After your home, a car is likely the second most expensive purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. Because of that, it’s essential to treat it well. Keeping a clean vehicle should be on your priority list, especially since the average American drives 17,600 minutes (293 hours, 20 minutes) per year — and your comfort is valuable.
Of course, you could pay someone big money to detail your vehicle, but with these simple tips, you can maintain the look, comfort, and value of your car for pennies on the dollar.
5 tips to keep your car in great shape
Unfog your vehicle’s headlights
It’s normal for your headlight lenses to become cloudy after the thousands of miles that you spend on the road so you may be tempted to spend $19.95 on a cleaning kit.
Instead, grab a tube of toothpaste.
I’d heard that the gentle abrasive used in toothpaste works perfectly to clean and polish the plastic, so I thought I’d give it a try. I paired it with a soft cleaning cloth, as I didn’t want to scratch the plastic. I worked slowly and carefully in concentric circles, careful to not damage the paint.
Wow, what a difference! This photo does not do justice to how much better my headlights look after this super-easy (and minty fresh) project.
Clean your windshield wiper blades with rubbing alcohol
I’d read that rubbing alcohol does a good job of cleaning windshield wiper blades that are no longer at their best. Since they can cost nearly $30 apiece for them, I figured this hack was also worth a try. Luckily, I always have a couple of individually packaged alcohol wipes on hand from my job as an RN, although you can certainly use a rag or paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol.
This task took just a few minutes, as it was as simple as lifting the windshield wipers to an upright position and gently dragging the alcohol wipes down the blades a couple of times. This removed the grit from the surface, resulting in a like-new appearance. Luckily, I live in Oregon and only had to wait a few hours until I could test them out. I was rewarded with perfectly functioning windshield wiper blades and a windshield free of streaks or other issues.
Sweep — don’t vacuum — the interior of your vehicle
Although it can be very satisfying to vacuum out your car’s interior, this chore involves either paying at the carwash or dragging your own vacuum cleaner out of the house. I’m a fan of using a simple hand broom to sweep off my car’s seats and flooring. Unfortunately, I don’t actually own a whisk broom. However, creating one is as simple as removing the handle from a traditional broom.
You’ll be amazed by how much better your vehicle’s interior can look after just a couple minutes of manual sweeping.
Throw your floor mats in the dishwasher
Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows that rubber floor mats can go through a dishwasher — and your vehicle’s floor mats are no different (of course, you don’t want to run any dishes in the same wash). You’ll need to make room by removing the top rack of your dishwasher, but that’s usually as easy as removing a couple of small clips.
I arranged the floor mats with their upper surface towards the water spray, added a bit of dishwasher detergent and set the machine on its shortest cycle, without auto dry –you don’t want to accidentally bake the rubber!
The mats came out looking gorgeous and my hands on time with this project was maybe five minutes, including finding my car keys and removing the top rack.
If you have carpeted floor mats in your car, check out this thrifty woman’s post about cleaning them in the washing machine!
Use glass cleaner for upholstery stains
My last car hack experiment was to try using standard glass cleaner to remove fabric upholstery stains. I’ve got to say that I was really nervous about this one, as I was worried that the fluid would leave a blue tinge. Luckily, this was not the case.
Here’s how to remove a coffee (or other) stain:
- Fully saturate the stain and then dab/lightly scrub at it with a white cleaning towel. Switch to a clean/dry area of the towel every 15 seconds or so, as to not grind the stain any deeper.
- Respray the area as needed, continuing to gently scrub the area until the stain disappears.
The cleaning solution smell was present while the area was drying, but has since dissipated.
These simple car cleaning hacks can not only help protect your investment but should make your driving experience more enjoyable and more comfortable. And since they’re practically free, you’ll be left with more money for gas!