Spring Cleaning Time: 7 Expert Car Cleaning Tips for a Spiffy Ride

car cleaning tips

How much does a car’s appearance matter? Surprisingly, 76% of survey respondents said that they would not buy a reliable car if they didn’t like how it looks. 

Your car could be a super snazzy car, like maybe a Lamborghini, but if it were dirty it would still look like a pig-sty. Okay, maybe a Lamborghini can never look like a pig-sty but you get the point.

Car appearance is important and your car’s cleanliness is a big part of that. 

Wondering how to get your car looking its best? Check out these seven fantastic car cleaning tips. 

1. The Bug Problem

Before you begin washing, take a moment to look at the front of your car. Chances are, it is covered with bug guts from unlucky critters who found themselves unceremoniously splattered all over your grill and bumper.

These can be hard to get off with just soap and water. You can do it, but you’ll have to scrub hard, which isn’t good for your car’s finish.

What do you do instead?

Used dryer sheets come to the rescue! Simply rub the sheets over the bug splatters and then wash your car as usual. You’ll find those sticky bug guts are much easier to remove. 

2. The Right Soap Matters

Soap is soap, right? If it’s good enough for your dishes, it’s good enough for your car. After all, technically you want your dishes to be cleaner than your car.


It’s never a good idea to use dish soap to clean your car. Dish soap is formulated to thoroughly remove tough food stains and cut through grease. That degreasing effect can suck the oils right out of your paint.

Once or twice in a pinch is no big deal. But if you wash your vehicle on a regular basis with dish soap, you’ll be needing a new paint job far sooner than you expected.

To further protect your finish, only use soft materials to wash your car. A soft car wash mitt is a perfect choice.

Keep in mind that as you wash your car dirt and grit will get stuck in the mitt. Rinse it out periodically as you wash so those little bits don’t scratch your finish. 

3. Clay-Bar It

No matter how well you wash your car with a mitt, you’ll never get all the dirt off your car. Your car can hurtle down the road at quite a good clip. This means that some of the dirt that strikes your car will embed itself into the paint.

Soap and water and a hand mitt will never coax those particles out. Scrubbing it is also a no-no because you don’t want to scratch the paint. 

So what do you do? You clay-bar it.

A clay bar kit comes with lubricating spray and a few pieces of synthetic clay. Flatten out a piece and pass it over your car. You’ll see the grime appear on the clay. Fold it over and re-flatten to use a new section. Once it turns gray it’s time for a new piece. 

4. Shiny Finish? Gotta Polish!

Do you want to be able to see your reflection in your car’s finish? Then you have to polish it!

Polishing and waxing are two different things, although sometimes people confuse them. Wax does add a bit of shine but it’s more about protecting the car from the elements. Polishing is where it’s at if you want a gleaming gorgeous car.

You can hand polish a car, but it will take a while and a lot of elbow grease. If you plan to be doing your own car washing on a regular basis you should invest in a polishing machine for this step.

5. Wax On, Wax Off

Now it’s time for the finishing touch. The type of wax you choose matters for the finished product. You may love the warm look that carnauba wax provides. Or you might prefer the glossy look that you can get from synthetic wax. Don’t hesitate to try a few to see which you like best.

Using a foam applicator, apply the wax in a smooth, swirling motion. Wipe off the excess and buff the surface with a microfiber cloth. Step back and admire your handiwork. 

Bet you didn’t know that properly washing your car was so much work? And we haven’t even gotten to the inside yet!

What if you don’t want to go through all these steps but still want your car to look spiffy? Then check out this website or others like it in your area to have your car professionally cleaned and detailed.

6. Dash Detailing

Now your car is gleaming in the sunshine, but what about the inside of the car? You don’t want it to be a pig-sty inside either. Time to get out the toothbrush and get to work.

The dash is full of nooks, crannies, and crevices where dirt likes to accumulate and hang out. An old toothbrush works well to get the particles out of your car.

You may want to hold the hose of a vacuum cleaner in your other hand while you scrub. Suctioning up the dust before it settles somewhere else in the car will ensure a more thorough result.

Once you’ve got the crevices clean, pull out a bit of olive oil and rub it all over your dash. Not only does this add a nice shine, but also it conditions the leather and helps it to retain moisture. This makes it much less likely to crack in the long run.

7. Vacuum and Vacuum Again

Once you get the dash squeaky clean, it’s time to focus on the seats and floors. Vacuum first to get all the big debris out of the way. 

A carpet cleaning machine works great on the floors and also the seats if they are cloth. You can rent a machine for this job, or opt for a spray on cleaner you can use with a scrub brush and some elbow grease.

Once you’re all done, do another quick sweep with the vacuum.

More Car Cleaning Tips

There you have it! The car cleaning basics. If you are looking for even more tips and tricks, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to car detailing.