A Step-By-Step Guide To Deep Cleaning Your Car

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  July 26, 2021
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Introduction

Man and woman cleaning their car

Is your car starting to look a little like a trash heap inside? Are your family coming into your car and giving you insults every time? Well, maybe it’s time to start deep cleaning your car.

Now, the term deep cleaning may put off a lot of people. After all, it sounds like a lot of effort and it also sounds difficult. Fear not, fellow vehicle lovers, for a good deep cleaning session does not need to be like conducting rocket science.

In fact, it can be fairly simple. All you need is the right gear at your disposal, a little bit of elbow grease and a little bit of time from your lazy Sunday morning. 

Trust us, it’s worth it to get your family off your back! 

Today, we’re here to give you the 411 on deep cleaning your car, from all the gear that you will need to the method of cleaning. By the end of this, your car will look like something fresh off the showroom floor. Keep on reading to find out more! 

What You Will Need To Clean The Car

What You Will Need To Clean The Car

Your car interior once started off looking spectacular. If you don’t want your car to look like one of the worst car interiors out there, then you need to act fast. It’s time to head to your local automotive store, or give Jeff Bezos a little bit of your cash on an Amazon shop to get the gear that you need in order to clean your car.

Chemicals You Will Need

The first thing that you are going to need to do is get your chemicals together. Chemicals are going to help you to get rid of any tough stains inside of your car, and on the outside.

For instance, you are going to need a window cleaner to get rid of streaks on the window. This could be a strong solution, or it could be something as simple as some vinegar solution that you can make at home.

For things like carpets, there are special cleaning solutions that you can use specifically for car carpets. Alternatively, it’s possible to use some baking soda first to remove any smells that may be sticking around a little too long.

It’s always important that you double check that the cleaning solution you use can be used on the part of the car in question. If you have seats that are made out of leather or vinyl, for instance, it’s imperative that you don’t use any products on them that contain hydrogen peroxide or bleach.

Clay Bar Kit

If you want the car to look fantastic from the outside, then you’re going to need to invest in a clay bar kit. These are good as they are designed to help to improve and protect the paint on your car.

They’re usually a better choice for keeping your paint job in good condition than waxing is. When you have a clay bar kit, you also don’t need to go to a dealership to get your paint in better conditions. 

There are a few different things that you should consider when buying a clay bar kit, such as the compound strength based on your needs, whether they can be used on glass and what brand you use.

Make sure that you get one that’s high quality, well sized for your car and one that will be durable enough to withstand the cleaning process. You’ll need a lubricant with it too, so double check that the kit you buy comes with one.

Car Air Freshener Spray

There’s nothing quite like that new car smell. If you want to achieve that smell then it’s a good idea to invest in a car air freshener spray. This will help you to get a fresh smelling car that you can enjoy driving in. Of course, it’s important to mention that your car is different from your house.

That means that it’s better for you to get a specific spray especially for cleaning your car, rather than picking up any air freshener from your local grocery store. You should choose a scent that you will love too. Just don’t go overboard with the smells, otherwise you’ll be coughing thanks to breathing in too many fumes!

Hoover

Since you are going to need to clean the carpets and any debris in the car, it’s a good idea to invest in a decent hoover that you can use in order to clean your car.

This can simply be your normal hoover that you use around the house, but it’s a good idea to get a hoover that you can use especially for your car.

A cordless vacuum is a good idea since you won’t have to deal with electrical cables and making sure that you have enough cord to get to every nook and cranny in the car.

Ensure that your hoover has good enough suction and that it will last for quite a while just on battery power. This will surely help you.

Cleaning Gloves

When you’re deep cleaning your car you’re going to be coming into contact with a lot of chemicals and substances. Sometimes it’s better not to get these sorts of substances onto your bare skin.

As you are cleaning your car, it’s a good idea to buy some cleaning gloves to do the job in order to protect your skin. These are usually latex gloves, but you can get others if you are allergic to latex. You don’t need anything fancy – just something to protect your hands.

Automotive Part Cleaner 

You will save yourself a lot of time when cleaning your car if you have an automotive parts cleaner. Get a special one that will clean your car parts in a flash. In addition to this, it can be worth getting a parts washer, which is especially useful if you will be deep cleaning cars on a regular basis.

You can get ultrasonic cleaners that will essentially do most of the work for you, and you can work on cleaning the rest of the car while the cleaner is sorting out the parts. They’re relatively affordable, meaning you don’t need to spend a lot of time scrubbing and it helps to improve the performance of your vehicle too.

Alternatively, you can just get a dedicated parts cleaning solution and a high quality car brush. It will likely take you more time, but at least you can be certain that it’s thorough. 

Cleaning Wipes

You may think that cleaning wipes are unnecessary, but they’re actually incredibly helpful. They can mean that you can clean your car easily and without spending too much time on it.

Simply keep a pack in your car and you can wipe down any stains as you go, outside of your regular deep cleaning sessions. They can wipe down most parts of your car too, from the seats to the exterior. It’s certainly worth investing in a pack of cleaning wipes if you want your car to stay consistently clean.

Cloth

Finally, you are going to need to get a good cleaning cloth for your car. It’s usually best to get a microfiber towel since it will cause the least damage to your car. These things are useful since they can absorb things well and they are very soft.

You also don’t need to buy new ones all the time – simply put them in the laundry after you have finished using them and you can just use them again. Buying a multipack is useful if you are going to be cleaning your car regularly, so it’s worth keeping that in mind.

How To Clean Your Car Step-By-Step

How To Clean Your Car Step-By-Step

Now that you have all of your gear together, it’s time to start cleaning your car. Whether you’re getting it ready for a sale or you’re looking to make your ride feel a little more exciting, it’s important that you do a good job. Here’s your step by step guide on how to clean your ride like a pro. 

Clean Out All Of The Trash In The Car

The first thing to do is to clean out the trash in your car. There are a number of ways to do this. All you really need to do though is get some trash bags and remove anything that’s cluttering up your car.

Are there clothing or other items in there that you can put elsewhere? Make sure that you put any leftover takeaway wrappers that you may have in your car in the trash bags. Remove any papers that may be in your glove box.

Ultimately, you just need to get rid of all of the trash before you can get started on cleaning the rest of the car. 

Clean The Floor Mats

Once everything has been taken out of the car, it is then time to get to work on cleaning the interior. One of the first things to do, and arguably the easiest, is to clean the floor mats.

The first thing that you need to do is take the mats out of the car. This is because you will be using products on the mats to clean them, and it’s often best to avoid getting these on the remainder of your car.

When you take the mats out, you should then give them a thorough shake. This will help to remove any of the debris that’s still sitting on the mats. Wash them down using a pressurized water hose and put some soap on the mat using a little bit of spray or a rag.

If the stains don’t come off easily, it can help to use some baking soda to remove them. When you have done this, you can then hose the soap off the mat and leave them out to dry. It’s usually best to hang them on a railing or a coat hanger and allow them to air dry. 

Of course, this is the best strategy for rubber car mats. The process can slightly vary for cloth floor mats. It’s always best to consult the guidelines listed on the box of the car mats as this will give you the best cleaning instructions for the particular product. It isn’t a one size fits all process, after all. 

Clean The Seats Of The Car

You might think that the next best thing to do is to clean the floors that are underneath the mats, but this is not the case. You should try to clean off the seats first, since there will be things like animal hair and other debris on the seats that will end up on the floor once you wipe them off.

Cleaning your car seats is important, since they are full of sweat and debris from when you have sat in them. Your car will look and smell better when you clean the seats.

When cleaning the seats, it’s usually best to start off by vacuuming the seats. Use a soft brush head for this. The way that you clean them from this point onwards will depend on the kind of seats that you have.

The method will vary – if you have leather seats, then you can just use some leather cleaning wipes or a bit of mild soap. You can then buff it using a bit of dry cloth.

Use an all purpose cleaner for cloth car seats, or you can use a carpet cleaner for any particularly challenging stains. You can also use all purpose cleaners for vinyl upholstery too. It’s usually best to just clean the seats based on the material that they are made out of.

Wash The Windows, The Rear Windows & Windshield

Your car windows are vital since they help you to see outside of your car. It would be pretty hard for you to drive if you couldn’t see properly out of the windows and the windshield. It’s important that you clean all of the windows in your car thoroughly, but sometimes streaks can crop up and get in the way.

Cleaning your windows and windshield doesn’t need to be difficult, however. Getting a good quality window cleaner or automotive glass cleaner can certainly make things a lot easier for you, as we mentioned in the first section of this article. You’ll also need a bucket of distilled water and a cleaning cloth.

Start cleaning your windows when you are in the shade. It’s important that the car is cool to the touch as the water and the cleaner can evaporate far too quickly when the car is in the heat.

Then, start cleaning the rear and the front windows. Mix your spray together if needed and spray it onto the car, wiping the windows down afterwards.

It can often help to clean in lots of different directions as you can see smudges and spots much easier this way. This may mean wiping up and down inside of the car and left to right on the outside.

Make sure that you are also rolling down the windows to clean the top of the glass.

When cleaning the interior of the windows, don’t spray the solution right onto the glass. This can result in making the rest of the car damp, which is never a good idea.

Instead, you should spray the solution onto the towel and clean the windows accordingly. Make your way through all of the windows in the car one by one, and use a sweeping motion to wipe them from top to bottom. The same goes for the windshield.

Clean The Windshield Wipers

Your windows are only one part of the equation, of course! You should also make sure that your windshield wipers are clean and working well.

Simply get a wet cloth and wipe the blades clean to get rid of any dirt that has built up on them. A wiper treatment can also be helpful as it will help to make the wipers last for a longer duration of time.

If you are going into the winter months you should use a formula that has an antifreeze solution so you don’t have any issues when the air gets cold.

Brush out The Dust Out Of The Air Vents

This part may seem a little tricky since you’re dealing with the inner workings of the car, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge. You should be trying to clean out the air vents in your car every six months or so.

You can do this by starting off with spraying a little bit of compressed air into the vents. It will help to disturb any of the dirt that’s stuck inside of the vents.

When you have done this, you can then get a powerful vacuum and remove any of the loose dirt from the vents. Wipe down any vent slots using a cloth, and change the air filter.

Some air vents can be particularly problematic if they smell like cigarette smoke or other odors. In this case, you may need to do some additional things.

Thankfully, it’s a fairly simple solution – just spray a little bit of aerosol cleaner into the vents to make it smell better while you are running the air conditioning. If you are still concerned then an auto detailer can steam clean the vents.

Clean The Car’s Interior

This may possibly be the biggest task of all. That’s right folks, it’s time to clean out the interior of your car. This involves wiping down the surfaces inside of your car that you haven’t already cleaned before now.

Using a toothbrush can help you to get hair and debris away from the little buttons in your car. Make sure that you wipe around where your steering wheel is, the gear stick and any small spaces. You can use wipes for this.

Once you have wiped everything down, you can then grab the vacuum cleaner. Clean the seats if any new debris has made its way onto them, vacuum the floor. Clean underneath the seats and in any other small spaces that need to be cleaned. 

Clean Nooks And Crannies

There are some places in your car that are going to be a little more difficult to reach. Nevertheless, these places need to be cleaned! There are a couple of things that you can do to make cleaning these areas a little easier for you.

For instance, you can get a paint stick to help you out. You can spray the areas that are hard to reach like in between the seats and seat cushions and allow the spray to stay there for a while. You can then clean the area with some paint sticks.

You can use toothbrushes to get in the little cracks in the backs of the seats. Q tips can also be very useful for particularly tight spaces. Make sure that you’re also cleaning underneath the shelf in your trunk, and use small vacuum cleaner attachments for hard to reach areas.

Slide The Seats Forward And Vacuum Inside The Car

When you’re done with all of the steps mentioned above, make sure that you take the time to vacuum the floor of your car. Don’t just vacuum it and call it a day – you should be sliding the seats forward to get into any areas that you may have missed. When you have thoroughly vacuumed your car, you can then move onto the next steps.

Clean The Car Carpet

We’ve already mentioned some brief things about cleaning the carpets of your car, but in case you need more information, you’re in luck! Grab your cordless vacuum – you should have already slid the seats forward and vacuumed by now, but it’s worth keeping it on hand.

You can use the different attachments for the vacuum to clean the carpet much more easily. Make sure that you are cleaning in any edges and corners and underneath the pedals.

You should then put some car carpet shampoo onto the floor. Alternatively, a laundry detergent can also clean the floors quite thoroughly.

If you are using a shampoo then you should make sure that you carefully follow the instructions on the product to ensure that it’s all done correctly.

For particularly dirty carpets, steam cleaners can also be a good choice. Finally, rinse out the carpets using a damp cloth and allow it to air dry for an hour or so until it’s dry.

Clean The Headlights

If you want to make sure that your headlights are working properly so that you can see during particularly dark nights, then you will want to take the time to clean them. You can use a number of household products to do this such as vinegar, but you can also use car polish or window cleaner to do it, since you will have some leftover after cleaning all of the windows in your car.

It’s fairly simple to do too. Add a little bit of masking tape around the perimeter of the headlights to keep the rest of your car safe, then put some window cleaner on the headlight.

Let it stay there for a little while and then apply polish with a different cloth. Rub it in a circular motion, then rinse it off. Finally, dry it with a microfiber towel. If you would like to do so, then you can also put a coat of car wax on it to finish the look. 

Freshen Up The Air In The Car

This is where you bring back that new car smell! Make sure that you have some windows open to allow the smell of any chemicals or musty smells to escape from the car.

Then, you can use a car air freshener to make the air smell a lot better. Make sure that you get a smell that you like since you are going to be putting up with that smell for a while.

If you want your car to smell nice for a longer duration of time, make sure that you don’t keep any trash in your car and that you don’t smoke in there. You can also spray the air freshener whenever you feel that it is needed.

Wash The Whole Car From The Outside

This is the perfect time to blast Christina Aguilera’s Car Wash. You don’t have to wear a pair of short shorts, but you can do whatever makes you enjoy your time more! When you have done this, your car will look amazing once more since any dirt and stains will be removed from the exterior of the vehicle.

Cleaning the exterior of your car doesn’t need to be difficult, and you don’t need any fancy materials for it either. First, grab a bucket and head off to your nearest faucet. Then, fill the bucket with a little bit of soapy water and then scrub away using a towel.

You should make sure that you are changing the water on a regular basis so that you aren’t cleaning the car with the water that you have just dirtied. It’s worth going in circular motions to make sure that you clean every spot of the exterior of the car.

To get rid of any standing water, slam the boot and the doors shut and then give your car a quick drive around the block. This will help it to air dry a lot quicker before you try to polish the car. This is the ideal time to take a quick break if you need it! 

Wash The Wheels

Cleaning the wheels of your car is fairly simple, so long as you have the right gear to do it. It’s best to get a spray wheel cleaner to get the job done. Spray the wheels with a little bit of water – a pressure washer will be your best friend for this.

You can then spray the wheel cleaner on the wheels – follow the instructions for guidance. Wash them using a bit of automotive cleaner, and then completely rinse the wheels. You’re done! 

Pluck The Finish

It’s now time to pluck the finish! You can do this using your clay bar kit that we mentioned earlier on. Try to prepare the clay in advance – there will likely be instructions for this on the product.

Tear each piece into four smaller sections then flatten it into the palm of your hand. Make sure that you then rub the clay into the paint, moving back and forth.

Keep folding the clay up against itself and knead it until it turns a gray color. You can then use fresh pieces until you get to the point where the finish is ready. Make sure that you are using the lubricating spray as instructed.

Polish The finish

The final step is to polish the car before it’s ready to be driven! You can do this simply by following the instructions on the product. Buff in the product to get that shine that you are looking for, and everyone is sure to be impressed by the shine coming off your vehicle! 

Get A Car Trash Can

Consider this our final tip! If you want to make sure that your car trash can is kept squeaky clean in the future, it’s a good idea to ensure that you have an easy way to maintain the cleanliness of your car in between cleaning sessions.

No, this does not mean tossing the trash right back into the footwell of the passenger seat. Instead, we are referring to car trash cans! If you’re going to make any investment for the sake of the cleanliness of your car, a car trash can is what you need.

You can get a number of different kinds of car trash cans on the market, so it’s worth shopping around to see what would work for you.

For instance, you can get cup holder trash cans that will simply fit in the cup holder of your car – these are perfect for little bits of debris that you want to throw away.

Floor trash cans are a great choice too – you can get this with adhesive or gripped bottoms to ensure that they don’t slide around, and they have plenty of space for those takeaway wrappers on your next road trip.

Make a decision based on the durability, budget and the features of the car trash can, and you’ll be good to go. It’s certainly better than making your car look like a mess by tossing trash around your car everywhere.

Summary

Woman washing her car

Cleaning your vehicle really has never been easier. The steps mentioned above are simple to follow, and you are sure to have a glowing car in no time. It’ll be all ready to show off to your friends or to sell to a new buyer! We hope that these tips can help you to get the results that you are looking for.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Good Car Keeping is a content marketer, dad and loves to keep his car nice and shiny, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2021 to help loyal readers with cleaning and maintenance tips.