For many Americans, a car is like a mini, second home. We spend hours and hours each month in our car. Commuters can spend a couple of hours a day in their vehicle just to and from work, and moms can spend whole afternoons carting kids back and forth from soccer, music lessons and dance. Some reports suggest that the average American spends around 10 percent of his or her waking hours in a car.

Even if you do not drive the fanciest car, you can still make a good impression if it is well kept. And do ever think you might sell your car? Keeping it clean will help your re-sale value. No one wants to buy a car with a 10-year-old mystery stain on the carpet.

So if you want to banish the days where you apologize for the mess in your car to every member of your carpool, you need to start cleaning up.

Why do we let our cars become such disasters? After spending a lot of time in my car, I want to make a run for it once I get home. And once I am home it becomes an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem. Plus, how do you even clean a car?

For all of those car cleaning novices, here is a simple guide to keeping your car clean one step at a time.

  • Exterior/body: a car wash will do if you just have surface dirt. But if you want a really good clean, consider washing it yourself. Soap matters. Use a gentle soap designed for cars (not shampoo or dish soap) so you do not damage the paint job. Grab a bucket, soft sponge and get to work. Wash the entire exterior and don’t forget the undercarriage. This area is often forgotten but gets a lot of damage because it is so close to the ground. Wash away chemicals, salt, etc. for a squeaky clean shine. Use a hose and a jet setting to get it really cleaned.
  • Wheels and tires. Wheels and tires get a lot of mileage (pun intended), and not cleaning them will damage the wheel over time. Get specialized wheel cleaner and follow the directions. The rubber on tires can get cracked if not taken care of correctly. Extend the life of your tire by waxing your tire (specialized product necessary). A clean wheel and tires will instantly elevate the overall look of your car.
  • Seats and floor. This area tends to get the biggest beating. Cleaning methods depend greatly on the fabric of your seats. Give your car a good vacuum regularly (more if you have kids) and use specialized soap for your seats bi-annually or as needed. Use floor mats, especially in the winter time, to avoid ruining your floor. Remove the mats and vacuum regularly.
  • Dashboard. Dust weekly to keep the dust bunnies down. Use an all-purpose cleaner on all surfaces, focusing on hot spots like cup holders.
  • Trash bin. Keep a min-trash bin in your car to catch little garbage that can accumulate.

Happy cleaning!

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