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Cleaning Cars: Tips & Tricks of the Trade

If you’ve ever marvelled at the pristine condition of cars under the meticulous care of professional valets and detailers, you’re not alone. Their ability to make vehicles shine and maintain that luster is admirable. But what if you could achieve the same impressive results when cleaning your car?

As a car enthusiast, you may have been disappointed in the past when your car detailing efforts didn’t quite measure up. Fortunately, we have compiled 20 invaluable car detailing secrets that will revolutionise your car maintenance routine. These tips will enhance your washing, waxing, and polishing techniques to deliver a show-stopping finish.

Maintaining your car to professional standards is more than an aesthetic consideration; it’s an intelligent way of preserving your car’s value. Additionally, when the time comes to sell, you’ll be assured of fetching the best possible price.


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1. Regularly Use Car Shampoo

Keep your car’s paintwork in top condition by washing it every two weeks. This eliminates dirt, reduces abrasion, and helps prevent rust formation. Using a two-in-one shampoo and wax product can offer protection during the wash.

2. Keep Your Cleaning Sponge Clean

This sounds obvious, but is easily misjudged! During the cleaning process, rinse your sponge or cloth regularly, ideally in a separate bucket, to avoid causing damage to the paintwork of your vehicle.

3. For Optimum Drying Use a Microfiber Towel or Chamois

Air drying your car may lead to stubborn water marks on the surface. Using a soft microfiber towel or chamois can eliminate water droplets, leaving a clean and clear finish.

4. Dry Glass Surfaces in Two Directions

Annoying streaks often show up on your car’s windows during cleaning. Simplify the process by drying the exterior and interior glass in different directions, such as horizontal and vertical, respectively. This helps identify whether the streak is inside or outside. A streak-free product can be a lifesaver in this regard.

5. Never Neglect the Top of the Windows

For a smear-free finish, roll down the windows to clean the top portion of the glass that is often neglected. Excess product buildup can lead to streaking and dripping. By lowering the windows slightly, you ensure a thorough clean and the removal of all dirt and excess product.


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6. Deal with Swirl Marks Using Polish

Swirl marks, or those super-fine scratches that tarnish your car’s paintwork, should be treated with a quality car polish, not with wax. They can become worse and more stubborn to remove without the right polish and cleaning technique.

7. Pay Special Attention to the Trim

Black plastic trim calls for different care to the rest of the car. Treat it with a black restoring product before waxing and polishing the adjacent metalwork. This avoids staining and provides the appropriate finish to the surface.

8. Apply Wax with Power Buffer, But Remove It Manually

A power buffer gives professional results but should be used judiciously. Use it to apply wax, but remove the wax manually with a soft, dry cloth for an even finish and to avoid swirls in the clear coat.

9. Checking for Residual Dirt Using the Plastic Bag Technique

Before applying a fresh coat of wax, ensure all dirt and abrasion areas have been addressed. A handy trick to do this is to run your hand in a standard plastic carrier bag over the car’s surface. This helps you feel for any bumps or residual dirt on the surface.

10. Using the Right Cloth Makes All the Difference

Sponges are not the best way to wash or clean your car. As mentioned previously soft, microfiber cloths are much better. They offer less friction, providing a cleaner and safer finish for a scratch-free, efficient car wash and rinse.


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11. A Dual Action Polisher is a Worthy Investment

For the optimum finish, a dual action polisher is a worthwhile investment as it helps achieve an even, shiny finish by effectively removing old layers of wax from the surface. Over time, these old layers can become worn in and stubborn to remove.

12. Use Static Electricity to Clean Carpets

Grime and dirt can become well trodden in and tough to get out of your car carpets and upholstery with standard vacuuming. A better technique is to use static electricity to draw dust and dirt up from the carpet fibers of your car, making vacuuming more effective.

13. Brush the Carpet Before Vacuuming

Before vacuuming your car’s carpets and upholstery, brush the areas in question with a stiff nylon brush. This loosens dirt, dust and grime to make vacuuming much easier, take far less time and effort.

14. Use Compressed Air for Fresher Vents

A can of compressed air is a great way to remove dust, dirt, and moisture buildup in air vents, which are notoriously difficult to clean with a brush or cloth. This helps loosen and remove debris, and ensures a fresher-smelling car.

15. Invest in High-Quality Cleaning Tools and Products

It goes without saying that investing in quality cleaning tools and products is much more effective in both the short and long term. Buy a high quality car shampoo, a car sponge, a chamois or microfiber cloth, a wheel brush, and a pressure washer. These all will transform your car cleaning experience.


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16. Avoid Direct Sunlight and Hot Bodywork

It is now common knowledge – and as endorsed by The Professional Valeters and Detailers (PVD) – that you should wash your car when the bodywork is cool and not under direct sunlight. This prevents water marks and potential damage to the bodywork.

17. Dress Tyres Last to Prevent Silicone Contamination

Always clean and dress your tyres last as tyre dressings often contain silicone. You don’t want silicone contaminating the bodywork when you wax it, so this should be done after all other cleaning tasks.

18. Thoroughly Clean Door, Boot, and Bonnet Shuts

Arguably the dirtiest, least cared for areas of a car are the doors, boot and bonnet. They take an inordinate amount of stick! Therefore, cleaning these areas thoroughly and staying on top of them helps prevent dirt and water from dribbling onto the clean exterior bodywork. It also makes it far easier as an ongoing task if you don’t leave them for months on end.

19. Use an Absorbent Microfibre Towel for Drying

An absorbent microfibre towel can stop mark formation on paintwork and help prevent watermarks. Making your car look meticulously good, but then for marks and imperfections to be visible in various light settings and from certain angles can ruin all your hard work and the expense of those high quality products you have used.

20. Adopt a Two-Bucket Car Washing System

Always use two buckets when cleaning your car. One for clean and one for dirty water, rinsing, etc. This ensures that dirty water is not reapplied to the car, keeping your wash water clean and effective.


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Cleaning Your Car FAQs

Q1: What are some effective techniques for cleaning my car at home?

When cleaning your car at home, consider starting with dusting and vacuuming the interior before focusing on the exterior. Using specific car cleaning products for different areas like the dashboard, seats, and windows can yield the best results. Rinse the exterior with water, then apply car wash soap and scrub gently with a car wash mitt. Rinse with clean water and dry with a microfiber towel to avoid water spots.

Q2: Why is it essential to use car-specific cleaning products instead of regular household cleaners?

Car-specific cleaning products are formulated to protect the car’s various surfaces while effectively removing dirt and grime. Regular household cleaners might be too harsh and could damage the car’s paint, upholstery, or plastic parts.

Q3: How often should I clean my car for the best upkeep?

Generally, it’s recommended to clean your car every two weeks and immediately after it gets exposed to elements like bird droppings or road salt. Regular cleaning helps maintain the car’s appearance and could enhance its resale value.

Q4: Is it safe to use dish soap for car wash at home?

Dish soap is not recommended for car washes as it can strip the car’s protective wax and lead to paint damage over time. Instead, opt for a pH-balanced car wash soap designed to safely remove dirt while protecting your car’s finish.


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Q5: What are the best methods for cleaning car windows without leaving streaks?

For streak-free car windows, use a glass cleaner made for vehicles and a microfiber cloth. Spray the cleaner on the cloth rather than directly on the window to avoid over-spray. Clean in an up-and-down motion on the inside and side-to-side on the outside for easier streak spotting.

Q6: What’s the correct way to clean my car’s tyres and wheels?

To clean your car’s tyres and wheels, first rinse off loose dirt with a hose. Then use a wheel cleaner and a stiff-bristled brush to scrub off road grime and brake dust. Rinse with water and dry with a cloth to prevent water spots.

Q7: Can I maintain my car’s shine without visiting a professional car wash?

Absolutely, you can maintain your car’s shine at home by washing and drying it properly, then applying a car wax or sealant. These products create a shiny finish and offer protection from UV rays and environmental pollutants.

Q8: How can I get rid of stubborn stains from my car’s upholstery?

To remove stubborn stains from car upholstery, use a car fabric cleaner or upholstery shampoo. Apply the cleaner following the manufacturer’s instructions, scrub gently with a brush, then blot dry with a clean towel. Always test the product on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it won’t damage the fabric.

Q9: What should I consider when choosing a vacuum for car interior cleaning?

When selecting a vacuum for car interior cleaning, consider one that’s compact and portable for easy manoeuvring. A vacuum with various attachments can reach into narrow spaces, such as between seats and in cup holders.

Q10: How can I keep my car smelling fresh after cleaning?

After cleaning, you can keep your car smelling fresh with a car air freshener. Regularly removing trash and wiping up spills can also prevent unpleasant odours. Remember, a clean car is the first step to a fresh-smelling car.


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