A very kind reader approached me (online) the other week with a fantastic graphic she had made for her client, Norm Reeves Honda Superstore, Irvine. Kate gave me permission to share her car detailing infographic here.
This is a great starting point for Spring cleaning your car, but I wanted more…
So I went out and cleaned my car so I could test out some recipes and give you a comprehensive listing of what to do for car detailing at home.
I give you my car detailing checklist (I should premise this with “this is not ENJO approved” it’s just what I do):
I want to premise this with something to think about; the average American spends 10% of their day in a car. This is a closed space that can heat up quickly even in cold weather – so I choose to avoid chemical cleaners as much as possible. If I’m stuck in a hot car on a sunny day, the last thing I want to be inhaling, or having my kids inhale, are residual toxins. Just my opinion – whatever it’s worth – but it explains why you won’t see any commercial cleaners on my checklist.
I always start car detailing by pulling everything out – mats, garbage, gym bags… everything.
I put a drop of Dawn dish soap onto each mat and then hose them down on the “jet” setting of my hose. You can do this on the carpeted mats too, but I would prefer to use one of the Miracle Brands USA products to ensure I don’t damage the mats when cleaning, but if you choice to power wash it make sure they are really dry before you put them back into the car. If they need a bit of a deeper clean, use a carpet brush or – what I used – was my ENJO Outdoor glove, which does a great job of deep cleaning the dirt and mud out.
I used to hate cleaning the dashboard, or more accurately, the gauge section of my dashboard, because whatever I sprayed on would then splatter onto the gauge glass. This is an added bonus of using ENJO and water – because you are cleaning everything with the same glove, you don’t need to worry about overspray or splatter – it all wipes streak free with the same cloth!
I start my car detailing at home with the windows and wash my way down the interior of the car using just these two cloths and water. Everything will be cleaner than if you had used chemicals, but you won’t have to worry about toxins seeping out in the hot sun for your kids to inhale. Did I mention this cleans streak free? – Even better than Windex.
It’s really important to clean out your glove box and console storage. Generally it houses insurance and manuals so I think it gets overlooked a lot of the time, but if you take the extra few minutes to go through it, you can check to see if you have all of the necessary paperwork (not expired insurance forms like I had), in one spot. As an added bonus, you can remove that old gunky package of gum that’s fallen to the bottom of your console as well.
It’s good to keep a copy of an accident report form in here as well – you never know when you’ll need it and it will direct you with all of the information you’ll need for the police and insurance. Sample printable form here.
I’ve looked up several car carpet and upholstery cleaning recipes and this one worked really well for me. Having said that, it isn’t necessary to wet clean your carpets at all – sometimes a thorough vacuum is enough.
Car upholstery cleaner
- 1 cup vinegar
- 2 tbsp baking soda
- 1 drop Dawn dishsoap
- ~ 5 cups water
Massage the solution into the carpets and then remove thoroughly with a wet/dry shop vac.
Once everything is clean and dry, I like to condition the vinyl on the dashboard, panels and console with a little “homemade Armor All”.
- 1 cup baby oil (available at the dollar store)
- 1/3 cup water
Apply to a clean terry cloth or sock and rub in a circular motion.
This is so much less expensive than purchasing the “real” stuff, and works just as well – plus you’ll know exactly what the ingredients are. Check out the results on my front fender – both sides have been washed and we’ve used an air dryer for cars to complete the finish, but in the bottom photo you can see how shiny and ‘moisturized’ it looks after a wipe down.
You can use this recipe for your tires as well, but you might find they need something a bit stronger – you can up the quantity of baby oil to get a deeper, longer lasting shine.
My photos are a little out of order here – I like to do the engine shampoo portion of my car detailing before washing the exterior of the car. The ENJO outdoor glove does a great job on it’s own (with water) in cleaning the gunk and grease out of your engine, but if you have a little extra build up that you want to get rid of use a small dot of Dawn dish soap to degrease. I know people don’t see your engine, but this one extra bit of maintenance will pay off if/when you ever decide to sell your car.
Just look – which photo leads you to believe this car is well taken care of?
Finish up the rest of your car detailing checklist (above) and your car will be better than new…
Almost. If it’s still not looking perfect, contact some Car Detailing Experts.
At least it will smell better than it did with the spilled milk and rotting leaves in it.
Thank you again Kate – for the infographic and for the inspiration to get the first of my many Spring cleaning tasks done!
Have a great one!