Archive for Upholstery Cleaning

How to Keep an Odor-Free Car

Few things are worse than being trapped in a smelly vehicle for hours at a time. It doesn’t matter where your odors come from—almost anything can cause lingering smells that make your drive a misery. From pets and cigarettes to kids, spills, and even your work as a rideshare driver, the cause isn’t nearly as important as getting rid of it.

Fortunately, odors are rarely so caked into a car that they can’t be eliminated. With the right treatment and upkeep, you can enjoy a fresh-scented drive every time.

  1. Identify the Cause: You can’t get rid of a smell until you know what’s causing it. For most people, this means locating the item of food or drink that’s been spilled or left behind (or, as is often the case, lost under a seat). Eliminating this item will go a long way in reducing the immediate smell. Make sure you check the trunk and any pockets in the backseat, too.
  2. Change Your Habits: Sometimes, a smell isn’t caused by an item so much as a habit. Eating in the car, smoking in the car, filling up the car with soccer players every weekend after the big game…these odors might be more difficult to get rid of because of your lifestyle. If you’re not ready to make a major life change, you’ll need to get in the habit of regularly deodorizing and detailing your car instead.
  3. Check the Air Filter: If you search for the source of the smell but can’t find anything conclusive, you may need to check the cabin air filter. This is where all outside debris is trapped so that it can’t enter your ventilation system. These filters do need to be changed from time to time, so ask your mechanic or detailer to take a look the next time they’re working on your car.
  4. Clean the Interior: It’s always best to start with a clean slate, so begin your deodorizing journey with a deep-clean of your car’s interior. At the most basic level, this means throwing out all trash, vacuuming the carpets (including under seats and floor mats), and wiping down the surfaces.
  5. Shampoo the Carpets/Upholstery: Stains that have worked into the carpet and upholstery will need to be deep cleaned. A steam carpet cleaner will do the trick fastest, but you can also use a spot carpet cleaner and scrub brush to hand-clean the problem areas. (Note: Make sure you always allow your interior to fully dry before you start using it again. Wet spots can make smells worse by attracting mold and mildew.)
  6. Choose an Odor Neutralizer: The best-smelling car is one that doesn’t smell like anything at all. Although cleaning products and air fresheners might be better than rotten bananas, they can cause long-term health problems, especially in those prone to headaches. Instead, find an odor-neutralizing option that works for you. A bowl of baking soda left overnight or crushed charcoal briquettes do a good job of filtering the air for you.
  7. Open the Windows: On nice days, don’t be afraid to open the windows and let nature do the hard work for you. A few minutes of driving through your neighborhood with all the windows open will do a good job of letting in fresh air and helping dry any damp spots in your interior.

We also strongly recommend that you build a regular car detail into your maintenance schedule. Nothing gets your vehicle as clean as a good detail, and this will give you a solid, clean base to build the rest of your habits on top of.

How to Clean and Care for Your Child’s Car Seat

Of all the germ-ridden places in your car, the biggest culprits are the keys, the steering wheel, and, if you have kids, the infant or toddler car seat. Nothing gathers crumbs and spills quite like a car seat, especially if you’re a busy parent on the go. French fries wedged in cracks, spoiled milk on the upholstery, and sticky fruit snacks are among the most common problems, but even if your child isn’t allowed to eat in the car, chances are there’s going to be some build-up over time.

Keeping your child’s car seat clean is important not just to keep the germ exposure and mold growth to a minimum, but to ensure that it’s operating at the highest safety level possible. Any dirt or jammed food products that interfere with way the seat sits or buckles in could prevent it from working the way it needs to in the event of an accident.

Cleaning a Child Car Seat

It’s best to work car seat cleaning into your regular car wash schedule, which means it should be done at least once a month. A quick vacuum of the largest crumbs will help between washes, but a deeper clean will ensure that everything is operating as it should.

Almost all car seats have a removable cover, making this part quick and easy to wash. However, these can shrink or lose some of their strength in a machine, so it’s recommended that you hand wash and line dry these items.

You can also clean them at a self-service car wash. A quick spray while you’re also cleaning the floor mats can eliminate some of those light stains and crumbs, and you can also spot clean the problem areas at this time. Either way, always wash the cover separately from the rest of the seat components, as they may have metal parts that can rust or jam if they don’t dry properly.

While the cover is off, you should also take some time to wipe down the plastic base and buckle components. Although you don’t want to subject these to high-pressure car wash sprays, you can grab some cleansing wipes and get the job done on site. The straps should also be spot-cleaned by hand, as a washing machine or spray could break down the strength and make them less effective overall. When it doubt, read the user manual for your specific car seat model to ensure you aren’t causing long-term damage.

It’s also important to make sure all the components are fully dried before you reassemble the car seat. Damp parts can cause mildew to form, especially in those hard-to-reach places.

Long-Term Effects of Skipping the Car Wash

There’s no denying that in this day and age, no one seems to have quite enough time to get everything on their to-do list done. We get it—we really do. With kids to chauffer around, meals to plan and cook, and a job to get to, the last thing you want to worry about is washing your car.

However, like taking your children to the dentist or getting your oil changed every six months, there’s more to washing your car than just keeping it looking good. In fact, regular washing can help you pay less on automotive repairs over the life of your car (and keep you from having to spend hours at the shop). Although skipping the car wash once or twice won’t damage your vehicle, ignoring build-up over the long-term could find you saddled with these common problems.

Exterior Car Problems

  • Dirt build-up can act like sandpaper, rubbing away at your paint and exposing the metal underneath.
  • Dirt that builds up and then washes off in the rain can etch away at your paint job.
  • Bird droppings, sap, and pollen act negatively on your paint job even faster.
  • Once the paint is scraped away, even in micro patches, rust can form. This can cause rust bubbles to form under the paint and will eventually eat away at the metal, causing holes and other major body damages.
  • Corrosion build-up underneath the car and in the engine (which happens in areas where salt and chemicals are used to clear the road) can destroy expensive parts.
  • Not washing your car means you might miss things like cracked headlights or other minor broken parts that will grow worse over time.

Interior Car Problems

  • A dirty interior can become a breeding ground for germs, mold, mildew, and other disease-causing agents.
  • Clogged air vents and smoke damages can negatively impact your breathing health.
  • Dirt and rocks on the floor mats can get ground in underfoot, forcing you to eventually replace the carpets rather than clean them.

Remember, the health hazards of a dirty interior are especially important to remember when you have small kids, pets, and other people who routinely ride in your vehicle. The exterior paint- and body-damaging hazards have more to do with the longevity and resale value of your car, but breathing bad air could damage your long-term health. Both inside and out, a quick weekly wash will go a long way in ensuring that your vehicle runs well and safely for as long as you need it to.

Eliminating the Hazards of Pollen

Clean pollen from the interior and exterior of your carIf you have allergies, you know that few things are more uncomfortable than spring months in the Salt Lake Valley. As the yellow particles fill the air, you’re left sneezing and wheezing and wishing for a new season. To make matters even worse, pollen can also infiltrate your car both inside and out. If left unattended, this pollen can damage your paint job or even find its way inside your ventilation system, which will only increase your allergens over the coming months.

By removing the pollen from your car at the car wash, you can enjoy a cleaner, fresher drive no matter what the trees around you are doing.

Damages Caused by Pollen

Most people recognize pollen as a dusting of yellow over the top of their vehicle. If you park outdoors or under a tree, just a few hours can be enough time to cause your entire car to be layered in the stuff. Although most types of pollen aren’t hugely damaging to your paint (at least, not right away), some have high levels of acidity that can damage the clear coating, while additional environmental hazards like rain can cause the pollen to turn into a sticky, difficult-to-remove coating.

There are also potential hazards related to how you choose to get rid of the pollen. Wiping at the pollen can cause it to scratch the surface, while rinsing it away can activate the acids and create longer-term damage.

Your ventilation system is also a concern. Pollen in the air outside means pollen in the air inside, especially if you leave your windows down for any length of time. This pollen can then circulate within your vents, making breathing difficult for those with allergies.

How to Take Care of Automotive Pollen

For your car’s exterior, your best approach is to go through the full cycle at the car wash. This means going through each step of the wash, including pre-soaking, scrubbing with soap, rinsing, and drying it completely. In a best-case scenario, you should take about five extra minutes to ensure you get all the areas completely cleaned. You should also plan on cleaning your car about twice as often during the heavy pollination season, as it tends to come back.

You can also protect your car against future damage by including a wax during your car wash. This extra layer will ensure that the pollen won’t cling to the surface the next time it falls.

For the inside, you’ll need to check things like the interior air filter (or cabin filter) and the vents themselves. The filter can be accessed under the hood and replaced for around $20 (something you should do annually anyway), while you can use a can of compressed air to clean out the vents. You should also take the time to vacuum the interior seats and carpets, as pollen can collect in the upholstery.

A damp cloth can also go a long way in forcing those particles out of the air. Wipe down every surface and keep the windows closed every time you drive. Your allergies will thank you.

How to Speed Up Your Car Wash Experience

Vacuuming your car first can save time at the washLet’s face it—when it comes to regular automotive upkeep like washing your car, faster is better. You already know how important it is to get regular washes and waxes to maintain the integrity of your vehicle, and you love the way it looks as it sparkles under the sun. It’s finding the time to incorporate this experience into your regular routine that’s hard to get a handle on.

Fortunately, a car wash is like most tasks that require regular upkeep. Although the first few visits might take more time than you’d like, over time, you can speed up your car wash so that you’re in, out, and on your way in just ten minutes or less.

  • Weekly/Bi-Weekly Visits: As mentioned above, the most important thing you can do to make your car wash fast is to get them done regularly. That way, instead of deep cleaning each time you visit, you’re simply touching up the work you’ve already done. With regular maintenance, sometimes you can skip the long soaking stage and deep scrubbing to get right to the rinse and wax.
  • Vacuum First: If you’ll be washing the interior as well as the exterior, head inside first. Shake out the mats by hand and run a quick vacuum over the seats and floor. (For an even faster experience, you can ban eating and drinking in the car, as these are the most common interior mess culprits.)
  • Pre-Wash/Tire Soak: The pre-wash and tire soak cycles should come first, and for good reason—the pre-wash can work while you focus on the tires, and the tire soak can work while you hoist the scrub brush. Although you might be tempted to skip the order of the self-serve car wash, we highly recommend you move linearly through the process. They’re put in that order to help you get the most out of your wash.
  • Skip the Drying: Hand-drying your car after a wash is a great way to prevent water streaks and spots, but you can skip it on a time crunch. Allow your car to air dry by taking it on the freeway or other fast roadway instead.
  • Bring a Friend: You know what they say—many hands make light work. Stop by the car wash when your spouse, parent, or child is with you, and put them to work. One of you can scrub while the other rinses; you can both hand-wipe problem areas. By working together, you can significantly cut back on wash times.
  • Keep a Washing Kit on Hand: It’s often best to handle problems as they arise instead of waiting for your weekly car wash visit. Keep a cleaning kit in your glovebox or trunk with window wipes, a dusting cloth, a car-friendly spray, and a buffing cloth. That way, you can take care of bird splatter or bugs while they’re still wet rather than allowing them to dry and cake on.
  • Carry a Garbage: A garbage can or sack in your car isn’t the most appealing interior decoration, but nothing will make your regular clean easier than simply tossing out the trash and putting in a fresh liner. You can save vacuuming and deep upholstery cleans for rarer occasions.

Time is money—especially at a car wash where each quarter buys you a few minutes of clean time. Move quickly and efficiently, stop by every week, and you’ll never spend too long cleaning your car again!

Why Air Vent Dust Can be Dangerous

Cleaning your car air vents and changing  cabin filters is important to air quality, especially in the Salt Lake ValleyOf all the hazards and dangers that come with riding in a car, the dust in your air vents probably isn’t one of the things you worry about most. After all, as long as your car is relatively clean on the inside and smells nice, you’ve got everything covered, right?

Not necessarily.

Indoor air quality—including that of cars—is important in keeping allergies at bay and enjoying positive health overall. In fact, according to the American College of Allergists, an estimated 50 percent of all illnesses are either caused or aggravated by polluted air indoors. This is especially true if anyone has ever smoked inside your car. Because cigarette smoke gets inside the air system and lingers there, the residue will continue to pervade your air until you thoroughly clean the whole system.

Air and AC Vent Issues

If your car has a bad smell that no amount of cleaning and vacuuming gets rid of, chances are the smell is lodged in your air system. This could be caused by smoke, dust and dirt particles from outside, mold spores, and other bacteria that’s either pulled in from the outside or carried in the car itself.

Although smoke and dust are only dangerous to those with allergies, mold and bacteria can great impact your family’s overall health. If you spend any amount of time in the car, or if you or a loved one suffers from a lung- or allergy-related illness, it’s important to maintain a high level of air quality at all times. Make vent cleaning a regular part of your car wash, and you might be surprised at how much healthier your whole family feels.

Cleaning the Air Vents

Taking care of this issue may require you to replace filters and/or clean out the whole system, but it’s a good idea to start with the air vent itself. Some vent grills are easily removable, and you can lift the panel off to thorough clean both the vent and the area behind it. Others are virtually impossible to remove, which means you’ll need to take a more detailed approach.

Cotton swabs with a long reach, toothbrushes, and compressed air canisters are all ideal for this. Although you can use commercial cleaners, this isn’t recommended, as the smell and potentially harmful chemicals will linger in the vent system. Be sure and take care of the vents that rest up top as well as the lower ones (by your feet), which are often neglected because they aren’t easily visible.

Good Air = Good Health

In recent years, the air quality in Salt Lake City has deteriorated to unhealthy levels on many days, especially in winter months. Generally air quality is one of those things few people think about, but it can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Keep your car vents clean, dust-free, and smelling great—both you and your car deserve it.

The Best Way to Clean Your Car’s Hard-to-Reach Places

When it comes to washing your car, it’s not the dirt you can see that’s the problem…it’s the dirt you can’t see. Whether you look inside or out, vehicles are filled with hundreds of tiny nooks and crannies, many of which become home to dirt, rocks, food particles, and worse.

Those hard-to-reach places might be a little bit more difficult to clean, but they aren’t impossible. Next time you hit the car wash, here’s a quick and handy guide to getting a deeper clean.

Cleaning the Interior

  • Remove any Removables: The best way to deep clean a car’s interior is to make it accessible. The easily removed parts (like floor mats) should come out every time you vacuum. You can also look into removing the middle console, the door panels, or even the seats, if they’re easily taken out. Nothing will get in and under better than opening up the space.
  • Use Air: Vacuum intake and outake are both your friend when cleaning a car’s interior. You can use traditional intake vacuums to clean up the worst debris, and reverse the air flow (or even use an air compressor or can of compressed air) to blow out the harder to reach places.
  • Clean the Vents: Using a compressor or can of air to blow the dust out of the vent slats is one idea, or you can use a toothbrush, cotton swab, or other item with a long, narrow reach to individually clean each vent hole. This is especially important if you’re trying to eliminate smells that have gathered in the heating/cooling system.
  • Long-Reach Dusters: If you don’t want to invest in heavy-duty detailing equipment, purchase a disposable duster with a long reach. These work best when you just want to wipe away a build-up of dirt rather than provide a deep clean.

Cleaning the Exterior

  • Invest in a Detailing Brush: You can use a toothbrush or cotton swab to get those tricky spots on your car’s exterior, but they aren’t likely to stand up to the harder wear and tear for very long. A small detailing brush that won’t scratch your paint is worth the investment.
  • Focus on the Wheel Wells: The most common place in need of detailed work on a car’s exterior is the wheel well. Most people attack these areas with a toothbrush (or the aforementioned detailing brush) and a specialty wheel cleaner that will break apart the caked on grease and grime.
  • High-Powered Spray: Just as a powerful burst of air can clean your car’s interior, so too can a powerful burst of water take care of the outside.
  • Rotary Tool: When you need a little more power than a brush can provide, a rotary tool (like a Dremel) and a buffing or gentle bit can make a huge difference. Because the tool provides the power instead of your muscles, you can get more work done in a shorter period of time.

In all the cleaning and detailing, don’t forget to pay attention to the undercarriage. A good undercarriage spray will take care of most of the tiny details underneath your vehicle so you don’t have to climb underneath and reach the dirt that way.

How to Prevent Interior Car Damage

Taking your car through the car wash on a regular basis is a great way to keep the exterior looking good, but what about the interior? Harmful UV rays, wear and tear caused by kids, and everyday dirt can all contribute to a reduced car value—especially if you have leather interiors or a very light color for your upholstery.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your car’s interior. Even better: many of these steps can be taken during your regular washing so you don’t have to take any more time out of your busy schedule.

  • UV Protection: Tinting your windows isn’t just beneficial for keeping the sun out of your eyes—it can also keep your interior looking good for years. Some of the most harm done to cars is through prolonged exposure to the sun, which can fade upholstery and cause leather to crack and wear down. Window tints or even a sunshade you put up every time you park can go a long way in keeping the inside in good repair.
  • Smart Parking: Where you park can have a big impact on your car’s interior. If you have to park in a parking lot for work, look for shady, protected areas that won’t expose the car to the sun. If you have to park for long periods of time, consider investing in a car cover that will protect against the elements. By being aware of where you’re placing your car and what it will be exposed to, you can prevent damage before it occurs.
  • Emergency Cleanup: Spills happen, people get carsick, and fast food grease can get anywhere. Make it a habit to carry emergency wipes and cleaning products in your car at all times so these types of stains don’t have time to settle in. You can do a more in-depth cleaning at the car wash later—for now, it’s best to get the offending material out of the way so it doesn’t soak into the carpet or leather.
  • UV/Stain Blockers: Just as you can apply a wax to your car’s paint to keep it protected, so too can you protect the inside against wear and tear. There are specialty sealants that exist for everything from rubber and vinyl to leather and upholstery. Every two to three months, go through your car’s interior and apply the right sealant to the right material.
  • Seat Covers: Seat covers have the benefit of being fully removable (and therefore washable), making them ideal when there are kids in your vehicle. You should be able to find universal sizes and sizes for common makes and models of cars at most automotive stores. For specialty vehicles, you may need to find someone who can hand-make the covers to fit.
  • Detailing: Having your car detailed every few months (or detailing it yourself every time you wash) is a good habit to get into. Not only is it nice to drive a car that sparkles both inside and out, but detailing often picks up those hard-to-see culprits like dust, sticky residue, and other products that can stain the interior over time.

The inside of your car deserves just as much attention as the outside. With a few preventative steps and regular cleaning, you can keep interior car damage to a minimum for years.

Getting Rid of Car Smells

Cars have a way of holding onto unpleasant odors and making your drive time uncomfortable. Because a car is such a contained space—and because it often sits in the sun for hours at a time, allowing smells to “bake” in—it’s not enough to crack a window every now and then and freshen up the air. Whether you’re dealing with pet smells, cigarette smoke, food left inside too long, or other mystery scents, here’s our guide to freshening up. Even better—many of these tasks can be done during your regular cleaning routine or when you visit a car wash.

  1. Always clean the car’s interior first, and take your time to ensure that it’s a deep clean. Throw away all trash, and vacuum everywhere—including under the seats. Wipe down surfaces with a mild cleansing spray and towel. Don’t forget to pay attention to the trunk, as well. It’s no good to clean the air only to have the smell reappear on the drive home.
  2. Purchase some kind of neutralizer. “Neutralizer” is a term for any chemical or natural substance that absorbs odors to eliminate them (as opposed to just masking the smell). Two of the best options include baking soda and charcoal.
  3. Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda all over the upholstered surfaces of your car, including seats and carpets. You can allow it to sit in the car for a few minutes or a few hours (the longer it sits, the better it will work), and you can use a gentle brush to scrub it for greater efficacy. This will need to be vacuumed up once you’re done letting it work its magic.
  4. Charcoal: Charcoal is one of the most natural neutralizers out there. Although you can grab a few unused chunks from your BBQ and leave them in the car for a few days, it may be better to find a charcoal filter of some type. (Air conditioning units and shoe inserts often use them.) It takes some time for the charcoal to do its magic, so you may want to find a hidden place to keep it.
  5. A more innovative way to eliminate smells from upholstery is to cover it with damp tea leaves or coffee grounds and allow them to soak in before vacuuming them up again. As you can imagine, these methods tend to get pretty messy and leave a distinct smell behind—but some people prefer the coffee to the more intrusive scents.
  6. Air deodorizers are another option, especially if you’re dealing with cigarette smoke. You can spray these directly into the air (for mild smells), or you can work them into the ventilation system (for more intense smells). To do this, you’ll want to turn the car on and start the AC system. As soon as the cold air starts blowing, go outside to your car’s intake vent. You can spray the deodorizer into the vent so that it gets sucked into the system and works from the inside out.

Wait until you’re happy with the scent of your car before you invest in new scents to introduce. Air fresheners, linen sprays, Febreze—all these things are great at making your car smell nice, but only if you’re working with a clean canvas to begin with.

Cleaning Pet Hair from Your Car’s Interior

Few things will dirty the inside of your car like taking your four-legged friend for a drive. Although you can keep pet hair to a minimum by laying out a pet blanket before you invite Fido inside (or by keeping dogs and cats in a crate inside the car), chances are pet hair will still find its way into the crevasses and cracks of your car upholstery—especially if you’re doing any traveling in the spring and fall, when pet shedding is at its peak.

Pet Hair Removal Tips

  1. Vacuum the full interior. Although a vacuum won’t be able to get all of the hair from your upholstery, it can get the larger pieces and catch any of the dander still in the air. If you make this a regular habit, you can avoid having to de-hair your car every few weeks. Be sure and pay special attention to the seams of the upholstery, as this is where most of the hair gathers.
  1. Create a special hair removal solution and keep it on hand. Plain water in a spray bottle works, or you can make a mixture with a ratio of 3 tsp of liquid fabric softener to 1 cup of water. The fabric softener will help loosen hair that is sticking to the upholstery because of static electricity and allow you to wipe it away with a towel. (This process also has the added bonus of acting as an air freshener. You can choose fabric softener scents you like and keep your car smelling fresh.)
  1. Another static option is to create your own charge and use it to your advantage. Rubber gloves brushed against fabric will cause a small electric charge to fill the rubber. Hair in the air and on the upholstery will move to the glove and allow for easier removal. (You can dip the gloves in a waiting bucket of water to get rid of the charge so you can repeat the process.)
  1. Buy a lint roller or a roll of duct tape and keep it in the trunk. Sticky surfaces will pick up hair quickly and easily. This tends to be the most wasteful option (since the duct tape can’t be reused), and works best for smaller, contained areas.
  1. A pumice stone can also work as a pet hair remover for rough carpet (but don’t do this one for leather or more delicate interiors). Most often found in beauty stores, pumice stones are typically used to remove calluses from the feet and hands. The abrasive surface is also good for brushing pet hair out of carpet. It’s best to have a vacuum on hand to suck up all the hair, debris, and carpet fibers that get loosened in the process.

Like most good car cleaning rituals, getting rid of pet hair is easiest if you do it regularly. Keep these items on hand for a quick brush-down after your pets get out of the car, and you’ll avoid many of the issues associated with driving your pet where he needs to go.