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Clean Your Interior for a Faster Sell or to Impress at Car Shows

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On: Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 7:52AM | By: Elizabeth Puckett

Clean Your Interior for a Faster Sell or to Impress at Car Shows

When your car's interior is a mess, it can be very difficult to sell it at a good price. Keeping a clean interior will help maintain a higher re-sell value and turn heads. Here are some of my personal interior detailing tips I learned through many years of cleaning my own interior and helping friends get their cars show ready.

Tip 1: Be Preventative
It’s much easier to keep a nice clean interior if you make a few rules for yourself and passengers. First, don’t ever smoke in your car; it’s really hard to get the smell out and burning ashes will burn holes in the carpet, seats, and headliner. Also, avoid drinking or eating in your car; food stains can be brutal to get out. A big one when you have kids is keeping them from damaging the interior—my toddler routinely tries to color on my interior sail panels and older son likes to try to pull himself up out of the backset with the weatherstripping. Don’t worry, I’ve violated all of these interior ‘don’ts’ and have done my share of damage control afterwards, so there’s still hope if your interior is a mess.

Tip 2: Clean Before You Use Products
One mistake I see people make a lot is that they use a shining agent to clean with, but this an error. Go over plastic and vinyl areas with a duster and then clean with a product for the area—make sure you are using a cleaning agent safe for plastics, vinyl, weatherstripping, etc. Once these areas are actually clean and free of grime, you can proceed to use products meant for shine and protection.

Tip 3: Make Your Own Products
My favorite carpet cleaner is not actually store bought, although there are plenty of good products out there for auto carpet, but when you clean your interior as often as I do, it gets pricey to buy, so I make my own concoction instead. My special recipe consists of hot water, vinegar (white vinegar is the cheapest), and clear laundry soap (laundry soap that isn’t clear can leave stains). I mix these all together in a spray bottle and spritz the interior for a light clean before I vacuum. For deeper stains, spray the area directly and leave for a few minutes then blot with a rag. For really stubborn interior stains, soak the area with my recommended solution, lay down a rag, and then place a heavy book on top of the area overnight.

Tip 4: Q-Tips Are The Best Detailing Tool Around
Most cars have annoying crevasses throughout where dirt routinely builds up—and for that, I use Q-tips. There are lots of tools you can buy for specific concerns, but those can be expensive and don’t always do a great job. Try wrapping Q-tips in pieces of paper towel to sweep through larger openings. For really small areas, toothpicks can also do a great job of digging out dirt and dust.

Tip 5: Work Top-to-Bottom
Begin with the headliner and work your way down when cleaning because dust and dirt will fall as you clean. I always start with the outside first (read my tips on washing and waxing like a pro here) before I ever get to the interior, then clean the headliner, top of the dash, controls, steering wheel, center console, drink holders, plastic trim, seats, and save the carpet for last.

Tip 6: Don’t Spray Products
Except for carpet and seat cleaners (which should be sprayed in the direction of the seats and carpet and away from the dash), do not spray your products! Overspray can damage electrical components including your radio, and it also looks splotchy. Spray your products onto a rag or cleaning tool and then apply them accordingly.

Tip 7: Clean Ash Burns
Like I said to begin with, it’s just best not to ever smoke in your car, but if you do and ashes burn your seat, they need to be addressed. I had a bad burn in my carpet and I cut away the black area (which is where the plastic in the carpet melts) with micro-snip scissors and then cleaned the spot the way I mentioned earlier with my stubborn stain trick.

Tip 8: Vacuum Last
It’s much easier to vacuum at the very end. When you save vacuuming for last you can catch all that grime you stirred up and pull the smell out of the car from the cleaning products. I use a dry/wet shop vac to pull the moisture out of the carpet from spot cleaning; if you don’t have a shop vac at your disposal, most vacuums at gas stations have the same suction power but cost quite a bit to use.


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