Clean and Protect Your Car
Keep your car looking great all year round. Just assemble a car-care kit, and put it to good use. It’ll help your vehicle retain its value and stay in great shape.
Build Your Kit
To begin, you’ll need:
- A handheld vacuum cleaner
- A bucket
- A car-wash mitt or sponge
- A shammy
- Duct tape (for removing pet hair)
- Rags for cleaning and polishing
- A scrub brush for cleaning tires
- Interior cleaning products
- Glass cleaner
- Surface-protection products
- A non-detergent car-wash soap made specifically for car paint
- Car wax
Clean the Interior
There’s no “right” way to wash a car inside and out, but there are steps that can make the whole process faster and easier. First, clean the inside of the car. You’ll be carting dusty, dirty materials out of the vehicle, and you don’t want any of that sticking to a wet exterior.
- Remove all the mats and cushions. Shake them out or vacuum them outside the car.
- Vacuum all the seats and floorboards, and don’t forget underneath the seats.
- If you have pets, wrap some duct tape sticky-side-out around your hand — or use a pet-hair removal tool — and go over all the seats and floorboards. You’ll remove quite a bit of pet hair.
- Using glass cleaner, clean the windshields and mirrors. Apply with newspaper for a streak-free dry.
- If you have upholstery stains, use a cleaning product made for your cloth or leather interior. If you’ve never used the cleaner in your car before, spot-test it on a small patch of upholstery first.
- Wipe down the dashboards, then, apply a surface protectant. It’ll help restore that “like-new” shine. Don’t spray directly on the dashboard — instead, spray on a cloth and then apply. Be sure to protect sensitive areas like car-stereo faceplates and GPS systems.
- Clean the side panels of your car doors. That area is often overlooked.
- Vinegar or ammonia-based glass cleaners can damage some types of window tinting. To protect tinted windows, use plain water to clean them. Then, wipe them down with newspaper.
Wash the Exterior
Now it’s time for the sudsy fun.
- Mix up car-wash soap and water.
- Apply the soapy mixture at the top of the vehicle, and wash your way down. The top is the cleanest and easiest to manage. The bottom of the car is the dirtiest — save it for last. Plus, the rinse you give the top of the car will trickle down and help remove some of the surface dirt from the bottom, making your job a bit easier toward the end.
- Change wash rags often, especially if you’re giving the car a winter or post-winter wash. Otherwise, grit and dirt can build up in your wash rags and scratch the paint.
- Don’t forget to wash the front grill and headlights of the car.
- Wash the tires, hubcaps and mud flaps with a scrub brush.
Finish With Wax
Once the exterior of the car is nice and clean, the final step to a sparkling, like-new finish is a good wax job.
- First, make sure that all surfaces are completely rinsed.
- Then, run a shammy over the car. You want to make sure it’s completely dry.
- Apply the wax according to the instructions on the can. Avoid getting wax on the door handles, grillwork or the hood ornament.
- Let the wax sit according to the instructions on the can.
- Then, buff the car to a high shine using your shammy or a soft towel.
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