Ten Car Cleaning Secrets from the Pros!

The average commute to work across the world is 40 minutes, one way. That’s 80 minutes a day. That is A LOT of time to be driving – and a crazy amount of time to be stuck in your car. It probably feels even longer if your car is dirty or smells … not like roses. You probably dread your commute. Who wouldn’t? But there is no reason for you to dread even getting in your car too! I’ve discovered a bunch of cool and creative ways to clean your car that I can’t wait to share with you. Keep reading, try some (or all!) of them and hey – maybe soon you will smile instead of sighing when you hop into the car each day.

Exterior car cleaning routine

If you like to hand wash your car, here’s something you’ve got to start doing. Use two buckets to wash instead of just one. Find an exterior car cleaning product that suits your vehicle’s needs. I’d suggest going to the automotive department at your local big box store and finding out which product would work best for you. Make up that mixture per the bottle’s direction, in one bucket, and fill another other one with clean, warm water.

After each pass on your car with the sponge, dunk it in the bucket with just water, squeeze it out well (you can do this more than once if needed to get the sponge clean) and then you’re good to go to dunk it back in the bucket with soapy water. Car wash pros know to use two buckets because if you use only one bucket all you’re doing is taking dirt off the car, getting that dirt in the bucket with soapy water and putting it back on your car.

Beautify Tires, Rims or Hubs

In the time since I started Clean My Space I’ve tried a lot of things (some successful, others not really) to remove grease. And every time, I always end up circling back to reliable blue Dawn – yes, the dish soap. There are so many other uses for it than just on dishes, including getting grease off your car’s tires and hubs.

Fill a bucket with one teaspoon of Dawn and a gallon of warm water. Dip a soft sponge (use a new sponge and make it just for your tires and hubs) into the bucket, and squeeze out any extra water and soap. Scrub the rims and tires until all the visible grease and grime is gone. You will want to use a separate bucket of just clean water for this too, yes – it’s a similar concept to the first point. Same reason as with the car body – so you’re not dunking the dirty sponge right back into the soap and water. Once you’ve scrubbed the tires and rims enough with soap and water and you’re satisfied with how clean they are rinse them off with warm water from a hose or a new bucket of clean, warm water. The last step is dry the tires and rims with a clean, soft towel.

Bugs be gone

You’re driving on the highway and – SPLAT! – There’s one bug. SPLAT! There’s another. SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT! There are three more! It’s gross and unattractive to look at, and windshield washer fluid doesn’t do anything to remove them. What’s a driver to do? It’s easy – grab a bottle of cola and carefully apply some onto the affected windshield areas. Now, be super careful not to get any on paint because it will burn right through the finish.

Once the cola has had a moment to do its thing, use a clean rag or mesh bag from onions to remove the bugs without scratching the windshield. Rinse well with a hose or a bucket of clean water and this is important! If you omit washing off the sticky, syrupy drink off and you might as well post a welcome sign for the dirt and dust that’ll be attracted to the stickiness. Cola: it’s not just for drinking!

Squeaky door fix

Squeak… squeak … squeak: If your car doors sound like little mice, the fix is in your kitchen. Olive oil is a great lubricant and available in a pinch, especially if you don’t have (or choose not to use) and industrial lubricant. All you need to do is moisten a cotton ball with olive oil and wipe it on each door’s hinge. Use a new cotton ball for each door (it won’t look snow white after if you know what I mean). You can also fill a spray bottle with oil and give each hinge a few squirts.

Tar spot remover

If your car is covered in tar (look! I’m a poet!) mayonnaise (yep, you’re reading that right) will take it off without damaging the car’s finish. Apply a teeny bit (a few teaspoons) to a clean cotton rag. Rub the mayonnaise on the tar until it covers it completely. Wait at least 5 minutes, but no more than 10, and wipe off the mayonnaise with a different clean cloth. Mayonnaise is an amazing ingredient because it is strong enough to take off tar, but gentle enough so it won’t damage wax paint. And you can make egg salad with it after – well, not the same mayo…you know what I mean!

Don’t forget to check out Maker’s Clean line of premium products. From microfiber cloths to the Maker’s Mop, they have a great line of high-quality products that will help you take your cleaning game to the next level!

Deep clean car carpets

Before reaching for a vacuum, and if you want to try to avoid using one, you can try this instead. Keep a stiff bristle brush in your car (some folks use a nail brush to do this), and if you see ground in dirt, small stones, mud stains, etc. simply take the scrub brush and using quick, one directional motions, brush the dirt out of the carpets and onto the ground. The action combined with the stiff bristles pushes dirt and debris out of the carpet, saving you from at least one more day of having to vacuum.

Foggy headlights

For this trick you’ll need:
1) Old pantyhose
2) Toothpaste

Make dirty or fogged up headlights shine with toothpaste. Squeeze a bit onto your old pantyhose – which is soft enough so it won’t scratch or damage anything – and scrub away. Elbow grease required, but it’s worth it. (Don’t be grossed out or ashamed by the dirt that comes off). Rinse with water, wipe it again and dry completely with a soft towel. Now, you’ll have shinier headlights!

Deodorize the car

Leave an open bag of charcoal under one of the seats in your car for a couple of days; it will absorb any weird smells and you won’t be embarrassed to carpool or let friends in your car, or cringe at the thought of being in it yourself. Best of all, you can still use the charcoal for barbecuing after. You can also give the old standby, baking soda, a try. Sprinkle it generously onto the floor and seats (only if they’re made of fabric, not leather). Let it hang out there for a few hours, or overnight, and vacuum up. Be sure to get in all the little cracks and crevices. The baking soda will suck up strange odors and make the car smell, well, like nothing!

Car sickness quick fix

Believe it or not, club soda! Did your dog/kid/spouse get a little carsick? Use paper towel to scoop it all up, throw in a plastic bag and toss it out in your nearest (outdoor) garbage can. Dilute the stain that’s left behind with a small amount of club soda. Pour it slowly and directly onto the stain, let it hang out there for no more than five minutes and gently blot the stain until it’s dry using a dry, clean paper towel. Repeat if necessary.

BONUS: You can also use club soda to get bird poop off your windshield. Pour right onto the droppings and wait a few minutes. Turn on your wipers and that’s it!

Static car interior

Get static electricity on your side with latex gloves.   If you have a pet that a) sheds like crazy and b) travels in your car, odds are there is pet hair everywhere in your car – also a cause of funky smells. Put on a pair of latex gloves, dampen it slightly and rub your hand in one direction, against the grain, on the carpet and upholstery. The static electricity will drag your pet’s hair up to the surface for it to be vacuumed, just like that!

For more cleaning tricks check out our E-Book Bundle! It gives you three fantastic e-books full of cleaning secrets that I have learned throughout my 20 years in the cleaning business.

For more cool and unexpected uses for Dawn around the house, visit dawn-dish.com/beyondthesink!

I hope you enjoy your freshly cleaned car! How do you do keep your car clean? Let me know in the comments.

This article was done as part of a project I am working on with Dawn, to bring you some fantastic ‘new’ uses for it around the house!

Cool ways to clean your car using Dawn and some other items you already have in your home! #dawnbeyondthesink #ad

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases on amazon.com.

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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.


  1. Thanks so much for all your wonderful advise. I use it all the time every day.
    We recently bought a new car. Now we have bugs plastered to the paint on the hood, front of the car and painted bumper.

    What is the best way to remove them without damaging the shiny new paint job?

  2. Hi Melissa, thanks for this awesome cleaning tips! For the exterior car cleaning, any recommendation for exterior car cleaning product that usually suits the vehicle’s needs? Most selected by car owners?

  3. Oooo need to do headlight one. I washed my car for the first time in a year yesterday :/ And noticed the headlights had grime on it that I couldn’t get off. Will try the pantyhose!

  4. I think it is also worth making the tires look in order and shiny. That I think is also an important part of car cleaning that might have been slightly overlooked in this article.
    Making the tire shiny:
    1) clean it well and wait for it to dry up
    2) use alcohol or other strong degreasers to remove ALL the oil stains on a tire. In this way you will have completely clean tire
    3) When you have finally removed all the stains on your tire, it is time to add some tire dressing. That will make your tire have wet-shiny look that reminds people of the great maintainance
    4) Drive around with it and do not expose it to water too much. Water and bad weather conditions will remove the tire shine quite fast, so you do not want to expose your car to such conditions right after applying the tire dressing

    I think this can make your car cleaning complete, so your car will be completely shiny in the end.

  5. Probably not a good idea to use a charcoal that has trapped VOC. As you cook the carbon it will release the toxins right onto your food.

  6. Thanks. I need help with severely nasty car carpets….when we bought the car previous owner couldn’t get time to get those cleaned as we needed car soon….

    Kindly tell me best way to wash them at home without machine.

  7. Awesome tips! I’ll definitely be trying these. When I first got my used car, it reeked of cigarette smoke. I bought a $5 can of car shampoo from the store and it worked like magic to get the smell out! I put it on my two front seats and that was it! I think that the brush tip will help with my dirty rugs. Thanks so much for your help, Melissa!


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