November 4, 2020

Top Tips on Car Cleaning

Cleaning Your Car – Top Tips

For all sorts of reasons, it makes sense to clean your car regularly – it protects your investment, it can give you a sense of pride and, if you lease a vehicle, it can reduce the risk of end of contract recharges.

If you’re a hands-on car cleaner, we’ve compiled a list of the best hints and tips that we could find from the experts in car preparation and presentation.

guide to car valeting

General Car Cleaning Guidance

  • Clean the inside before you clean the outside
  • If you have one, hose down your car before you wash it, this will remove a lot of the muck before you apply the soap
  • Don’t use washing up liquid as your soap as it will contain salt. A car shampoo is much less abrasive.
  • Think about replacing the traditional sponge with a microfibre cloth. Again, they are softer on the paintwork.
  • Don’t wash your vehicle in the heat or direct sunlight. It’ll just dry with water marks.
  • Wash from the roof down so that you start with the bits of the car that are least grubby and you keep your water cleaner for longer
  • Once your water is dirty, change it for clean so as not to be putting dirt back on
  • In terms of your bucket, did you know that you can get ones with sieves at the bottom. The grit particles you pick up on your cleaning cloth can sink to the bottom, so as not to be rubbed back on by mistake.
  • If you wash with one bucket, have a second available with clean water in it to rinse the soap off with. Or use a hose for rinsing off.
  • Wash inside the doors and sills too because it’ll be obvious when you open your doors that you missed them on an otherwise clean car
  • After washing, dry your car off with a microfibre towel or chamois, it will stop you getting water marks
  • There are different cleaning products for different areas of your car. Glass and plastic cleaners deliver better results on those surfaces than soap and water
  • If you are going to polish or wax your car after cleaning, let it dry first, try to avoid polishing your plastics
  • If you are going to detail your tyres with a silicone-based product, do that last

If a clean car isn’t so much the desired outcome as a spotless one, here are some tricks from the valeting trade.

Cleaning glass

Clean your glass with a glass specific cleaning agent. When drying the outside of the window wipe horizontally, and when drying inside, wipe vertically. If you do this, and have smears, you’ll know what side of the glass needs more attention.

Cleaning external plastics

Black plastic trim requires a different care regime from the metalwork. To keep plastic trim looking its best, you can treat it with a black restoring product. Do this before any waxing and polishing of the car’s bodywork.


To remove marks or stains from your upholstery, there are various shampoos available to help.


To get all the dust and particulates off your carpets, brush them before you hoover. Agitating the pile helps it release things it might cling on to otherwise.

Interior nooks and crannies

Toothbrushes or make up brushes are great for getting into spaces where you can’t get your fingers. They can be used to good effect to disturb dust when you are hoovering.

Using wax

Wax in lines not swirls for the best results. Allow the wax to dry before polishing off.

Handling odours

If you eat, drink, smoke or carry your pets around in your car, then odours might be an issue for you.

Fragrant aerosols, designed specifically for odour elimination can be sprayed into your car’s air vents to provide a pleasant smell much more effectively than a Magic Tree.

Spilt milk

When it comes to odours, there’s not much worse that the lingering smell of spilt, sour milk.

One solution is to rub baking soda into the carpet or upholstery fibres where the milk was spilled using a cloth or a soft-bristled brush.

You’ll need to leave it a while before hoovering the baking soda off. If there’s still a pong, you can repeat the process again.

Tar marks and bugs

Getting rid of dead bugs and tar splats is hard work, but help is at hand with sprays designed specifically for the purpose.

Alternatives to cleaning the car yourself

If you prefer to delegate the car cleaning, there are plenty of options:

The mechanical car wash

The car wash is arguably the easiest and quickest way to get your car cleaned. Your wash can include underbody cleaning, waxing and drying.

But with the convenience comes some drawbacks. The brushes can damage your paintwork over time and it is recommended that you alternate your approaches, maybe one mechanical wash followed by two manual ones.

Be careful to protect vulnerable parts of your vehicle. Mechanical car washes have been known to damage wipers and pull off aerials. The car wash will normally have warning signs up about this kind of risk.

mechanical car wash

The multi-person cleaning crew

In recent times, the manual, group clean type of experience has become commonplace in all our towns and cities, sometimes permanently located and sometimes pop up.

These cleaning crews have people tasked with different cleaning roles covering different parts of the vehicle. You can have the vehicle cleaned inside and out and finished to a decent standard.

The only drawback is cost and time. They cost more than a mechanical wash and the clean takes longer.

The full valet

The gold standard for vehicle cleaning and detailing is the full valet. Choose this option and you will benefit from the most motivated, trained, capable and well-equipped people working on your vehicle. When you are showing your vehicle, selling it, or handing it back at the end of the lease this kind of clean could be worth the investment.

You can’t just turn up; you’ll need to book your vehicle in advance for this kind of service. The only downside is cost.

It makes sense to have a clean car

By the time you take into account the different places you can go, the amount of money you can spend, or the cleaning products you can use, there’s a lot more to car cleaning than you might think.

How you look after your car, leased or otherwise, affects how you feel and what people think of you. But car cleaning has thoroughly practical purposes as well as emotional ones.

You clean your car to keep it looking nice and to look after your investment. In monetary terms, an obviously well looked after car will always be worth more and will be quicker to sell than that a neglected one. If you have a leased car, the inspector looking at it end of contract will spot a cared for vehicle immediately, and that will influence their appraisal and your risk of end of contract charges.

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