How to properly wash, clean and detail your car

car being washed


Posted October 17, 2023

Love cleaning your car, but kick yourself every time for overlooking areas that could've really used your attention? Here's how to best clean your car. 

Maintaining the cleanliness of your car isn’t just good for your health and wellbeing, but a well-looked-after car can increase the resale value of your vehicle in the long run. Here's our key cleaning tips for a comprehensive wash of your car. 

How to properly wash and clean your car

Wash your wiper blades

Your wiper blades are responsible for helping with your driving vision on rainy days, so you should keep them in tip-top condition. Clean wipers will ensure a more effective wipe action when it rains, and help preserve the life of the wiper blade.

Lift the wipers and wash the rubber blades with soapy water and a microfibre cloth. Don't forget the glass where they sit: you can even use an eco-friendly glass cleaner remedy. Finally, don’t forget to open the bonnet and remove any leaves that have fallen into the base of the windscreen.

Wipe your sun visor

Your sun visor is important for preserving your driving vision on sunny, high-glare days.

Check your sun visor for dust, spots and stains when you wash your car. Dampen a microfibre cloth with water and a small bit of mild liquid soap (e.g. dishwashing liquid), then gently rub away the grime.

Rinse off your door jambs

Door jambs are the seal between your door and the body of the car. They rarely get washed, but they get covered with everything from muddy feet to spilled food and drink. Cleaning these areas help to increase the overall appearance of your vehicle, make it healthier to drive in, and decrease the risk of rust around door jamb areas.

For best results, use a detailing brush to dislodge any debris, then wash the jambs down with all-purpose cleaner and a microfibre cloth.


man wiping down car door jambs

Using a soft microfibre cloth helps remove dust and dirt. Image: Getty

Wash your windows

Dirty windows can instantly ruin the appearance of a freshly cleaned vehicle. They can also impair proper visibility when changing lanes, reversing, and performing other common driving manoeuvers.

Roll your windows down slightly to clean the outer edges before continuing with the rest of the window panel. Use a microfibre cloth and a quality glass cleaning spray to clear away grime before buffing the window with clean microfibre cloth for a streak-free finish. Remember to avoid ammonia-based window-cleaning products on tinted windows. Use circular motions on both steps to most effectively remove dirt, dust and fingerprints.

Rinse under the vehicle

Don’t forget to check the underside of your vehicle. Dirt and debris can build up on this area. If not properly cleaned, it could lead to eroded mufflers, wiring and bolts. Don’t neglect the chrome exhaust tip, either: left unchecked, carbon from the exhaust will eat into the chrome, leaving it black and difficult to restore.

A pressure washer is best for cleaning car undercarriages free of dirt and debris, as they are often very dirty with caked-on grime. You could also use a garden hose with a spray attachment. Clean stubborn areas with car wash soap and water. Dry off the undercarriage with old towels to prevent rust, then apply a protectant to keep the metal cleaner and undamaged.

Wipe down your glove compartment

Many people may see the glove compartment as a catch-all for all sorts of paperwork, tools and tidbits. However, forgetting to clean the glove compartment can create a build-up of dust and germs.

Keep your glove compartment clean and hygienic with a pack of wet wipes inside ready for a wipe down. For a more solid clean, use a damp microfibre cloth dipped in mild soap.


rear light of black car covered in soap bubbles

Don't forget to give your lights some attention. Image: Getty

Shine your tyres

Dull, dirty tyres are one of the first signs of an unclean car.

Wash the major grime off your tyres with a hose before using a soft bristle brush in warm water and car soap to gently scrub off any remaining dirt and debris.

If you want your tyres to look brand-new, consider using a tyre-shine product for that deep black look. Many of these are 'spray on and leave' products. Use a water-based product: cheaper products are made with silicone, which can cause damage over time. Allow tyre-shine sufficient time to dry before driving to avoid splatter down the side of the car.

Clean the nooks and crannies

Cars have plenty of little nooks and crannies that gather dust, crumbs, pet hair and other grime.

Use a vacuum with a narrow nozzle attachment to reach into all your car's crevices, including cup holders, door panels, floor mats, under seats and under the pedals. A microfibre cloth is great for dusting off air vents and dashboards. Antibacterial wipes can finish off the job by getting rid of germs and stickiness.

Clear out your boot

This is a task that many people put off, but the boot of our cars can get quite dirty. During your next car wash, empty your boot and give it a clean.

First, vacuum the boot lining to remove obvious dirt and debris.

Sprinking baking soda on the carpet or rubber liner and brushing the surface with a damp brush can help lift off odours and stains. Vacuum any baking soda remnants off after the liner dries. Alternatively, leave the dry baking soda on for a few hours, vacuum it off, then use warm water and dishwashing liquid to soak, brush and clean the stains.

Finally, clean dirt and grease from boot seals by wrapping a microfibre cloth around a narrow bristle brush. The brush will get into narrow crevices easily, while the cloth will protect the seals from damage.


man cleaning car tyres

Clean and shine your wheels and tyres for a brand-new look. Image: Supplied

How to wash your headlights

Yellowed or cloudy headlights are a driving hazard. These occur from the polycarbonate plastic in many car headlight lenses being exposed to UV rays, high temperatures, humidity and other environmental effects over a long time.

There are several methods to clean your headlights. One of the most popular methods is to use plain toothpaste. Just like on your teeth, the toothpaste and toothbrush combo is abrasive enough to scrub away the yellow or foggy layer from your headlights without scatching the plastic before rinsing with water.

You could also wet your headlights with vinegar, then apply baking soda and scrub with a soft sponge, rinsing clean with water when finished.

For best results, head to an auto store and purchase a headlight cleaning kit. Whatever you use, make sure to apply painter's tape around each headlight so you don't damage your car's paintwork while you clean.

How to clean your leather or fabric car seats

Nobody likes a stained car seat. Whether your seats are upholstered with leather or fabric, here are a few tricks to get them looking new again.

Both types of seats will benefit from a thorough vacuum with the upholstery or brush head to remove crumbs and other grit.

If you have leather seats, apply a leather cleaning solution with a soft microfibre cloth. Gently wipe the leather seats clean with a new, damp microfibre cloth. Buff them dry with a third, dry microfibre cloth. Finally, apply leather conditioner to help prevent cracking and staining.

If you have fabric or cloth seats, swap your vacuum nozzle attachment to a powerhead to extract grit like sand and pet hair from the upholstery. To treat stains, work a bit of upholstery cleaner into any stains with a scrub brush and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Next, fill a spray bottle with your cleaning solution and lightly spray the entire seat. Don't soak the fabric, which might encourage mould growth. Gently scrub the solution-coated fabric with a soft- to medium-bristle brush before mopping up the dirty suds with a clean cloth. Finally, vacuum the seat again to help it dry thoroughly. You can purchase car fabric cleaner or solution from auto stores and supermarkets.

Get rid of bird droppings

Bird droppings, tree sap and tar quickly bake into your paintwork, creating paint damage over time. Clean these contaminants off as soon as possible to preserve your car's exterior.

Take your time when removing stains like bird droppings so you don't damage your car's paint job. Soak the area in soapy water, then gently wipe with a clean microfibre cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone.


man vacuuming fabric car seats

Fabric and leather seats can both be easily cleaned. Image: Getty

How to keep your car cleaner for longer

To help keep your car cleaner for longer, park in a garage whenever possible. You can use a car cover when out and about, especially if you are near trees: a notorious culprit for spiders, bird droppings and sticky sap. Check the forecast before you leave so you know whether you're driving into good weather or not.


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