13 Weird Tricks to Clean Your Car | Reader's Digest

13 Weird Tricks to Clean Your Car

We found simple, cheap, unexpected tips on how to wash your car to keep it cleaner for longer.

Adapted by Damon Beres from More Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things
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    Hair conditioner for shine

    Wash your car with a hair conditioner containing lanolin. You'll become a believer when you see the freshly waxed look, and when you find that the surface will repel rain.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Fizz windshields clean with cola

    When it rains after a long dry spell, a dirty windshield turns into one big mess. Get rid of streaks and blotches by pouring cola over the glass. (Stretch a towel along the bottom of the windshield to protect hood paint.) The bubbles in the cola will fizz away the grime. Just be sure to wash the sticky cola off thoroughly or your cleaning efforts will end up attracting dust and dirt.

    Hemera/Thinkstock

    Vodka on the job

    When your windshield-washer reservoir needs filling, raid the liquor cabinet to make your own washing fluid. In a screw-top gallon jug, mix 3 cups vodka (the cheapest you can find) with 4 cups water and 2 teaspoons liquid dishwashing detergent. Screw on the cap and shake well, then pour as much fluid as needed into the reservoir.

    Shine those car lights

    Keep your headlights polished (and yourself, safe) by applying window cleaner and rubbing vigorously with an old pair of panty hose.

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    A one-step window cleaner

    Clean your windshield and car windows by rubbing them with baby wipes stored in your glove compartment. What could be easier?

    iStock/Thinkstock

    No windshield washing fluid?

    If the reservoir is empty (and doesn't it always seem to be?), use an unlikely substitute to clean your windshield: feminine hygiene maxi-pads, a box of which you could stash in the trunk. Hold a pad on the sticky side and rub the windshield vigorously. The glass will really shine once you've wiped it to the max.

    Clean your blades

    If your windshield wiper blades get dirty, they'll streak the glass instead of keeping it clean and clear. Make a solution of 1/4 cup household ammonia to 1 quart cold water. Gently lift the blades, and wipe both sides with a soft cloth or paper towel soaked in the solution. Then wipe the blades with a dry cloth before lowering them into place.

    You can see clearly now

    Add 1/4 cup household ammonia to 1 quart water, pour it into a plastic bottle with a water-tight cap, and keep it in your car for washing the windshield and windows. As soon as your windshield begins to get dirty, take out the solution and apply it with a sponge; then dry the windshield with a soft cloth or paper towels.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Baking-soda car cleaner

    Pour 1/4 cup baking soda into a gallon-sized jug, then add 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid and enough water to fill the jug almost to the top. Screw on the cap, shake well, and store the concentrate for later use. When it comes time to wash the car, shake the jug vigorously and then pour 1 cup of cleaner base into a 2-gallon water pail. Fill the pail with warm water, stir to mix, and your homemade cleaning solution is ready to use.

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    Banish back-road dirt

    In many rural areas, so-called oil roads (some unpaved, others semi-paved) are sprayed with oil to control blowing sand and dust. If you find yourself driving along one of these back roads, your windshield may end up coated with oily grime. To cut through the muck, sprinkle cream of tartar over the windshield, and then wipe the glass down with soapy water, rinse well, and dry.

    iStock/Thinkstock

    A surprising no-wax washer

    Add 1 cup kerosene to a 3-gallon pail filled with water and then sponge the solution over your car. You won't have to spray the car before washing or rinse or wax it once you're done. And the next time it rains, rainwater will bead up and roll off the car, lessening the likelihood of rusting.

    Watch the heat

    Washing your car when it's too hot—right after you've been driving it, for example, or when it's been parked in direct sunlight—can result in soapy splotches and deposits, says Consumer Reports.

    Avoid air drying

    Also according to Consumer Reports, air drying your car—or driving it around while it's wet—after washing can leave unsightly watermarks on its exterior. Use a chamois or a soft terry cloth, plus a squeegee to soak excess water up—just make sure it doesn't pick up dirt that can scratch the vehicle.

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    Your Comments

    • Katie W

      Using window cleaner on your headlights will fog the finish over time. In fact, a quick google search will show why most of these “tips” are terrible ideas.

    • pug 306

      well all of these so called diy household products for cleaning/washing your cars are a bad idea because it will damage paintwork and definatly strip the wax off…the best products to use are AUTOGLYM and MEGUIARS and for all the glass on your car is a good product called RAIN-X weather beater…its a 2-in-1 glass cleaner + rain repellent.ihave used thes products for years and i have never had any problems..

    • matt

      Dish soap is just fine for a car’s paint. The fact that they use it to clean oil off of penguins after oil spills should tell you something. It does however strip wax off of the car, thus necessitating a complete re-wax

      • BobsBurgersFoodTruck

        I’ve got bugs sun baked onto my car that a regular wash didn’t even begin to take off. i mean BAKED on, any ideas?

    • matt

      DO NOT use window cleaner on PLASTIC headlight lenses. You will only accelerate the oxidation that makes them turn cloudy, yellow, and brittle.

    • Diane Semmling

      Don’t do this with kerosene…you are in violation of the Clean Water Act

    • Al

      Used regularly, kerosene will strip the finish from your car – have at it!

      Separately, Simple Green and vinegar are the only 2 things I used to clean just about everything. Both are reasonable inexpensive, both are non-toxic, and both are environmentally safe.

      Full strength SG is the best thing I’ve found yet to remove brake dust from car wheels.

    • Clean Your Car HQ

      Man this is a bad list! it should be titled 13 ways NOT to clean your car.

      Kerosine strips off the wax, baking soda doesn’t have any lubricant and will scratch the paint.

      Using a panty hose to polish the headlight? Are you kidding me? If you want to scratch the headlights be my guest.

      Vodka is feasible for windows since it is alcohol but don’t mix it with detergent, and why use an expensive liquid like vodka just buy a plain alcohol.

      Cola over glass? Common, unless you want ants all over your car…

      Hair conditioner as your car shampoo? good luck in rinsing it off

      Ammonia? That’s bad for the tint and for your health, stay away from it.

      • BobsBurgersFoodTruck

        Any ideas how to get sun baked bugs off my car? the car wash didnt do a thing and im worried its going to ruin my paint.

        • T G

          WD40 let it sit on the bugs for a while, then gently rub with a microfiber towel. It may take a while, but it should work. If they have gotten into the paint, then a body shop will have to do a color wet sand of the car. After this, have the car waxed regularly.

    • Hawkeye

      Living in a hot humid climate, bugs are an issue. One way to remove them if you don’t have access to an expensive chemical solution is to wet the area, then scrub with static clean dryer sheets. You will have to wash the film off from the sheets, but it comes off pretty easy with your car wash solution. I always keep a box of them in my shop. I’,m sure the experts will say it is bad for the paint. Been doing it for years with no problems. Works on the bumpers, plastic surfaces and glass.

    • http://www.facebook.com/holly.nicoson Holly Nicoson

      I use ‘Bon Ami’ or ‘Bar Keeper’s Friend’ to clean my windshield. Works great and have had compliments on how clean my windshield was. I just get my windshield wet and sprinkle a bit on and rub it around with a sponge or cloth and rinse off. I would do this first before washing as you need to clean the ‘Bon Ami’ off after.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clarence-McGregor/656390816 Clarence McGregor

      God washes my truck.