There’s nothing like that new-car smell—unless it’s the sight of a clean, pristine car interior. Get the same effect without shelling out big bucks when you use these at-home interior car detailing tips and tricks.
Americans love to personalize cars. We give them names, decorate them, and even put eyelashes on them. In 2019, we shelled out an astonishing $415 billion on car accessories to make everyday activities easier to accomplish on the road. While in our vehicle, we eat, drink, listen to music, talk on the phone, work on our laptops, and apply cosmetics, essentially making a car an extension of our home.
But before accessorizing a ride, it has to be spic and span. Whether you wash your car at home or do the drive-through method, a DIY detailing job is a task you can tackle yourself—for a lot less than what the pros charge.
Ever notice that when a car smells bad, it smells really bad? Cigarette smoke, spilled drinks, long-forgotten snacks, and your stinky gym bag all contribute to this olfactory ordeal.
Little cardboard trees, contraptions to stick in the vent, and other air fresheners just mask the car’s stench with an equally strong scent—flowers, citrus, or even artificial new car scent. Instead, go for odor eliminators, which actually obliterate the offensive funk. Keep things smelling sweet with odor-absorbing charcoal sachets.
Sanitize Seat Belts
You might not give your seat belt much thought, at least not until you drip ketchup or something gooey on it. But these necessary restraints get grimy fast and could harbor a bunch of bacteria.
To clean seat belts, extend them as far as possible, then clip them in place. Scrub with an all-purpose cleaner, using a small brush. (Pro tip: toothbrushes are great for tackling small stains.) Lastly, wipe with a microfiber cloth and leave the seat belts extended until completely dry.
Deep Clean Your Seats
Ideally, Past You has done Future You a big favor by regularly vacuuming your auto’s upholstery. But if Past You was a lazy, sloppy bum, it’s probably high time to de-grime those car seats.
Clean Mud, Dirt, and Grime from Floor Mats
Floor mats are among the easiest components of a car to clean since they can be removed. That’s lucky, because they also are among the dirtiest car parts. If your mat is a carpeted one, approach it just as you did the upholstery.
Rubber mats, however, can get the hose. Either your garden hose or the high-pressure versions at the car wash will do the trick to dislodge and de-gunk mud, small stones, dirt, dog poo, and anything else we track in on our shoes. Give the underlying carpet a once-over with your vacuum to finish off the floor.
Use Car Cleaning Gel Around Dash and Console
Car dashboards get pretty dusty. Luckily, they’re easy to clean with a feather duster, antibacterial wipes, or all-purpose cleaner and a soft cloth. But hands down the most fun way is with a car-cleaning gel or putty. This stuff looks like the squishy, blobby “slime” made popular by social media a few years back, but it’s actually a very effective detailing tool. Smoosh it into hard-to-reach places like vents or center-console crannies and marvel at the dust and dirt it will collect.