro pine trees work, but don’t last particularly long.