7 Expert Car Cleaning Tips! (Exterior and Interior Car Cleaning)

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If you live in a big city, you probably spend a lot of time in your car. For example, I live in the suburbs just outside of Toronto, and, for those of you who don’t know, Toronto has traffic that rivals that of New York and Los Angeles. With all that traffic, it’s easy to spend a lot of time in your car. 

I definitely enjoy the occasional snack and/or drink in the car, and it can get a little messy over time if I’m not careful. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to spend a lot of time in messy spaces. 

That’s why we’re going over some great exterior and interior car cleaning tips today, including car seat cleaning, how to clean windshield wipers, DIY car dashboard cleaner, cabin air filter change, and more! So fasten your seatbelt, and let’s get into it!

1. Car Seat Cleaning

Whether it’s spilled crumbs, pet hair, dirt, dust, or anything else, car seats can get real dirty real fast. A great, easy hack for cleaning car seats quickly and dealing with spilled crumbs and the like is keeping a quality lint roller handy. 

Lint rollers are lifesavers for interior car cleaning! These handy little tools can easily zip up little messes, spills, or pet-hair patches, quickly and efficiently. I’ve kept one in my car for years, and honestly, I use it several times a week.

2. Car Cleaning Tools

When it comes to car cleaning, the devil is in the details. Cars are just full of little nooks, crannies, and seams. These areas love dirt, food, dead skin cells, and hair. How do you get them clean? You get yourself some detailing tools. 

Luckily, you don’t need to buy expensive car cleaning tools to clean your car. Instead, you can often use inexpensive items and things you already have around the house. An old toothbrush, a paintbrush, or an old makeup brush are perfect for getting into those tight spots. You can even use a cotton swab or a pipe cleaner if it fits the job. Any of these little things will help you get into those cracks, crevices, and crannies. And keeping them in the glove box means they’re there when you need them.

makeups brushes

3. DIY Car Dashboard Cleaner & Console Cleaner

There are a lot of fancy products out there for cleaning consoles and dashboards. But to be perfectly honest, you don’t need them! You can make a super simple DIY cleaner that works just as well as store-bought and costs a lot less! Here’s my recipe:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of dish soap
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar

Put that in a spray bottle, and give it a shake. You can use this to clean pretty much any surface on the interior of your car. But, there is a caveat! Before you do a full clean with any solution, do a test of a small, hidden area first, and check with your car manufacturer to see what is safe or not safe to use on the interior of your car. And if your interior is leather, skip this recipe and buy a specialty product specifically for leather.  

Melissa Maker in a car with a microfiber cloth cleaning the dashboard

4. How to Clean Windshield Wipers

Have you ever turned on your windshield wipers and noticed you start getting weird streaky spots on your glass? There’s a simple reason and a simple fix for this. Just like everything else, your windshield wiper blades start to build up dirt and gunk on them. Then, when they wipe back and forth on the glass, they spread that gunk around and don’t do as good of a job at removing precipitation. 

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this. All you have to do is clean the blades regularly. Before you groan and say, “Melissa, I don’t want to clean my windshield wipers!” hold up! Cleaning your windshield wipers is as simple as moistening a paper towel with rubbing alcohol. Hold the wiper up with one hand, and give it a few long strokes the whole length of the blade with your moist paper towel. That’s literally it, and when you’re done, you’ll see all that nasty grime come off on the paper towel. 

windshield wipers

5. Cabin Air Filter Change 

If you ever noticed that your car smells a little bit funky or musty, or you’re not getting the kind of airflow that you really want, it probably means that it’s time for you to change your cabin air filter. Now, I know: out of sight, out of mind, but these things do need to be changed periodically. 

Changing the cabin air filter in your car is similar to changing out your furnace filters. All cars have at least one air filter, but they’re in different places depending on the vehicle. Often, air filters are under the glovebox and will require a screwdriver to remove and replace. I recommend checking your owner’s manual to find your air filter. Changing your air filter is easier than it sounds, but if it feels too intimidating, ask your mechanic to do it for you next time you go in for an oil change. It’s a service most dealerships and service centers offer. 

6. DIY Hubcap Scrub

Your tire rims (or hubcaps) are to your car, what your sink is to your kitchen. If they look clean, everything else looks clean too. So, when you’re cleaning your car, make sure that you give your rims or hubcaps some extra attention. To do this, just make up a simple tire scrub solution

  • 1 quart of water
  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of dish soap

Mix all of these ingredients together, then use a sponge or a soft brush to start scrubbing your rims. When that’s done, give it a quick rinse and then buff it dry with a microfiber cloth. Your hubcaps will be the envy of the whole neighborhood! 

clean car tires

7. Clean on the Regular

Perhaps some of the best advice I can give you is to just keep your car clean on a regular basis. To do this, I recommend keeping all your car cleaning tools in the glovebox or trunk. Then when you have a few minutes, let’s say you’re picking your kids up, but you’re a little early, just grab your dashboard cleaner and microfiber cloth and give everything a quick wipe down. Go over the seats with your lint roller, hit up those nooks and crannies with your little tools. 

The more often you stay on top of cleaning, the less often you’ll need to do a big clean. You can keep your car looking pretty good in just minutes. And that’s good enough for any day-to-day car ride. 

Car Cleaning Tips

We don’t think about cleaning our cars as much as we think about cleaning our homes. But sometimes cars become our second homes, and it’s important for our mental health and happiness to keep places we frequent often looking fresh and clean. 

If you’re looking for more car cleaning tips, check out my articles Car Interior Cleaning: The Ultimate Guide, 10 Car Cleaning Myths Debunked, Ten Car Cleaning Secrets from the Pros!, and The Busy Mom’s Car Cleaning Routine. May your cars be as clean as your homes!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Melissa,
    I’ve been using your cleaning tips and recipes for years. Not only did your recommended interior car cleaner work like a charm today on the dash and console, it did a fabulous job on the cloth seats as well! Thanks!
    Cindy
    (Mom of 3 Active Boys, 9, 11, 12)

  2. Do you have any tips for getting dog hair off of cloth seats? I’ve tried vacuuming, using a lint roller, using tape, and none of these remove the hair.

  3. Melissa, there’s a lot of long stick/ pole in my car. Things like long umberlla, long snow shovels, long dust cleaner pole, etc. I would like to know how to stay organized them, able to keep all of them in the car while still able to pull them out ASAP when needed?

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