Traveling on vacation? How to clean your car before you drive – CNN Underscored | Car Plazas
Everyone wants their car to feel “straight from the dealership” – you only have to consider the number of “new car smell” products on the market to know that’s true. But with all the spills, messes and smells that happen in our cars, it can feel like a losing battle.
There are four basic cleaning tasks that come up in cars, and they are things that don’t require an expensive trip to the detailer. Breaking down the process of cleaning a car’s interior into these four different tasks can help make the overall task feel less daunting.
To help you keep your car’s interior looking its best, we consulted experts and got their tips, tricks and products for cleaning car seats, floor mats and hard surfaces like the dashboard, center console and side panels – and of course, eliminates all odors, that make your car smell bad.
When it comes to cleaning fabric or leather car seats, the first thing you need to do is grab a vacuum. “Always vacuum the seats first,” says Gina Perry, head of cleaning at The Home Depot.
For an overall clean, Perry recommends using a foaming fabric car seat carpet cleaner. The foaming cleaner removes stains, dirt and grime that give fabric seats a dingy appearance. A laundry stain treatment product like Shout can also be used to treat stains.
To clean leather seats, first determine if the leather is genuine or imitation. Regardless of the type of leather, Marilee Nelson, cleaning expert and co-founder of Branch Basics, recommends vacuuming the seats first. “Vacuuming protects the leather from damage from dirt that could scratch the leather when scrubbing with a cleaner.”
After vacuuming, apply a leather cleaner with a small towel — an old towel or washcloth works perfectly for this job — and dry the seats with a microfiber cloth. Then apply a leather conditioner that will help prevent the leather from drying out and cracking due to age.
Perry also recommends pre-moistened leather towels for their convenience and ease of use.
“For faux leather,” Nelson recommends using an all-purpose cleaner. “Spray the all-purpose cleaner on an inconspicuous area to see how the material reacts. If everything is fine, spray the cleaner on the seats, leave for a few minutes and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.”
Cleaning the dashboard, center duct and side panels
The first task when cleaning a car’s dashboard, center duct — including the cup holders — and side panels is to pick up the accumulated debris. “It’s important to first remove any debris, coins, packaging, or debris from the cup holders, glove boxes, and center console,” says Perry. Nelson suggests using a vacuum to go over the dash, quarter panels, instrument panel, and center duct area to remove dust and loose debris.
After removing dirt from the car, go over the dashboard and all interior surfaces with a dry microfiber cloth to remove dust before cleaning with car cleaning wipes.
“Your vehicle will be exposed to harmful elements such as UV radiation and oxidation,” says Perry. She recommends using Armor All Protectant Wipes, which she says will help “prevent aging, fading and cracking while enhancing your vehicle with a nice shiny look.”
How to clean carpet and rubber floor mats
Regardless of what type of floor mat your car has, the first step to cleaning it is to remove it from the vehicle. “Take the floor mats out of the car and shake off big chunks of dirt,” says Nelson.
“A carpet cleaner is the best way to clean carpet mats,” says Perry. “Spray the floor mat, then vacuum the suds to remove stains.”
Rubber floor mats can be hosed down; For a more thorough cleaning, use an all-purpose cleaner and a scrubbing brush to remove dirt and grime. After cleaning, rinse the mats and let them dry completely before putting them back in the car.
How to clean air vents and eliminate odors
Cleaning a car’s air vents and eliminating odors doesn’t have to be a job you outsource to a professional detailer. The experts we spoke to had some simple tips for accomplishing these tasks. “Use a bristle brush to clean the vents — we also recommend using a microfiber brush, an old makeup brush, or cotton swabs to go gentler on your vents,” says Perry.
When it comes to car odors, Perry says most odors can be eliminated with an air freshener like Ozium; Odor burnt into upholstery can be removed with a steam cleaner.
Nelson offers help with odors originating from the ventilation system – if your car has acquired a moldy smell it is most likely coming from the vents. Nelson recommends using a product called Medina BOC in the following way.
Step 1: With the A/C on, turn the car on and spray a fine mist of BOC at full strength by pointing the spray bottle up in the air and allowing a light mist to fall on the surfaces inside the car.
Step 2: Close the car and let it run for a few minutes to allow the BOC to circulate in the air through the vents.
Step 3: Turn off the car, close the doors and leave it for 30 minutes. The BOC will also remove odors from the materials. Then open all doors to air and sun. When there is no wind, set up fans to blow air over the surfaces. Repeat as needed.