Scrub your car of winter, inside and out

Larry Printz
Tribune News Service

Can you feel it? The weather is getting warmer. If you have plans to hit the road, or if you’re tackling household spring-cleaning, be sure not to ignore your car. After all, the winter has most likely left it resembling an environmental hazard.

But resist the temptation to just do a quick wash with some dish detergent. With a little effort, and a couple hours, you can professionally detail your ride and leave it looking good for the next few months. Consider it the equivalent of gaining a buff beach body.

It’s not difficult; and here’s how it’s done.


Start by cleaning the inside of the vehicle; you’ll need time for it to dry before washing the exterior.

■Remove accumulated debris from the map pockets, glove box, cracks, crevices, the center console and trunk.

■Wipe down the instrument panel with a mild cleaner. Remember that virus you had over the winter? Your car does. So it’s a good idea to use a disinfectant for door handles, the steering wheel and dashboard buttons with a soft, damp cloth; tackle climate control vents and panel seams with cotton swabs.

■Vacuum upholstered areas and carpets, including headliner and the rear parcel shelf. Be sure to reach under the seats. And don’t forget about the trunk.

■Shampoo the carpet and floor mats with a scrub brush.

■ Clean the seats. Upholstery cleaner or a steam cleaner will do for cloth seats. For leather seats, use a mild leather cleaner or saddle soap, followed by a leather conditioner. This prevents the leather from drying out and cracking.

■Clean the glass. Spray window cleaner on your towel so mist doesn’t fall on your clean dashboard. Follow with a second towel to avoid streaks.


You need multiple sponges for this job, one for each cleaner. If you drop it, get a clean one; small bits of debris from a dropped rag can scratch paint.

■ Rinse your car thoroughly with gently flowing, warm water to loosen dirt. Avoid using high pressure or hot water, which can damage paint.

■Wash the car from the top down, using a car washing liquid and a natural sponge. Don’t use household cleaners, which can harm modern finishes.

■Move the sponge lengthwise across the car. Rinse thoroughly, starting at the top and working your way down.

■Use a bug and tar remover to clean stubborn dirt from bumpers.

■Next, clean brake dust from wheels using a wheel cleaner designed for your type of wheel, be it chrome, aluminum or painted. Rinse. But be careful: cleaning a hot wheel rim can stain or etch the wheel.

■Direct the hose into the underside of the wheel well to remove dirt or debris. Wash the door jambs and the channel around the trunk and sunroof.

■Dry the car using a chamois or soft terry towel in a back and forth motion. Remember to dry the door jambs, sunroof and trunk channels.

■Polish the car, then wax. This yields the best results. Polish is slightly abrasive and removes fine scratches while adding luster to the finish, while waxing protects the paint. Never rub in circles; it can create swirl marks in the paint. Instead, use a back-and-forth motion. If your car is older, consider using a more abrasive cleaner wax. If your car is newer, use a less abrasive glaze wax.

■Apply a silicone spray to your car’s weatherstripping in the door jambs to prevent air and water leaks.

■Spray on tire-shine products to give a finishing touch to your wheels.