The Cost of Clean

Jeremy Torr
4 Aug 2015

You've just bought a car. It cost a lot of money. Then there is the COE (don't start me), and if you leave it outside bats and birds will poo on it, haze and rain will smudge it and oily trucks will cover it in grime. Time to clean up.

But taking a bit of care of your new vehicle will do more than just impress the neighbours. If you want to sell or return on lease, the buyer or lease agent will run their fingers over the door frames, up in the wheel wells and under the seats for sure. If they get extremely dirty fingers, it will end up being more costly for you.

So why not do the sensible thing, and invest some time in cleaning properly Here's a few tips.

1) Don't use cheap cleaning fluids or (even worse) washing up liquid.

The more often you clean, the more the paint will attract dirt if you go cheap and use a cleaner with phosphates in. Phosphates make the cleaning process easier by acting as a water softener, but they also soften the wax or protective layer on top of the paint, encouraging it to get rough. So when you have finished, the paint looks nice and clean, but it will get grubby much faster than if you use a proper cleaner or worse, lose its sparkle over time.

Find a suitable car shampoo with Carousell!

2) Clean inside first.

Why? Here's a simple recipe for disaster: clean the car and leave puddles around it, then trail a vacuum cleaner cable through the puddles. Sure, your cleaner cables are safe - but when did you last actually check? Be sensible, vacuum in the dry, or use a battery powered one. Vacuuming inside first also stops the vacuum sucking up muddy sludge from the door sills and gooping up its works.

How about a pre-loved car vacuum? You won't be using it that often.

3) Pre-wash.

Don't just go in with the suds like a dive bomber; give your car some time to soak with plain (preferably warm) water everywhere before you go to work with the soap or cleaner solution. That applies especially to nooks, crannies and ultra-grime zones like wheels, wheel wells and under the boot.

Find the right wheel and tyre cleaning products here.

4) Don't use a soft cloth.

They are the best ever at picking up tiny scratchy bits of dirt and grit and using them to dig fine, value-reducing scratches in the paintwork and interiors. When it comes to cleaning, microfibre cloths are the business for exteriors, and those special Japanese static cloths best for cleaning inside the car. You will be astonished how much traditional wet cloths smear dirt around inside; don't use them. And for the exteriors? Real chamois leather is still the best there is to get rid of excess water. For polishing, an old towel is best. It is lumpy enough to contain grit, yet soft enough to make your paint sparkle.

Always have a new chamois available.

5) Don't wash in the sunshine.

By the time you have moved from sudsing the boot to the bonnet, the sun will have dried the wash water and left big streaky marks. Keep in the shade if you can, so you can wipe off the excess water before it dries, giving a nice even look with no tidemarks.

6) Bugs.

You drove up to Malacca and now your radiator grille and bonnet look like a leftover hamburger from all the dead flies. Liberally spray clean water on the mess, then put sheets of newspaper on so it sticks as it gets wet. Leave it for 20 minutes, then peel off the paper to reveal all those crusty fly parts have turned soft as a jelly and can be wiped off with a splash of soapy water. The same product works on windscreens and windows; screwed up old newspaper cleans brilliantly and doesn't have any nasty solvents like some window cleaning liquids.

7) Stop the rot.

Unless you always park your car off the road EVERY time you stop, it will get leaves and crud in the wiper wells, the gutters and potentially in the aircon intakes. There, it will do nature's thing and rot down to a sludgy compost and make your car stink. Check all the little holes and corners and use a battery-powered vacuum to suck them out. But never be tempted to use a coat hanger or similar to fish stuff out. If you do, scratched paint, broken plastic and worse await.

8) Clean regularly - but don't overdo it.

We have all seen the 6 a.m. maids cleaning the neighbour's car every day without fail. Can you imagine what that does to the paint? It will be worn down just through washing fatigue. Give you car a good, thorough clean once a week or once a fortnight if you don't go out much - but make sure it get s a good wax and polish every time you wash it to keep it in best condition.

It's always good to stow a car cleaning kit inside your car, you will not always know when a good cleaning opportunity comes.

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