A long, cold winter can leave our cars looking less than their best. Salt, dirt, and other debris kicked up from the road can take the shine off the exterior of your car, while dust, fingerprints, and the accumulation of rubbish can leave the interior looking equally untidy.
But with the days getting longer and brighter, and with us likely to spend more time on the roads, it’s time to consider a spring clean for the months ahead. The following 11 areas – broken down into exterior and interior – will help your car look great for the months ahead.
How to Spring Clean the Exterior
Grit, salt, and dirt from the road can take the shine off your car’s bodywork. Cleaning them off is relatively easy, but you need to work in stages. First, pre-wash your car with a pressure washer or hose to dislodge as much grit and grime as possible. Then, use a soft (microfibre) cloth to tackle more stubborn stains. It’s crucial to use a car shampoo instead of washing up liquid, which can degrade your car’s protective wax. Try to avoid using a sponge if possible, as it can easily push grit across the bodywork and cause damage.
Always start at the top and finish at the bottom, allowing gravity to help as you work soapy water across the car. If your car needs a polish, some good ingredients to look for in your product are carnauba wax, micro-abrasives and silicones. Be sure not to overdo it though – you should only need to polish your car a couple of times a year.
A clear, smear-free windscreen is essential for good visibility. Carefully lift the windscreen wipers up and away from the screen. If the screen is particularly dirty, use water and a soft brush to remove the bulk of the grime. When the screen is dry, spray an alcohol-based glass cleaner onto a microfibre cloth – never use a harmful, ammonia-based cleaner. Using the cloth, make long, smooth strokes until you’ve cleaned the whole screen. Use a second, dry microfibre cloth to buff it, and then repeat on the inside of the screen. Clean each section of glass following the same process.
To keep your windscreen clean, it’s essential that your wiper blades are clean too. With the wipers in the ‘up’ position, carefully wipe the full length of the blade with a rag or sponge and soapy water. Wipe until there is no dirt left on your rag or sponge, then use another rag to remove any soapy, smear-inducing residue from the blades.
Wheels and Hubs
Your wheels and hubs don’t require too much work – all you need is a soft sponge, soapy water and some elbow grease. Turn the engine off and make sure the wheels are cool, before cleaning them with soapy water and a sponge. You can use a wheel brush or toothbrush to get into narrower areas. Then, rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
Car headlights can become dull over time as dirt from the road builds on them. To fix this, you can use a simple DIY method – just mix some baking soda with water to create a paste and apply it to your headlights with a sponge, rubbing in a circular motion. Leave to soak in and then rinse away with clean water.
How to Spring Clean the Interior
If you neglect your car’s air vents, you might find that a build-up of dirt and dust blows into the vehicle when the air conditioning is turned on. To avoid this, dip a soft paintbrush into a 50:50 mixture of water and white vinegar and use it to gently clean the inside of the vents, taking care not to apply too much liquid. Remember to check and rinse the brush frequently, and then use a microfibre cloth to dry the vents. You could even use a sprayable enzymatic cleaner if you want a really deep clean, although this will cost more than the water & vinegar option.
Your dashboard collects dust and fingerprints that can leave it looking faded. To fix this, vacuum it with a soft brush head attachment, and then wipe clean with a microfibre cloth and water. You can use a soft-bristled toothbrush or paintbrush to get into any hard-to-reach areas.
If your car has a touch-screen infotainment system, a damp, soft cloth will remove any fingerprints. Avoid using chemical solutions here, as they are likely to strip away the screen’s coating. Wipe the screen dry and remove any remaining smears using a microfibre cloth.
The mats beneath your feet and the footwells beneath the mats collect dirt over time. Remove the mats from the car and use a high-suction vacuum to suck up debris from the footwell. Hot, soapy water and a stiff brush can work away any stubborn marks, while a specialist carpet cleaner will give even better results.
Shake the mats outside the car to remove loose debris, and then use the brush and vacuum to remove dirt. Apply a carpet shampoo or soapy water to the entire mat, using a stiff-bristled brush to work into the surface. Rub dry with a microfibre cloth and hang the mats to dry before returning them to the footwell.
To remove any loose debris from your car seats, use a hand vacuum with a soft head or a soft-bristled brush. If you have leather seats, be sure to take extra care as they can mark more easily than cloth. For upholstery, a specific fabric cleaner such as a spray or foam will lift even stubborn stains. On leather, it’s best to use a specialist leather cleaner and conditioner for a deep clean, or just a damp cloth for a light one. Always read the instructions before you begin, and when finished, leave them to dry naturally.
Over time, your car’s boot can get cluttered with unnecessary items that take up space, and so car the storage compartments in the doors, cup holders, and glove compartment. Removing all of this clutter will improve your car’s appearance and leave it looking much neater. Plus, if you remove any heavy items from the boot this will also lighten your car’s load, which can improve your fuel efficiency.
Make all your hard work pay off by adding a fresh smell. Getting an air freshener designed for use in the car can be the last touch in making your car feel brand-new again, and you should be able to find some that are fairly inexpensive.