The Essential Car-Cleaning Guide
Get your auto in tip-top shape for spring.
The InteriorA shiny exterior polishes your automotive image with the world, but keeping the inside clean makes life more pleasant for you and your family. Dragging the cord of a vacuum cleaner through puddles is an especially bad idea, so clean the interior before the exterior.
Dash and doors
- Using an electrostatic dust cloth, sweep the dash, knobs, vinyl surfaces, and plastic trim.
- Wipe them down with an all-purpose cleaner using an old towel.
- Gently pull the leather or plastic away from the sides to vacuum it and wipe it down with a cleanser-dampened towel.
- Start by taking out the floor mats and shaking them. If you don't have floor mats, get them―they protect the carpeting and can be replaced if stained beyond repair. If your region gets a lot of snow or rain, you might want to buy a rubber mat with deep channels to collect mud, sand, and salt (two front mats for inclement weather that each hold more than a quart of liquid, $70, griotsgarage.com).
- Vacuum the mats, the seats, and the floor carpeting, in that order. Slide the front seats all the way back and make sure to get the debris (spare change and fossilized French fries) from under the front seats. Then move the seats all the way forward and vacuum underneath from the backseat.
- Tilt the seats back so you can get the nose of the vacuum down in the cracks.
- A microfiber cloth and a spritz of water clean well and won't cause streaks.
- Roll down the windows a few inches to get the grime on the top edges.
- For the rear window, use the back of your hand so you don't strain your wrist.