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15 Car Cleaning Hacks That Every DIY Detailer Ought To Know!

In the real world, detailing your own car is not like those YouTube videos. You don’t always have a lot of time and you don’t have a two-car garage with a wall fully loaded with detailing supplies, bumper stickers, air fresheners, tools and car care equipment.

Many times you don’t have all the products, such as baking soda, rubbing alcohol or a magic eraser. It’s not convenient to make a supply run or you’re out on the road and need to work with what you’ve got to make your car clean and avoid the car wash!

In the article below, we’ll talk through 14 car cleaning tips and hacks to help you keep your car cleaner and in top form, they can be used from your car’s interior and windshield wipers to your floor mats and air vents....

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The Best Spray-On Ceramic Coating. Period.

★★★★★ "My car is slick as glass!! I put the Ceramic Shine on my Corvette Stingray and it is very slick and shiny. I should have purchased it sooner. It is a great product. It made my wheels look new. Keeps off dirt and dust." - Charlie F.

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Hack #1: Brighten Headlights With Toothpaste

While cars of the past used to come with glass headlights, every modern vehicle uses plastic instead. Plastic is much cheaper, much easier to work with and mold into complex shapes, and much more impact resistant, compared to glass.

However, it’s also softer and susceptible to UV radiation. Given a few years, the dust, debris and rockchips from the road will abrade the factory-applied UV protectant and leave the plastic exposed. Overtime, the headlights will grow cloudy and opaque, significantly reducing the brightness of your headlights to the point of becoming a danger at night.

Luckily, you can easily fix the problem with some headlight polishing compound and a polishing attachment for your battery drill. These are available in most auto care stores and work as a good stain remover.

But if you’re in a pinch, perhaps traveling for a vacation and realizing your headlights aren’t that strong, there’s a quick hack you can use to remedy the situation.

Grab some toothpaste from your overnight bag, and, using a microfiber cloth, give the headlights a nice rubdown. You’ll have to apply some elbow force but will be surprised by the results after only a couple of minutes of buffing. Toothpaste contains small abrasive particles that are hard enough to scrub and polish the enamel in your teeth. It works well for polishing plastic which is many times softer.

Hack #2: Clean Your Cupholders Easily

Grimy cupholders? Spilled coffee, snack crumbs, molten chocolate. All cavities in the car get their fair share of grime throughout your daily commute. It can be a real pain to reach in there and get all the gunk out. Here’s a neat little hack to fix the problem.

If you have one handy, use a vacuum to pull all the hard chunks out of the cupholder. Then roll a nice thick microfiber towel so that it barely fits the cupholder. Using a spray bottle, spray generously with a cleaning product and push the roll into the cupholder. Rotate it a couple of times then pull out while still rotating to keep hold of the junk. Repeat if necessary.

Hack #3: Line Cupholders With Muffin Cups

The above hack works well, but it’s best if your cupholders don’t get so messy in the first place.

Paper cupcake forms or silicone muffin cups fit perfectly in the cupholders of your car. They will collect all the dirt and gunk and you can pull them out and wash them more easily or replace them entirely.

Easy!

Hack #4: Use a Toothbrush to Clean Seams And Crevices

Interior detailing brushes come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s always one that will fit the tiny crevices and seams around the cabin and even the wiper blades. These are the most neglected areas when cleaning, but also the ones that invariably collect the most dirt and grime.

If you’re detailing your car but don’t have the right brush, an old soft toothbrush is a suitable replacement. Just don’t scrub too hard on your leather seat. Go gently to ensure you’re not leaving any scuff or scratches in the material.

Hack #5: Reach In Between Panels and Tight Crevices With a Screwdriver and a Towel

There are places where no brush can fit. The gaps between interior panels gets loaded with thick grime.

Use a nice big flathead screwdriver wrapped in a microfiber towel to scrape the insides of all gaps and get that gunk out, things like crumbs and pet hair. Use a liberal amount of interior cleaner or quick detailer.

Alternatively, a plastic card can also do the job.

Hack #6: Use Olive Oil To Recondition Old or Dry Leather, Vinyl And Plastic

Organic and petrol-based materials, like leather, vinyl and plastic, are universally vulnerable to UV rays. Overtime, the sun will damage them, causing them to dry, discolor, and ultimately, crack.

It’s recommended to treat your interior with a UV-protectant and leather conditioner once a year to protect it against the sun.

If you don’t have one, a couple of drops of olive oil will work as a temporary cleaning solution. The olive oil will seep deep into the material and rejuvenate some of the lost proteins, while leaving a film on the surface that will give it some protection against the sun.

It’s not an ideal solution, but will keep the leather from cracking and splitting, until you find the proper product.

We recommend Torque Detail’s Leather Conditioner infused with ceramic SiO2 particles

Hack #7: Keep Your Supplies Organized The Right Way

Unless you drive a limousine (and limo-driving skills), there’s zero chance of your trunk staying neatly organized.

Grab a few spare boxes and organizers from the closet and create yourself a habit of placing everything in its place. Secure the container with straps to the mounting spots in your trunk (there should be at least a couple you can use), or at least some carabiners and spare shoestring.

Use a box organizer, or even a mini trash can, in the passenger seat or in the back seat to keep all your drinks, snacks, and other supplies when you’re taking a long trip by yourself. Everything you need will be within reach, while not taking your eyes off the road.

DIY CERAMIC COATING - 1yr of Protection
The Best Spray-On Ceramic Coating. Period.

★★★★★ "My car is slick as glass!! I put the Ceramic Shine on my Corvette Stingray and it is very slick and shiny. I should have purchased it sooner. It is a great product. It made my wheels look new. Keeps off dirt and dust." - Charlie F.

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Hack #8: Use Quick Detailer Or Car Shampoo As a Last Minute Clay Bar Lubricant

Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer
BEST QUICK DETAILER: Dirty to Shiny in 15 Minutes

Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Mirror Shine or Ceramic Shine and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

★★★★★ "Never bringing out the hose again. I use this every few days to remove dirt and debris from my car. Definitely prevents dirt from clinging to the coat. Awesome product." - Lewis R. 

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Detailing your car, but you forgot to get clay lubricant? Whatever you do, just don’t run the clay dry on your body panels!

That said, so long as you provide decent lubrication, you can get away without dedicated products. Here’s a hack to get you unstuck and moving forward with your detail:

  1. Quick detailer - these usually contain extra lubricants because they’re used on dry, probably dusty body panels out in the middle of nowhere.
  2. Rinseless shampoo - mix this 1:1 with water, and you’ll find the solution gives you a slippery film to run your detailing clay.

Neither of these are a perfect replacement for dedicated clay lube, but they’ll save you in a pinch.

Next time you’re stocking your supplies, get yourself a bottle of Torque’s Clay Decon Kit - Clay Lube and Reusable Clay Pad

Hack #9: Brush Your Carpet And Upholstery While Vacuuming The Car

Okay, this hack may be common knowledge for you, but many car owners don’t know how to properly vacuum the carpets in their car.

You should brush your carpet with a stiff nylon brush as you vacuum it. The brush will upset the carpet, delaminating the fibers and lifting dirt and debris that have lodged inside. Vacuuming will be more effective and provide more lasting effects.

When you’re done, brush the carpet in a single direction to give the carpet a uniform shade.

Hack #10: Blow Junk Out With Compressed Air

If you have access to compressed air, this hack will help you thoroughly clean the car without removing the car seats.

Junk, crumbs and debris loves to get in the crevices of your interior. It’s a huge pain to get in there and remove it. Even the best vacuum attachments only go so far.

Use compressed air to blow junk and trash from under the seats and out of all the nooks and crannies. Hold the vacuum at the opposite end to catch them as they fly out.

A garage compressor with an external tank works best, but a 12V tire pump can also do a decent job.

Hack #11: Use a Ceramic Coating To Keep Your Paint Shinier and Better Protected For Longer

Tired of washing and polishing your car only to have the finish ruined within a month? Try a ceramic coating!

This is not snake oil. For less than $100, you can purchase a ceramic coating kit and cover your entire vehicle. The coating forms a microscopically-thin glass layer on top of the paint to protect it against UV rays, water spots, brake dust, bird droppings, oxidation, and other surface contaminants. The finish looks glossy and highly reflective.

Ceramic coatings are also hydrophobic, repelling water and preventing dirt from settling and sticking on the surface, maintaining the clean look for much longer.

A ceramic coating cannot protect the paint from scratches and scuffs, but it works like magic against everything else. Try Torque Detail’s Ceramic Shine Spray On Ceramic Coating.

Hack #12: A Pressure Washer Uses Far Less Water Than The Garden Hose

Washing your car with a garden hose? Stop! Garden hoses use 7 to 15 gallons per minute, while only producing up to 40 PSI of pressure.

Pressure washers use 1/10th of the water, while producing 40 times higher pressure. The energy of the water blasts off all the soapy solution, dirt and other stuck contaminants.

You’ll get the job done much more effectively, quickly and without wasting all this precious water.

If you detail a lot of cars, having a power wasYher in your arsenal is a no-brainer hack.

Check out our dedicated guide on pressure washers, how they work and how to use them.

Hack #13: Use Waterless Washing in Water-Restricted Areas

Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer
Never Use The Hose Again!

Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Mirror Shine or Ceramic Shine and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

★★★★★ "Never bringing out the hose again. I use this every few days to remove dirt and debris from my car. Definitely prevents dirt from clinging to the coat. Awesome product." - Lewis R. 

SHOP NOW

Do you live in a drought area, where water is scarce and precious? Did you know you can wash your water without a single drop of water?

Using a quick detailer like our Turbo Waterless Wash, you can effectively clean the entire car, with just a few microfiber towels and no water.

If you have access to water, but it’s inconvenient to get everything wet, you can try a rinseless shampoo. You mix some in a bucket of water and apply it just once without washing the car off. Then you wipe the panels with a clean dry microfiber towel and you’re done.

Hack #14: Use A Microfiber Wash Mitt To Reduce Scratches While Washing

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The Car Shampoo That Leave No Dirt

★★★★★ The Decon Wash Pack will strip previous coats of waxes and sealants, as well as remove surface contaminates. Your vehicle's surface is filled with contaminants. Some of these may be visible, such bug guts, bird droppings, water spots, and tree spots. And some contaminants, such as iron deposits, brake dust, and overspray may not be visible to the naked eye.

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This one is common law for all detailers. Only use a microfiber wash mitt or towel to scrub your body panels.

The vast majority of light scratches and swirl marks come from improper washing and scrubbing with hard and stiff materials, like brushes. Microfiber is soft enough to leave practically no scratches on the paint - even on black cars.

While you’re scrubbing use plenty of dish soap and warm water and move the mitt in straight line motions, going back and forth and then side to side. This way, you’re producing less swirl marks and the paint is easier to polish and buff out.

Hack #15: Working Out In The Sun? Wash One Panel At A Time

Every detailing expert will tell you to wash the car and apply finishing products under the shade. It’s true, leaving tap water and cleaning products to dry under the sun can result in nasty mineral spots, especially if you have hard water in the area.

If you can’t bring your car into the garage, work on one panel at a time. Make sure it remains wet until you finish and always dry with a clean microfiber towel.

Make sure to have enough towels on hand to wash the car, dry it off, and apply coatings without reusing any dirty rags.

Grab Torque Detail’s 6 pack of high quality microfiber towels with 16x16 inch edgeless design!

DIY CERAMIC COATING - 1yr of Protection
The Best Spray-On Ceramic Coating. Period.

★★★★★ "My car is slick as glass!! I put the Ceramic Shine on my Corvette Stingray and it is very slick and shiny. I should have purchased it sooner. It is a great product. It made my wheels look new. Keeps off dirt and dust." - Charlie F.

15% Off Deal

Summary

These were 14 quick and easy hacks to help you detail your car effectively when you’re in a pinch and not ideally stocked. It’s the little things that make a difference and your road trip will be much more comfortable!

There are many household items, such as an old sock, baby wipes, hair conditioner, paper towels, and drops of essential oils, which can work comparably to specialized automotive products on Amazon to make your car shine!

Send us your detailing hacks and we’ll feature a continuation of this article.

  • Published on Jun 21, 2021
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