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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Homemade Classic Care Cleaning Products – safer for you and the environment

We all want to keep our classic cars and trucks looking their best.  We have written plenty of articles about cleaning classic cars.  From simple hacks for cleaning your classic, to cleaning your engine bay, and even ways to keep your tools clean and rust free.

In this article, we are focusing on ways to save you some money and also protect the environment from harsh cleaning chemicals.  Many of you probably have your favorite cleaning supplies for your prized possession and we understand their value.  They can be pricey though so we thought we would share some tips and ideas on how to cut down the cost of cleaning supplies.

Car Wash Solution

The first tip is how to make a very eco-friendly car wash solution that is also very inexpensive, yet effective.  Here is what you will need:

  • A bucket of water
  • Liquid castile soap

Just a few drops of liquid castile soap stirred into to a bucket of water and you are ready to wash your car.  Liquid castile soap is typically made from vegetable oils which do not contain harsh chemicals or detergents.  Traditionally, a Castile soap was made with 100% olive oil, but modern Castile-style soaps, including Dr. Bronner’s, blend in other vegetable oils, like coconut oil.  While this soap does not foam up like traditional detergents, don’t think it doesn’t clean well, it really does.

Window Cleaner

You very well already know this next tip as it has been used by homeowners and car owners for years and years.  It is really quite elementary.  Vinegar has a lot of amazing properties. Especially when it comes to cleaning. One of the best uses of vinegar is for cleaning glass windows.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Newspaper

Fill up a spray bottle with pure white vinegar.  Then spray it on the glass and let it soak for just a few minutes.   Then crumple up a piece of newspaper and use that to wipe it off.  You’ll be left with perfect, streak-free windows.  You can also dilute it a little if the vinegar smell is too strong for you.  A little mild detergent can be added as well.

Chrome Cleaner

If you want your classic looking its best, you need to keep that chrome shining!  While many prefer store bought solutions for their chrome, you can also use white vinegar on chrome just like you did your windows.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge or soft towel
  • Toothbrush (optional)

It is best to dilute it to one-part water and one-part vinegar.  Then spray the mixture on your chrome and work it in with a sponge or towel. You can even use a toothbrush to help get it into corners and tight spaces.  Let the vinegar soak for a while to help loosen up dirt and grime and then simply rinse it off with water. It might take a few applications to get the chrome clean.  Make sure that you don’t use vinegar on aluminum, only chrome.

Tire Cleaner

Your chrome wheels might be clean now, but what about dressing up the rubber?  We suggest using good old’ baking soda to get the trick done.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Nylon brush.

Make a thin paste by mixing baking soda with water.  The apply the paste to your tires and work it in with a stiff nylon brush.  Just let the baking soda sit for a bit and do its magic.  Then rinse with clean water.  It’s that easy to clean them up and remove scuff marks.

Carpet and Upholstery Stain Remover

Getting stain on your classic car interior is never a good thing.  If you act fast, there is a good chance you can get it out with a simple cleaning solution.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • Club soda
  • White vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Scrub brush / Toothbrush
  • Clean towel

We find that getting stains out of upholstery or carpet is a two-step process.  We first try club soda to see if that will do the trick.  In many cases it will.  Simply add a little club soda to the stain and lightly brush and dab the stain with the clean towel to extract the stain.  You may need to try this a few times to get the stain to loosen up.

If that doesn’t work, try mixing vinegar and baking soda together to create a foaming paste you can work into the carpet or upholstery.  Once the paste dries, you can vacuum it up and the stain should have disappeared.  If it is only lighter, repeat the process until it is gone.

Interior Cleaner

The other parts of the interior like vinyl, plastic and wood need to be cleaned regularly as well.  Here is a cheap way to keep your interior parts looking fresh.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Cleaning cloth

Add a 50 / 50 mix of water and white vinegar to a spray bottle.  Most of these tips involve this concoction, so you likely have it mixed up by now.  We keep a bottle in our shop at all times.  Spray this mixture on any vinyl, plastic, or wood surfaces in your car that needs cleaning. Allow it to soak in and do its thing for at least a few seconds. Then wipe dry with a clean cloth.  Repeat as needed.

Interior Protectant/Dressing

Now that your interior is clean, you should protect it from drying out and cracking.  We have a few tips to help dress and protect both your leather and your dash

  • 1 cup mineral oil (olive oil can work too)
  • Spray bottle or bowl
  • 2 cleaning cloths
  • Vaseline

Mineral and/or olive oil is a great natural substitute for leather conditioner. Remember that a little goes a long way! Simply put a small amount of olive oil on a clean cloth and rub the cloth on the leather seat and work the oil in. You should probably have a clean dry towel on hand to help wipe up and excess oil and dry off the leather. Otherwise your seats may become greasy.

You want to really make your dash shine? Put down the Armour-All and grab the Vaseline. Petroleum jelly will also help to protect your dashboard from drying out and cracking. This stuff is super cheap, and some believe it works better than most of the expensive dashboard cleaners.

Looking for more inexpensive cleaning materials?  We have another article packed with tips on how to detail your classic car or truck without breaking the bank on cleaning tools and products.  Check out our article “13 Cleaning Hacks You Can Use On Your Classic Car or Truck” where we tell how to use items like Q-Tips, toothpaste, essential oils, rubbing alcohol, charcoal and even cola to spruce up your classic with common items found around the home.

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