A professional valet service might charge you between £50 and £100 for a valet service. While the results might be fantastic, the impact on your bank balance is unnecessary. If you have the time and the will, you can do an equally amazing job for a fraction of the price.
No one wants to travel in a dirty, smelly car. But the need for cleanliness and order isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s a matter of safety. After all, you don’t want rubbish and empty bottles interfering with your foot pedals.
Cleaning a car’s interior like the professionals is probably easier than you think. If you take the right approach, you’ll never have to call on the services of a professional cleaner again.
Before you clean anything, you need to empty your car of every unnecessary item. If it isn’t nailed down or essential for driving, either throw it away, recycle it or store it away. The only way you’ll be able to clean your car effectively is by ridding it of clutter and rubbish.
Clean the dashboard
The best place to start cleaning a car’s interior is the dashboard. This is something you can do while sitting in the front seats. And you don’t have to worry about your dirty shoes if you haven’t yet cleaned your car’s carpets.
How you clean your dash is up to you. There are several different options, and most of them deliver great results.
- Use dedicated dashboard wipes
- Use a clean cloth and a little hot water with dishwashing detergent
- Use a household glass cleaner
- Use a solution of water and white vinegar
- Use a multipurpose cleaner
If you’re cleaning a leather dashboard, make sure that the cleaning agent you use won’t cause permanent damage.
Start with the dirtiest areas. There may be old food, spillages, insects or greasy stains that require some detailed cleaning. A kitchen sponge with a scouring pad might help you to remove stubborn accumulations.
Work from the driver’s side along, and limit cleaning to small sections to ensure every square inch is covered. Don’t forget the steering wheel, the gearstick and the center console. If it’s easier, start this process with the door — and the door pockets.
There are always little nooks and crannies on a car’s dashboard that prove almost impossible to clean with a cloth. If you need to remove accumulations of dirt and grime in these areas, you might find that a cotton bud works wonders.
Don’t forget the buttons and dials
One of the areas people find difficult to clean are those nooks and crannies around buttons, dials and switches. To ensure you remove every last speck of dirt, “pick” out dirt with something small but flat to get in to every little gap. You can then use a toothbrush and a little white vinegar to give these inaccessible areas a good clean.
Clean the windows
Windows inside the average family car can get very greasy and dirty. People wipe them down with their hand when condensation occurs. Passengers also have a tendency to lie their head on the glass when they’re resting.
To clean a car window effectively, you’ll need a clean microfibre cloth. While you can use a dedicated window cleaner, a solution of water and white vinegar works just as well.
If you have tinted windows, check the car manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines before proceeding. Certain cleaners can cause permanent damage to the tinting agents used. And make sure your chosen cleaner doesn’t contain ammonia. This can cause serious damage to the leathers and plastics used in car interiors.
Clean your windows with a smooth, circular motion. Once you’re happy that the dirt, grease and grime is gone, dry the windows with a clean microfibre cloth — using the same circular motion.
Tip: Use either a microfibre cloth or paper towels for cleaning car windows. They are great for removing tough stains without causing streaking.
Cleaning upholstery and carpets
Cleaning dashboards and windows isn’t too difficult. Professional car cleaners earn their money by performing wonders on upholstered seats and carpets.
Start by removing all of your car’s mats. Shake the excess dirt from them outside, and vacuum them to remove debris that’s stuck within the fibres. Use a garden hose or a pressure washer to clean them. But if there are any stubborn stains, make sure you treat them with an upholstery cleaner first. Let the mats air dry outside while you move on to the carpets.
Vacuuming a car is perhaps the single most important thing any valet service does. If done correctly, this alone can breathe new life into a dirty car. But you’ll need the right tools for the job. A small, lightweight handheld vacuum cleaner is perfect for the job. Shark’s Lift-Away technology is ideal.
Start in the front of the car. Push the seats as far back as they go. Using an upholstery nozzle and a crevice tool, vacuum the floors thoroughly. And make sure you clean right up to the dash and down the side of the seats.
If you have a vinyl foot mat sewn into the floor of your car, use a thick-bristle brush to clear any dust and debris. Vacuum the entire area, and then wipe it down with a wet cloth.
Cleaning under the seats of a car is always tricky. This is where your full range of vacuum tools comes into its own. The long crevice tool and the upholstery attachment are particularly good at accessing such a tricky area.
This is painstaking work, and there are no shortcuts. But as long as you have a powerful vacuum cleaner, the job shouldn’t be too taxing.
Clean your seats
If you have leather seats, cleaning is relatively quick and easy. Just make sure that you’re not using cleaning agents that might cause damage. A soft brush, a microfibre cloth and a little saddle soap should be sufficient.
Tip: When cleaning leather seats, always try out your chosen agent on a small, hidden area. If it does cause damage, no one will be able to see it.
Cleaning upholstered seats is a little trickier. Before you do anything, refer to your car’s manual for cleaning instructions. There may be certain agents and chemicals that have the potential to cause damage.
The first thing to do is vacuum your seats thoroughly. Use a specialised carpet or upholstery cleaner to remove dirt and stains. Never use window cleaners on fabric. If you’re dealing with stubborn stains, a household stain removal agent might deliver results. There are upholstery shampoos for cars on the market, but they tend to be expensive.
A few final touches
If you’ve cleaned your seats, there will be a lot of moisture in your car. And this might cause bad odours and mould over time. Open all the doors in your car to give everything a chance to air dry. This is why it’s always best to clean the interior of a car on a sunny day.
Put all your accessories, mats and possessions back in your car once everything is dry. And introduce a little “new car” smell with the use of an air freshener.
Cleaning a car’s interior isn’t rocket science, but it requires hard work, patience and the right tools for the job. Get it right, and you could save yourself a fortune on valet charges.