If you spend a lot of time driving, you’ve likely noticed how dirty your car can get. From crumbs to pet hair to dust and grime, all kinds of unpleasant stuff can start accumulating. And if you haven’t been tidying up regularly, the idea of deep cleaning your car might sound like an all-day affair. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think, and best of all, there are a variety of clever hacks to get your car looking like new using items you likely already have at home — in record time. There’s no need to pay for a pricey commercial car wash or use chemical-laden cleaning products when you can try these tricks and hit the road in style.
1. Lift dust from dash and seats with a dryer sheet
To wipe away the layer of dust and pollen on your dash and seats, just grab a dryer sheet. “It’s gentle enough not to scratch your dashboard, and it has a static charge that traps dust,” says auto-cleaning expert Diana Rodriguez-Zaba of ServiceMaster Restoration.
For deep cleaning seats: “If leather seats require a deeper clean, combine ½ cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle and lightly spritz your seats,” she suggests. Let sit for 5 minutes, then wipe. Cloth seats? Simply replace the olive oil with dish soap, which will lift stains and residue instantly.
2. Shine windows with a produce bag
Ugh! Dirt, tree sap and pollen have formed a dingy film on your windshield. The easy fix: Grab a mesh produce bag — the kind onions, potatoes and lemons are all sold in, says Rodriguez-Zaba. “Spray down your windshield with a hose, sprinkle on some baking soda, then bunch up the bag and gently scrub.” The edges of the netting combined with the mild abrasiveness of the baking soda will gently lift stuck-on grime and debris.
3. Get tires gleaming with a mineral oil ‘buff’
Keep tires looking new with a simple DIY wax seal. “In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of mineral or baby oil, ½ cup of water, and two or three drops of liquid dish soap,” says Rodriguez-Zaba. “Shake well and spritz generously onto tires, then wipe with a clean cloth. This simple brew will clean your tires, as well as seal them, repelling dust and dirt the next time you go for a drive.”
4. Wash away grime with baby shampoo
The gentle way to wash your car? Just pour ¼ cup of baby shampoo into a bucket of warm water, then use a large sponge to wipe the car’s exterior and rinse with your hose. Auto expert Christopher Altschul, president of N/S Corporation, says, “The shampoo won’t strip the protective layers from your car, but it will bind to dirt and grime, leaving your vehicle looking new.” (Click through to discover why washing your car with dish soap can dull the exterior.)
5. Outsmart odors with a charcoal sock
Make odors “hit the road” by tucking charcoal into a sock and placing it in your cup holder. Charcoal absorbs smells and moisture, nixing mustiness. And to infuse your car with a fresh scent, consider whipping up an all-natural deodorizer, says Rodriguez-Zaba. “In a spray bottle, mix 1 cup of distilled water and 10 drops of the essential oil of your choice and spray the interior.”
6. Clean carpets with baby powder
If you recently took a trip to the great outdoors, chances are your car’s floors are looking a little worse for wear as you tracked outside elements into your vehicle. “Sand and pollen are the Bonny and Clyde of the car carpet world,” says Emma Barton, founder of Steam Clean Queen. They’re difficult to capture, and “Most vacuum cleaners won’t pick up these tiny particles because they get stuck to the carpet fibers.” One clever solution: Baby powder. Just sprinkle it over carpets before vacuuming — not only will it help remove any oily stains, it also breaks up the bond between the sand and the fibers, making it easy for your vacuum to pick debris right up.
7. Prevent corrosion with your sprinkler
The undercarriage of your car is susceptible to rust and corrosion over time, thanks to a build-up of dirt, says Ian Lang, senior car advice editor for Bumper. To clean it, just let your sprinkler run under your car for a few minutes — you may just need to reposition it a few times to get the entire underside. The water pressure will help remove potentially damaging debris.
8. Remove pet hair with a brush
Your dog loves riding in your car (and it’s so cute when they look out the window!) but every time they do this, they shed, leading to a pesky buildup of fuzz. The solution? Simply give your car’s carpets a quick swipe with an old hairbrush or stiff-bristle broom — the speedy “grooming” will easily lift stubborn pet hair.
9. Make your windshield sparkle with club soda
Club soda isn’t just good for cocktails. It can also work wonders as a quick and easy cleaner, both at home and in your car. If your windshield is looking worse for wear, the bubbly beverage can help. Club soda contains carbonic acid, which will eat through windshield dirt and grime. Just spray it on, let it sit a few minutes and wipe clean.
10. De-grime your grille with cooking spray
The key to a glistening grille can be found in your kitchen! To remove dirt from this part of your car, try spritzing on a layer of nonstick cooking spray, then let sit for 5 minutes. The oil in the spray will break down the grime so you can easily wipe it away with a soft cloth.
Find even more car-cleaning tips here!