So Spring Cleaning snuck up on you, did it? Don’t worry. It did for us too! (WARNING – This is a long and detailed post!)
TLDR; Clean from the inside out, from the top, down, and don’t skimp on the good products and amount of time spent.
To take some of the hassle out of cleaning your car, we have some tips to keep your car Spring Cleaning efficient, streamlined, and looking better than Tom Brady’s wife at a chili-dog-eating contest.
There is nothing more satisfying than stepping back after all your hard work, and admiring your nice, clean looking vehicle.
There is nothing worse, than starting that process, and having to repeat it over again when you mess up that nice wax job, or get something covered in brake dust, that you ‘just cleaned five minutes ago!’
We’re here to help you keep your car cleaning process organized and flowing towards optimum cleanliness.
The place to start, will be your interior. Clean out all debris, trash, and accumulated items prior to starting. Get your floormats out of the vehicle and lay them somewhere to get some sun, so they are pliable and you can reset their shape. (You know that one floormat we’re talking about; the one on the passenger side that has been folded almost in half for the last 4 cold months, and now you can’t get it to fit right anymore)
Once the big stuff is out of the way, work on the crumbs and dust-bunnies. Get all the small rocks, crumbs, hairs, and old french fry ends vacuumed up. Get a vacuum attachment into the nooks and crannies too. Be on the lookout for change, and your favorite pen you lost a few weeks ago.
PRO-TIP – Use computer/electronic ‘compressed air’ to blow some of the dust and grunge out of the hard to reach cracks and crevices, especially in the dash and doors. Now is the time to check the spare and anything else that might be in the trunk, so you minimize how much dust and yuck stuff you’ll stir up from inside the trunk area. You don’t want to be redoing your interior detailing later.
Now you can wipe everything down. Use car care approved ‘multipurpose’ wipes. Something that will take up the stuck on dirt and dust.
Don’t skimp; use those wipes and get all of it off. If you have stubborn stuff, think about specialty products or soap and water with some good ole’ fashioned elbow grease.
Now is also the time to use your upholstery cleaner to get out those stains. We recommend having a good squirt on, liquid cleaner and dry towels or a wet vac – Just be careful, some seats have electronics in them for heating, and passenger sensing. Another good option is spray on foam, with a stiff bristle brush.
Once you’re done with all of that, a good finishing touch up vacuum is a good idea to catch the last of the dust and dirt before you apply your choice of protectant. Be sure to use something compatible with the type of interior you have. Scotch Gard or something similar for cloth; leather protectant and treatment for leather or pleather; and good plastic/vinyl protectant for everything else. If you have wood trim, it should be coated, otherwise, try Pledge.
Then finish with an interior window cleaning. We recommend Stoner’s Invisible Glass – Seriously, try it and see if it doesn’t make your glass awesome.
Check to make sure you haven’t missed ANYTHING on the interior.
NOW YOU CAN MOVE TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE CAR. See what we did there? Now you won’t have dust and crud blowing everywhere from your shop vac, and getting on your fresh wax job. You won’t have to redo anything because you’re keeping inside and outside separate.
Now, most important. START. AT. THE. WHEELS.
Seriously. They are coated with brake dust, all the mud and highway paint you just drove through, and all the leftovers from that one time that one crazy Springfield driver ran you off the side of the road.
Go ahead and go to town with a wheel cleaner or soap and water, and get as much off as you can. This way it won’t splatter everywhere later; check the tires at this point (handy guide is linked!).
Then you can start the wash process. Start with soap or your cleaner of choice and work from the top of the car, down. Gravity is your friend at this point. Get everything as clean as you like -we recommend a good wash product from Meguiar’s or Mother’s – and then rinse it.
Next, dry it from the top down with a good lint free cloth or preferably, a chamois. Once again, let gravity work for you, top down will keep you from getting the spots you just dried, wet again. This is the best time to clean the outside of your windows. If you’re using a good alcohol based cleaner like Stoner’s, it won’t be too big a deal to get overspray off the glass, but otherwise, this is the time.
Here is where it’s up to personal preference. At this point you can either re-rinse, use a paint cleaner and proceed with your wax job. -Or- if you’re a diehard, veteran, and you love your vehicle, you’ll use some sort of clay-bar product on the paint, to remove dirt that is trapped IN the paint, and then you’ll polish it and wax it.
The rule here is to avoid strong polishing without a proper clay-barring or to just use a paint cleaner, which will prep the surface for waxing only.
We won’t go into the details of a clay-bar treatment here, that’s another rabbit-hole entirely.
When it comes to waxing; remember, start on a small-medium area and keep it manageable. As you work the wax into the paint, it will leave a residue that you need to remove. You don’t want to wax the whole car and then try desperately to clean it off after the whole car has caked itself dry.
We recommend you keep a separate (once again, lint-free) towel for wet wax, and wax removal. It makes the whole ‘Karate Kid’ wax on, wax off experience really come together (oh, and it makes less mess on your paint).
Optional step — If you have a lot of exposed plastic/rubber on the exterior, that is looking all black and dry – try one of those ‘renew it’ type products. Use it carefully, and apply it sparingly.
Now step back and admire your handiwork.