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On The Road

Deep Cleaning Your Car 101

Car not looking its best? Take a look at our guide to make sure you give your car the deep clean it needs.

by Team Onlia

Wiping down your dashboard and vacuuming the seats will keep your car tidy, but if you want to attack the dirt, what you need is a deep clean. While a detailing shop can get the dirty work done for you, there’s something satisfying about knowing that you gave your car a truly deep clean.

If you have some time after work or on the weekend and want to enjoy some fresh air while staying safe at home, pull your car out of the garage and get to cleaning!

From cleaning the carpets to dusting out the vents, here are some pro tips to get back that new-car feel!

Take a systematic approach

Your car’s interior sees a lot of traffic coming in and out, which means you’ll need to tackle each area carefully. Depending on how you use your car, certain spots will get more traffic than others. If you ride alone, it’ll be the driver’s seat. If you have kids, the backseats are likely to take the worst of it.

Before getting into that deep clean, prep the interior first by:

  • Pulling out your floor mats

  • Wiping down vinyl, leather and plastic surfaces with a damp cloth

  • Picking up trash and emptying the storage consoles

Use the right cleaners

First off, never use dish soap. Although it’ll remove dirt and wax, it can also strip your car’s finish. Instead, use a cleaner meant for vehicles. 

You’ll likely need different cleaners for different areas like plastic dashboards, glass windows and alloy wheels. Choose products with easy application that won’t stain.

Work from top to bottom

You may be tempted to start with the carpets, but don’t do it! You’ll get them dirty again as you clean upper surfaces. Start at the top and work your way down instead.

  1. Vacuum the ceiling, dash and inside of storage consoles

  2. Clean the windows

  3. Sweep out vents and cracks using a detailing brush

  4. Vacuum the seats; slide them forward so you can get underneath as well

  5. Use a protectant to polish the dashboard, steering wheel and door panels

Try clay-barring

Unless you’ve had your car professionally detailed, you probably haven’t heard of clay-barring. This trick uses a special compound to pluck years of grime and dirt from your car’s exterior. And the good news is, you don’t need a pro to do this for you.

Purchase a clay-bar kit, which includes detailing lubricant, a microfibre cloth and the actual clay. After lubricating the surface, slowly move the clay bar along the body. It will pick up particles bonded to the paint and frame. You’ll know you’re finished when the clay stops gripping the surface, and glides across smoothly.

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Treat leather seats separately

This luxury material calls for special care. Always use a product designed to treat leather, and work in small sections at a time.

  1. Use a sponge to work the product into a lather

  2. Remove soap with a damp cloth

  3. Dry leather with a clean towel

  4. Apply conditioner once while completely dry

Lipstick and dye transfers can set permanently in less than 24 hours. Keep a leather stain-remover stick in your car, so you can spot-treat in between cleanings.

Clear the air

Tobacco smoke, take-out food and an episode of car sickness can make a funk that sticks around for way too long. Neutralize the air with a spray that kills odours by preventing organic particles from decomposing.

Lightly spray your car’s headliner (ceiling), along with the carpets and door panels. Then turn the fan to high, and switch the system to air-recirculation mode to get those bad smells out.

A little each day goes a long way 

With all the hours spent commuting and driving our families around town, it makes sense to keep your car tidy all year-round. Spend a few moments removing the trash, wiping down the dashboard, and shaking out the mats. This way, you won’t be so overwhelmed when it’s finally time for that deep clean. 

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