The Complete Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Car

“Is something wrong?”

My hubby asked as I hurried through the living room. I turned to look at him, my arms full of junk. In my abrupt halt a shoe fell off my pile, and landed with a thud on the carpet. I studied my husband : his brow was furrowed, he looked rather lost and perplexed. The reason for his discomfort was apparent–I was rushing in and out of the apartment at an alarming rate unloading what seemed like hundreds of pounds of stuff from our car. His normally dependable, un-flustered wife was exhibiting strange symptoms that included unloading junk, vacuuming, and washing the car extremely thoroughly on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

Something was definitely different.

I had gotten off from work mid-afternoon, and something about the beautiful spring day, the fact that my cousin and I had started carpooling to play rehearsal and a serious case of spring fever made me want to scrub our car from top to bottom. Stat.

As I shook out all the floor mats, extracted the various detritus (like petrified french fries and sticky bobby pins) from underneath the seats, and lugged piles of textbooks to our apartment I couldn’t help but remember the time that a friend had needed a ride. She jumped into the backseat of our car, and broke out into peals of laughter. She pulled a frozen (it was the middle of winter), black banana from the seat “Why do you have frozen bananas in your car?” She asked, shaking with mirth. I realized, with great embarrassment, that the bananas I had grabbed for a snack from the cafeteria had never gotten transferred to my dorm room. They had hung out in the back of my car for who knows how long. Just waiting for my friend to sit on them. Ugg.

Why clean out your car? Because crazy dirty vehicles are shame inducing. Because all too often we invite our friends into our cars sooner than we invite them into our homes. Because a car all too often becomes a closet, a trash can, a file cabinet, a library, and a grocery cart all in one. Because there is a suspicious smell hanging around, and you have a feeling it is coming from underneath a seat somewhere.

The good news is that you can completely deep clean your car in an hour or two. Just be sure to warn your hubby before you start wildly cleaning or he might become alarmed.

The Complete Guide to Spring Cleaning your Car

So let’s say you have removed all the stuff from your car leaving you with a blank (albeit smelly) slate. What do you do next? What can you do to deep clean it? I am glad you asked!

Dashboard and Doors

  • Dust every surface with a microfiber cloth.
  • Go over your dashboard, steering wheel, and any other dusty surfaces with a non-toxic cleaner. My favorite cleaner I use now in both my home and in my car is Method’s grapefruit cleanser. It is all natural, and smells like grapefruit. Mmm. I used this to scrub every hard surface in my car.

Air vents

  • Clean hard to reach places (like air vents, in-between seats, etc…) with an old toothbrush dipped in some cleanser. Use it to get to every spot that a rag or sponge won’t reach.

Windows

  • Wash your windows (don’t forget to roll them down to clean the tops of them). Mix a solution of half vinegar and half tap water and use it to clean every window inside and out.
  • Clean your windows in the cool of the morning or evening to keep them streak-free.

Seats

  • Vacuum all the crumbs off of your seats.
  • Spot clean with a stain remover or watered down laundry detergent.
  • Use paper and an iron to remove melted wax from your seat. My first trip to Ikea left me with a souvenir–the wax from a candle I forgot in the car that melted all over my seat. Rats. Luckily, all it takes to remove the unsightly (yet sweet smelling) wax is an iron and some paper to lift the wax. Just put a paper towel on top of the stain, and a brown paper bag on top of that then set a warm iron on top.

Floor Mats

  • Spray your floor mats with stain remover and wash them in your washing machine in a separate load. Just don’t dry them in your dryer, because they probably are backed with plastic! Hang them outside to air dry.
  • Mix up this natural spot cleaner, and banish any pesky stains on your floor from coffee or pop.

Exterior

  • Clean headlights with a toothbrush and some left over toothpaste to restore shine.
  • Remove unwanted stickers/bumper stickers with a hair dryer, and WD-40. I covered my car with flower stickers when I was a freshman in college, and this summer I decided to remove them before I got married. I tried so many things to remove them (including painstakingly scraping with my library card), but the easiest way to remove them is by heating them with a hair dryer. They peel right off. Then you spray any residual residue with WD-40 and wipe it off. So easy.

Air quality

  • Remove foul odors with baking soda and some essential oil placed in your car overnight. Set a small container filled with fresh baking soda and a few drops of essential oil (lavender, orange, peppermint) overnight to absorb lingering odors.

Organize

Do you have any tips for cleaning out your vehicle? I would love to hear them! 

Comments

  1. This is a great post. I was searching some tips for spring cleaning. You have done the work efficiently and effectively. I have very benefited. I found your post. I need to clean. Keep up such an excellent post.
    Thanks for sharing Tha great post!

  2. Great tips! It’s best if you have any kind of pressure washer and a foam gun at your disposal.. otherwise it can be challenging to wash your car clean

  3. These are great tips for spring cleaning your car! Putting a nice little trash can like you mentioned is a great way to avoid trash getting placed everywhere along in the car! Thanks for sharing!
    Ryan recently posted…Light Bar ReviewMy Profile

  4. Recently moved into a home and have been trying to get clean and organized…was at a loss for where to start, not now!This list is AMAZING! I am a bit obsessive when it comes to making lists, but I never could figure out where to start!! This post really gave me inspiration and I will be starting my Spring cleaning tomorrow, Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  5. Pinning this for later! Cleaning the car is always on my to-do list, but I rarely do it . . . It gets so much worse after you have a baby too! I remember my uncle (who has several rentals) saying that he always peeks in people’s cars. If it is trashy, he thinks it is a sign they will be dirty in an apartment, and he won’t rend to them.
    Nathana Clay recently posted…RightNow Media–Your Last Chance at a Great Product!My Profile

  6. This is fabulous!

    I really need to clean mine… I don’t know what it is about winter but it gets SO gross… It’s hard to clean right now since I have 4 winter tires in the back taking up room… so that’s the first step.
    Laura recently posted…Summer Fashion Finds 2016My Profile

  7. My dad worked in the car industry when I was a kid, and was always very picky about how the interior of our car looked–I think because of that upbringing it’s simply never occurred to me to leave anything in my car or eat in my car or let it get messy. I may have been the only college freshman borrowing her grandma’s vacuum cleaner to vacuum out winter salt and mud residue one fine spring Saturday. 😛 Angel used the backseat of his car as storage when we first met, but since we’ve been married he’s always kept his car really neat too. I don’t mind a messy car in others–Angel’s previous car/storage center never phased me, but I just like my own car to be neat.
    Rachel G recently posted…Oddball Movie PicksMy Profile

  8. Awesome advice! and such a helpful tutorial, Bethie! One way we clean out our car regularly–if we get it cleaned out before we get it serviced (which we do every few months) they will vacuum it thoroughly for us. If it’s full of junk, they don’t! That’s enough of an incentive for me to actually give it a thorough de-junking, anyway, every now and then. I’m proud of you for your efforts, and I’d love to see your clean shiny car!
    Amy recently posted…How to make your own rocket at home: complete instructions by MackMy Profile

  9. I so need to clean out my car! I kept telling myself I would wait until it started warming up and well it already has been for several weeks. Thank you for breaking down the process into steps!

  10. I’m hosting a Spring Cleaning Twitter Chat next week. I need to make sure I add car-cleaning questions/tips in there! Haha

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