We all know how interchangeable British weather can be, and choosing the right time to clean your car is a mixture of luck and good timing! But there’s nothing like having a clean, spotless motor parked outside your home.
With more opportunities to get out and spruce up your car with the sun out, it’s time to grab your sponge, bucket and chamois cloth and get to work. However, for a more professional clean, that alone is not going to cut it.
Here we’ve rounded up 10 car cleaning tips you should know before you get started:
Be clever with your timing
Safe to say, heavy rain and stormy weather are not your friends when it comes to cleaning your car. Flip to high sunny temperatures, and you will struggle to apply certain products such as formulated washes or adding wax if the bodywork is even slightly hot to the touch.
Instead, wait for cooler, light, breezy days when the sun isn’t at its hottest, particularly if you intend to apply finishes.
You won’t have the same weather-related restrictions if you’re fortunate to have ample garage or undercover space. So if you have it, take full advantage of your inside space to apply any finishes, as you can leave them to dry away from direct heat and sunlight and protect your paintwork at the same time.
However, hot scorching days are an excellent time to give your car a suitable hose down and wash the exteriors with a good car shampoo. Once you’re done, give the interiors a once over, and that will tie you over until the next big clean.
Start from the inside out
Before you even think about tackling the outside of your car, get the inside looking spotless first:
- Start by removing any rubbish or debris from the footwells, underneath the seats and small nooks and crannies
- Completely remove your floor mats and clean them separately. While dusting them off is tempting, a deeper clean is probably needed. If they are rubber, wash them down with soapy water and leave them out to dry. If they are carpet, you may be able to pop them in the washing machine (make sure you check the instructions provided first!)
Grab the hoover
Now that you’ve removed all the bigger objects (pound coins, smaller toys and the like!) from your car, it’s time to vacuum up all the dust and grit. You may need to loosen up harder grit with a tough brush on upholstery and carpets or physically move it into a more accessible spot for the vacuum cleaner nozzle to reach.
Anyone who owns a pet knows how challenging removing hair from your furniture and carpets can be. You can either wrap sticky tape around your hand (sticky side facing outwards) or try a moistened rubber glove to carefully lift the hairs from the upholstery.
If some dirt just won’t budge as it is lodged in a tight area, even with the nozzle, try using a compressed air canister to blow and dislodge the stubborn dirt and grit or even use a makeup brush!
Avoid silicone sprays to clean the dash
While a shiny dash is tempting, using silicone sprays can actually create an undesirable glare. Use the spray on your pedals, and you’ll find yourself slipping each time you push one down to brake or change gear! Instead, use a clean, damp cloth or a microfibre cloth to gently remove dust buildup from the dash and instruments.
Specially formulated dash and instrument cleaning products are available if you want the extra elbow grease but with less effort on your part. However, warm water alone should mostly do the trick.
Try using a soft paintbrush to flick away built-up dust from behind the rims of dials for any delicate instruments – it will make the job so much more efficient!
Don’t forget sills and door openings
The most overlooked area of a car has to be the sills and door openings, but after you’ve spruced up the rest of your motor, they will stick out like a sore thumb if left unattended.
While the doors are flung open, grab a bucket of fresh soapy water and wash down all the sills and door openings, including around the edges of the windows where green, sticky algae can take root. If it doesn’t budge, grab an old toothbrush to go around the rims to loosen up stubborn grime.
Don’t be afraid of plain water
Soapy detergent filled water may sound like the best plan for getting rid of all the grime and dirt from your car, but washing your motor down with plain water first reduces the risk of rubbing all that grit back into the paintwork, causing scratching as you go.
Once you’ve removed the bulk of dirt, wash your car down with a proper car wash solution so that you don’t strip away any of the protective wax layers that cover the paint. If you take the systematic approach, i.e. start from the roof to the sides before cleaning the front and rear of the car. This gives time for the solution to soak the grimier areas, which build up predominantly around the wheel arches and base of your vehicle.
If you encounter a stubborn patch of dirt, try using a tar and bug remover spray on the spot. This will gently remove the dirt without you potentially scratching the paint. Rinse once complete.
Keep refreshing your water bucket
It may sound obvious, but grit quickly builds up and turns the water in your bucket from clean to grim! So make sure you keep tabs on the water’s colour and refresh the water whenever it gets too murky.
After all, you don’t want to rub all that grit and dirt you’ve just washed away back into your car’s paintwork.
If you wash your car regularly, you might want to consider a grit guard to fit at the bottom of your bucket. This will encourage the dirt to settle at the base and keep your water cleaner for longer.
Try and wax between 2 – 4 times a year
While the temptation is to wax your car each time you wash it, professional valets recommend only doing a proper wax job no more than 2 to 4 times a year as most car wash solutions will protect and preserve the existing wax layer without the extra boost.
When it comes to waxing, you need to rinse off any leftover dirt and soapy water and then leave it to dry. To help it along, use a chamois leather cloth or silicon squeegee to spread the water into a thinner layer – thus, drying more rapidly and without leaving a nasty residue.
Top tip: apply your wax (referring to the recommended amount in the instructions) in straight lines, leave it to dry and then polish it off with a microfibre cloth. Don’t fall for the classic circle application technique, which leaves smears in its wake.
Use a stiff brush to remove dirt from tyres
Wheels and tyres have the most contact with the road, so it’s only natural that they will accumulate the most grime and dust. But, it often won’t budge with soapy water and a sponge alone. Instead, use a stiff brush that can work between all the bends and contours of the tyres, as well as your hub caps and the wheel underneath itself.
Unless you are planning on suspending your motor for a more in-depth look, a part of your tyre will have to have contact with the ground at all times. So once you’ve done a stellar job on one part of the tyre, roll your car forward so you can access the rest of the tyre that you couldn’t reach the first time around.
For extra oomph, you might want to consider a specially formulated wheel degreaser solution or a specialist tyre cleaner to cleanse and protect your wheels from further damage in the future.
Leave your windows till last
Glass tends to attract dust and dirt, so it makes sense to leave your windows till last as you have just removed so much grime from the rest of your vehicle!
But don’t be fooled into using a household window cleaner. Instead, invest in automotive glass cleaners. They are ammonia-free and designed to prevent damage to upholstery, particularly vinyl, unlike their household counterpart.
While cleaning your car’s windows, make sure you make every glass surface accessible to clean, such as lifting your window wipers to get underneath and rolling down the windows to get the edges.
With your wipers raised, use a clean damp cloth to remove any surface grime from the blades. There’s nothing worse than having a spotless car and switching on your dirt lined wipers!
Cleaning your car doesn’t need to be a bugbear! With these simple cleaning tricks and tips up your sleeve, you’ll have your motor looking shiny and new before you know it.
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