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20 Car Cleaning Tips Dealers Don’t Want You To Know

Car cleaning tips

In order to protect your car from the elements, detailing is first and foremost the most important action to take as a car owner. You spend a lot on purchasing your car, along with insurance, gas and repairs, the additional expenses of car ownership add up quickly, so it makes no sense to ignore them. Without proper care of your car’s interior and exterior, your investment will quickly erode into a bucket of bolts and rust as they come in contact with road salt, UV damage, saps and tars. Keeping your car in the best shape takes time and work. However, we have included some basic car cleaning tips which should make it all the easier.

All the ingredients we have listed in these tips are common household items that you can find in any supermarket. These ingredients are inexpensive and safe to use around your yard, family and pets. Always remember, before partaking in this or any other car cleaning tips you may find, to check with your cars manual for any warnings or advice regarding what you can use on your car.

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bottles of vinegar


Using White Vinegar To Clean Your Interior

If you are looking to save money having your car detailed, look no further than inexpensive, plain white vinegar. Plain white vinegar can do wonders for your car, both inside and out, as you can use it to clean your interior, your windows and even polish the chrome. If you happen to notice that the interior of your car has some odd odors, simply pour a bit of white vinegar in a bowl and let it sit in your car overnight. If you are worried about spills, place a towel in the bowl of vinegar. Salt can leave some nasty stains on your car’s interior and no matter where you drive in winter, you’ll find that salt is plentiful on roads and sidewalks. To eliminate any salt stains get on your car’s interior, just apply a mix of one part water and one part vinegar to the salt stain, and blot it away. White vinegar also helps to keep your cars windows frost-free in the winter, simply apply the vinegar to the windows and no more frost.

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Use Hair Conditioner To Give Your Car A Quick Shine

It’s no secret that the hair conditioner in your bathroom shower has a multitude of uses, everything from removing eye makeup to freshening fabrics. You can also use your favorite hair conditioner to give your car that just polished look. Yes, you heard right, the same conditioner that you use on your hair everyday, can help to give your just washed car a highly polished look, and one that will also repel water. Simply wash your car the old-fashioned way. Next, make a mixture by taking 2 cups of water to 1/2 cup hair conditioner. Apply the hair conditioner mixture to your car and buff for a sweet, stunning and convenient shine.

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Clean Vents With An Artist Brush

Your car’s air vents can get full of dust and debris quite quickly. Though the narrow spaces of your vents make it look like a no win situation, there is hope. Simply go to your local arts and crafts store to pick up either a set of cheap long handled acrylic brushes or a set of artists foam brushes. Both are inexpensive, and if taken care of can be used for a variety of jobs around the house, again and again. Next, make yourself a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water. Dip your sponge or brush in the solution and proceed to clean out your air vents by inserting the brush or sponge between the vent slats. Take a new sponge to dry the vents, as dampness encourages mold and mildew growth. Finally, don’t go through all of this work and forget to change your car’s air filter. If you are not sure where it is, check your manual as it is usually under the glove compartment. This will not only help your vents stay cleaner, but also filter the odors from your car.

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Cleaning Your Tires With Vegetable Oil

When the rubber hits the road, the mud, grease and odd pieces of litter hit your tires. As dirty as they are, still no need to have them professionally cleaned. In fact, here are some neat tricks to get that stubborn road dust off of your tires. A quick way to clean and add a little shine to those tires is to take a little bit of vegetable cooking oil and apply it to your tires. After application, let the vegetable oil sit on the tires for about 15 minutes. Next, grab an old sock from your drawer, rub and buff for a nice shine. Another home-made tire cleaner is made from 2 parts olive oil to one part lemon juice. Take the mixture and place in a spray bottle to spray on your tires, and buff clean.

If you are in a hurry, the original ‘blue’ Dawn dish washing detergent is an excellent choice when it comes to removing dirt and grease from your tires, and add an application of castor oil and buff for a nice shine. Finally, for those who are fans of baking soda solutions, you simply take 1/2 cup baking soda to one tablespoon dish soap in 2 cups of warm water. Just remember if you are scouting for more ideas, to stay away from home-made solutions that contain alcohol, as alcohol is not healthy for your tires.

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Clean Headlights With Toothpaste

Over time, those once crystal clear and shining headlights become dingy and somewhat clouded with age. Also, headlights see about as much dust, dirt, bugs and debris as your tires do. It is vital to keep your cars headlights sparkling so other drivers can see you coming, and you can see where you are going. One solution to making your headlights shine brightly again is as close as your medicine cabinet: Toothpaste. First of all, mask off the area around your headlight with painters tape, this prevents whatever cleaner you choose from accidentally hitting the finish. Next, apply small bits of toothpaste to a damp rag, and proceed to polish in a circular pattern. Some people find that using old panty hose is a great way along with the toothpaste is a great way to clear up those headlights.

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old car with bumper sticker


Remove Bumper Stickers With Vodka or Miracle Whip

When election time is over, many of us are left with cars that have bumper stickers littering their fenders. Bumper stickers are easy to apply, but notoriously difficult to remove completely. We’ve all seen the bumper with most of the sticker removed, and sections sticking on for dear life, and it does not improve the cars appearance. In order to get rid of them and their sticker residue without harming your cars finish, we have a solution. First take some warm, soapy water and wash over the sticker several times in order to soften it up, then apply one of the following items to loosen the sticker: White vinegar, vodka, Miracle Whip, or rubbing alcohol. Next, use a credit card or plastic spatula to work the sticker loose. Wash with soapy water, and if sticker residue remains, use rubbing alcohol. If you can, avoid the hints that suggest products with acetone or gasoline to remove stickers as they can damage your cars paint finish.

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Remove Pet Hair With A Squeegee

We love our pets. They sit with us while we watch television and sleep with us on our beds. A few of these lucky pets are often taken on the road with their owners. While that is a lovely picture, there is a downside: Pet hair and dander. Taking your pet with you on a weekend picnic means that your clothes could end up covered in hair. There is an easy solution for this. Go to the nearest hardware store and purchase a window squeegee, or better yet, several sizes in order to get into the corners. Get a spray bottle filled with plain water, and spray down your car’s interior.

Next, begin to go over the interior using the squeegee and see just how much and how fast the hair appears. Once you have this completed, simply vacuum and you are finished. Another method is to use latex gloves. Put on the gloves and make them slightly damp. Next, rub your gloved hands on your carpet or upholstery, but do it against the grain. This should work to lift out much of your pets hair.

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Use A Coffee Filter To Clean The Dashboard

Dashboards are often used by some car owners as an extended desk of sorts. Pens, pads and maps can be found on our dashboards, along with a snack or two. Dashboards also harbor a lot of dust. As we drive with our windows open, dust may blow in, or fly in through our interior air vents. Either way, the dust and lint needs to be removed, and in an economical way. For this, we use plain old coffee filters. Because of the nature of their original function, coffee filters can not be prone to leaving bits of dust or lint behind, and this makes them perfect for your cars vinyl surfaces. When you wipe your surfaces down with coffee filters, the dust is picked up and no lint from the filter is left behind.

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Natural Ways to Remove Rust

Rust is an unsightly addition to your cars overall appearance. Thankfully, there are a few quick and easy ways to make it less visible. One tried and true method that has been used for years, is the application of undiluted white vinegar to the rusted surface. The vinegar reacts to the rust and causes it to dissolve. Most car owners let it soak for 24 hours or so before wiping clean. Another method is to mix baking soda with water to form a hearty, thick paste to apply to the rusted areas. Leave it sit for a bit, but never wipe it if it is totally dry, as you would risk scratching the surface. If the baking soda paste is dry, add a bit more to moisten it. As odd as it seems, some people use black strap molasses to remove rust, making a solution of 12 parts water and 1 part molasses. Please stay away from solutions which mix vinegar and lemon, as that is too acidic for your cars finish.

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Removing Road Salt from Your Cars Exterior in Winter

The clear coating on our cars today is not much to brag about. As a result we need to be conscientious car owners when it comes to protecting our cars finish. While regular wear and tear can take a lot out of our cars paint finish, it really takes a hit during the winter months as we plow through frozen, icy streets laden with road salt. It’s imperative to remove road salt as soon as possible. Get a spray bottle and combine 1 part white vinegar with one part water. The vinegar will neutralize the salt and make it easy to wipe away. Another method is to take a gallon of water, add car soap, then add 1 cup of baking soda. This is a powerful mix that will be sure to cut through the salt. One word of caution, try not to use dish washing detergent as a car was soap, as it is harsh and will remove the wax finish and leave your cars paint finish open to the elements.

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clear car windshield


Solutions to Keep Your Windshield Sparkling Clean

Many car owners opt to create their own windshield solution, not only because it is inexpensive, but they are not fond of methanol. Methanol is toxic to both living organisms and the environment, and more and more people are moving away from products that contain it. When you are making your own solution, remember to always use distilled water, so minerals do not club up your cars spray nozzels. Take 1 gallon of distilled water and add 1 cup of glass cleaner. For those winter months try this combination of 1 gallon of distilled water, 1 ounce of dish soap and 6 ounces of rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol will work to prevent your solution from freezing.

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Removing Tar and Sap From Your Car

When hot tar comes in contact with your car it can harden and become an absolute nightmare to remove as you do not wish to damage your cars original finish in the process. There are a number of quick remedies, and they exist right in your own home. The first method is to take some linseed oil and soak the area affected. Let the linseed oil sit for a few moments then gently remove it with a rigid rag. Another hint comes from your bath and beauty collection, and that is Avon’s Skin So Soft. Simply apply Skin So Soft to the affected area and the tar will be loosened.

Peanut butter has also been known to lift hard to remove tar from your car’s exterior or rims. Another nasty contender to deal with, is tree sap. Fortunately, a little rubbing alcohol goes a long way. Just soak a soft rag with rubbing alcohol and let it sit on the affected area for about 10 minutes or more, until the sap starts to break up. Then, simply remove with a soft cloth. As for everyday scuff marks, they are quite simple to remove. Just apply toothpaste to a damp cloth and buff away the scuff.

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man with bug in his face


How to Remove Bugs From Your Car

Like it or not, when you are out driving you are apt to collect more than your share of bugs on your grill, windshield and general exterior. As unpleasant as this sounds, if you wait too long, these bugs will bake right into your cars finish and be very hard to remove. One of the first and best things to try is cola. Apply or spray the cola on the buggy areas, let it soak and then wipe dry. Remember that cola is sticky, so rinse well after using to prevent dust, dirt and bugs from adhering to the surface again. Another method you can try is using baby wipes. Many car owners swear to their efficiency in removing dried bugs from bumpers, windshields and exterior. The following solution is as close as your laundry room, Spray n’ Wash. Grab your Spray n’ Wash and proceed to soak the bug infested areas of your car, and wipe clean.

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Deodorize Your Car

We love that just out of the factory, new car smell, but sadly with outdoor pollution, smokers, pets, kids and some odd bits of spilled food here and there, that smell just does not last long. There are a few tricks to keep your car smelling sweet. Start with the obvious, and remove all the loose trash and food bits, making sure to check under the mats and seats, as bacteria breeding food is a number one cause of odor. For cigarette smoke, take a towel and place it in a bowl filled with white vinegar, as vinegar absorbs cigarette odors. Baking soda is another reliable standby to remove car odors, just sprinkle it on your upholstery and carpet and let sit for a few hours then vacuum.

Another trick is to place a small bag of charcoal under the seats to absorb smells. Also, remember that even though your car’s cabin filter functions to remove odors, it can also become victim to molds and mildew, so it is important to have it replaced from time to time. If you are still noticing an odor, take your car in for a checkup as interior odors can be caused by a damaged catalytic converter, leak in the fuel system, overheated brakes and a host of other issues.

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Create a Mini Trash Bin

In order to save yourself a lot of time and money getting your car detailed, a nice mini trash can or two is your first line of defense. These mini trash cans should be plastic, and fit so they do not get in the way of legs and get accidentally knocked over. When shopping for your mini trash can, you should consider getting one that has a secure lid which can be lifted and locked back down tightly, should a spill occur, any debris or liquids will stay inside. Many people use plastic cereal containers, shower caddies or the plastic, cylindrical hand wipe containers as make-shift trash bins. In order to ensure order in your car, you may find that a shoe organizer fits the bill quite nicely, and is capable of storing many of your on-board items such as infant supplies, hand sanitizers and snacks all in one place, and not all over your car.

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How to Sanitize Your Cup holders

The cup holder is one of the most used parts of a car’s interior, and it is also the most filthy. When we are on the road, we often do not stop to think about cup holders as we use them for our coffee, fast food sodas or hot soups. However, over time as our drinks and soups dribble, these accessories can collect moisture, mold and mildew. To give a quick and thorough cleansing to your cup holders simply find a sock. Take this sock and soak it in your preferred cleaner, insert and twist. This method should remove the majority of the liquid, grit and grime from your holder. If you find there are still bits of grit, use a long-handled artists acrylic paint brush to help clean out the rest of the cup holder. Once your cup holders are clean, inserting some silicone baking cups in the holder will help to guard against spills and to keep them clean.

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Cleaning Your Upholstery

You cars upholstery sees a lot of traffic, and takes a lot of hits from food and drink spills to crayons and marker messes. All of this can take a huge toll on your cars upholstery, so here are a few hints to make it shine again. Start by going to your kitchen and getting some cornstarch. Take the cornstarch and sprinkle it on your car’s interior upholstery, concentrating on stained areas and let it sit for about an hour, then vacuum it up. If you still see a stubborn stain or two, mix some cornstarch with water until it forms a paste, apply the paste to the stain, let dry and vacuum. Another solution is to use one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle and try to lift out the stain with a cloth. Sometimes people like to smoke in our cars and an accident may happen. If you need to make a cigarette burn a little less visible, then place a raw onion on the burnt area, it won’t fix the damage but it will make it less noticeable. For those truly hard to remove stains, try mixing a cup of dish soap, a cup of club soda and a cup of white vinegar and either apply or spray, using a toothbrush to rub the mix into the stain.

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Let Artists Acrylic Paint Brushes Do the Dirty Work

Acrylic paint brushes can be purchased at your local art store, and are not expensive at all. A set of these will come with a variety of brush shapes and sizes. Acrylic brushes, not to be confused with craft brushes which are too soft, will allow you get into hard to reach areas, such as cup holders, vents, chrome corners. You can purchase the soft brush or hard bristle, and they all come with nice, long handles to help you with getting dirt and debris from corners and crevices. These brushes are soft enough to not do damage, yet sturdy enough to give a good dusting, and as they are meant to hold water, they can take up a healthy sudsing to hard to reach areas such as around your headlights, grill, rims or interior areas such as the glove compartment, vents, pockets or cup holders.

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Interior Protectant

An interior protectant refers to a product that give a gentle but protective coating to the interior of some of your cars surfaces. The protectant also adds a nice, pleasant shine to these areas. Surfaces such as vinyl dashboards, upholstery or aspects of the interior with plastic or wood surfaces can do with a touch of protectant. To make your own, gather up 1 cup mineral oil, one spray bottle and a couple of cleaning cloths, preferably lint free. Make sure to apply the mineral oil with one rag, and wipe clean with another. Remember this is mineral oil, so keep it away from your cars pedals, steering wheel, door handles, and windows, anywhere where a smooth, slick surface would be dangerous.

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Floor Mats

The floor mats in your car are among the most dirtiest parts of your interior, aside from cup holders. With passengers carelessly hopping in and out, not checking their soiled footwear, kids dropping bits of food and spilling drinks, and finally pet traffic. Floor mats are something you can clean for yourself, and not leave for a detailer. Whether your mats are carpet or rubber, using a mix of laundry soap and baking soda works well to not only lift out the dirt, but also remove odors. Simply remove your floor mats, shake or vacuum to dislodge dirt, debris and grit, wash them in the laundry soap and baking soda mix, rinse and dry. If you wish to speed up the drying process, you may vacuum your wet mats with a wet/dry Shop Vac. Remember, mats are there to protect your interior, so before you put them back, check them for holes, as holes will let moisture and dirt through which may permanently damage your interior.

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Written by Camille Moore

Camille has a master's degree from Saint Joseph University's Writing Studies program. Her writing has been published on several websites, and she enjoys writing articles and short stories in her spare time. You can follow Camille on Twitter @CamealAshley.