Who doesn’t love a spotless, gleaming car? A good scrub can make even the most battered old bangers feel like a whole new machine, plus you’ll feel a lot better when you aren’t driving around in a muddy motor full of discarded parking tickets and food wrappers!
Just filling a bucket with hot soapy water and wheeling the hoover out onto the drive isn’t going to cut it however. For especially dirty cars (or drivers who want an especially clean car!), there are plenty of tips, tricks and products that can get things gleaming on the outside and squeaky clean on the inside. Here are a few of our favourite car cleaning tips.
1. Pick your moment
Washing a car like a pro can be less of a chore and more of science. A bit of rain may not leave your shiny new car looking the best, but it won’t be as troublesome as high temperatures and blazing sunshine. Although it may be tempting to spend a sunny afternoon car cleaning, take care not to start washing with formulas or adding wax if your car is hot to the touch. This could end up damaging your paintwork, so try and apply finishes on cooler days when there isn’t much sunlight, or better still apply and leave to dry inside a garage or away from heat and direct sunlight.
A red hot day doesn’t need to be an excuse for not cleaning your car however – you can still give it a good hose down and wash with some car shampoo, or simply clean the interior!
2. Start on the inside
Before you break out the water and wax, get the inside of your car looking spotless first. Start by removing any rubbish and lost pound coins (fingers crossed) from the foot wells and underneath the seats. This will make it much easier to do the actual cleaning, plus you won’t vacuum up loose change, missing toys etc.
3. Wash car floor mats
Instead of trying to hoover your rubber floor mats while they’re still in the car, remove them completely and clean them away from your car. Grab a hose, or better a pressure washer, then clear off the thickest dirt. Then, grab a bucket of soapy water and give them a good wash on both sides, before leaving them to dry while you do the rest of the car.
If you’ve got carpet floor mats, then use a car carpet cleaner to get them both clean and smelling fresh. Our Turtle Wax Power Out carpet and mat cleaner is ideal for getting rid of deeply-embedded dirt and comes with a built-in brush for working the foam deep into your mats and carpets.
4. Brush, then vacuum
If you’re used to using a vacuum cleaner without any attachments to try and suck up the grit and dust from your interior, then try this easy car cleaning hack: Use an interior detailing brush first, then give all of the carpeted surfaces a good sweep and rub. The bristles will dislodge any embedded stones from your shoes and dust that has worked it’s way into the carpet. You can then hoover up the loose muck for a new-look carpet!
Instead of having to cart your home hoover out into the street, why not invest in a specifically-designed vacuum cleaner for car cleaning? the Karcher WD 3 Car Vac has interchangeable accessories that make car cleaning easier, plus there’s a handy blower function for shifting dust and dirt from places like air vents and behind dashboard buttons.
5. Grab a make-up brush
If you have a clean, unused make-up brush, then use it to get inside the nooks and crannies that a larger brush or hoover may not be able to reach. Don’t forget to brush between the joins of the dash itself, as well as behind the steering wheel and the gear stick cover. Don’t forget to put your hoover nozzle close to your brush to make sure all of the dust gets sucked away.
For a really innovative way of cleaning hard to reach places like air vents, grab a can of pressurised air and use it to blast dust away.
6. Use a dash and trim cleaner
Rather than a quick wipe with a wet cloth, use a Dash and Trim Cleaner to break down grease and grime and make your car’s interior look shiny and new. Dash and trim cleaner will also help your car interior to stay cleaner for longer.
The best way to make sure your dash and trims remain dust free is to use a microfibre cloth. These clothes attract dust using static, plus they’re soft enough to prevent scratches to your surfaces.
If you’ve got a particularly difficult to remove stain or bit of ingrained muck on your vinyl interiors or dashboard, then find a lump of blu tac and and start rubbing – it’s surprisingly good at lifting off stains and dirt!
7. Don’t forget the upholstery
Unless you’ve got leather seats (we’d recommend AutoGlym Leather Cleaner for leather), grab some Halfords Upholstery Cleaner and an Upholstery Cleaning Brush to get any stains or smells out of the fabric.
Save some cash by taking advantage of our award-winning Car Cleaning Kit. As well as our upholstery cleaner, the kit also contains everything you’ll need to clean the exterior of your car, as well as a wet look finish for your tyres.
8. Start with your wheels
Wheels can be the toughest part of the car to clean. Close to the road and prone to getting covered in dust from the brakes, your shiny alloys can soon look dull and dirty no matter what the season is, and may require tougher cleaning products than the rest of your car.
One of our best top car cleaning tips is to use a specific wheel cleaning formula, like Meguiar’s Ultimate Wheel Cleaner. Just spray your alloys and let the product do its magic as you move on to the rest of the car. With Meguiar’s Ultimate Wheel Cleaner, you’ll notice that the liquid changes colour as it removes iron particles and pollutants from the road, so you can actually see the dirt breaking down!
9. Get that new car smell
If you’re guilty of eating, drinking or smoking in your car, then one problem that can be difficult to get rid of is unwanted odour. A good clean and potentially an air freshener will go some way, but there are much better car cleaning tips to get rid of smells in cars.
Try out a Meguiar’s Air Re-Fresher instead of hanging 10 magic trees from the rear view mirror. This powerful, single use aerosol is circulated through your car’s air vents to provide a pleasant smell that will last way longer than standard card air fresheners. Perfect for getting ride of smells left behind by fast food, pets and cigarettes!
9. Wash from the top down
When it comes to washing the outside of your car, it makes sense to start at the top and work your way down. After all, gravity will do a decent job of pulling any loose muck, mud and dirt to the ground, plus you won’t have to do parts of the car twice when dirty water runs over them again.
You can use a bucket or hose with plain water and a sponge or cloth to loosen the worse of it, but a pressure washer will do a much better job. The Karcher K2 Full Control Pressure Washer will make removing even the stickiest grime much easier, thanks to a variety of attachments and even a soft car brush for working off stubborn dirt.
8. Clear the bugs
You’ll definitely notice that spring and summer driving usually ends up with the front of your car covered in a layer of deceased bugs, which can be quite stubborn to remove.
Instead of using elbow grease and a cloth, take heed of this easy car cleaning tip by grabbing some Meguiar’s Heavy Duty Bug and Tar Remover. This spray helps to break down not only dead bugs, but also other sticky, difficult to remove substances like tree sap and tar.
9. Use a traffic film remover
This car cleaning tip is designed to save yourself plenty of soap and effort by just filling a bucket with lukewarm water and adding some Traffic Film Remover. As you drive, your car’s paintwork can get coated in a thin, barely visible layer of dirt from the road, smoke and iron particles from brake pads, exhaust emissions and various other bits of nasty pollution. Traffic Film Remover attacks and breaks down this layer, which can be hard to remove even with a pressure washer, making for a much cleaner car.
Autoglym Magma is an intensive traffic film remover that breaks down all of these difficult to remove substances, with colour changing properties letting you know that it’s working through even the worst grime. Autoglym Magma can also be used on alloy wheels, and it’s pH neutral so it won’t remove wax layers.
10. Do it twice
Although this car cleaning tip takes twice the time and twice the effort, Washing your paintwork twice will ensure you’ve got absolutely everything off your bodywork in preparation for further treatment. Don’t be tempted to use washing up liquid or household detergent to wash your car, as it either won’t be as effective, or could end up damaging your paintwork if it’s too powerful.
Instead, go for a car shampoo, such as Turtle Wax Max Power Car Shampoo, which will not only remove stubborn dirt, but also leave you car smelling fantastic!
11. Don’t neglect your wipers
Your windscreen wipers are vital for safe driving, so use this opportunity to check if they need to be replaced. If you aren’t sure how to do this, check out our four signs that it’s time to replace your wiper blades article.
If you’re happy that they look as they should, then use a bit of soapy water and a microfibre cloth and run it across each blade to remove any built-up gunk or detritus, then dry each blade off.
12. Dry using a chamois
Chamois leather is a material with some clever properties. It isn’t designed to absorb water like a cloth would, but instead spread it into a thin layer that will evaporate easier. The trick with getting a streak and spot free finish is to dry your car by hand and not to let it dry naturally. Don’t forget to dry the rubber strips underneath your windows before your wind them down too, or you’ll end up with unsightly streaks on your nice new window.
Our Large Chamois Leather is perfect for shifting water puddles and spreading water across the paintwork for quicker, spot and streak free drying.
For something a little different, try an Auto Finesse Aqua Deluxe Drying Towel. Instead of spreading water, this super-absorbent towel soaks up standing water for a completely dry body ready for waxing and polishing.
12. Consider polishing
Although many people get polishing and waxing mixed up, they’re two completely different processes. Polishing removes imperfections and gets rid of dirt, grease, scrapes and scratches that can’t be washed off with a cloth and elbow grease. It’s actually polishing which helps a car to look shiny, a look that is amplified by a layer of wax.
Although it is possible to polish by hand, you’ll save yourself a lot of effort by using a machine polisher. A Halfords Dual Action Car Polisher is easy to use, with a 5m power cord and a soft start function for total control. You can even pick up replacement pads to ensure your car’s finish is consistently smooth and shiny.
13. Wax in lines
Although you don’t have to wax your car every time you wash it, wax can help to give your car’s paintwork that extra bit of shine. However, the biggest mistake that many people make when washing their car is to apply wax in circular motion and start buffing in a circular motion. Instead, apply wax using an applicator and pull out in lines across the car. This avoids wax building up and getting stuck around bodywork joins, plastic bumpers and other nooks and crannies.
14. Seal your wheels
As mentioned earlier, alloy wheels can be the dirtiest part of any car, so make them easier to clean next time by sealing them. By adding a protecting layer to your alloys, it makes it harder for iron particles and dirt from the road to cling to the paintwork. This is one of the best car cleaning tips, as it means you’ll need to put in less effort next time!
Wonder Wheels Wheel Sealant provides an invisible coating that repels muddy water, dirt from the road and those iron particles from your brake pads, which not only makes cleaning easier but also protects the finish on your wheels for longer.
15. Get shiny tyres
Dull, dark rubber can pull the whole look of a clean car down, so grab a stiff brush and add some tyre shine to make the entire tyre look brand new. This is also a great opportunity to check your tyre pressure and top them up if they don’t match the recommended PSI found in your car owner’s manual.
For a long-lasting shine, try Meguiar’s Endurance High Gloss Tyre Protector, which will leave your tyres looking factory-fresh for several weeks. It also prevents tyres from turning brown over time.
16. Leave the glass ’til last
The windows can be hardest part of the car to get clean, with water mist, soap suds and excess wax often finding it’s way onto glass. Once you’ve completely finished cleaning, polishing and waxing and detailing your car, grab a window cleaning spray such as Autoglym Fast Glass and a clean microfibre cloth and give them a good wipe, inside and out. Don’t forget to pay attention to your light and indicator covers too if you haven’t already – your headlights may even appear brighter!
17. Check out hydrophobic treatments
Most of the time, dirty windscreens are down to the grime from the road mixing together with water to create a kind of paste that drys in place after sitting on the windscreen. This is where a hydrophobic (literally ‘fear of water’) spray treatment can help windscreens and other glass to stay cleaner for longer. Using a special chemical formula, hydrophobic sprays make it difficult for water to stick to whatever it has been sprayed on, so rain, muddy water and other liquid dirt will simply run off or blow away when you drive above a certain speed.
Auto Finesse Caramics Glass Protection Kits are designed specifically for repelling water from your windscreen, but it’s also worth applying hydrophobic treatments to all of the glass on your car to make cleaning easier, and more importantly, improve visibility. Just apply the wipe directly to your glass and enjoy up to three months of water-repelling glass.
With these car cleaning tips, you can easily turn the clock back on even the most well-loved (or well-used) cars. We swear that a cleaner car feels like it drives better too for some reason! Don’t forget to use your trip to Halfords to pick up cleaning supplies as an excuse to a get a free car safety check on us – we’ll give your car a five point safety check to make sure it’s not just dirt that’s causing problems.