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The DIY Files

How to clean your car like a pro

From 'how often' to 'how to reach the tricky spots,' experts share 7 of their best tips

Published July 31, 2013
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By Jess Davidson for Wheels.ca

From spilled coffee to roadtrip refuse, a car’s interior takes a beating each summer. Canadians spend an average of five hours a week in their vehicles, so it’s no surprise that cars can become something of a mess. But between trips to cottage country, jaunts to farmer’s markets and drives to the beach, who has time to clean?

Experts suggest you should find the time, and fairly often.

“The interior of your vehicle should be cleaned at least once a week to get rid of bacteria build-up and surface dirt,” says Karen Fuoco, Canadian Tire’s Car Cleaning business manager.

If 52 cleanings a year sounds like a stretch (and for most it probably is, given that Canadian Tire data found that the vast majority — 75 per cent — of Canadians clean their car less than every few months), perhaps a little inspiration is required. To aid your cleaning quest, we’ve gathered advice from a few pros to help you keep your ride in tip-top shape.

1: Focus on a few key areas

Bacteria is likely to be found in spots in your car that are used the most, or that come into contact with things like overflowing double-doubles or icy beverages.

“Surfaces touched most frequently, like the steering wheel, door handles and cup holder, are usually the dirtiest places inside your vehicle,” says Fuoco.

She recommends starting with the basics — clear out the garbage, loose change and junk from inside your car. Next, wipe down those hot spots with an interior cleaner such as Tub O’ Towels to remove surface stains, spills and debris.

2: Use products made specifically for cars

In addition to using an auto-specific cleanser to disinfect the oft-touched surfaces, seek out cleaning products made for cars to keep surfaces shining. Use an auto-glass cleaner along with a lint-free glass finishing cloth on your interior windows to improve visibility, and remove film build-up and streaks. Using a regular household cleaner can damage the tint found on all car windows, Fuoco explains.

But there is one exception: for hard-to-reach places that cannot be easily vacuumed, Fuoco suggests using a toothbrush to move the dirt to an accessible spot and clean it up from there.

3: After you clean, don’t forget to condition

Take that extra step to keep your interior in the best shape possible. For leather seats, start with a leather-specific cleaner to gently remove dirt and stains. To keep your leather looking new, don’t forget to treat it.

At this time of year especially, it is “very important” to apply leather conditioner and treatment, says Mark Shannon, president of Fine Details. “The heat and the sun dries out the leather, which will cause the leather to crack and split,” he explains.

4: Avoid washing your car in direct sunlight

While a hot sunny day may seem the perfect opportunity to scrub down your car, Shannon warns that this is the worst thing you can do at this time of year.

“When I drive through a neighbourhood and see people washing their cars in the sunlight, I just cringe,”  Shannon says.

The heat and the UV rays are a lethal cocktail for your car’s finish, as the water is essentially baking into the paint. Add soap to the mix, and you get a chemical reaction that leaves stains that go through the clear coat, stains Shannon says are impossible to get out.

5: Protect your car from the sun’s rays

Shannon suggests that people think about how they protect themselves before going out in the sun, and apply the same logic to a car.

“Your car needs protection; it needs a wax or paint sealant in this kind of heat,” Shannon explains. “It’s just like going out into the sun and not putting on sunscreen.”

 

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