Sam Pack's Five Star Ford of Plano
May 2010
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Cleaning Your Car from the Inside Out
Easy tips for maintaining your passenger compartment’s shine.

Let’s face it – most of us are far better at keeping the outsides of our cars clean than the insides. Even those who are automotive fanatics usually prize a showroom shine on the paint over a dust-free dashboard. There is no doubt that it is easier to run your vehicle through an automatic carwash than it is to keep the interior spic and span, but with a little effort, you can keep both aspects of your automobile’s character as clean as a whistle.


Most people would agree that from a safety perspective, your car or truck’s glass is the most important part of the interior to keep clean. Unfortunately, thanks to condensation, temperature fluctuations and the sheer surface space of it, it also tends to collect dirt, dust and fingerprints quite easily. That being said, cleaning automotive glass is easy and fast. Any household glass cleaner combined with a microfiber cloth will work well on your vehicle’s windows and windshield, but you will need to take care when spraying cleaner to make sure you don’t accidentally drip on other surfaces. It’s usually a good idea to spray directly on the cloth you are using, rather than try to aim at the glass itself.


The carpet and fabric surfaces inside your car require a bit more specialized attention. A vehicle’s carpet takes a fair amount of abuse from water, dirt and, in some climates, snow and road salt. Over time, any of the above can soak into the carpet and create stains or discoloration. The first step to cleaning automotive carpet is to vacuum up any loose dirt, small rocks and other debris using either a household vacuum or one of those units found at gas stations or carwashes. You will have to remove your mats to make sure that you get at every nook and cranny. 


If it has been quite a long time since your carpets were last cleaned, then you might want to let a professional step in. The detailing department at your dealership not only has the know-how to tackle tough stains and ground-in dirt, they also have specialized equipment that can take care of even the most neglected carpets. Dealership car cleaning crews can use hot water extractors that employ extremely warm water in order to break down the bonds that stains have made with carpet fibers. They can also use specialized enzyme cleaners to take care of any hardened salt leftover from a long winter. The chemical action of these unique cleaners is far more effective than simple soap and water.


Dealership detailers also have extensive experience with seat fabrics. If you have fabric seats, you can choose to clean them yourself with a spray-on cleaner and a bristle brush, or you could ask a professional to both clean and dry the seats for you, saving your time on both ends. Leather seats need more care to be taken in order to preserve the material during cleaning. Harsh chemical soaps and detergents should never be used on leather, as they can rob it of the natural oils that are critical to keeping it supple and soft – and prevent it from cracking. A very mild hand soap and warm water are often enough to lightly clean gently used leather; for dirtier seats, a dedicated leather cleaner needs to be used. It is also important to never use a brush or scrub too hard when working on a leather seat or interior panel – a gentle cloth is the best way to go. Once you have finished with the cleaning process, apply a leather conditioner to make sure the material has its supply of oils replenished. If you are uncertain as to whether you can effectively clean your leather without damaging it, it’s always a good idea to stop by your dealer and get their opinion on the matter.


With the glass, seats and carpet out of the way, the final step to having a clean car is to take care of the vinyl and plastic components in your interior. There are hundreds of products out there that claim to be the best option for cleaning vinyl and plastic. When choosing which one to use for your car, make sure to read the label carefully and select a cleaner that is silicone-free. While silicone will make your dash look shiny after it has been applied, it can actually react with vinyl and speed up its decomposition in the sun. In fact, silicone cleaners offer no protection from UV light at all, which is the number one cause of cracked and faded dashboards and interior trim. Choosing a silicone-free cleaner can dramatically extend the life of your interior. Your dealer’s service department can also be a good resource for information on the products best suited for the interior surfaces of your particular car or truck.


Interior detailing isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. These simple steps will have you enjoying a passenger compartment that is as well taken care of as your paint in no time.


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