Part III: Interior
We couldn't provide steps on how to detail a car without mentioning a few interior golden nuggets. We spend a lot of our time inside our cars. The daily commute, taking the kids to soccer practice and the family dog all put wear and tear on our poor cars interior. Food crumbs, drink stains and smells galore make the interior a chore to clean but we have some good advice that can help.
How to Detail a Car: Vacuuming
Your car accumulates a lot of dirt, dust, rocks and other fun items (pet hair anyone?). The only way to get rid of it is to suck it up with a good 'ol vacuum. We recommend using a Shop-Vac if you have one, but if that isn't available, then a normal vacuum will work. A slim nozzle attachment can reach the small crevices in between the seats and hard to reach areas of the floors. Take the floor mats out of the car, shake them out and vacuum them, this also allows you to clean under the mats with ease. Don't forget to suck up all the stuff that collects in the folds of your seats and door pockets as well.
Expert Tip: Do you have pet hair that just isn't budging, even with a vacuum? No problem. Buy some latex gloves, the kind you'll find at a hardware or drugstore, put them on and then rub your hands over the problem areas. The static electricity created from the latex glove will make the pet hair cling to it like a magnet.
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How to Detail a Car: The Dash and Doors
Now you are in the home stretch. Getting the vinyl, plastic and rubber parts of your dashboard and doors clean is pretty easy, but could take some time depending on the size of your car. We advise using a 100 percent cotton terry cloth towel (no lint) or a micro-fiber towel as a base. Add in some all-purpose interior car cleaner and you'll have a winning combination. We don't suggest using household cleaners because they could be ineffective and harmful to your car. The plastics and vinyl's in your car give off certain oils and the dirt and grime from everyday use usually require special cleaners.
Start on the top of the dash and work your way down the center console. If you have some built up grime in any areas of the center console or cup holder areas, spray some cleaner in there. Let it sit for a few minutes as you clean other areas, then come back and wipe it up. Don't forget to wipe down the door sills, the rear deck and the plastic parts between the front and rear seats on four-door cars.
After you have cleaned these areas, it's time to apply some vinyl protectant. This will help maintain the vinyl by replenishing the oils and provides protection from harmful UV rays when parked outside. Again, we advise using a lint free terry cloth or micro-fiber towel as an applicator; though a small foam sponge will work as well. Spray the protectant on the towel or sponge outside of the car then apply inside. You don't want to get overspray from the protectant on your seats, windows or electronics. Be careful around your stereo, gauge cluster and any wood trim and whatever you do, don't put any on the steering wheel, because your hands might slip off the next time you grip the wheel.
Expert Tip: Ever get into your car and ask yourself, "What is that smell?" You can try fancy odor eliminators, but we recommend trying a home remedy. Take a simple dryer sheet and put one under each of the front seats. Leave them there for a few days and replace if necessary. Sure, your car will smell like your Mom just washed your clothes, but it will also help soak up any bad odors.
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How to Detail a Car: The Interior Windows
The last step is to clean the interior windows. The challenge here is obtaining a streak-free window, but first you have to understand what contributes to streaks. The vinyl and plastics in your car give off fumes and oils which, combined with the use of your air conditioning and ventilation system, produce a film that accumulates on the inside of your windows. Once this film is on the windows, streaks can be created by either using household cleaners that aren't formulated to cut through the grime properly or by using the correct window cleaner but in the improper way (i.e. not fully drying the window after applying the cleaner itself).
We suggest using a specific car window cleaner and a good quality micro-fiber towel. Spray the cleaner on the window and dry with the micro-fiber towel. Be sure to fold the towel over every other pass to always keep a dry side wiping the window. This way you are actually drying off the cleaner and not just pushing it around. Don't forget to use the same towel to clean off your rear view and vanity mirrors. If you happen to have any spots on the outside of the windows, follow the same steps there too.
Expert Tip: For a guaranteed streak-free window follow these steps: Take two micro-fiber towels, get one damp with cool water, keep the other fully dry. Wipe the inside of the window down with the damp towel and then quickly dry it with the dry one. Keep drying the window until it becomes 'smooth'. You'll know it is fully dry when the towel glides over it. This process takes a bit more elbow-grease but will not leave any streaks.
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Now you have a clean car on the inside and out and you might be a few dollars richer from all the coins you found. Be sure to check back with us next time when we'll review the intricate steps of using a clay-bar plus polishing and waxing tips.