Does your car look and smell so horrible that you’re embarrassed to have friends ride with you? Do you wish you had that new-car smell and shine? Have you considered taking it in for detailing?

Chances are that like many of us you practically live in your car, which can get pretty grimy from all those fun roadtrips (with the dogs) and stops for burgers at the drive-in. Even those of us who just use our cars to commute to work and back need a deep cleaning.

The good news is you don’t need to pay someone else to get your car clean. You can get your car in tip-top shape in no time — all by yourself!

Detailing your own car is no easy task but you can do it easily without dishing out hardly any money at all. If you’ve never done it before, you may be tempted to buy all that expensive products you see in the car departments in stores to get the job done right. The store shelves are lined with special wipes, brushes and solvents for detailing cars. And all these items add up to alot of money. Do you actually need all this stuff?

In reality, you don’t need to buy brand-name cleansers and air fresheners made especially for cars. Some of them don’t even work that well despite the expense. You may not even need to buy anything at all to do your detailing in fact. Things like club soda, white vinegar, charcoal, a can of coke or even a piece of clay are really all you need. Chances are you already have most the stuff you need to get your car sparklingly clean inside and out.

These cleaning hacks we’ve compiled for you are tried and true. In fact, some of our top 30 hacks work so well that they’re old news to professionals, who wish we’d kept their tricks a secret. After trying out some of these innovative ways to clean your car, you’ll never even think about hiring someone else to do it for you. In fact, if you just turn up the music and roll up your sleeves, you may even have some fun doing it.

So, check out our tips and gather all the common household items that you will need to make your car looking and smelling like new again. You’ll never be embarrassed in having a dirty car again. In fact, your friends may start asking you, “Who does your detailing?’

30. Essential Oils

Don’t waste money on car fresheners that smell awful and look even worse. Instead, grab some wooden clothes pins and sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oils (lavender, rosemary, frankincense, etc.) on top. Attach the clothespin to your vent. Each time you turn on the heat or air conditioner, your car will smell incredible.

29. Iron

Did you buy beautiful candles that you left in the car? Oooh, what a mess! Or, if you have kids chances are there are crayon stains and melted wax in your car because … well, coloring. All you have to do to get out the waxy crayon is to iron a piece of paper over the upholstery and it’ll pick it right up after it gets hot! The trick is getting close enough to an electric outlet if you have smudged in crayons on the flooring. But — if there’s a will, there’s a way!

28. Olive Oil

This might come as a surprise to some, but olive oil is actually a great tool for cleaning leather seats. Keep in mind that overusing it will make your seats greasy to touch, so use with caution. You may want to wash with soap first. Next, you want to get into the texture of your leather or leatherette interior using the oil. Always wipe dry afterwards.

27. Powder Cleaners

Regular old bleach powder can help you do your own detailing like a pro. Choose a brand like Bar Keeper’s Friend, Clorox or Bon Ami, which are the toughest. Take a cloth or towel, sprinkle some on and lightly spray some Lysol onto the powder. Now, work in that magic and keep adding more powder until your tires sparkle.  You may have to scrub quite a bit, but your wheels will look amazing afterwards!

26. Foam Brush

Foam brushes are great for putting on the finishing touches while painting, but you can also use them to brush out your AC vents and other tough to reach spaces. The foam will easily cling to dirt and other particles, making it a great tool to use when cleaning.

25. Dryer Sheets

Nothing is worse than trying to clean your car from dried up bugs after a long trip. You can, however, make this task easy by using some wet dryer sheets to remove those pesky buggers.

24. Toothbrush

If your dashboard is starting to look a bit grimy then you can use an old toothbrush to get really deep in there and get every little bit of gunk out. When you’re done, save your toothbrush so you can use it again in the future. Use the toothbrush to wash every inch of your seats and backrests too. You’ll be shocked by how much dirt is embedded in your seats.

23. Toothpaste

Besides using a toothbrush to clean the tapestry, you can use some toothpaste to clean your grimy headlights. Just spread some on the lamps, give it a few minutes and wash it off. Your lights will shine brighter than ever before. This is a tried-and-true trick we love!

22. Windows

When washing passenger windows many people forget to clean the very top. To get all of the gunk, roll the window down just a bit and work your way down. This approach will lead to clean and shiny windows.

21. Little Cracks

To get into the nooks and crannies of the armrests and such, you’ll need to use a pointy tool — a screwdriver works best. Grab a flat end screwdriver, cover it with a thin cloth and work away.

20. WD-40

Regret putting those bumper stickers on your new car? Don’t worry, with the help of WD-40, you can remove even the most stubborn of decals. Just spray some WD-40 directly on the sticker, allow some time to soak, then pull it right off.

19. Rubbing Alcohol

Slimy windshield wipers are the worst. Replacing them all the time is way too expensive, so what to do when your wiper smears water across your windshield and leaves awful streak? To remedy this common problem, wipe down your wipers with generous amounts of rubbing alcohol and let dry. You’ll have to replace them regularly still, but this will lengthen their shelf-life.

18. Clay Bar clay bar

You can find clay in any toy store or children’s section of any store. But clay bars made especially for cars are available on many websites, including Amazon. These are reusable and cheap: One bar may run you as little as $4! You’ll never believe how wiping down a wet car with one of these can bring on so much shine!

17. Hair Conditioner 3 lanolin conditioner

Another great alternative to waxing your car and getting a comparable shine is using hair conditioner. Just as that gooey stuff can make your hair look shiny, it can do the same for the paint on an automobile. Just make sure you choose a brand that contains lanolin, which is the magic ingredient that gives a waxy finish. Just pour some into a towel and work it in in circular motions until your car is shiny like new.

16. Gooey Cleaning Slime 



Yes you read the title correct. Feel like you’re in kindergarten again when you clean your car with this sticky cleaning slime. You can go two ways with obtaining this fantastic cleaning solution, either buy some online or make it yourself. Making it yourself is pretty easy and anyone can do it! Simply mix 1/2 cup of liquid starch, 4oz bottle of Elmer’s glue, and 1/4 cup of water to finally enjoy cleaning your car for once.

15. Vents

This is actually worse than it looks! If your car smells awful and you don’t know what it is, it just might be that you need to replace the vents or at least clean them. Before cleaning, always check for mold which is more troubling than a foul odor and can cause respiratory problems. If it is indeed mold, you must replace them. Otherwise, clean vigorously and use Q-tips to get into the crevices. More often than not, clogged vents are the cause of a check engine light.

14. Vodka

Windshield wiper fluid is not the only thing that’s resistant to frost. Here’s a homemade recipe that won’t freeze and will make your windshield sparkle like diamonds: A few drops of Castile soap in good old vodka! You don’t need the expensive stuff. In fact, buy the cheapest you can buy. Just don’t leave the empty bottle in the car afterwards.

 13. Kerosene

No, we’re not trying to blow up your ride. A solution of kerosene and water makes for the perfect no-wax shine treatment imaginable. Once you douse your car in it, just wipe dry. The sheen that’s left behind even repels rain. Obviously, avoid smoking while shining up your car.

12. Q-Tips

When you do your own detailing, Q-tips are indispensable tools in getting deep into crevices. They sop up detergent and clean nicely. They even come in handy when cleaning out cup holders, where the crevices are hard to reach with a cloth.

11. Diapers

There are some haters out there debunking this tried-and-true method of quickly picking up spills on upholstery. But really — what’s more absorbent than a diaper? If you’re a mom, you almost always have a diaper in hand. Try it for yourself and your car will never be empty of these babies (no pun intended).

10. Wet Newspaper wet newspaper

Is your college parking sticker still on your car even though you graduated years ago? Did you leave that awful apartment complex and your sticker’s been stuck in front of your eyes for months? The easiest way to get rid of these unsightly stickers is to take newspaper, crumple it up and wet it and just keep rubbing until the sticker loosens up. If that fails, try dousing the paper in nailpolish remover and rub your heart out.

9. Nail Polish

Does that hairline crack only you can see totally freak you out? Well, it should, but at least there’s a temporary fix that will prevent it from cracking further. Plain old clear nail polish can buy you some time before you replace that window or windshield. Use the polish generously and let it take hold.

8. Magic Eraser

Magic eraser is actually magic. For all those sticky spots that have been hiding from plain sight, this little magic sponge wipes up fast without leaving any stain whatsoever. These pads are as effective as steel wool without all that nasty steel-wool juice. You just need to spray it with a little Lysol Cleaner and bend it around all the crevices of your interior. It also works great on upholstery.

7. Vaseline


This gooey stuff can do more than make your eyelashes grow thicker. All those expensive dashboard cleaners can’t measure up to good-old Vaseline. Petroleum jelly will not only make your interior shine, regular use will prevent your dashboard from cracking. It’s actually more effective than Armour-All!

6. Brush & Vacuum

If you actually make the effort to get rid of all the dirt and dust that settles in your car you’ll be shocked by just how much there actually is in this vessel that you drive around in every day. Dust away with a paintbrush or makeup brush if that’s all you have (and don’t use it on your face afterwards). But make sure to have a vacuum handy as you do this or else all that dust will just settle elsewhere.

5. Club Soda

fabulesslyfrugal club soda

The toughest stains can’t stand up to club soda, especially if you’re able to use it right away. Pat dry the stain first. Dampen a small cloth or towel with club soda and pat the stain. If you’re working with an old stain, use the club soda more liberally and watch the stain lift. This stuff can lift red wine off white fabric, so it should be no problem removing coffee and other stains.

4. Squeegee

Squeegees aren’t just for scraping ice. They are perfect for folks who bring their furry friends on outings with them in the car. Just spray a little water on your seats and squeegee away all that dog hair! You can also use it to sweep your interior if you don’t have time to vacuum.

3. Vinegar add to dishwashing deterg

Vinegar is your best friend in many DIY cleaning solutions. Mix a little with dishwasher detergent and you have the best window washing solution ever. Mix a little into shampoo or laundry detergent and get out those unsightly stains on your upholstery. Just make sure to mix the solution well and work it into the fabric you’re cleaning.

2. Charcoal

charcoal briquettes

Car air fresheners only mask bad odors. If you’re that person who eats subs with extra onions in your car, your best bet is to get some charcoal briquettes and place them under your car seats. Charcoal absorbs all foul smells. Plus, you can still use them for a bbq later. These will not make your car smell pretty, however. To see how you can do that without buying those ugly hanging strawberries or expensive fresheners, check out hack #30 again.

1. Coke

Check out this incredible hack that may force you to wonder what it is that you’re actually putting in your body when you drink a glass of coke. This stuff is so strong that you can use it to remove rust stains. If rust spot is especially stubborn, pour coke on steel wool and rub in circular motions.
These 30 tricks should help you keep your car cleaner, if not, then you should sign up for our email list and receive more cleaning tips straight to your inbox for free! Sign up below!

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