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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.

Plastic bottles of body care and beauty products.monticello/Shutterstock

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. Check out these car cleaning secrets only car detailers know.

Cans of New Coke and Coca-Cola Classic are on display during a news conference in Atlanta. New Coke's sweeter formula was a marketed as an improved replacement for the flagship soda, but the outcry was immediate and sustained. Coke tried to sell both versions for awhile, but eventually reverted to "Coca-Cola ClassicCharles Kelly/Shutterstock

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.

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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. Always remember these maintenance tips that will extend the life of your car.

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Shine those car lights

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

Hand picked a wet wipes in package box, Wet wipes in a woman's handAdam Radosavljevic/Shutterstock

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? This year, get your car ready for winter with these potentially life-saving tips. 

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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. Always keep these items in your car to be more productive.

car's windshield rain wipernui7711/Shutterstock

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.

Male auto care service staff cleaning car window with microfiber clothAtstock Productions/Shutterstock

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.

Baking soda on wooden spoon on white wooden textured background.Eskymaks/Shutterstock

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. Watch out for these secrets car dealers won’t tell you about leasing.

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.

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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. Next, read about these items that you should never, ever leave in your car.