Cleaning your car seems pretty easy, apply water, apply soap, and scrub. Add in things like bug guts, residue from stickers and decals and suddenly cleaning your car and getting its shine back isn’t so easy. No need to fear though. In In the following excerpt from Household Magic the authors Joan and Lydia Wilen explain new tips for cleaning your car that can get residue off the paint, restore it’s shine, and even make the headlights brighter.


I n 1913, Richard Spikes invented the automatic car washer (and, in that same year, Spikes also invented automobile directional signals). In 1955, Dan Hanna, known as “The Father of the Modern Carwash,” convinced his mother to mortgage the family home to finance what was to become Hanna Enterprises, a famous, innovative car wash manufacturing company.

Thanks to Spikes and Hanna, you can use your appropriate directional signal and drive into a car wash to have your car cleaned. And thanks to our suggestions, you can learn to keep your car cleaner and spiffier in several ways…

Bugs Off

◆ Before a long car trip, spray vegetable cooking oil on the car’s clean bumper, grill and hood. The bugs you pick up along the way will wash off easily, and the spray won’t damage the car’s finish.

◆ If you forget to spray and the car gets covered in bugs, scrunch up a mesh onion bag or shower sponge, pour on some baking soda and wipe off the splattered bugs. Clean up with a damp cloth.

Pantyhose Power! Instead of using rags and sponges, dip an old pair of clean pantyhose in warm sudsy water. Use the hose to wash away any dirt and dead bugs on the car’s exterior.

Cleaning Windshields

◆ If you get bugs splattered on your windshield, mix one tablespoon of liquid dish detergent with one pint of water, and pour it on the windshield. Then use a mesh onion bag or shower sponge to scrub off the bugs. Then wipe the windshield with a clean cloth.

◆ Prepare your own windshield cleaner in an empty gallon-sized spring water or milk jug. Add two tablespoons of liquid dish detergent, three cups of rubbing alcohol and fill the rest with water. Pour one or two tablespoons on a clean cloth and wash the windshield with it. Rinse clean with plain water.

◆ To remove haze from the windshield (inside or out), dip a clean cloth in distilled white vinegar and wash the windshield. Rinse off the vinegar with plain water, then wipe dry. The windshield will be haze-free and showroom clean.

◆ Use a blackboard eraser (available at art supply and stationery stores) to clean steamed-up windows. It’s easy, fast and does the job without leaving streaks.

◆ Wipe the insides of your car’s windshield (and windows) with a little gel shaving cream to help prevent them from fogging up. Apply, let dry and then rub off with a clean cloth.

Cleaning Wipers

◆ If your windshield wipers have caked-on gunk, clean the blades with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will clean the blades and also prevent ice from forming on them.

◆ You can also use a piece of extra-fine sandpaper to clean gunk off windshield wipers. Bend the sandpaper in half, and run it along the edge of the wiper. (This also helps keep the wiper blades fresh under normal circumstances.)

Fixing Nicks, Chips And Scratches

◆ If your windshield gets a little nick, a tiny hole or a small scratch, you can patch it up with a few dabs of colorless nail polish.

Be sure to let the polish patch dry thoroughly before using the windshield wipers.

◆ Buy a box of Crayola Crayons that contains the same color crayon as your car. Carefully work the crayon into the scratch to fix it.

◆ If you don’t intend to get a matching-color crayon or have a scratch professionally touched up…then, as soon as you see the scratch, apply clear nail polish. This will prevent the nick, chip or scratch from rusting and getting worse.

Cleaning Tree Sap

◆ Don’t let sticky sap cake on—clean it off your car as soon as possible. Slather the sap with mayonnaise and let it sink in for a few minutes. Then rub the mayo and sap off with a soft, clean cloth. Finish the job by washing the car.

◆ You can also pour a bit of rubbing alcohol or even WD-40 on a soft, clean cloth and gently work at cleaning off the tree sap.

Cleaning Bird Droppings

Bird droppings contain harsh acids that can burn through your car’s paint. The secret to cleaning up—and saving your car’s exterior— is to take action as soon as you spot the plop.

◆ Pour on some seltzer and let it bubble up. Once the bubbling stops, wipe the area clean with a microfiber (available at supermarkets and hardware stores) or cotton cloth.

◆ Since time is of the essence when it comes to cleaning off bird droppings, you might want to keep some special wipes in the car to deal with roadside cleanups (it’s easier than taking a bottle of seltzer with you

ArmorAll Heavy Duty Wash Wipes, extra-large pre-moistened wipes clean your car without water. They fit in your glove compartment and are perfect for cleaning those messy bird hits before they etch your paint. Available on

Howzabout Those Headlights? Don’t be that person who cleans the car but forgets about the all-important (and often grimy) headlights. Mix one cup of distilled white vinegar in one quart of water and, as a mild abrasive, add one tablespoon of cornstarch. Use a sponge to wash the headlight with the solution, then rinse with plain water. You’ll see the light!

Bye-Bye Tar

◆ Spritz your car’s tar stain with laundry pre[1]wash spray, and let it sink in for one to two minutes. Then wipe it clean with a soft cloth.

◆ If you don’t have any prewash spray, you can dab on a dollop of mayonnaise, keep it there for a couple of minutes, then wipe it clean with a soft cloth.

Grease Away

Had a tailgate party and got some of the barbecue grease on the car? Whether the mess is from food or grease your car picked up at the service station, wipe it off with a baby wipe. If it’s gentle enough for a baby’s skin, you can trust that it won’t damage your car’s paint job.

Amazing Trunk Extender

When you leave that yard sale and put your oversized purchase in the trunk, you may need to secure the trunk lid for the trip home. If you don’t have rope, twine or a bungee cord— pantyhose to the rescue! Keep an old pair—as well as rope, twine or bungee cords—in the trunk to tie down the trunk lid.

Removing Decals and Bumper Stickers

◆ Time to remove the old campaign sticker? The college decal? The bumper sticker that once seemed so funny—but isn’t anymore? Saturate a cloth with distilled white vinegar and cover the sticker with it.

Give the vinegar at least 30 minutes to soak through and dissolve the glue. Then peel off the sticker or gently scrape it off with an expired credit card. If some glue still remains, you can rub it off with a bit of vegetable oil.

When Your Car Needs Repair…

If your car needs a repair that isn’t covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, go to the dealership and ask to read the Technical Service Bulletin. This document describes the manufacturer’s authorized repairs, and it may include a repair your car needs that was caused by other defects or problems your car model has had.

If you have an older car, you can also save yourself a trip to the dealership by visiting CarMD’s Vehicle Health Index.

◆ If you have a portable hair dryer…or one with a long extension cord from your house to your car…or if you keep your car in a garage and there’s an electric outlet, then you may want to use the hair dryer to loosen the sticker’s glue.

Set the dryer on high heat and blow it over the sticker for a couple of minutes, until you’re able to easily peel off the sticker. If some glue remains, rub it off with vegetable oil or WD-40.

Cleaning Vinyl or Cloth Upholstery

To clean vinyl or cloth upholstery, use unscented baby wipes. Dry the vinyl with paper towel, and let the cloth upholstery air-dry.

NOTE: This cleaning tip is NOT for leather upholstery. Instead, use saddle soap (avail[1]able at tack stores, where saddles and all other equine supplies are sold, as well as some shoe repair shops) on leather or leatherette upholstery.

For additional tips and other advice for you and your home, purchase Household Magic from

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