Automotive Maintenance

10 hacks for cleaning your car

A hand uses a microfiber cloth to clean a car steering wheel

No one likes driving a dirty car, but some parts can be tricky to maintain.

Here are 10 tips and tricks for cleaning the interior and exterior of your car.

1. Remove bugs & droppings with WD-40

If not removed quickly enough, dead bugs and bird droppings can damage car paint or obstruct your view when driving. Get rid of these by applying WD-40 and wiping away with a damp cloth. Dry the area and apply a fresh layer of wax. Be cautious about storing WD-40 in your car, as it could explode in extreme heat.

Bird poop on car

Bird droppings and dead bugs can eat away at paint and block your vision. A quick spray of WD-40 can make it easier to wipe them off.

2. Deep clean the floor mats

Floor mats can get dirty quickly thanks to spills and debris from shoes. Routine cleaning typically involves vacuuming the mats. For a deeper clean, spot treat cloth mats with a stain remover (or check if your mats are washing-machine safe). If your mats are rubber, spray them down with a hose and clean tough spots with soap. 

3. Fight stains & odors with baking soda

Baking soda combats upholstery stains and odor. For stains on upholstery, including seat belts, apply baking soda and scrub. For odors, sprinkle the baking soda inside the cab, let it sit, then vacuum the leftovers. You can also use an open box of baking soda as an air freshener.

4. Clear out air vents

Car air vents can be tough to clean because of their narrow slots. Some tools to clean car vents include a sponge brush soaked in cleaning solution, a mini duster, or a compressed air can to blast the dust out.

5. Detail with cotton swabs

Cotton swabs are useful for cleaning hard-to-reach areas such as air vents and car seat seams. A toothbrush might also be useful for tight spots, but it disperses the dirt, whereas the cotton swab is made for capturing it.

Cotton swab in vents

Cotton swabs can get into hard-to-clean areas, and unlike some other cleaning tools, they'll hold on to the dirt you're trying to clean up.

6. Snuff out smoke smell

The smell of smoke can linger longer than other odors. If you want to get rid of smoke smell from your car, leave a container of these in your car for a few days:

  • Citrus fruits or peels
  • White vinegar
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cat litter

7. Brush away pet hair with a squeegee

Remove pet hair from your seats using water and a window squeegee. Dampen (but don’t soak) the seats and upholstery with water, then use the rubber squeegee to rake off the pet hair.

8. Line cup holders

Grimy cup holders can be difficult to clean. Lining them with rubber muffin cups, or any similarly sized container, can catch on-the-go spillage or dirt. They're easy to remove and empty out when needed.

Rubber muffin cups

Rubber muffin baking cups aren't just for baking—put them in cupholders and they'll keep crumbs, spills, and other messes from becoming embedded.

9. Leave a trash can in the car

Putting a trash can in your car may encourage you to be cleaner. One option for making a reusable trash can is to line a cereal container with a grocery bag. Place it where it won’t tip over, and keep the lid on to prevent smells from escaping.

10. Keep microfiber towels handy

Microfiber towels are another multipurpose item with many uses. Use them to clean suede steering wheels, interior panels, windows (tint-safe), dashboards, and more.

AAA savings on cleaning supplies & more at NAPA

AAA members save 10% off the retail price of thousands of quality auto parts and accessories when shopping online and at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores.

Get 45% off Zymöl car care products

Handcrafted without harsh chemicals or abrasives, Zymöl's car washing and detailing products have been trusted by car enthusiasts worldwide for decades. AAA members save 45% by using the code AAA45 at checkout. 

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