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I recently realized how dirty my vehicle was getting and decided to rise up and make a stand against the onslaught of dirt and grime. But I didn't just want to make the outside nice and shiny. I wanted that all-over clean, like how your mouth feels after gargling Listerine. So, I did my homework and bought some stuff and spent my day making my car happy-clean. Here are some helpful tips for my fellow noders with messy hoopties:

Cleaning the Interior
I think it's a good idea to clean the inside of your car first. See, when you're messin' around in there, you've usually got the doors open and are likely to get some dust from the inside onto the exterior, which can be disappointing if you've just cleaned the outside.

Ok, first thing you should do is clean your vinyl stuff (i.e. your dashboard, parts of the doors and floor, console, etc.). I personally like to use good ol' Armor All vinyl protectant. I find that it gives the surface the kind of shine I'm looking for. It also seems to do a very good job as a cleaner.

Woohoo, we got shiny vinyl! The next step is to clean your upholstery. This is a little more tricky if you want to do a real good job. I bought this Bissell Little Green Machine to do this. You put in the special soap and some water and start cleaning your seats, floors, and I even used it on the ceiling. The Green Machine sprays the soapy solution behind its vacuum head, so the soap loosens grime and vacuum sucks the water and dirt right back up. This little guy is very effective. What's really cool is you have the option to not use the solution, so the thing is a good vacuum too. They run about 70 bucks but it is worth it. You'll want to do this step in the morning if possible, because it may take a while for the upholstery to fully dry.

At this point, I like to go through the interior with a toothbrush, and clean out the little crevices wherever dirt is visible. I know this seems a little silly, but they do call it DETAILing.

Clean the Exterior:
Now, it's time to do the outside. Make sure your doors and windows are shut before attempting this! First, you should spray your car with water. If you're really fanatical about paint, you should use low-pressure luke-warm water because high pressure and low or high temperature can crack your paint; also because hyphenated words are always good for your automobile.

Now you'll wanna put a couple of cap-fulls of car washing soap into a bucket. I like to use Turtle-Wax's Car Wash and Wax. They say you should use a soap with neutral pH 'cause high pH can damage the protective sheen of previous waxings. I've never noticed that though.

Alrighty baby, start scrubbing. Use a sponge or a nice rag, but for Pete's sake, don't use steel wool. I learned that the hard way. A lot of people like to use those washing mitts; that way, if you've got bracelets or watches, they'll be covered and your sweet baby won't get scratched. It's a good idea to start with the roof of course, that way any dirt and stuff will drip onto already dirty lower section of the car. Always thinkin', that's you. Make sure you've always got some good sudsy action on your cleaning apparatus. When cleaning your car, lather is your friend.

When you're through with a section, like the roof, or a door, or the trunk area, you should spray it down with water before the suds dry you don't get crazy spots and stuff. Also, work your way from top to bottom for the aforementioned reason.

Now, it's time to do the tires and rims. You should find a cleaner specific for your tires and wheels. Armor All has some really good products for that. Your toothbrush will come in handy here too. First, wash the rim as best you can by hand, with your rag or sponge. Then use the toothbrush to get in the little nooks and crannies. You want those babies to shine. Now scrub your tires; yes, the rubber things. There are some products out there that make your tires look really nice. All shiny and glossy looking. You might not notice it now, but sharp-looking tires really make a car stand out.

After all your cleaning is done, I like to give the car a final spray-down. Now it is imperative that you dry it. You can use regular towels, but there are some really cool thingies you can buy that are super absorbent and stuff. If you don't dry the car, you could end up with unsightly water spots.

Now, you have a clean, sexy automobile. I know, I know, I should have talked about waxing, but that's such a huge subject, it will be in a writeup all its own. Good luck to you all in your car cleaning adventures!

A quick addition: I've received a few /msg's here, and it seems a lot of folks find that the Q-tip can be much more effective than my toothbrush. I've never really had a problem with my toothbrush in picking up all my undesirable funk, though I live in a rather dry climate and static electricity is pretty dense, so my toothbrush is like a little Swiffer sweeper thingy, but I can see how a Q-tip immensely more effective in a humid climate.

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