Devil in the Detailer: How to Clean a Car
April 25, 2013
You’re walking through a parking lot towards your car when you’re stopped speechless at the sight of what appears to be a dumptruck sedan , a mobile hoarder, a car whose interior is so full of trash and crap you wonder what’s worse, the cramped space for driving or the stench of weeks-old fast food wrappers. Cleaning your car is a part of a regular routine of car care, and keeping up on the interior matters just as much as maintaining what’s under the hood. And it seems so simple enough; do you really need instructions on how to use a vacuum? But detailing a car is more than just gathering those old soda cans and finding out where that weird smell is coming from.
Detailing a car is not a complicated concept: it’s exactly what the name suggests. However, it does require extra effort and perhaps a few fancy yoga moves to get into all the crevices of your vehicle. But when your hand-me-down Regal actually lives up to its name in your driveway over your neighbor’s C-Class, you know there’s something to be said about spending the extra time in detailing.
1. Vacuum the Interior
All those crumbs, dirt, debris, and dropped change live in a little village beneath your seat. But it’s your world to reclaim! Pull out those floor mats and give them a good whacking. Use an extension on your vacuum cleaner to get into all those tight areas in your vehicle: in between seat cushions, in between the seats and doors, and under the seats, as well as the seats themselves. You can also vacuum the dash, console, and vents of your car, or use a can of compressed air like the ones used to clean off a keyboard and get all around the area. Consider taking out some frustration by smacking seats to loosen dirt and dust. Simple enough, yes?
2. Detail the Dash
The dashboard and the deck at the back window are probably the interior’s most prone areas to sun damage. A little TLC can right that wrong pretty quickly: use a damp cloth to wipe it all down, or use a microfiber cloth to avoid any scratches. To protect them, try a vinyl protectant that has a foam applicator and contains sunscreen. Apply the treatment from the applicator, not directly on the surface, to prevent buildup. Don’t forget about using the protectant on your steering wheel, and use cotton swabs to get the grime inside vents and other minute areas around your dashboard. So far, so good.
3. Don’t Forget the Doors
It’s so easy to focus on the interior of car detailing that you forget what distinguishes it as an interior: the doors of your auto require just as much attention as everything else here. Use a toothbrush and soapy water (YES, real cleaning) to scrub door jambs, door handles, armrests, those little pockets that always collect dirt– you name it. Since doors might consist of fabric, vinyl, and/ or leather, you might need multiple cleaning products to clean and protect the surfaces here; for example, a fabric cleaner would get those shoe scuffs off the bottom of doors, while a vinyl protectant will provide a nice finsih to the top portion.
4. Spot Those Spots
NO, we’re not done yet. We know about that orange soda you haphazardly dropped some… months ago. But that’s okay; a little spot cleaner can help that right out. Add some spot solution to your mistake(s), use a damp sponge to mesh with the stain, and let it sit for a bit. But try to limit the water you use on the sponge or you’ll end up with a green, moldy spot where the orange soda spot used to be. Blot it dry with a small towel and try to leave the area untouched while it completely airs out.
5. Wipe the Windows
Streaks on windows don’t really appear until you’re already on the road, and ridding them can be accomplished with different methods. Some people swear by using black-and-white newspaper with window cleaner. Some believe in the tried-and-true microfiber towel and window cleaner. Try using baby wipes to get grubby fingerprints off. Whatever you choose, avoid using cleaners with vinegar or ammonia on tinted windows: that’s why they get those bubbles and start to peel.
While we might have completed a super-basic training session in car detailing, there’s still the long-term task of keeping up with car cleaning and taking steps in between:
- Use a small plastic market bag to store trash in, and make a ritual of dumping it weekly.
- Don’t eat on the run! That’s when you’re more likely to make a mess and not notice it.
- Your car is not a storage unit, so whatever you take with you, you take out when you’re done.
- Keep napkins, wipes, and small towels on hand (or in the trunk) for those imminent spills, drops, or splatters.
- Use small products designed to simplify the placement of items while driving. A CellCup travel cup, for example, keeps your phone, a pen, sunglasses, and any other small belongings in a single place so you don’t need to rummage through a purse or a middle console and make a mess while doing it.
Don’t be that person who owns the car everyone makes fun of!! Dents and scratches are one thing; when your interior starts to smell like body odor, dirty laundry, or like it’s just plain damp, well, that’s another issue. Regular car care and a little weekly detailing can properly maintain a car interior that brings pride and comfort, even if it is the family van!