An oft-forgotten footnote in my career as a cleaning expert is that, at one point, I wrote a version of a cleaning advice column for a car enthusiast website. It’s very interesting! My colleagues – automotive experts, many of them – in addition to having a wonderful group of readers who also have fantastic questions and very useful tips to share with me, many of them – have generously Teach me their wisdom.
That said: I love the theme of car cleaning. But more than that, I love the act of cleaning my car. So I’m super excited about this guide to car cleaning products that I swear by. Whether you’re looking for help with spills big and small, dust and debris, pet hair, odors, trash buildup, or just wondering the difference between paste and liquid car wax, I have something for everyone.
Your best bet for keeping your car clean is definitely a handheld vacuum. It can quickly clean seats, floor mats and even the dashboard. The Black+Decker Dustbuster was the easiest to use, charge and empty in our tests, with a large capacity canister and convenient built-in attachments.
This portable vacuum is compact—it fits under a car seat or even in a cup holder. And, since it’s a USB port, it can be charged in the car. It includes three attachments: a crevice tool, a dusting brush, and a tailpipe to get into nearly every corner of your car.
If you prefer the a little cool and geeky side of cleaning products (guilt accused!), you’ll love this car cleaning gel.Basically stickywhich is fun on its own, but even more so when you use it to pick up crumbs and dust from small spaces in your car like air vents and cup holders.
Pre-moistened leather wipes clean, condition and protect your car’s leather seats. While it may be tempting to reach for any old cleaning rags, it’s best to avoid doing so, as leather is leather and dries out easily. Leather wipes are formulated with natural oils and UVX sunscreen to restore, moisturize, repair and protect leather from sun damage.
Shout is one of my go-to stain removers, and my eyes lit up when I saw the brand offer an all-purpose cleaner for cars. Shout is especially good at removing food stains from fabrics, so if you’re constantly eating in the car, keep a can of the stuff handy in case of the inevitable spills.
When a bad smell hangs over your car, you might reasonably think you’re going to pay the big bucks to see a esthetician. Before spending money on a professional, try Ozium—a spray deodorizer that kills odors in no time.
Musty from the vents is another common car smell that you can easily treat yourself with Medina BOC. To use it, turn on the car with the air conditioner running, point the bottle up and spray, allowing a fine mist to fall on the surface of the car. Then, while the car is still moving, close the doors and windows and let the BOC circulate in the air and through the vents for a few minutes. Turn off the car, close the doors and leave the car undisturbed for at least 30 minutes to allow the BOC to draw out more odors. Finally, open all doors to allow fresh air to circulate in the vehicle.
If you find yourself using deodorant a lot and want to keep one on hand, Armor All’s Air Freshener offers a big convenience factor. It stores right in your cup holder so it’s almost always within reach, and the atomizer-style canister lets you release the spray with the push of a button.
If spray-on deodorants aren’t your thing, or if you need something to curb lingering odors, activated charcoal deodorants are just what you’re looking for. Unlike many other deodorant products, they are fragrance-free and have moisture-absorbing properties, which also help prevent mold growth.
for car spills and accidents
it is always It’s a good idea to stash a roll of paper towels in the car, and these super-absorbent wipes are a great option for wiping up spills or cleaning up messes big and small.
Like tissues, it’s smart to leave a box of cleaning wipes in the car. Armor All Wipes are a good choice because they are safe to use on almost every surface of your car.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I can’t think of a scenario where this applies more than when someone gets sick in the car – now put a vomit bag in the glove box or seat pocket and it’ll be fine It does get it right when you need it, and save yourself a lot of very cursory cleanup.
Take your center console trash can to the next level with this all-in-one container. As well as a bin with two removable liners for easier emptying, it also has a compartment for paper towels, napkins or wipes – perfect for keeping greasy or sticky fingers from leaving greasy residue on the car Or sticky fingerprints.
I often recommend dish soap for cleaning jobs other than dish washing, but please don’t wash your car with dish soap! It strips the protective wax off the car’s clear coat, leaving it vulnerable to erosion. Some illustrative math: A new clear coat can run anywhere from $300 to $900; a bottle of car wash soap can run you a little over $10.
When cleaning the outside of your car, start by making sure it’s cool to the touch and parked in the shade; if the car is hot, whether it’s just been driven or sat in the sun, the soap will bake to the outside, making it look dull. Then, working in sections from top to bottom, soap the car with a car sponge and rinse off the soap.
After washing and rinsing each part of the car, dry it with synthetic suede. This will help prevent water spots from forming. Don’t let the area you just washed get wet when you go to the next section. After cleaning and drying the entire car, give it another go with the suede to remove any remaining water.
Synthetic wax lasts longer than natural wax and offers more protection for clear coats and paint jobs—but it won’t provide as much shine. If you want a shiny new car look and are willing to wax your car 2 to 3 times a year, carnauba wax is the right choice for you. But if you’re willing to sacrifice shine for the convenience of only waxing your car once a year, synthetic waxes are what you want.
Liquid wax is easier to apply than paste wax, which is less flexible and is a better option for those using track bumpers than manually applying wax to the car. Liquid wax is not as glossy as carnauba wax in its pure form, but when buffered, the waxiness or gloss will be more.
It might seem counterintuitive, but there’s really not much difference in the time and effort it takes to apply and buff car wax manually with a track bumper versus using a microfiber cloth. (I’ve done both, so I’m speaking from experience!) However, the quality of a wax job using a buffer solution is superior to a manual wax job. Plus, power tools are fun to use.
Power tools are fun to use, but they are by no means a necessity for those looking to put together a home auto detailing kit. Inexpensive microfiber towels can be washed and lasted for years, making them great for applying and buffing car wax.