Car Washing Tips: Detailing The Interior

We do a lot of living inside our cars, and the end results are more than just stories to tell.  Our interiors quickly show the rigors of commuting, errands and road trips.  Dust, receipts and random French fries begin claiming too much of our personal space. 

It’s time to reclaim your interior with detailing, and these hints will help get better result:

Arm yourself.  Get set with glass cleaner, automotive carpet cleaner and lint-free rags or towels.  Remember the ubiquitous leather/vinyl protectant, but also grab things like cotton swabs, canned air, lens wipes and a toothbrush or a set of detailing brushes.  Disposable nitrile gloves can be handy to minimize skin contact with the variety of cleaners.

Carpet and floor mats.  Vacuum thoroughly, including under the front seats.  A portable automotive carpet shampooer may not be feasible for anyone who isn’t a dealer or detailer, but canned automotive carpet cleaner does a respectable job on the mats.  Take particular care to refit the driver’s floor mat using its designed hooks or retention mounts.  If cleaning the carpet as well, factor in extra time to air out the interior and allow to dry.

Seats and trim.  Dust the dash, console and trim surrounds.  Treat leather seats and trim with protectant, but stop short of saturating them.  That goes for the dash as well, since too much shine can produce glare on the windshield while driving.  And definitely avoid using protectant on pedals.  Your feet can easily slip off them at precisely the wrong time.  If you have seats of cloth or another material, you can most likely stop after vacuuming them.  Check your owner’s manual for recommendations to treat soiling, since even cleaning products made for fabric can stain car seats.

Windows.  Exterior glass rightfully gets attention, but the interior sides are too often ignored.  Cleaning them will noticeably improve your vision, especially while driving at night.  Be careful around back though.  An errant swipe while cleaning can damage the rear defroster’s electrical connection point.  Consult your owner’s manual for recommended cleaning, since some cars call for nothing harsher than mild soap and water on the delicate defroster grids.

Switches and controls.  Good intentions can go awry here, as seemingly mild cleaners can smear the print and graphics painted on controls like turn signal and wiper stalks.  Gauge cluster covers scratch very easily, and once it happens, you’ll notice it every time you look.  For this you’ll want to avoid paper towels altogether.  Gentle use of lens wipes gives better, damage-free results.  Canned air, cotton swabs and the toothbrush or detailing brushes can get the tight areas and work great to clean dust from air vents.

Get it from every angle.  While cleaning, move things around to catch normally concealed areas you may not have known needed attention.  Adjust seats fore and aft--and up if possible for better access beneath.  Tilt the steering wheel fully up and down.  Apply the parking brake and move the gearshift to clean their channels.

Cargo area.  Trunk, hatch, whatever space you have to carry things, clean that too.  The de facto trash and water bottle repository often has a more durable synthetic fiber on its surface than the passenger area, so light vacuuming usually does the trick to finish off detailing the interior.

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