5 Tips for Cleaning a Classic Car

Your classic car is your pride and joy. As the days get longer and the sun (hopefully) blesses us with her appearance, it’s time to hit the road and enjoy the inimitable pleasure of driving a vehicle crafted by artisans of yesteryear.

Of course, gleaming paintwork and polished metal goes hand in hand with the best of driving experiences. As passionate car detailers we know a thing or two about making a car look its very best. So if we had to define 5 crucial elements about cleaning a classic car on a regular basis, they would be as follows:

1. Cleaning a classic car: Hand wash only

No matter how much a car wash provider tells you that it’s safe to put a classic car through their facility, you should avoid this at all costs. There are a few reasons for this:

a)     Automatic car washes do not dry a vehicle adequately. This leads to corrosion over time

b)    Automatic car washes miss spots, leaving a less than perfect sheen to your beloved vehicle

c)    Automatic car washes can’t get into all the nooks and crannies, nor do they provide the necessary gentle touch to ensure no damage occurs

2. Cleaning a classic car: Use the right equipment

Forget sponges and brushes, a classic car deserves only the softest of tools. This means high quality microfibre wash mitts or cloths should be the only types used to clean the car. This should be followed by a soft clean microfibre towel to gently dry the paintwork. Autoglym does a hybrid microfibre called Instadry that is brilliant.

Don’t skimp on the cloths as you should use multiple ones for different areas of the car. For instance, most of the grime and oil will collect on the underside and around the wheels and arches. Therefore, the cloths used here should not be used on the rest of the paintwork as they’ll just transfer unwanted contamination. Always wash them after a single use and remember, no fabric softener!

Select the cleaning detergent with care as many contain abrasives that wear away the paint. Choose a gentle, high quality option and use it sparingly and as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Cleaning a classic car: Rinse and dry thoroughly

It’s essential to rinse every last speck of detergent from the car and to dry it thoroughly. Water pools in many areas of the car – and this is just the environment rust needs to thrive. The drying process is perhaps one of the most important of all when it comes to cleaning a classic car, so take your time and mop up every drop. Microfibres are good, but if you want to do the 5-star approach, get a BigBoi Blower

4. Cleaning a classic car: Polish any chrome

Gleaming chrome is one of the best aspects of many classic cars – but it needs lots of TLC to remain this way. Use a high-quality chrome polish and use it after every single wash. We have to say, there’s something uniquely satisfying at standing back and admiring your handiwork as the sunlight reflects from the beautifully polished chrome that adorns your beloved vehicle.

5. Cleaning a classic car: Don’t forget the carpet

Diving in with a vacuum cleaner might seem the obvious way to clean the carpet. However, this can grind the dirt into the fibres if you’re not careful. Instead, use a compressed air sprayer to lift the dirt before you vacuum. When you do use a vacuum, don’t be tempted to use the hand attachments with brushes. These can cause scuffs along the trim or damage aging carpets.

The key messages are to use the right equipment, be gentle, thorough and take your time. That way your motor won’t only look its best when you hit the road, but you’re ensuring its longevity for many years to come. 

Classic car ownership is to enter an exclusive club. Once you’ve experienced the majesty and luxury of driving a car from a bygone era, no other type of vehicle will ever hit the spot, so enjoy…

You might also find our articles on properly cleaning your alloy wheels and how to clean your leather seats useful.


Image by Leif Rohwedder from Pixabay

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How To Clean Car Leather Interior For A New Matt Look

A beautiful leather interior finish is the ultimate mark of a luxury car. But a grubby steering wheel or seats aren’t just an eyesore, then reduce the value of your vehicle and can even harbour nasty bacteria. But never fear… Because we’re about to reveal the insider secrets as to the correct process for a clean car leather interior and steering wheel to restore them to their former glory.

 The Ultimate Guide to a Clean Car Leather Interior

  • Step 1: It’s never too early to begin a clean car leather interior regime
  • Step 2: The how-to process
  • Step 3: A clean car leather interior includes the steering wheel

Step 1: It’s never too early to begin a clean car leather interior regime

The most important thing to understand is that the best car leather care should begin as soon as possible. And yes – this ideally means from the moment the car rolls off the production line. Contamination from different sources and UV rays are the enemy of leather. Not only do they wear it down, but they can also cause discolouration.

The following are some of the contaminants that cause leather wear and tear:

  • Oils from human skin
  • Food and drink
  • Dust
  • Mud
  • Gum
  • Makeup
  • Beauty products, including perfumes & aftershaves, moisturiser, hair spray etc.
  • Sun damage caused by UV rays

While leather is a strong and robust product, it still requires constant care and attention to ensure it keeps its good looks. White and cream leather interiors, in particular, should be carefully looked after as they’re one of the most susceptible to stains and darkening in the areas of highest wear and tear.

Step 2: The how-to process

Cleaning a car leather interior is a 3-stage process. This is:

  • Clean
  • Condition
  • Protect

The cleaning process: This is done using a specialist leather cleaner, such as Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner – one that’s colourless and odourless so it can safely be used on any type of leather. Such a cleaner will gently ease away any contamination without affecting the colour or causing any damage to the integrity of the leather. This means it can safely be used on all-natural, synthetic, and colour-coded leather.

When cleaning a leather interior it’s recommended to use a micro-fibre cloth, as opposed to leather-cleaning brushes. This is so you don’t cause any damage to the leather itself. Spray the cleaner onto the cloth and rub over the surface. Be thorough, as a clean surface is needed before you carry onto the next step.

Be generous with the amount of cleaner you use. Once done, use a clean microfibre cloth to buff the seats. Don’t forget the arm rests and centre console.

The conditioning process: This is vital to ensure the leather remains supple and pliant. This, in turn, prevents cracking and breakage that can occur over time. In older vehicles that haven’t had the correct care, the edges of the seats – especially on the driver’s side that’s subjected to harder wear – are particularly prone to this.

Be sure to choose a high-grade conditioner, such as Chemical Guys Vintage Series Leather Conditioner. This should be applied to the leather using a microfibre applicator, as opposed to a cloth or sponge, as this will spread the cream evenly. Don’t apply too much product to the applicator and be sure to squash the cream into it so you don’t end up putting large blobs onto the leather itself.

Work the product well into every part of the seats, getting into all the creases and crevices. Continue until the product has been well-worked in and you can’t see any areas that are shinier than others. Don’t forget the headrest. Buff with a clean microfibre cloth to finish.

The leather should now look crisp, clean and in matt condition. Cheap cleaning products will make the leather appear shiny – this is not the look you should be aiming for. Good leather detailing presents a matt finish that feels soft and supple.

Protect the leather: This is done using a protective serum, such as Chemical Guys Leather Protectant Serum. This final step is especially important if your vehicle’s interior is subjected to excessive UV rays, such as convertibles. This effectively protects the leather against sun damage, as well as body oils, dirt, dust and any other contaminants.

This is the step that restores a beautiful matt sheen – the perfect look for any luxury interior finish. Use another applicator pad, apply the serum to the pad and squash it well in. Then apply to the leather itself. As well as protection, this prevents future leather cracking. It also restores that wonderful new leather smell – so is ideal for older cars as well as newer ones.

Work well into the leather and then use a separate micro-fibre cloth to buff. Voila! You’ve restored your car’s interior to its showroom glory.

If you can’t get enough of that that extra Leathery new car smell, grab some Chemical Guys Leather Scent also.

Step 3: A clean car leather interior includes the steering wheel

Don’t forget the steering wheel! This is one point of contact that’s especially important because our hands naturally transfer skin oil that can, over time, cause discolouration and damage to the leather. This leaves a greasy, shiny coating, so be sure to include this area in the leather cleaning process.

Remember to include the gear stick, handbrake and dash if they are also clad in leather.

The process is the same for both new and older cars with a leather interior. Clean your leather a couple of times a year unless you do very high mileage. To do it properly will take a good couple of hours – and longer if the leather is particularly dirty or worn.

For a more in-depth guide check out this video:

Alternatively, entrust your precious wheels to a quality car detailing service where they can do the hard work for you. You can also check out our general interior cleaning guide here.

So there you have it. The easy 3-step guide to a clean car leather interior. Remember, the inside is as important as the outside, so don’t neglect it. Your car is a high-value item, so deserves to be treated as such. Well-looked after cars not only maintain their value, but they’re also a joy to drive. And cleanliness, so they say, is next to godliness. Happy motoring…

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The Definitive How-To Guide For A Clean Set Of Wheels

It’s a tough life, being a wheel. From the worst of the weather to dreaded brake dust, your ride’s shoes are subjected to abuse day in and day out. It’s no wonder that a quick once-over with a sponge doesn’t cut it. It’s not rocket science to keep expensive alloys looking great but it is somewhat of an art. The following is our definitive guide as to how to clean car wheels.

How to Clean Car Wheels: The dos and, importantly, the don’ts

First things first. Let’s cover some aspects that you need to avoid to reduce the risk of damaging a wheel’s beautiful finish. They might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do these without a second thought.

  • Don’t: Use the same cloths for the wheels that you use on the paintwork
  • Don’t: Use any cleaning product, materials or tools that could cause scratches. 
  • Don’t: Use the same brush to clean the wells of the wheel as you use to clean the wheel itself
  • Don’t: Let any cleaning products dry on the wheel

Of course, we can’t have a list of don’ts without a list of dos. So here you go…

  •  Do: Ensure that wheels are cleaned regularly. Failure to do so allows a build-up of corrosive brake dust and, eventually, pitted and cracked wheels
  • Do: Use carefully chosen cleaning products, such as microfibre cloths and a soft wheel brush
  • Do: Clean each wheel from start to finish before moving onto the next one

It’s unusual to clean the wheels in isolation (check out our guide to cleaning your daily drivers exterior). You’re far more likely to carry out the task during a complete car spruce up. Remember, always do your wheels first. Doing the wheels first means you can remove brake dust and contaminants first, and means you don’t get water spots on the bodywork while it dries while you’re doing the wheels later. 

One golden rule of how to clean car wheels is to never use a pressure washer – you’ll only be spreading contaminants onto the bodywork.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to How to Clean Car Wheels

Step 1: Rinse off the debris

Rinse loose dirt and debris from the surface of the wheel with a hose. Any that doesn’t lift can be gently washed away with a soft wheel brush.

While you might be tempted to use a pressure washer this isn’t recommended. The high-powered jet can push debris across the surface of the wheel and cause surface scratches as well as flinging that dirt up onto your paintwork.

Step 2: Spray on the wheel cleaner

Use a non-acidic cleaner and be generous with your application. Make sure to cover the whole wheel and outer wall of the tyre, let it lie for a few seconds, rinse with a hose and reapply. Don’t skimp on the quality of the wheel cleaner. We recommend Megulars All Wheel Cleaner or, for alternatives, check out websites Clean Your Car or EZ Car Care

Step 3: Brush the wheel

This step may or may not be necessary. Advanced wheel cleaners, such as the two mentioned above, are designed to do all the hard work for you. If so, move onto step 4. However, if it hasn’t removed every last bit of grime and gunk, then use a soft brush to gently agitate it away. Be sure to get right into the wheel wells and use a separate brush to get into the tight areas around the wheel nuts. Keep the wheel wet as you clean to prevent any scratching. And be gentle! You should also work from top to bottom, so dirty water doesn’t sluice over already cleaned areas.

Step 4: Rinse thoroughly

Using a hose only please. Thoroughly rinse the wheel making sure you get all the cleaner off inside and out.

Step 5: Dry the wheel

Do this with a soft, microfibre towel to ensure you don’t leave water spots, and be careful not to let it touch the floor where it will pick up debris and grit.

Step 6: Dress the tyre

This is a bit of a marmite product. Some people swear by using a tyre dressing (or shiner, or whatever you want to call it), others hate it. The key is to only use products that don’t cause any damage to the integrity of the material, so they need to be water based and not contain any silicon. Apply with a cloth or foam applicator. Meguiar’s Endurance Tyre Gel is a current favourite of ours, but we also trial new products to make sure we’re always using the best.

Some people like to carry out this step right at the end. It’s a personal choice, so go with what you prefer.

Step 7: Apply a wheel protector

This adds a robust, hydrophobic coating to the wheels that helps rebuff the immediate onslaught of debris from the moment you hit the road again. Combination wheel sealer and wax make for an easy life. There’s plenty of great choices on the market. WheelWax is a great option – it restores, seals and protects in a single application. You can’t purchase this American product directly from the manufacturer. But, guess what? You can get it on Amazon…. Whichever wheel protector you choose, apply, allow to dry a little before polishing it off with–you’ve got it—a non-abrasive, microfibre cloth.

There you have it. Our guide to how to clean car wheels. The key take-aways are to use non-abrasive equipment and products and to take your time. That way you’ll end up with gleaming rims that perfectly complement the rest of your ride’s lovingly cleaned paintwork.


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Super Car and Luxury Car Detailing & Protection

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