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Effective and Thorough Car Cleaning

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 22 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
: How To Wash Cars How To Clean Cars

Keeping your car clean is important not just for aesthetic reasons but also to maintain it in good condition and prolong its life on the road. Ingrained dirt, grime and grit can wear down the protective covering on the car’s surface, stripping and chipping off the paint and consequently the car’s value. During its time on the road, a car will also pick up dirt, salt and other contaminants that will further erode its surface protective layers. Similarly, keeping the interior of your car clean not only promotes a hygienic environment but prolongs the life of the vehicle upholstery and interiors. Ideally, try to clean your car once a week.

Washing Your Car
Before you start, make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing (waterproof or something that you don’t mind getting wet). Also make sure that all windows are tightly rolled and all doors securely shut. It is also best to wash your car in a shady spot or on a cloudy day, if possible, as if the car is not kept cool while it is being washed, water will evaporate too rapidly and possibly leave spots on the surface.

Begin by rinsing the car with a hose, starting at the roof and moving down to the tyres. Next, fill a bucket with warm water and commercial car detergent (you can also use mild dishwashing liquid but it is best to use a specific automotive soap designed for cars which will protect your paint job). If using a commercial car cleaning product, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the dilution ratio.

Use something soft to wash the surface, such as a sponge, sheepskin mitt, or cotton chenille pad. Not only will the softness protect the surface, the large number of fine filaments in these materials will help to draw dirt and grime away from the surface. Dip the material into the soapy water and then rub the surface of the car, starting from the roof again and working your way back down to the tyres. You may need to use a small step ladder if you have difficulty reaching the roof of your car.

For the wheels and rubber tyres, you may need a scrub brush with plenty of soapy water to remove ingrained dirt. Follow with the softer sponge or wash cloth. Remember that wheels and tyres are closest to the road and therefore constantly subjected to the corroding effects of brake dust – take extra care in keeping them clean. For the wheel rims, you may like to use a special metal or chrome cleaning product.

Rinse the car thoroughly, with a final rinse using free-flowing water (take the nozzle off the hose) which allows the water to sheet of the car. Then, using a clean, dry towel or chamois cloth, dry the entire car, paying particular attention to corners and crevices.

Next, clean the windows and windscreen using a dedicated glass cleaner and paper towels. Once the glass is dry, try rubbing it with crumpled newspaper as the ink acts as an effective polish.

Finally, you may wish to apply a layer of wax to protect your car from the elements and attack from rain, road salt, pollution, acidic bird droppings and general dirt and grit. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply the wax – some will need to be applied in a circular motion whereas others require a straight action. Once the wax is dry, you can buff it to a smooth shine using a soft terry cloth towel. One coat of wax is usually sufficient but if you wish to apply a second coat for added shine. Make sure you wait 12-48 hours between applications, which gives the wax time to cure. Natural wax will need to be re-applied every 6-10 weeks but synthetic waxes usually last longer, about 6-9 months.

Cleaning the Interior of Your Car
First, empty all contents from the interior of your car and trunk. Remove and discard all rubbish. Take this chance to sort through all remaining items, returning any wayward items to their proper place in the house (e.g. kid’s toys, leftover books, maps, music, etc). Take out all floor mats and shake them out and/or vacuum them before returning them to the car. If your floor mats are rubber, you can use soapy water to scrub and rinse them but be sure that they are thoroughly dry before returning them to the car.

Vacuum the seats and floors and anything else that you can, using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner for more precise work. Pay special attention to cracks and crevices which are a common collection point for grit and crumbs. Wipe all interior surfaces using a damp cloth, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, cup-holders, centre console and the inside of the doors, as well as any leather surfaces. Use glass cleaner and paper towels to tackle the inside of the windows and windscreen and follow again with a polish using crumpled newspaper.

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