Daniel Macht

5 Tricks to Clean Your Car (And Keep It Clean) Without Breaking a Sweat

TODAY Home is testing out the internet's most-popular car-cleaning hacks. Here's what really works

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The internet is teeming with ideas on how to clean your car, but do they really work? 

If you travel with your perpetually hungry family (why are there always ketchup packets under the mat?), your continually shedding dog or your conspicuously smelly gym clothes, it's time to get cleaning, my friend. 

TODAY Home turned to Pinterest to find the most popular car-cleaning hacks and put them to the test. 

Can we avoid the hassle of the car wash? Can we pull it off without fancy detailing equipment? Are some of these hacks more trouble than they're worth? 

Here's what happened. 


Cup holders are single-handedly the filthiest area in your car. Between coffee spills, Cheerio crumbs and good old-fashioned lint, it gets so gross in there that you may have opted to secure your iced coffee between your knees — we've all been there! 

Traditionally, you may have closed your eyes and dug your fingers into the cup holder only to find that the crumbs wouldn't lift. A small vacuum can come in very handy here, but we all know it's not always possible. If you find yourself without one, Pinterest suggests using a cup, a used sock and some Windex to wedge out the offending Doritos dust. 

All you do is cover the cup with the sock, spray some household cleaner on the bottom and sides and give it a spin inside the cup holder. 

While we were skeptical, it turns out this trick really works! But it does come with some caveats. 

While it makes sense to smush a cup into the cup holder to clean it (it's the perfect size and fit, after all), the result may be more offending than the initial mess. What are you supposed to do with a soggy, crumby, coffee-stained sock?

You'll want to toss it afterward so this is definitely a trick for the single socks leftover after the dryer ate their mates. 


If you want to avoid surrendering innocent socks for this filthy mission, keep those cup holders clean with silicone muffin cups. 

They come in various sizes so they'll line the space perfectly. You can easily pop them out, give them a rinse and protect the car's built-in cup holder. The silicone also helps keep a grip on your coffee cup, so you'll get less spillage to boot. 


Pet hair can build up quickly, but a trip to the car wash isn't always convenient. You can turn to a small lint roller in a bind, but there's a more effective and eco-friendly fix to detail your car for only $2. All you need is a squeegee and a spray bottle filled with water. 

First, you mist the rug with water, then you simply wipe fur away with the squeegee. The rubber blade easily catches the wet hair; just wipe it clean periodically and continue the process. 

Plus, it's reusable! Just keep it stowed away for easy cleanup. 


If you're investing $10-$15 for leather conditioners, you're doing it wrong! The quickest and most affordable way to restore your dashboard leather is sitting in your pantry right now. 

Simply buff olive oil directly onto the dash, then wipe off the excess with an absorbent towel. We were shocked to see that it immediately added a gorgeous sheen without any stickiness. The oil absorbed deeply into the leather and, even days later, there was no film leftover. 

Olive oil: It's not just for salad anymore! 


This DIY costs just a few cents! All you do is clip a wooden clothespin onto the vent, then pop on a few drop of essential oil right onto the wood. Just turn on your air conditioning and the waft of lavender will dance through your car. 

Think of all those perfume samples you can also use for this! 

Pro tip: Do not turn the air on until after you've applied the oils, the forced air will blow them right onto your face! (Sadly, we learned this the hard way.) 

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