My Dirty Little Secret
For nearly a week, I intended to clean out the family car. Between the discarded shoes, the one-handed mittens and last month’s school book reports, the inside of our automobile was getting a little cluttered. But that was nothing, compared to the accumulation of construction zone dirt and road salt on the exterior of the vehicle.
After all, a Midwestern midwinter wreaks havoc on an automobile, particularly an unwashed one! And this year, as many
Although I had planned to wash the car, the local climate had not cooperated. Car washes tend to be closed when temperatures linger too long below zero (F). Most automotive detailers are not available on sub-zero days, either. And who wants to run a vacuum in a sub-zero home garage?
Then it happened. My worst fears arrived, in overdrive!
A Field Trip
Enter the dirty car.
Car Cleaning: Start With the Car’s Interior.
A thorough car cleaning or detailing must begin with the vehicle’s interior. First, all in-car clutter must be removed. Toss any trash, and stow any toys, togs or trinkets in a bag or box for sorting.
The complete wipe-down is next. Grab a bottle of window cleaner and a roll of paper towels. Take it from the top, and wipe your way downwards, cleaning the insides of windows, the dashboard and control panels, the consoles and arm rests and the seats. Spray and scrub every surface. Pay special attention to any areas that may bear sticky or germy fingerprints. (Be sure to open all of the vehicle’s doors for this process, to protect yourself from inhaling your cleaning products.)
Vacuum last. (We bought a new vacuum a few years ago, and we keep the old one in the garage, just for cleaning out the car.) A thorough car vacuuming, including under the floor mats and between the seats, can work wonders in cleaning an automobile’s interior. If you do not have access to a vacuum in your own garage or parking area, most gas stations do offer these for loose change (which you may find under the car seats).
Finish with air freshener. Some folks swear by the dangling scented car air fresheners, which look like little Christmas tree ornaments. I prefer to use spray air fresheners in our vehicles. The choice is yours.
Car Cleaning: Keep It Simple.
Prevention can go many miles, in terms of simplifying your car cleaning or automotive detailing tasks.
For example, we like to keep a basket in the back of the car to catch any clothing items or other accumulations. We also place a smaller bin in the passenger area for pens and pencils, hairbrushes, lip balms, knick-knacks, cell phone chargers and other little objects that can quickly become lost under a car seat. When it is time for car cleaning, these containers are easy to remove, so items can be sorted.
Rubber floor mats are a lifesaver as well, particularly for busy families with pets. These can be lifted out and hosed down quite simply, virtually eliminating the need for frequent in-car carpet cleaning.
Car Cleaning: Wash The Exterior Well.
In warmer seasons or climates, washing or detailing a car can be a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and a little exercise. A hose, a bucket, a soft sponge and a gentle biodegradable soap will do the trick. Be sure to scrub all surfaces before rinsing thoroughly. Step back and check out your handiwork, to see if you missed any spots before wiping down the entire vehicle with soft, dry cloths or towels.
For a thorough cleaning, be sure to scrub, rinse and wipe tires, wheel hubs and hubcaps well. Spray products are available at automotive supply shops to shine up dull tires, if needed.
During the winter or inclement weather, a drive-through car wash is sufficient. Try to choose one that sprays the undercarriage of your car.
After washing the car, it is a good idea to open all doors and hatches and wipe down those areas with clean paper towels.
To prevent streaking, avoid opening any windows or using the wiper blades until the vehicle has been completely dry for some time.
Car Cleaning: What About Waxing?
Car fanatics seem to love frequent waxing. Is this necessary? Certainly, some automotive waxes do protect the car’s paint job. However, this may not be an essential step for every time. Periodic waxing can be advantageous, so long as all products are completely buffed into a lovely shine (with a soft cloth or buffing brush) on each occasion.
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