The one car cleaning mistake that could cost you hundreds to repair

Car cleaning tips for your car

Spring is the perfect time to give your vehicle a deep clean, inside and out after the inevitable dirt and grime build-up from wintery roads.

We've identified the 5 most common car cleaning techniques to avoid - and what to do instead to avoid potential disasters.

1. Washing up liquid to wash car

If you don’t have any car shampoo to hand, many people think that it is fine to substitute it for simple washing up liquid from the kitchen. However great dishwash liquid is at removing grime and food particles from dishes, it’s not a great idea to use on car paintwork. This is because it risks stripping the wax and oils that protect the paintwork itself, and can even cause premature fading due to the removal of sun protection. Car shampoo is designed to wash off stubborn dirt, without stripping important sun protecting wax.

2. Brillo pads on dried dirt

To remove dried dirt from the exterior of the car with something harsh can be tempting, but avoid using something as abrasive as a brillo pad. A harsh scrubbing product such as a soap-infused brillo pad may scratch the surface of the paintwork, resulting in the need to respray or colour an entire section of the car. Likewise, be aware that using a towel to dry the car after washing may also be inadvertently moving hard bits of dirt around the surface, causing small scratches. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a micro-fibre cloth.

3. Washing your vehicle when it is hot

Cleaning the exterior of your car after a particularly long drive when the engine is hot, or when the sun is at its highest point, can affect the outcome of your final washed look. This is because the heat will quickly dry any soap and water applied, causing pesky water spots, making the job of washing your car difficult. Remedy this by washing your car after the engine has cooled, and in the shade where possible, or keep the surface of the vehicle cool by applying cool water regularly whilst washing.

4. Bleach on car seat upholstery

The approach to cleaning car seat upholstery will depend on its material, but disinfectant such as bleach will ruin the finish of most materials if used neat and directly.

Cloth seats: It’s natural that stains will occur, but whether you want to do a deep clean all of the seats or spot-clean an individual stain, avoid reaching for the bleach as this will damage the fibres of the upholstery. Vacuum any debris and spray a solution of hot water, white vinegar and dash of washing up liquid to scrub into the upholstery with a soft brush for a refresh.

Leather seats: The above white vinegar solution can also be used to clean leather seats, but avoid soaking the seats completely, and leave to dry naturally. Protect the upholstery by finishing off with a specialised leather conditioner.

5. Cleaning wheels and tyres last

Washing your car from the top down seems the most logical step to take, but splashing wheel dirt onto your newly clean vehicle surface will only cause extra work for yourself. So start with the wheels and tyres, notably the dirtiest part of the vehicle, and use a pressure washer to blast most of the dirt off before going with with a wet sponge to wipe clean. 


We advise when cleaning your car, firstly consider the surface material, especially when it comes to car seat upholstery, and never use a cleaning tool or product that may be too harsh. Always use appropriate cleaning products on your vehicle to avoid ruining upholstery or paintwork, which can be costly to repair. Regular maintenance of the interior and exterior of your vehicle will help avoid paintwork issues such as rusting and staining on the seats which may require specialist attention.


If you need some new car cleaning products then use our Halfords voucher when you visit a store to get 10% off! 


Related reading:

car maintenance guide

How to spring clean your car 

how to clean your car at home


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