Clean Your Car

To clean your car, you can either opt for a simple body and wheel clean, or you can choose to clean both the interior and exterior of your car. Before you begin cleaning the exterior, make sure the body of your car is cool and in the shade. Use specially formulated cleaners to clean the body and wheels of your car. To clean the interior, remove the floor mats and throw away trash. Vacuum the interior and use a foam cleanser to clean the carpet and upholstery. Finish cleaning your car by using a window cleaner to clean the inside and outside of your windows.


Preparing to Wash Your Car

  1. Park your car in a shaded area. If the body of your car is hot from sitting in the sun or from driving, wait for your car to cool down before cleaning it. This may take 20 to 30 minutes.[1]
    • Since heat can speed the drying time of soap and water, you want to wait for your car to cool down to avoid soap and water stains.
  2. Gather your supplies. Place two buckets, a car cleanser, a soft natural sponge or a lambswool wash mitt, a cloth/rag, tire cleaner, soft terry towels, and car wax next to your car. These materials are needed to clean your car’s exterior.
    • Gather your supplies to clean the interior as well. These supplies may include a vacuum, trash bag, glass cleaner, upholstery foam cleanser, carpet cleaner, Q-tips, paper towels, and rags.
  3. Fill two buckets with water. One bucket will be used for sudzing your cloth while the other will be used for rinsing your cloth. Fill one of the buckets with the specially formulated car cleanser per the instructions.[1]
    • Do not use dishwashing detergent or hand soap to clean your car. These harsh household cleaners may strip off your car’s wax.

Washing the Body

  1. Rinse the car with a hose. Rinse the entire surface of the car thoroughly before applying soap. Make sure to remove loose dirt and debris to avoid scratching your car. Remove leaves, twigs, and other debris with your hands.[1]
    • Set the hose on a high-pressure setting to rinse hard-to-remove dirt, debris, and grime. However, make sure the pressure isn't too high so as not to remove your car's wax or paint.
  2. Clean from the top of your car down to the bottom. And work on one section at a time. Make sure to completely rinse each section with water after you finish cleaning it with soap. This will prevent the soap from drying onto your car.[1]
  3. Lather the soap with your sponge or lambswool mitt. Then scrub your car in a straight up and down motion. Do not clean the car in a circular motion. Scrubbing in a circular motion can cause swirl marks.[1]
  4. Rinse your sponge often. Rinse it in the second bucket that contains water after each use. If your sponge falls onto the ground, make sure to rinse it in the water. If not, the debris on the sponge may scratch your car.[1]
  5. Do not let your car air dry. This can cause watermarks and streaking. Instead, use a soft-terry towel or a chamois (synthetic or natural) to dry it. Try blotting the water instead of wiping it to dry your car.[1]

Cleaning the Wheels

  1. Fill two buckets with water. Mix a cleaner into one of the buckets. Make sure to use a cleaner that is safe for all wheel surfaces. Avoid caustic cleaners that contain acid, as well as dishwashing detergents. These cleaners can ruin the finish on your wheels.[2]
    • One bucket will be used for cleaning and the other will be used for rinsing your sponge.
  2. Soak a soft sponge in the cleaning solution. Once the sponge has soaked for a few minutes, begin cleaning one wheel at a time from the top down. To clean small crevices, use a soft-bristled toothbrush.[3]
    • If your wheels are very dirty, you may need to apply a de-greaser before cleaning them.
  3. Rinse and dry the wheel. Once your wheel is clean, rinse it thoroughly with water until all dirt and debris are removed. Then dry the wheel with a soft cloth.[3]
    • Repeat steps one through three for each wheel.

Waxing Your Car

  1. Cut a clay bar into three or four equal sections. Flatten one of the pieces so that three of your fingers can hold it in place. Spray a fair amount of clay lube onto a small section of the car (24" by 24"). Then, gently glide the clay over the lubricated section in a back and forth motion (not a circular motion).[4]
    • Once the clay begins to glide smoothly over the section and you do not hear or feel a roughness in the finish, move onto the next section.
    • Make sure to use the clean parts of the clay on the new sections as you work.
    • Clay bars are used to remove microscopic dirt from your car's body to prevent scratching during the waxing process.
  2. Squeeze a quarter-sized amount of polish onto your pad. Apply the wax in a straight up and down motion onto the body of your car. Do not apply it in a circular motion, and do not wax your windows or the trim. Use gentle pressure when applying the wax to get a smooth, even coat.[5]
    • Make sure to apply thin layers of wax as opposed to thick layers. As a rule of thumb, it is better to apply multiple thin layers than to apply one thick layer.
  3. Use a microfiber-buffing towel to buff the wax. Move the towel in a straight up and down motion as opposed to a circular motion. Use a high quality towel to prevent scratching.[5]
    • Before buffing the wax, you may need to let the wax dry. It depends on which formula you are using. To be safe, follow the product’s instructions.

Cleaning the Interior

  1. Remove the floor mats. Shake them out to remove dust, dirt, and debris. Place them on the ground for vacuuming at a later time. However, you can vacuum them right away if you want. It is your preference.[2]
  2. Remove large pieces of trash. Pick up large pieces of trash like paper, coins, pens, and other objects from your floorboard using your hands. Place these items in a trash bag. Wear latex gloves to protect your hands from getting dirty.[2]
    • Use a BBQ skewer to remove dirt and pieces of trash from small crevices like in between seats.
    • Make sure to remove trash from cup holders as well.
  3. Spray a glass cleaner into the cup holders. Let the glass cleaner set for 5 to 10 minutes. Then use a paper towel to clean out the dirt and grime. Use the BBQ skewer to pick out grime and dirt from any small crevices.[2]
    • Alternatively, place an old sock on the bottom of a mug or travel cup. Then place the mug in the cup holder and twist to remove dirt and grime.
  4. Vacuum from the top down. Start at the top of the seats, dashboard, and console before moving to the floor. Use the upholstery nozzle to vacuum the seats, upholstered areas, and the headliner. Use the brush attachment to vacuum the components that contain hard vinyl, plastic, and metal such as the dashboard and console. To clean small crevices and tight areas, use the crevice attachment.[6]
    • Adjust the seats backwards and forwards to clean hard to reach spots under the seats.
  5. Use a carpet cleaner to clean carpet stains. Spray the cleaner onto the stain and use a stiff bristle brush to rub it into the carpet. Be careful not to spray too much cleaner onto the carpet as this can cause mildew if it is not dried thoroughly.[6]
    • Use a clean, dry towel to blot the stains and dry the area.
  6. Spray a foam cleanser onto fabric stains. Rub the cleanser into the stain with a soft brush. Let the cleanser dry. Then use a vacuum to remove it per the instructions. If the stain remains, then spray more cleanser onto the affected area and clean again until it is gone.[6]
    • If your seats are leather, then make sure to use a leather cleanser or saddle soap to clean your seats, as well as other components of the car that contain leather.
  7. Use car wipes to sanitize the dashboard and console. Make sure to use specially formulated car wipes. You can find these at your local auto shop. Use Q-tips or cotton swabs to clean small areas like radio buttons, air vents, and panel seams.[6]
    • If you do not have car wipes, then an all-purpose household cleaner that is ammonia-free will do.
  8. Clean the windows with a glass cleaner. Any household glass cleaner will do. Instead of spraying the cleaner directly onto the window, spray it onto a clean, microfiber towel. Then wipe both the inside and outside of your windows in a straight up and down motion.[7]
    • Roll down your windows to thoroughly clean the top section of the window.
  9. Re-vacuum the car. This will remove any dirt and grime that was knocked out during the cleaning process. Then shake and vacuum the floor mats thoroughly if you have not already done so. Place them inside your car.[6]
    • Use an odor-removal spray, like Febreeze, to remove any remaining smells from your car.


  • You can also take your car to an automatic or drive-through service to have it cleaned. Depending on where you take it and the services you choose, it can cost anywhere between $7 to $20 to have your car cleaned professionally.

Sources and Citations