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How to Keep a Car Clean Inside & Outside? (Detailed Guide)

Written by Howell Crist / Fact checked by Sam Howard

FAQs

how to keep a car clean inside & outside

If you’re a car owner, it’s important you know how to keep a car clean inside & outside. Dust, dirt, and grime can hinder a car’s performance and affect its usability–nevermind its general aesthetics. Besides; who wants to drive around with caked mud and dried bird droppings on their windshield?

This article will walk you through some simple, low-cost practices you can do to ensure your car’s interior and exterior stay squeaky clean.

How Detailed Tips & Tricks to Keep a Car Clean

1. Cleaning the Interior

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What to Prepare:

  • Trash bag
  • Ammonia-free glass cleaner
  • Microfiber cloths or chamois
  • Vacuum cleaner (preferably with different attachments)
  • Soft-bristle/synthetic-bristle brush
  • Carpet or upholstery cleaner
  • Warm, distilled water
  • Dishwashing soap

Step 1: Throw Out Trash and Debris Before Cleaning the Interior

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Before you focus on the finer details of your car’s interior, you’ll want to get the larger, more obvious items out of the way. Obvious trash like food containers, plastic utensils, empty bottles, wrappers, and stray papers should be gathered up and thrown away.

Keep your car clean inside by taking out loose items, too. Things like clothes, shoes, books, toys, and documents should be removed before vacuuming and deep cleaning.

Step 2: Clean Floor Mats Outside the Car

Take the floor mats out of the car and give them a good shake before running a vacuum cleaner over them. This makes it easier to achieve a deep clean without working around the curves and edges of the car interior.

Extract as much embedded dirt as possible using the vacuum, and then wash the mats according to their material.

For carpeted mats, you can use any commercial carpet or upholstery cleaner–just make sure to carefully follow the directions on the package.

Alternatively, create a safe and effective homemade carpet cleaner with household products like vinegar and water.

Rinse vinyl, silicone, rubber, and other non-carpeted mats with a hose, and then scrub with a DIY solution of dishwashing liquid (just a few drops) in a bucket of warm water.

You can also clean car interior plastic mats this way.

Step 3: Make Use of Different Attachments to Thoroughly Vacuum Interior

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If you want to get the inside of your car cleaned properly, you should fully utilize different vacuum attachments to tackle those hard-to-reach areas.

Places like gaps on the door panels and spaces under the seats are particularly notorious for gathering dust. The minimal space makes them tricky to clean.

For the seats, use slim-tip attachments or a vacuum crevice tool to extract dust and dirt from the stitching thoroughly.

Step 4: Clean and Disinfect the Console + Dashboard

The best way to keep your dash looking nice and new is to disinfect it after dusting it. Use a duster or microfiber cloth to wipe it down.

Once you manage to clean inside of car dashboard, attack the germs residing in the vents and seams with disinfecting wipes. Be sure to change to a fresh wipe every so often to optimize sanitation and cleanliness.

Once the dashboard’s been disinfected, move to the center console. Some areas on the console, like around the gearshift and controls, can accumulate dirt quickly. Use a fresh microfiber towel that’s only slightly damp to eliminate the dust.

Be extra careful when cleaning these areas! Some car parts are hardy, while others need a little TLC. Gentle but firm swipes with a soft, slightly damp cloth are enough to keep car interior looking new.

Step 5: Soak Cupholders and Wipe Door Panels with Damp Cloth

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Clean non-removable cup holders with a damp sponge or soft-bristled brush. This step will break down any build-up of gunk and residue in and around the cupholders.

For cup holders that can be removed, take them out and soak them in warm water with a bit of dishwashing soap.

As for the door panels, you can clean car interior vinyl doors with a damp microfiber cloth. The same goes for doors made of leather and carpet. Some thorough swipes with a dampened cloth should be enough to make them nice and shiny.

Step 6: Properly Disinfect the Steering Wheel

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Did you know that your car’s steering wheel is the “most germ-infested place”?

It makes sense with the wheel being a high-touch area of a car’s interior. If you want to properly deep clean inside of car, disinfecting the steering wheel is a must.

Do a cursory wipe with a soft cloth – just to hit the first layer of dust – then go in with disinfecting wipes. Wipe the entirety of the wheel several times (to ensure sanitation) and then buff it with a clean and dry microfiber cloth.

Step 7: Wipe the Windows and Mirrors with Ammonia-Free Cleaners

We recommend using any commercial window cleaner that’s both ammonia-free and alcohol-based when cleaning car windows and mirrors.

Don’t spray the product directly on the glass, either. Spray the product on a clean microfiber cloth and use that to apply the product to the glass instead. This will keep glass cleaner residue from getting onto other surfaces inside your car.

For tinted windows, opt for glass cleaners formulated explicitly for window tints. If unsure, contact the manufacturer. The wrong ingredients could end up stripping or damaging your window’s tint.

2. Cleaning the Exterior

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What to Prepare:

  • Hose
  • Two (2) buckets
  • Car soap/shampoo
  • Microfiber cloth/towel or chamois (Those are non-abrasive options that soak moisture well and are incredibly gentle on paint)
  • At-home car wax kit/solution

Step 1: Wash Car Frequently Using the Two Bucket Method or the Touchless Car Wash Method

Most experts advise against visiting automatic car washes too often. They’re a great alternative if your car’s in need of a wash and you’re too busy, but otherwise?

Opt for the DIY route.

Automatic car washes can scratch a car’s paint job due to the accumulated dirt from other cars trapped in the brushes and scrubs. Plus, the unregulated pressure may be too abrasive for some cars.

Regular at-home washing is a must if you want to keep your car clean and your paint shiny. Simply follow the Two Bucket Method or the Touchless Car Wash Method to ensure your vehicle comes out of the experience unscathed. Either technique will keep car clean outside without scratching the paint.

Step 2: Always Use Microfiber Cloth

Whether you’re drying your car after a wash or you want to give the windows a cursory wipe, it’s always best to use soft materials.

Step 3: Wax On After Washing

All new cars come with a fresh layer of wax to seal – and protect – the base paint job. But this wax, while durable, is not completely impenetrable. Over time, external elements like sun, rain, snow, and natural wear and tear can eat through the protective layer.

Regular waxing not only strengthens the vehicle’s exterior defense; it can keep your car cleaner and shinier than ever, too.

Applying a new coat twice a year should be fine unless you live somewhere with extreme weather. Then, twice a year may not be enough.

You can have the wax applied professionally or you can do it yourself using commercial-grade paste, liquid, or creams. Most will come with specific step-by-step instructions for application. Just make sure there isn’t any dirt or debris on the car’s surface before you begin, as these can cause scratches.

Step 4: Always Use the Right Maintenance Products

Although some homemade solutions can be used to clean car carpets and upholstery, never use raw household cleaners on your vehicle exterior. Their formulation may be too harsh for your car, resulting in a damaged paint job (or worse). Before applying anything to your car, always double-check that the product is specifically formulated for car maintenance.

FAQs

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What is the best household product to use to clean car interiors?

Professional car interior cleaning services will always recommend the best commercial car soaps and shampoos in the industry. After all, there are some truly fantastic products out there.

But that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of homemade cleaners, either.

A lot of car owners swear by vinegar as an all-around, heavy-duty cleanser. Plenty of interior car cleaning tips from experts include mixing white vinegar with water and/or baking soda to create an all-purpose cleaning solution for stains, glass, and upholstery.

How do you get a shiny car dashboard?

Regular scrubbing, buffing, and disinfecting alone won’t make a dashboard the shiniest it can possibly be. Sure, you’ll get a nice, clean finish out of it. Plus, it’s a good way to keep new car clean.

But to achieve that new-car shine, you need to use oil.

Clean your dashboard with essential oils, flaxseed oil, and/or olive oil to give it a lovely, new-car shine.

Is it better to clean the inside or outside of the car first?

Most experts agree that it’s best to clean the exterior first. This is usually because it’s best to get the most labor-intensive task out of the way, and a car’s exterior is typically dirtier than the interior.

But in cases where the car’s inside is a lot messier and/or in dire need of a deep cleanse (ex. spilled liquids, spilled food containers, etc.), you should focus on the interior first.

Conclusion

The cost of professional car cleaning services can very quickly snowball when they’re done regularly. These tips to keep car clean are simple, affordable practices that any car owner can do in the safety of their own home (or garage/driveway, depending on what’s available).

Knowing how to keep a car clean inside & outside not only saves you a ton in maintenance expenses. It also improves your car’s longevity and performance. It’ll run better, sound better, and look better overall.

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Our chief editor is Sam Howard. The vast market of car care necessitates extensive research. He entered the market, experienced the service, and reported customer feedback in order to provide the best advice and content to car owners. We have faith in him to turn our website into a reliable resource for all car owners.