Wax On, Wax Off: 35+ Car Cleaning Hacks That Are Better Than A Full Detailing

By Ziyee N

If you’re someone who commutes to work, runs tons of errands, and drives your school-aged kids around, you spend quite a bit of time there. Since you practically live in your car, it’s not surprising that your vehicle gets messy pretty quickly; let’s be honest. A dirty car just ruins your mood, so you must keep up with cleaning. In addition to improving your mood, clean cars preserve the value of your vehicle, which is excellent because the value of vehicles often depreciates. However, cleaning your entire vehicle by yourself takes quite a lot of time, so many car owners are lazy with cleaning their cars. Well, we have 35 easy and budget-sensitive hacks that can help you clean your vehicle effortlessly.

1. Garbage Bags

The easiest way to ensure a clean car interior is to add trash bins to have a place to throw out all your garbage. You can quickly get rid of all the waste at one time in your car if you throw it in a designated bag.

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Car owners can use a command hook to hang a bag from which they can discard any rubbish they have. The command hook prevents the garbage bag from being knocked over and the trash from getting all over the place.

2. Microfiber Mitts

When speaking of cleaning cars, most people think of going to the car wash and giving their cars a “bath.” You can wash your car yourself to save some bucks, but you have to make sure you’re using the right tools that wouldn’t damage your vehicle.

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Microfiber mitts are perfect for cleaning the exterior of your car; they’ll leave your vehicle with a lint-free and scratch-free shine. The soft fabric of microfiber mitts is gentle on your car’s paint finish so that they won’t damage it.

3. Baby Wipe Shine

Car windows and windshields often have many dirty fingerprints on them that do not look good. Car owners must clean them frequently so that the car windows are fingerprints free and clean. You do not want to be distracted by the glare from dirt on the windows as a driver.

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One practical hack that helps car owners clean windows efficiently and effortlessly is baby wipes. If you ever need to clean your windows in a hurry, just reach for a baby wipe and simply wipe down the glass and windshield.

4. Skip Paper Towels

Although baby wipes are convenient and easy to clean your windshield, they’re relatively expensive to replenish every time you finish a pack and are not great for the environment. Most car owners prefer to use paper towels instead, but paper towels can actually scratch your windshields.

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To avoid scratching the glass while cleaning it, be sure to switch to cleaning with soft and gentle microfiber cloths on your car. Instead of potentially scratching your windshield, you’ll get a streak-free shine instead while keeping the environment in mind.

5. Shine your Car

Of course, washing the exterior of your car with soap isn’t enough. You need to polish it and let it shine as though it just came out of the showroom. Most people think that polishing their cars is difficult and expensive, but it’s not.

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Clay is a helpful tool in picking up chunks of dirt and shining cars. Car owners can make their vehicles smooth and create an immaculate finish by using a particular clay bar. Try testing your clay bar on a small area to ensure you are getting it done correctly.

6. Windshield Bugs

When you’re driving on the road, it’s no doubt that there will be bugs that get caught in your windshield and front bumper. Unfortunately, these bugs die on impact and get stuck on your windshield, dirtying it. Car owners need a simple way to clean this mess up.

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One easy way to clean dead bugs off your windshield is to use a cooking spray such as Pam. Simply spray the dead bugs with the oil mist and let it sit before wiping them off with a damp cloth.

7. Dryer Sheets

Alternatively, car owners can use dryer sheets to rid their windshields of deceased and shriveled bugs. Simply use dryer sheets to wipe down the area of your windshield that has dead bugs stuck on it, do apply pressure if required.

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Of course, this cleaning hack isn’t for those who fear insects because it requires you to touch the dirt through a thin piece of dryer sheet. But, this hack does shine up your car’s windshield while removing the dead bugs from it.

8. Car Windows

When car owners are cleaning their windows, they often only clean the outside of the windows, but they usually leave one spot: the grime at the top of the window. This part often goes unnoticed and can get pretty dirty too.  

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To clean the grime at the top of your car window, roll all of your car windows all the way down and wipe the top of your window with a damp cloth and cleaning solution on both sides of the window.

9. Glass Cleaner

When it comes to cleaning the glass on your car, visibility is crucial. The glass on your vehicle must be kept clean because if it weren’t, you might not be able to see clearly, which increases the risk of accidents.

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Car owners can use this three-ingredient instant glass cleaner to clean their windows to ensure visibility; simply mix one cup of distilled water, two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar, and one cup of isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle.

10. Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers aren’t uncommon. In fact, they’re widely seen, especially on the cars of new drivers. If you’re looking to remove the new driver bumper sticker from your vehicle, you can use this hack to remove the bumper stickers effortlessly.

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Simply remove the sticker and if there is any sticker residue, heat up the remains with a hairdryer. The heat should be able to melt the sticker residue, which then makes it easier to wipe off of your car’s bumper.

11. WD-40

If melting the sticker residue with a hairdryer doesn’t work, car owners can opt for WD-40, which effectively removes bumper sticker residues. Of course, this method costs more than just the hairdryer method, but it helps you remove the glue effortlessly.

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To remove bumper stickers with WD-40, spray enough of the compound so that the bumper sticker is soaked all the way through. Once the sticker has absorbed the product, you should be able to pull the sticker off of your bumper cleanly.

12. Headlights

An uncleaned headlight reduces visibility, which is dangerous, especially when driving during the night because you can’t see what’s ahead. It can also make it difficult for other drivers to notice you. To prevent accidents, car owners should keep their headlights clean.

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To clean your car’s headlights, rub them down with a mixture of baking soda and toothpaste, then let the mixture sit for a while before wiping it down with a damp rag. When headlights are clean, drivers will be able to see clearly.

13. Air-Cond Vents  

Air conditioning is something that most cars are equipped with. It is the vent that allows the cold air to pass through to the passengers and the driver. However, these vents are fairly challenging to clean because of their small size.

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Foam sponges are great for art projects, and they’re also fantastic for cleaning tiny or hard-to-reach spots like your car’s air-conditioning vents. Simply wipe away the dust and grime in the air-conditioning vent and spray with a cleaner. The foam will get rid of all unwanted dirt.

14. Slime

However, if foam sponges don’t clean thoroughly enough, you could opt for slime instead. Dirt and dust that accumulates in your car’s air-conditioning vents will easily stick to the slime. Just make sure your kids don’t get a hand on it!

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Although stores like Amazon sell slime, you can always make one yourself to save some bucks. Simply leave a glob of slime in your car, ready to go to clean your air-conditioning vents while you are in traffic or waiting for the light.

15. Long Bristle Paint Brush

Long bristle paintbrushes are another handy art tool that proves to be great at cleaning car air-conditioning vents. They are a great tool because they can get to deeper parts of the duct where foam sponges or even slime can’t reach.

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So, be sure to use long bristle paintbrushes to deep clean your car’s air-conditioning vent. After deep cleaning it, there will not be any dust or dirt blocking the airflow, so the air coming out of it would definitely be cooler.  

16. Compressed Air

Are you looking for just ONE more way to clean your car vents? Perhaps you want to get rid of the dirt and dust that accumulated in your car’s air conditioning vents over the years which is why you need to clean it even further with compressed air.

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Compressed air is rather effective in removing, deep cleaning, and dislodging dirt and crumbs stuck in the aircon vents. You can also use this product to clean between seats or your computer keyboard. It is a very helpful tool to have around the home.

17. Changing Filters

Does your car have a foul odor? Well, this may be because the filter is dirty. Over the years, dirt, grime as well as dust accumulates in the filter, making it filthy. There are easy hacks to get the cleanest smelling car.

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To get rid of the foul smell, simply change the filter. Be sure to change the filter every once in a while. Although you may not feel comfortable changing your car’s oil, the filter is easy enough with the help of a YouTube tutorial.

18. Lysol

Car air conditioning systems are bound to develop a bad smell if car owners don’t take care of their cars properly. Mold and bacteria may build up in the air conditioning systems over the years, especially if they aren’t cleaned regularly.

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If you have a strong odor coming from your car’s air conditioning, you’ll probably need something like Lysol. Spray Lysol into the flow inlet to eliminate the smell from your car’s aircon. This disinfectant spray gets rid of a strong odor with just a few squirts.

19. DIY Air Freshener

Of course, Lysol only eliminates the foul odor. If you want your car to smell great at all times, you’d need to add air fresheners to your vents. However, you’ll need to replace it frequently, which could cost you quite a bit.

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The good news is you can easily DIY one. Drip 5 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil onto a wooden clothespin and clip it to your car’s air conditioning vent. When the vent is blowing, the air will smell so great!

20. Mason Jar Freshener

Another way of making your own freshener is with laundry scented beads. Laundry beads already smell fabulous, so they are perfect for making car fresheners. However, you can’t just grab a few and scatter them around in your car; that wouldn’t be very helpful or clean.

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So, fill a mason jar with your laundry scented beads, close the lid tightly, and place the pot in your car to always smell like fresh laundry. Be sure to switch it out for new ones every once in a while.

21. Pineapple Scented Car

Apart from that, you could also use leftover pineapples to create a pleasant aroma in your vehicle. This is a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way to make your car smell nice. The next time you’re eating pineapples, save the rinds and place them in a plastic Ziploc bag.

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Then, place the bag in your car, and it’ll release a natural pineapple smell that makes your vehicle internalize a lovely fragrance. With this, you’d be putting what was initially waste to good use, which is excellent for the environment!

22. Steering Wheels

Steering wheels are a car part that owners most frequently touch. Our hands touch all sorts of stuff, and when we drive, the germs and bacteria on our hands get transferred to the steering wheel, making it dirty. During the times of corona, we became even more aware of the dirt in our car and the need to clean it.

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Therefore, car owners should constantly wipe down their steering wheels with a cloth soaked in warm water and mild soap or cleaning solutions made for car interiors. Alternatively, you could also use alcohol wipes to kill the germs and bacteria.

23. Wipers

Have you ever had experiences with dirty wipers? When it’s raining, you need wipers to wipe the rain away from the windshield, but when they are dirty, they make the windshield look smeared and messy, making it even more challenging to see through.

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So, it’s important that car owners clean their wipers regularly. To clean them, wipe your car’s windshield wipers with rubbing alcohol and a piece of cloth. This will remove all the dirt that has accumulated on the wipers over the years.

24. Car Dash

Car dashboards are another car interior that car owners touch all the time; they often rest their hands here while driving. This is also the part in the car where passengers hold on to for balance when the car makes sharp turns.

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Simply use a toothbrush to clean the little groves on your dashboard. You’ll have to dab the toothbrush in some dish soap and water solution and brush diligently to dislodge dirt that’s stuck in the tiny crevices on your dashboard.

25. Coffee Filters

However, if you feel that brushing with a small toothbrush is too much work, don’t worry because we have a much simpler “tool” for you to clean your car dashboards with, and that is to clean with coffee filters.

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Coffee filters work wonders for dusting your dashboard because dirt and dust will easily stick to them. Coffee filters are a fantastic tool for effortless dashboard cleaning because they’re practical, inexpensive, and likely something you already have lying around the house.

26. Condition Dashboard

If you often park your car out in the sun, you may need to condition your dashboard frequently to preserve its condition. When you expose your dashboard to the sun, it can heat your car to high temperatures, and the material can fade over time.

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Leaving the dashboard exposed to the sun will also dry out your dashboard leaving cracks. This is why you need to condition it frequently. You’d need to wipe a light layer of petroleum jelly such as Vaseline onto your dashboard to keep it conditioned.

27. Screwdrivers

Apart from using coffee filters, car owners can make use of common household tools like screwdrivers to clean their cars. By using screwdrivers, you would be able to get to all the dirt stuck in smaller areas of the vehicle.

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Unfortunately, there is a high chance that you might scratch your car and leave marks if you’re not careful. To avoid that, be sure to place a piece of cloth over the top of your flathead screwdriver and take your time.

28. Car Mats

Dirt often gets transferred to our car from our shoes. When we step outside, we will catch our boots with all sorts of dirt and grime, and then when we step into our vehicles where the filth gets transferred to our car mats.

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Well, there’s an easy way to clean the car mats, and that’s to spray them down with dish soap and hydrogen peroxide and place the car mats in the washing machine with regular detergent. Then, let your rugs air dry before putting them back into your car.

29. Pet Hair

If you’re a car owner and a pet owner, you’ll need this car cleaning hack. You’ve definitely had to transport your pet in your car somewhere. When this happens, pet hair gets all over the insides of your vehicle.

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The easiest and most efficient way of getting rid of pet hair is to vacuum. After vacuuming, you should lightly mist your car seats with some water from a spray bottle and run a squeegee over the seat to pull up all the remaining pet hair.

30. Upholstery

Car upholsteries are one of the dirtiest spots in cars. If you’re someone who has kids or you like to eat in your car, then you’ve experienced food spills. These leave stains that are hard to clean on your car seats.

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You can easily and quickly get rid of stubborn stains with this cleaning solution. It is a mix of Dawn dish soap, club soda, and vinegar. Fill the solution in a spray bottle, spray the material directly, and then dab it with a cloth to remove the stain.

31. Toothbrush

For the more stubborn car upholstery stains that you can’t get rid of with merely a bottle of magic cleaning solution, you’ll need to put extra effort into getting rid of the marks by scrubbing them with an old toothbrush.  

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With the cleaning solution mentioned above, spray the stubborn stains and let the solution sit for a while. Then, use an old toothbrush to scrub at the stains hard until they disappear. Finally, wipe the area with a damp cloth.

32. New Upholstery

If you’ve had your car for a long time and have stains on the upholstery that have been there for many years, it’s no doubt that the upholstery will look dirty and old, not to mention that it may develop a foul odor.

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Well, baking soda is excellent at keeping your car seats and carpets fresh and clean and soaking up all the foul smells. Simply sprinkle some baking soda over your seats and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before vacuuming.

33. Leather Upholstery

Up until now, the upholstery cleaning hacks are all for non-leather car seats, but what about leather car seats, you may ask. Well, Magic Erasers work wonders for cleaning leather or vinyl car seats. This product, by Mr. Clean can be purchased at any home store.

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Magic Erasers act like erasers for messes on leather or vinyl seats. They remove the dirt relatively quickly. In addition to that, they also remove scuffs rather effortlessly too. Therefore, if there is a stubborn mess on your leather seats, use Magic Erasers.

34. Cup Holders

Cup holders are often used to hold beverages that you’ll be consuming while driving. When your drink is placed in the cup holders, some of the drink might still spill out which would make a mess in the cup holders.

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To avoid making a mess in the cup holders, place silicone cupcake or muffin liners in the cupholders. The silicone liners are able to catch any spillage and prevent a mess in the cupholders. The silicone liners can even be cleaned and reused!

35. Cup Holder Cleaner

Alternatively, car owners can clean their car’s cupholders regularly instead of buying silicone cupcake or muffin liners to keep from making a mess in the cupholder. All you need for this is a travel cup, a sock, and Armor All.

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Fit a travel cup into a clean sock, then spray the bottom of the sock-covered travel cup with some Armor All and twist the cup around in the cup holder to clean it. Repeat a few times until your cup holders are completely clean.