I once had a boyfriend who spilled an Egg Flip Big M milk all over my Ford Laser (yes, an eggnog flavoured milk drink is a thing). I never forgave him; neither for choosing Egg Flip as a flavour nor for the spillage as I took a quick right into a small street. Look, I don’t cry over spilt milk but let’s just say the stink lasted longer than the bloke did!
So, what are the best methods for removing stale smells and unsightly stains from your car?
Let’s start with the interior and its milk mess. Why the stink? As milk ages, the bacteria inside begins to multiply and break down the lactose. The disgusting odour is actually the side-effect of this chemical reaction. For all cleaning advice, I turn to author and Queen of Stain Removal, Shannon Lush. She suggests getting on to the milk spill straight away by using paper towel to absorb as much of the liquid as possible.
“Next, take a cake of bathroom soap – not laundry soap — and scribble with it like a crayon all over the milk stain. Then rub it out with a cold damp cloth. The smell will eventually dissipate,” says Shannon.
Has your car leaked in a heavy downpour? The resultant mouldy smell is not only disgusting, but it’s also bad for your health. For this particular odour turn to oil of cloves. “The best thing you can do is combine a quarter teaspoon of clove oil with a litre of water in a spray bottle and spray the carpets,” says Shannon. No more pong!
If you have kiddies, there’s a high chance their greasy little mitts will stain your car’s upholstery. There is a trick, however, to removing grease – especially the kind leftover from takeaway food. Shannon suggests using two drops of normal dishwashing liquid without water. “Massage in with your fingers while your eyes remain closed,” she says. Why closed eyes? “So you can feel the texture change. Once the stain feels like jelly, it’s time to wipe it off with a damp cloth,” Shannon explains.
While on the subject of kids, if a school texta bleeds across upholstery, methylated spirits will remove the mark. If it’s an industrial-strength marker, use white spirits and draw across the stain with a cotton bud.
Here’s a great tip for removing dried dirt and mud on your car’s carpets. Number one, do not put moisture on them. Ever. Shannon suggests turning to your pantry for this one and sprinkling unprocessed wheat bran all over the mess. “Rub it back and forth with a stiff brush; it acts like an abrasive and loosens off things,” she says. Then hit it with the dust buster.
Worst of all – possibly even worse than spilt Big M — is the dreaded doggie doo-doo. “Use an old hair comb, slide it underneath and lift it up and out. Don’t rub it further in. Then use a cake of soap just like the milk removal technique,” suggests Shannon.
Does your car’s boot resemble a shed — filled with old sporting equipment, shoes that need to be fixed, leaking lunchboxes, plastic bags, dog fur, chip packets and stinky gym gear? It’s a good idea to lay down a piece of plastic when you first buy the car. It’s that simple. This will protect the boot upholstery.
Now to car exteriors. When I was a kid, Mum took us to this cool car wash where you could watch your vehicle being washed by an assortment of mechanical bristles and brushes. It was a full-on, exciting outing. Fast forward a few decades and watching your vehicle being cleaned at one of those modern hand car washes is as thrilling as observing a game of darts. While drinking questionable coffee. I’m also concerned about the amount of water wastage — even if car washes claim it’s recycled.
Shannon says you can do the car washing job yourself in no time using, wait for it, only two buckets of water. All you need is:
- 5 used teabags
- a teaspoon of glycerine
- a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid
- a teaspoon of vinegar
- half a teaspoon of tea tree oil.
Combine the ingredients into the first bucket with warm water. Take a clean, soft kitchen broom and cover the head with an old pair of pantyhose. Dip the brush in the bucket solution and sweep in long parallel lines from the back to the front of the car. Empty the rest of the solution bucket over the car then repeat the process with the second bucket of clean water.
“This job only takes minutes, and the glycerine treats rubber so it looks after the windscreen wipers and tyres as well. If you desire high shine chrome alloys, clean with straight black tea and pantyhose,” says Shannon
And if you want streak-free windows? Shannon suggests straight white vinegar and a paper towel. Forget newspapers. “Fifty years ago newspaper was a great cleaner when the ink was made of lamp black. These days, unfortunately, the ink has a latex base and will leave smear marks on the glass,” she says.
So when it comes to cleaning your car, remember to ditch the newspaper. Along with boys who spill their Egg Flip Big Ms!