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Everyday Cheapskate: How To Spring-Clean Your Car

Mary Hunt on

When you think of spring-cleaning, you probably think of your home. But what about your car? It's served you well all winter long. It's been through the mud -- and snow, sleet, sand and salt. It needs a good cleaning, too!

You could take your car to a professional car detailer and spend $150 or more to get it cleaned up for spring. Or you can keep the cash and do it yourself.

Open up all the doors of the vehicle. Empty everything from every nook and cranny. Put all of the safety equipment needed for changing a tire and other emergencies in one area of the lawn or driveway. Take an inventory, and make sure that spare tire is in good working order.

Limit the items you will keep in the glove box to the owners manual, vehicle registration (required to be kept in the vehicle), service records and other pertinent information to the operation of the car. Everything else should go into the trash (if not needed) or in a safe place in the house.

Now for the biggie: Remove the seats. This is quite doable. Newer models may have seats that are easier to remove. Be careful removing the front seats because they may be connected to electrical systems.

CAUTION: Read the owners manual first to make sure this is advisable for your particular make and model. If you do not find specific, step-by-step instructions for how to remove and then reinstall the seats for your specific vehicle, skip this step!

Using a full-size vacuum (as opposed to a car vacuum or other model that doesn't have great suction), vacuum the inside of the car like you never have vacuumed before. Take time to get all of the sand, salt and grit out of that carpet.

Using your favorite carpet cleaner, scrub the carpet clean. Allow the carpet to dry, and then follow that with another good vacuuming job.

Use your favorite all-purpose cleaner (use the window cleaner you find below, if you like) to clean the vinyl walls, doors and dashboard -- all but the headliner ("ceiling"). Get into all the cracks, grooves and crevices. Use a cotton swab or soft brush around knobs and handles.

 

Clean the windows inside and out with paper towels or newspaper and a 50-50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and household ammonia that you have poured into a spray bottle. It's strong stuff, both in smell and in cleaning power.

While the inside is drying, tackle the upholstered seats by vacuuming them thoroughly. If your seats are leather, use a leather cleaner or conditioner recommended by the manufacturer. If they're cloth, use a good upholstery cleaner, or make your own:

Upholstery cleaner: Mix 6 tablespoons grated Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap (find it at the supermarket or online), 1 pint boiling water and 2 tablespoons borax in a saucepan or bowl. Stir it until the soap melts and becomes smooth. Allow it to cool until it gels. Whisk it or beat it until it foams. Use the foam on a rough cloth or brush to scrub the upholstery, making sure not to soak the fabric. Re-whisk the soap as necessary to get more homemade scrubbing bubbles. As you work, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away the soiled suds.

Replace the seats, emergency equipment and instructional books. Spray your favorite air freshener, and close the doors and windows.

Wash the outside of the car with a bucket of warm water and a tablespoon or two of liquid dishwashing soap. Rinse it well; wipe it dry; and wax it using your favorite brand of car wax.

There you go. A fresh, spring-clean car.

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Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

 

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