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40 Car Cleaning Hacks from Expert Auto Detailers

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By: Carlos Sanchez | Last updated: Sep 20, 2022

Few people would be quoted as saying they love cleaning. It’s a tedious endeavor that leaves you feeling sweaty and gross, and nowhere is this more true than with our automobiles. Cars have so many nooks and crannies that are difficult to reach, but if you miss cleaning them, you can be left with strange odors, unsightly grime, and other unpleasant issues.

With all this in mind, we’ve  decided to bring you some brilliant car cleaning hacks that will make the job a breeze and your car feel nice and clean. From the wonders of WD-40 to some genuinely impressive toothpaste tricks, get set to discover the easiest and most effective ways to detail an automobile.

The Secret to Sparkling Lights

Who would’ve thought toothpaste could be as helpful to your car as it is to your pearly whites? The very same ingredients in toothpaste that allow it to freshen up your smile can ensure your lights are always clear and bright.

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Source: YouTube/Mark's Garage

Simply buff some toothpaste onto the casings of your headlights and tail lights, and then wipe them clean. When that toothpaste foam slides off, you’ll be left with sparkling clean casings that allow your lights to shine through seamlessly.

Vent Cleaning Made Easy

No one wants to be breathing in dust, mold, and whatever else may have accumulated in those air conditioning vents. Of course, cleaning them isn’t easy as you can’t exactly reach in there. Thankfully, a simple can of compressed air is all you need.

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Angle the nozzle into the vents and give it a good spray. Get it from multiple angles to ensure you’re able to blow out every particle. This is a particularly helpful tip for those who have just bought a used car. This way, you won’t be driving around, breathing in someone else’s dust and debris.

Harness Nanotechnology

Apparently, all it takes is a simple cloth to remove scratches and stains from your car. The catch is that cloth needs to be made with cutting-edge nanotechnology. Pick yourself up one of these scratch remover cloths, and you can restore the pristine paint job your vehicle came with.

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You’ll get around 10 to 15 uses out of every cloth, and they generally come with a warranty. This means you can test them out on your car, and if they’re not effective for some reason, you can contact the company to have the issue rectified.

Sponge It Out

A can of compressed air is a brilliant car cleaning aid that can help you clear all sorts of nooks and crannies in your vehicle. However, if you have particularly clingy dust or grime, you may need to expand your arsenal of auto detailing tools.

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Expert auto detailers never head to work without a handy sponge or two. As you can see from the image above, these tools help you clean out those hard-to-reach places, ensuring your vehicle always looks pristine.

Get Slimy

Believe it or not, the slime craze isn’t just for kids. It’s for anyone who wants a clean car.

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Source: YouTube/TheThings

Just whip up some homemade slime and press it over any hard-to-reach areas in your car where dirt gets trapped. The slime, which is naturally sticky, won’t stain your surfaces, but it will pick up all sorts of debris, like a big, gooey lint roller.

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The Trusty Toothbrush

It’s not just toothpaste that can help you put the sparkle back into your car. An old toothbrush should also be an essential part of your car cleaning kit. With this simple, inexpensive tool, you can easily get into the seams and detail of your upholstery, leaving the interior of your car looking fresh and new.

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Source: popularmechanics.com

If you’ve ever cleaned the grout between tiles in your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll be familiar with how this works. Whip out your preferred cleaning agent (you don’t have to use toothpaste), and then set to work with the brush.

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Easy Homemade Air Freshener

Many of the best cleaning hacks don’t involve cleaning so much as preventing mess in the first place. This is one such hack. To prevent your car from developing any unpleasant odors, use the three items below to create a natural, chemical-free air freshener.

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Source: Tulips and Twill

First, test out a few different essential oils until you find a scent you adore. Once you’ve got your essential oil ready, fill a small canning jar with baking soda. Add a few drops of your essential oil of choice, and then place a small circle of breathable fabric over the top. Canning jars have a hole in the lid, so you can screw it on to hold the cloth in place, but it will still allow the scent to escape and fill your car.

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An Even Easier Air Freshener

If you thought the last air freshener was easy breezy, you’ll love this one. All you need to do is select your favorite essential oil, add a few drops to a wooden peg, allow it to soak in, and then attach it to one of your air conditioning vents.

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Source: The Krazy Coupon Lady

As air flows through the vent, it will carry the beautiful scent all through your car. If you feel like getting adventurous, you could mix oils to create a signature scent for your vehicle. Think lavender and mint or cinnamon and sandalwood.

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Remove Stickers with Ease

Perhaps you’ve picked up a used car at a bargain price, but it’s covered with someone else’s political slogans. Maybe they’re your old stickers, and you’ve just grown out of them. Whatever the case, you can be left with an ugly, sticky, grimy mess if you simply try to peel bumper stickers and decals off.

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Source: YouTube/OriginalWD40

A more effective solution is to arm yourself with a can of WD-40. Peel back a small section of the sticker and spray the underside, peeling as you go. You’ll find the WD-40 loosens up the glue, allowing the sticker to slide off seamlessly.

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Amazing Mayo

How frustrating is it when you step out of your car only to discover that there are spots of tar splattered all over it? This is especially annoying when you’ve just gone to the effort of cleaning and polishing the paintwork. Though tar is notoriously difficult to clean off, we have an easy (but surprising) solution – mayonnaise.

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Yes, you read that right! All you have to do is slather some mayo on the tar-splattered area and leave it to work its magic for 10 to 15 minutes. Wash it off with warm soapy water, and gaze down in wonder at the results of this strange but effective cleaning method.

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Amazing Armor All

Of course, there’s more than just mayo to be amazed by. When it comes to effective car cleaning strategies, there are plenty of unlikely products that can work a treat. Take Armor All wipes, for example.

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Though they’re designed for the home, Armor All wipes are ideal for bringing the shine back to hubcaps, rims, wheels, vinyl car interiors, and more. So, arm yourself with some Armor All wipes, and have fun discovering the many ways in which they can add sparkle to your car.

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Work Wonders for Your Windshield

While it’s important to keep the outside of your windshield clean, it’s equally crucial that you don’t forget about the inside. Though it’s not exposed to the weather outside, the inside of your vehicle has a climate of its own, and sweat, oil, dust, and grime can cling to your windshield, making it difficult to see.

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To address this issue, auto detailers recommend picking up a handy little microfiber glass cleaning tool like the one pictured above. Simply swipe it over the inside surface of your windows and your front and back windshields, and you’re done!

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Eliminate Bad Odors

Since we leave them closed up for hours at a time, it’s common for car interiors to cling onto any unpleasant odors they’re exposed to. Maybe you drop a friend home after a particularly sweaty gym session, or perhaps your dog got a bit stinky after a trip to the beach. Whatever is causing the offending odor, baking soda is the answer.

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Simply sprinkle the powder onto the smelly area, and give it at least 15 to 20 minutes to get the job done. Once you can no longer smell anything unpleasant, vacuum the baking soda up.

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Another Use for Baking Soda

We love a multi-purpose product, and baking soda definitely fits the bill. While you’re waiting for it to absorb unpleasant odors in your car, why not use that box of baking soda to give your rims a makeover?

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In a small container, mix half a cup of baking soda with a tablespoon of dish soap. Add two cups of warm water, stir up your magic potion, and then sponge it over your rims until they’re positively sparkling.

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Delete Dust

You could buy a fancy (and expensive) dusting product from your local auto shop, or you could do just as good a job with one of the cheapest items in your kitchen cupboards. That’s right – all you need is a coffee filter.

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Source: Krazy Coupon Lady 

Just whip out a coffee filter and run it over the dusty surfaces in your car. You’ll be shocked at how easy and effective it is. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, dryer sheets will do the job too.

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Condition Your Car

It’s not just your hair that needs conditioning. Giving the surfaces in your car a conditioning treatment will protect them from the harsh effects of daily exposure to sunlight. All you need is a microfiber cloth and a tub of petroleum jelly.

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Source: The Krazy Coupon Lady

Petroleum Jelly works wonders for conditioning leather upholstery and vinyl dashboards. The key is to start doing this before your dashboard and upholstery start drying and cracking from sun exposure.

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Don’t Let Trees Sap Your Energy

We adore trees for so many reasons, not the least of which being that they provide us with the oxygen we breathe. However, there’s no denying the fact that it’s a little soul-destroying to return to your car to discover spots of tree sap all over it.

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Source: VEH Q

Tree sap is notoriously difficult to remove, and in many cases, if you fail to remove it, the sap can eat into your paintwork. To prevent this from happening, simply wipe rubbing alcohol over the tree sap. Then gently buff the sap away with a cloth and wash the area clean.

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Road Trip Trick

Everyone loves a good road trip – in theory. Once you’re actually out on the road, it can vary from tedious to downright maddening. One of the best ways to beat the boredom and keep everyone happy is to have plenty of food on hand. However, food inevitably leads to mess. Thankfully, we have a neat solution.

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All you need is a dollar store bathroom caddy like the one pictured above. No matter what dietary choices you and your passengers make, you can keep your meals contained and your car mess-free.

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Don’t Be Trashy

If you’re guilty of allowing trash to accumulate in your car, don’t stress – we do the exact same thing! Thankfully, there’s an easy solution. All you need to do is dig up an old cereal container from your cupboard or head to your local dollar store to pick one up.

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As you can see from the picture, we’re not talking about the cardboard box your cereal comes in! What you need is one of these handy Tupperware containers designed to keep cereal fresh and crispy. It can double as a sleek and simple in-car trash receptacle.

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Enjoy Fresh Air

If you’ve tried the baking soda tip we mentioned earlier, but your car still has a funny odor, it may be time to give the cabin filter a thorough clean. Thankfully, this job is easier than it looks.

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Whip out your car manual (or look it up online), and follow the instructions for removing the cabin air filter. Once you’ve got it out, determine the best way to clean it. This will depend on the make and model of your car, but in general, a small sponge tool, a can of compressed air, and a microfiber cloth are good options.

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News of the World

Many of us get our news online these days, but now you have a reason to enjoy news reading the old-fashioned way. As it turns out, newspaper is one of the best cleaning tools you could hope to have for your car.

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How wonderful is it that the perfect window shiner is something you can pick up for free (or a couple of bucks at most)? Newspaper is excellent at absorbing grease, oil, soap build-up, and basically anything else that may have accumulated on your windows.

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Another Newsworthy Hack

How amazing is it that inexpensive things like coffee filters and newspapers can be such effective cleaning tools? This newspaper hack is designed for those who have old registration stickers cluttering up their windshields.

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Thoroughly soak a sheet of newspaper in warm water and then rub the sticker with it. Amazingly, you’ll find it peels off with ease. If you’re left with any residue, soak another sheet of newspaper in rubbing alcohol and buff it away.

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Deep Clean Your Cupholders

One of the most difficult spots to keep clean in a car is the cupholders. Not only are they small and hard to get at, but their rounded edges and steep walls make it hard to get a perfectly clean finish. Thankfully, there’s a hack for that.

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Source: The Krazy Coupon Lady

First, find a travel cup that snugly fits into your cupholders. Then, slip it into a clean sock that you don’t mind getting dirty. Spray it thoroughly with Windex and push it into your cup holder. Swish it around until each cup holder is looking like new again.

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Keep Those Cupholders Clean

One of the most difficult spots to keep clean in a car is the cupholders. Not only are they small and hard to get at, but their rounded edges and steep walls make it hard to get a perfectly clean finish. Thankfully, there’s a hack for that.

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Source: Bloglovin.com

Unlike the other hacks we’ve seen so far, this one is a preventative measure. All you need are some patty pans  – the type you’d use to make muffins. Simply pop them into your cupholders, use them to store your spare change and other odds and ends, and when they get dirty, swap them out.

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No More Fights with Fur

We love our fur babies, and we’ll never stop taking them on outings to the dog park. However, one thing we do not love is the state they often leave our cars in by the time we get home! We have a simple solution to this furry problem.

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While you could put a sheet down, that would only leave you with more washing to do. A better solution is to keep a squeegee in your car. While squeegees are designed for cleaning glass, they do a brilliant job of swiping fur from upholstery.

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Greased Lightning

While olive oil is a staple in most kitchens, few people think to bust it out when they’re cleaning their cars. As it turns out, this delightful salad dressing ingredient can also do a brilliant job of cleaning your car interiors.

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Source: Pinterest/ChasingFoxes

Before you go crazy with the oil, we recommend dabbing just a small amount on your dashboard with a cloth. This is crucial as you want to be sure there won’t be any odd reactions between the oil and the material your dash is made from. If all looks good, then you can clean the whole surface easily with a spot of oil on your cloth.

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Open Sesame

Have you ever had trouble unlocking your car door on a cold winter morning? Though you’d rather be snuggled up in bed, humans sadly don’t hibernate for winter. So if you need to get going, run inside and grab a bottle of hand sanitizer.

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Simply squirt some on the lock to melt any moisture that was freezing it in place. Insert your key, and you should be good to go. If this doesn’t work, it may be time to upgrade to a car with central locking!

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Car Mat Hack

Car mats do a wonderful job of keeping your vehicle clean. However, they’re exposed to the worst dirt and grime imaginable, so it’s no surprise that they can end up looking horrendous. If yours could use some TLC, gently pull them out and pop them in the washing machine.

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Add some heavy-duty stain remover, and let the machine work its magic. Another option is to simply place the mats in your bathtub or laundry tub and soak them. If you opt for this method, simply follow the soaking instructions on your chosen stain remover.

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Wax on, Wax Off

If you have crayon-loving kids or a candle-loving housemate or partner, you may end up in the unenviable position of finding melted wax on your car seats, carpet, or floor mats. If this happens, you’ll need to get yourself an iron, an extension cord, and a sheet of paper.

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Source: Pinterest/NickSimeone

Plug the iron in, using the extension cord to reach the nearest power source. While you let it heat up, pop that sheet of paper over the wax. All you need to do is iron the piece of paper, and the wax will heat up and transfer itself over.

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Shampoo Swap

No one likes stepping into their car everyday to see that same old stain staring back at them. Your car is one of your assets, so if you want to treat it as such, we have good news for you – there’s an easy and affordable way to get rid of those frustrating stains.

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Source: YouTube/Chris Notap

For general dirt and scuff marks, dish soap and hot water should be enough to do the trick. If it’s a blood stain, hydrogen peroxide should get it out. Whatever stain you’re dealing with, just be sure to use a plain, undyed cloth when cleaning. Otherwise, you could end up creating a new stain!

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Hair Care or Car Care?

You don’t have to fork out for an overpriced polish to get your car looking its best. All you need to create that polished and professional look is a bottle of hair conditioner from your bathroom. Bonus points if you use the free bottles of conditioner you pocket whenever you stay at a hotel!

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Source: The Family Handyman

Mix half a cup of any conditioner (this equates to around four hotel-sized bottles) with two cups of water. Buff the mixture over the surface of your vehicle, and watch that new-car shine emerge!

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Wipe Your Wipers

Wipers are there to clean your windscreen, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need some TLC too! Fail to clean your wipers, and they’ll create a horrendous mess the next time you’re driving in the rain.

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Source: YouTube/BrightonFordMi

Not only is it annoying to have a smeared windscreen, but it’s also pretty dangerous. To avoid this problem, give your wipers a regular wipe down with rubbing alcohol.

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Dive Into the Details

Even if you clean your car weekly, it’s easy to overlook certain details. While this isn’t a problem if it happens once in a while, failing to do things like cleaning under the seats can lead to big problems over time.

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So, whenever you clean your car, be sure to move your seats all the way forward so you can get at anything that’s slipped under there. This could save you from having an old, forgotten bottle of iced coffee explode under the seat of your car!

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Perfect (Nail) Polish

Since cars regularly travel at high velocity along streets covered in stones, gravel, and other debris, it’s inevitable that you’ll pick up a few chips and scratches. Instead of agonizing over these imperfections, find a bottle of nail polish that perfectly matches your car’s paint job.

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Source: Pinterest/I Creative Ideas

Instead of wasting money on expensive repair work, simply pop a little nail polish over any chips or scratches. Buff it in and polish it off once it’s dry, and your car will look good as new.

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Plunge It Out

If you’ve been unfortunate enough to sustain a dent in the bodywork of your car, you’re likely cringing at the quotes you’ve been given for fixing it. If you’re not yet ready to pay the high price of a professional repair job, consider this easy hack.

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Source: Home Hacks

Simply pick up a brand new toilet plunger and apply it to the dent, and then pull back. Fair warning: This doesn’t always work as it depends greatly on the size and dimensions of the dent. However, it’s worth a shot! 

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Erase Scuff Marks

No one likes to see scuff marks on their prized possessions, and nowhere is this more true than with your car. To buff out any minor marks on the interior surfaces of your car, add a Magic Eraser to your shopping list.

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Source: It Still Runs

These tools look and feel like firm sponges, but the material they’re made out of allows them to easily buff away minor marks and scratches. This is an especially helpful hack if you’re looking to sell your car and get the best possible price for it.

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Happy Puppy

If you love taking your pup on adventures to the park or the beach and want your fur baby to be as comfortable as possible, it’s worth investing in a good-quality pet hammock for the backseat of your car.

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Source: Pinterest/AprilPratt

Not only will this keep pups cocooned and comfortable, but it will also prevent any hair, dirt, or muck from getting on your upholstery. The best part is that it washes easily and can be rolled up and stored in the trunk of your car when not in use.

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Ice-Free Windscreen

Remember how we recommended wiping your wiper blades with rubbing alcohol to keep them clean? Well, it might be a good idea to keep that bottle of rubbing alcohol in the car. As it turns out, it’s the best tool to help you quickly remove ice buildup from your windscreen.

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Source: Toronto Star

Swipe some rubbing alcohol over the ice, and watch it melt away. Pop your windscreen wipers on to clear any remaining ice, and you should be good to go. How easy is that?

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Beat the Bugs

When it comes to cleaning your car, the only thing more frustrating than tar and tree sap is the endless splatter of bugs that need to be wiped off. Just like tree sap, splattered bugs can wear away your paint job if you don’t clean them off quickly enough, so take this hack to heart!

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Source: The Krazy Coupon Lady

Dryer sheets do a brilliant job of cleaning off even the most resistant bug splatter. So, you can stop wasting time and energy scrubbing away at your car and use this easy and effective method instead.

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Curate Your Perfect Cleaning Kit

Now that you’ve armed yourself with a whole host of simple yet powerful car cleaning hacks, it’s time to test them out and find the ones that work best for you and your vehicle. Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to keep them handy – this is where your car cleaning kit comes in.

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Source: Bloglovin.com

You can use a tub from a dollar store or even just repurpose an old Amazon delivery box to create the base for your kit. Fill it with dryer sheets, rubbing alcohol, cloths, sponges, ice scrapers, and anything else you need. This way, you won’t have random products rolling around in your car and getting lost under the seats.

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