1. Buff vinyl with a Magic Eraser

Cleaning car interior with Magic Eraser
Apex Detail / YouTube

The “magic” in a Magic Eraser works like a charm to remove pesky scuff marks on your vehicle’s vinyl and leather.

Just be careful. Used correctly, a Magic Eraser is a quick and easy way to detail your interior. But on certain surfaces — like anything with a clear coat of paint or old, worn-out leather — its micro-abrasion can cause damage.

2. Spray out dust vents with compressed air

Cleaning car vents with compressed air
Wikimedia Commons

Vents can be a pain to clean. If using your fingernails doesn’t cut it, you can either buy a special vent brush or use a can of compressed air.

Normal compressed air should remove any dust gunking up the vents.

But for an even deeper clean, you can pick up aerosol sprays designed specifically for cleaning vents and killing odors.

3. Make carpet stain remover at home

Person Cleaning Stain On Carpet With Spray Bottle
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

If you have a few stains in your carpet, there’s no need to buy an entire jug of car carpet cleaner. Instead, make some yourself.

Mix together a solution with one part hydrogen peroxide, two parts water, and one drop of lemon essential oil per ounce of solution.

To prevent the peroxide from breaking down, you either need to mix your concoction inside the original peroxide bottle or find another dark-colored bottle.

Douse the stained area with your DIY carpet cleaner, wait a couple minutes, and scrub it out.

Not only does the mixture lift out tough stains, but you’ll also have plenty of essential oil left over to freshen up your home or body — much more useful than a jug of car carpet cleaner gathering dust in your garage.

4. Condition your dashboard with Vaseline

Vaseline petroleum jelly
Steve Calcott / Flickr

Vaseline has over 100 uses. One of those uses is conditioning your vehicle’s dashboard.

Instead of buying pricey car detailing wipes or sprays, simply smear a little Vaseline around your dry dashboard using a microfiber cloth. You don’t need much.

When you’re finished, fold the cloth and store it in your glove box.

The Vaseline won’t dry out, and if your dash starts losing its shine, you can wipe it down again using the same cloth.

5. Polish leather with olive oil

Car detailing series : Cleaning car interior
Bhakpong / Shutterstock

All leather fades over time. But if you don’t take care of it, you can extend its lifetime.

Sure, you can treat leather with expensive leather cleaners. But if you want to save money (and a trip to the store), just use olive oil.

Dab a rag with olive oil, and massage the leather in a circular motion to work it into the material.

When you’re finished, wipe away any extra oil and let it dry — you don’t want it on your clothes.

6. Clean cup holders the easy way

Windex bottle
Ajay Suresh / WIkimedia Commons

Cup holders are magnets for crumbs and gunk. Fortunately, cleaning them is a cinch.

Grab a travel cup that fits snugly in your cup holder, cover it with a clean sock, spray the sock with Windex, and twist it around inside the cup holder.

This hack is especially useful if you have giant hands that don’t fit deep into the cup holder.

7. Use baking soda before vacuuming

Male worker using vacuum cleaner in car
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

When cleaning your car, kill two birds with one stone by drizzling baking soda over your seats a few minutes before vacuuming.

Baking soda reacts with acidic and alkaline molecules (AKA stinky stuff) and neutralizes them.

So not only are you vacuuming up crumbs, but also the stench.

8. Wash the floor mats in your machine

Close-up of a hand holding a dirty black rubber car floor mat with accelerator and brake inside the cabin before dusting, vacuuming, dry cleaning, washing the car.
NAN2535 / Shutterstock

Dirty floor mats can ruin the aesthetic of a nice car.

The problem is, unless you have a No Shoes policy in your car, they’re nearly impossible to keep clean.

That’s where your washing machine comes in. Instead of breaking your back trying to wash them by hand, just shake them out, squirt on stain remover, and throw them in the washing machine with normal detergent.

9. Microfiber is your best friend

A man cleaning car with microfiber cloth, car detailing (or valeting) concept
Atstock Productions / Shutterstock

Every car owner should have a microfiber mitten and a stock of microfiber cloth.

Microfiber mittens soak up tons of water, allowing you to quickly hand wash your car.

Sure, automatic car washes are convenient, but they’re also notorious for leaving scratches. And when you consider the time it takes to drive to the car wash, wait in line, wash, and drive home — you could have just done it yourself and saved 10 bucks.

That said, finishing with streak-free windows can be a challenge. You might be tempted to reach for the glass cleaner, but resist the urge. Instead, just wipe your windows with a damp cloth, then use a dry microfiber cloth to dry them.

10. Roll those windows down

Interior of car with open window and green trees on back
Merydolla / Shutterstock

If you’re going to wash your car, mind as well do it thoroughly. Most people forget to roll the windows down to clean the dirt off the top of the window.

It might not seem like a big deal. But if rain causes that hidden dirt to streak down the side of your car, all your car-washing effort will have been in vain.

Just don’t forget to roll them back up before spraying off the rest of the car.

11. Use WD-40 to remove bugs and bird poop

WD-40 can
ajay_suresh / Wikimedia Commons

Splattered bugs and stubborn bird droppings usually don’t come off with your typical soap-and-water wash.

You need to bring in the heavy artillery: WD-40.

WD-40 can remove just about any type of gunk from your paint and grill without causing damage. Just make sure to rinse with soap and water when you’re finished.

12. Make those headlights sparkle with toothpaste

Cleaning headlights with toothpaste
Junky DIY guy / YouTube

Foggy and yellow headlights are not only unattractive, but they are also dangerous.

A study by AAA showed that cloudy headlights can reduce the effectiveness of the lights by up to 78%.

One solution is to replace your headlights, but that can cost hundreds of dollars.

To save money, you can clear up those cloudy lights by squirting on some toothpaste made with baking soda, smearing it around with a cloth, then rinsing with water.

13. Get stickers off with heat

Modern hair dryer on color background
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Bumper stickers are fun to put on, but not fun to take off.

The trick to loosening them up is to use heat.

Grab a hairdryer and heat up the sticker, starting in the center, then moving out to the edges. Once it’s nice and hot, slip a credit card underneath the edges and slowly work them up, reheating as needed.

If the sticker is on your window, a razor blade works even better. Once the sticker is off, wipe off any remaining residue using distilled vinegar.

14. Rubbing alcohol can get those wiper blades clean

Brushes on the windshield with copy space. The concept of cleaning agent, polishing, nanocoatings
Art_rich / Shutterstock

There’s nothing more annoying than wiper blades that leave huge streaks across your window. Most people assume the solution is to buy new wiper blades, but not so fast.

Sometimes the wiper blade itself is fine — it just has dirt or dried soap gunking it up.

To remove it, dip a microfiber cloth in rubbing alcohol, then run it along the blade. If it removes the streaking, you just saved yourself a trip to the store.

15. Use creative storage space

Back of car seat organized
Brittany Vasseur / YouTube

If you’re not careful, car clutter can go from zero to code red very quickly, especially with kids.

The solution is to have a home for everything. Cars don’t come with much organizational space, but you can install your own.

Two easy solutions to organize your space are shower caddies and shoe organizers. Hang them on the back of your seats, and say goodbye to clutter forever.

If you’re feeling extra inspired, you can even label each pocket with stickers.

16. Hide your change in an old container

Change in a car cupholder
NYPD24Pct / Twitter

There’s nothing more stressful than holding up traffic at a toll booth or parking lot as you tear apart your car hunting for coins.

To avoid this, grab an old container from your house — preferably one that fits in a cup holder — and use it as your car’s piggy bank.

Old gum containers work great because they look natural in a car, but any old food jar with a cap will do the trick.

17. Always keep snacks handy

Couple is sitting in car. Guy is driving and eating candy bar. Girl is looking straight and biting a piece of bar as well. They are safety locked with seatbelt
Estrada Anton / Shutterstock

When you get hungry on the road, you’re more likely to eat unhealthy food. The Taco Bell drive-thru is just too convenient.

To avoid wrecking your diet, keep a basket full of healthy snacks and water at arm’s reach.

Stock it with food that won’t go bad in extreme temperatures like sunflower seeds, nuts, and dried fruit.

18. Make a DIY trash can

Bag for trash on car seat
EasyToSew / YouTube

An ATM receipt here, a cheeseburger wrapper there — this is how your car gets out of hand.

The solution is a non-spillable trash can. Plastic cereal containers work like a charm. You could also stick a Command hook to your dash and hang a grocery bag from it.

If you can’t be bothered to make your own garbage container, you can get a headrest trash can on Amazon that will run you less than 10 bucks.

19. Keep your cup holders clean

Cupcake holder in car
dirkriptide / Reddit

Cup holders tend to get grody with spilled drinks and crumbs. They’re also a pain to clean.

One way to solve the cup holder conundrum is to line them with a silicone cupcake holder. Whenever they get grimy, just throw them in the dishwasher.

They can come in a pack of 24, so you can put them in all your vehicles and still have some left over for cupcakes.

If you are buying these supplies online, you can use an app or browser extension that will automatically search for coupons and cheaper prices.

20. Smell fresh with essential oils

Clothespin air freshener for car
The Heathered Nest / YouTube

Remember that essential oil from the DIY carpet cleaner?

You should have plenty left over to use as a DIY air freshener.

Simply put a few drops on a clothespin, then stick it in your car vents.

Keep the bottle of essential oil in your car, and whenever the smell fades, add more drops.

21. Clean your filter

Clean and dirty cabin air filter for car
wellphoto / Shutterstock

Sometimes no matter how much air freshener (or essential oil) you use, your car still smells funky.

When that happens, it’s time to check the cabin air filter. A quick Google search should tell you if your vehicle model has a removable cabin air filter, and how to change it.

Dirty air is constantly moving through these filters. And over time, they can start to stink.

22. Get a pet seat hammock

Border Collie puppy sitting looking over the seat waiting close up
Aarontphotography / Shutterstock

In the past, you had to choose — travel with pets, or have a clean car.

Now, with the new pet seat hammock, you can have both. It easily attaches to the headrests of the front and back seats, creating a waterproof “hammock” where your furry friend can roll around without destroying your car.

Instead of cleaning your backseat every time you take Buddy for a ride, you can simply toss the hammock in the washing machine.

23. Dust your dash with a coffee filter

The interior dashboard of a car is building up dust, dirt, and debris.
TippyTortue / Shutterstock

A microfiber cloth is an essential piece of your car-washing toolkit. But not for washing your dashboard and center console. They are notorious for leaving tiny pieces of lint everywhere.

When it comes time to dust, use a coffee filter instead. The material picks up dust without leaving a lint mess.

24. Clean out crevices with a screwdriver

Screwdriver
Wirecutter / Twitter

Grime has a way of building up in all the nooks and crannies at the edges of panels in your center console.

You could grow out your fingernails to scrape off the crud, but there’s a better way. Pick up a flathead screwdriver, cover it with a cloth to prevent scratches, and scrape away.

25. Remove pet hair with a squeegee and spray bottle

Cleansing car interior and spraying with disinfection liquid. Hands in rubber protective glove disinfecting vihicle inside for protection from virus disease
Space_Cat / Shutterstock

Putting down a blanket to protect your car seats from pet hair only gets you so far.

If your pet travels with you regularly, it’s only a matter of time before those seats get coated in hair.

And pet hair is stubborn. If you're doing a thorough clean before you sell your car, you'll want to ensure it's spick and span and totally hair-free.

If the vacuum cleaner doesn’t do the trick, try spraying your seat with water, then using a squeegee to collect all the hair. The water dampens the hair so it lumps together, making it easy to gather.

26. Wrap your rearview mirror in a plastic bag

wrap car mirror in plastic bag
nextmoonyt / YouTube

Ziploc bags aren’t just for food storage — they’re super useful for keeping your car mirrors clean in winter.

There’s nothing worse than getting ready for work on an icy January morning only to discover your rearview mirror’s been encrusted with ice and snow overnight.

To prevent the extra cleaning work, especially when you just don’t have time, wrap your mirrors in a Ziploc bag or even a regular plastic bag.

The covering helps keep most of the snow from sticking, and it’s a great hack for when you can’t park your car in a garage.

About the Author

Mitchell Glass

Mitchell Glass

Freelance Contributor

Mitchell is a freelance contributor to MoneyWise.com.

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