Smiling family in the car preparing to go on a road trip. Smiling family in the car preparing to go on a road trip.

How to Clean Your Car Inside and Out

Time to clean your car after summer fun, winter weather or daily use? Here’s a bumper-to-bumper guide for how to get rid of stains on car seats, mats & more for a sweet clean ride.

Clean car center console.

10 Steps to Clean Your Car’s Interior & Exterior

To keep your car in top shape, experts recommend washing it every 2-3 weeks, after every road trip, and weekly during winter when roads are treated with salt and chemicals. If that seems impossible with your schedule, commit to a seasonal (4x per year) thorough car cleaning and a monthly exterior wash.

Follow these steps to get your car seats, dash, tires, mats, windows and general interior and exterior clean and fresh – without a lot of expensive products.

Supplies Needed to Clean Your Car

Gather these supplies as you embark on your car-cleaning journey:
1. Clean microfiber cloths for the interior
2. A natural sponge or soft car wash mitt for the exterior
3. 2 buckets (one for suds, one for plain water)
4. Hose with spray nozzle
5. Dryer sheets
6. Coffee filters or old newspaper
7. Car wash solution or grease-fighting dish soap
8. Window cleaning solution (commercial or DIY)
9. OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover or OxiClean™ Odor Blasters™ Versatile Stain & Odor Remover
10. Bucket or dishpan
11. Chamois or microfiber towels to dry car
12. Old toothbrush or small scrub brush for tires
13. Optional: tire brush
14. Optional: Gunk Getter Slime made from baking soda

1. Remove Trash and Clutter

Check your trunk, under and between the seats, in the door cubbies and seat pockets, in and around your center console for bits and bobs. Post a pic on social media of your most interesting finds. Coins? Straw or candy wrappers? Melted lip balm? What treasures remain from your commutes and road trips? What surprises have your kids left behind? Time to dive deep and ditch the detritus.

2. Round 1 Car Interior Vacuum

There will be two rounds of vacuuming, the first one to get up much of the dirt and dust and a second one to help suck up other grime that you loosen from interior cleaning. Do a thorough job now so you aren’t rubbing dirt around as you clean seats, surfaces and the dashboard.

Pro tip: Use a crevice tool to get between the seats and into the corners! Don’t have one? Use a hand broom or even a piece of stiff cardboard to brush dirt away from the edges to where the vacuum can suck it up.

3. Remove Bugs from Bumpers, Grill, Lights, Mirror Backs

Bug guts have a way of accumulating on the front of your car, no matter where you live or when you drive. Clean off bug guts regularly to prevent damage to your car’s paint. Bug splatter is acidic and the decomposing bodies also attract bacteria growth, which further eats into your finish.

Try making a spray bottle of warm water and a squirt of dish detergent, then spraying it on the bug splatter. Use a dryer sheet to wipe away, applying light pressure as needed. Window cleaner is okay for windshields but keep it away from painted surfaces like your hood, grill and the backs of your side mirrors.

Person cleaning car tires with sponge.

4. Clean Your Tires and Hub Caps or Rims

Before you wash the rest of the car’s exterior, focus on your tires and rims, which accumulate a lot of mud and grime from the road surface. Reach for your laundry room go-to, OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover to make a DIY solution that works great at getting dirt (even red clay) off of tires and leaves an clean matte finish. Here’s how:

Always refer to packaging for directions.

MIX Fill the scoop included to line 4 per gallon of water (or line 1 per 16 ounces of water). For very dirty tires and wheels, a more concentrated solution/paste may be needed.

APPLY using a cloth, sponge, brush or pour directly on the tires.

LET STAND 5-30 min. Scrub as needed (use a tire brush or an old toothbrush)

RINSE well with cool water from the hose.

5. Get the Gunk Out of Nooks & Crannies

Cup holders are great but can they ever accumulate weird bits of gunk and grime, including dead skin cells you shed while driving. What about that area at the base of your gear shift or parking brake? These crannies and crevices and be hard to clean, so here are two ways to tackle it.

1. Try wetting a soft cloth or a coffee filter with an all-purpose cleaner and wrapping the cloth around the end of a screwdriver or chopstick. Push the cloth-covered end into and along the nooks and crannies, rotating the cloth to clean areas as it gets covered in grime.

2. Whip up some “Gunk Getter Slime” by combining 1 tablespoon ARM and HAMMER™ Baking Soda, 4-6 ounces white glue, and 1 tablespoon contact lens solution in a bowl. Knead it for a minute and use the slime to clean all those areas between buttons and levers and – gasp, cup holders – in your car.

6. Clean Your Dashboard, Steering Wheel and Console

Dust and pollen can build up on your car’s dashboard and hard surfaces on the interior, even if you don’t ride with your windows down. Plus, steering wheels, knobs and touch screens can get grimy from dirty fingers.

Clean your car’s interior hard, non-porous surfaces with a microfiber cloth and an easy and effective solution of OxiClean™ VSR and water. Follow the recipe above in section 4 and the directions on the package.

Wipe down all knobs, levers, switches, and sliders, and don’t forget the louvers of the vents and the lower portion of the dashboard near the floor.

7. Remove Stains and Odors from Car Seats

If you have cloth or synthetic leather seats, you know they can get mystery stains or odors from summer sweat, spilled drinks, wet dogs (or children or friends), food oopsies and more. Whether you’re dealing with taco sauce, oily sunscreen or lotion, ink, makeup or an incredible combination only you could concoct, OxiClean™ Odor Blasters™ Versatile Stain & Odor Remover is great for cleaning upholstery in your home and your vehicle.*

How to Clean your Car Inside and Out

Time to clean your car after summer fun, winter weather or daily use? Here's a bumper-to-bumper guide for how to get rid of stains on car seats, mats and more for a sweet clean ride.

MIX: Fill provided scoop to line A per 16 ounces of water in a bowl.

APPLY: Apply solution to a clean white towel or sponge and use it to blot out stain. Do not apply solution directly on stain.

REPEAT dipping the towel or sponge into the solution and onto the car seat until stain is not visible.

RINSE by dampening a different clean white towel with water and blotting area.

* Always test OxiClean™ on an inconspicuous area first. Use only on water-washable upholstery. Do not spray directly on stains. Not suitable for leather car seats.

Person spraying rubber car mats with pressure washer.

8. Wash Floor Mats and Round 2 Vacuum

Many soft surface floor mats can go in the washer, so check to see if yours are machine washable. If so, add a scoop of OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover with Odor Blasters to the load for an extra boost of stain fighting power and to help neutralize odors and musty smells from wet weather and stinky feet.

If your floor mats are rubber, remove from the car and wash with the OxiClean™ VSR solution you used for the tires or dish soap and water. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and dry before returning them to the car.

While the mats are out, take this opportunity to use the vacuum one more time to remove any dirt you dislodged in the interior cleaning. You’ll be surprised what the second pass will get up!

9. Wash and Dry the Car’s Exterior

Roll up the windows and shut the vehicle’s doors, trunk or gate. Lift the wipers, and hose down the car’s exterior. Be sure to spray up under the bumper and into the wheel wells.

Prepare two buckets: one for soapy suds and one with plain water to rinse. Dip your sponge or soft car washing mitt into the soapy bucket and lather up the car, starting at one end and moving toward the other.

For each section of the car, follow this pattern: Dip your sponge in the suds, wipe on in a circular motion, wring, rinse in the plain water bucket, wring, repeat. When your rinse water gets dirty, dump it and refill with clean water, optimally after each section of the car. Continue to add water and car cleaner to the soap bucket to keep it soapy and clear.

Rinse the car thoroughly, then dry with a chamois or microfiber towels.

10. Wash Windows Inside and Out

The final step for cleaning your car is to wash the windows, inside and out. Use a designated window cleaner and either coffee filters or a balled up piece of newspaper to wipe the glass for a streak-free shine.

Start with the interior surfaces of windshield and windows, then do the exterior. You can also use window cleaner on your mirrors and headlights.

OxiClean™ for More than Laundry

The oxygen-based stain- and odor-fighters in OxiClean™ are for so much more than your clothes and bedding. OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover has the word “versatile” in its name, and we mean it. From patio furniture to grout to trash cans, couches, and yes, even cars, one tub can help you keep things clean around your home and in your driveway.

All OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover product is non-abrasive, chlorine bleach-free, and break down to oxygen and water for a solution you can feel good about.

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