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I am looking for a solution to clean road salt from car carpeting and to generally get the "winter" off of my car. What do other readers do to get their cars back in shape after a tough winter?
I have two suggestions. One is preventative and one will clean the salt from the floor mats.
First, next fall, go to your local carpet store and see if they have carpet square samples in the back for sale or for free. They normally have enough choice in color that you can find something to match your interior. This will really take the abuse that you now see on your mats from this past winter.
The cleaning solution I use on almost every part of my car is Castrol Super Clean. You can use it straight from the bottle for an engine degreaser or dilute it for the interior of your car. The bottle has instructions on it to guide you through the diluting process and what works best for the different parts of your car. I use it on the entire interior, and it has a nice clean scent to it. I buy the gallon at Wal-Mart and distribute it into smaller bottles around the house.
Jason in Wisconsin
As cliched as it sounds, use vinegar. I've found that a 50-50 mix of vinegar and water sprayed into the carpet, blotted up (scrubbed if it's an "outdoor" carpet like cars or welcome mats) and sprayed off with water works like a charm. Let it dry in the sun. Because it's natural (and cheap!), it won't hurt you, animals, or even the grass! It is one of the best cleaners I've found. It works great on glass also, but use newspaper, as it doesn't lint.
We have been in the boating industry for several years and have found that many of the products made specifically for boats are also very good or better than the products you would normally purchase for your car. Also, if used correctly, they cost much less.
For instance, 3M makes a product that is a combination Rubbing Compound and Polisher. For those of you not familiar with rubbing compound, it removes the buildup of oxidized paint that looks chalky or dull on your car's surface. This particular product also takes a step out of the process by removing the oxidization and then polishing all in one step. I believe it is called 3M Heavy Duty Polishing Compound.
When you purchase it, you will find that it has a heavy, muddy, paste consistency that is difficult to work with. If you squeeze a small amount into an empty sports water bottle, then add an equal amount of water, and shake it up, it becomes quite workable.
After washing the surface dirt off of your car, you simply apply the polishing compound to your car in a small area, about one square foot at a time, using a soft clean cloth (cloth diapers work very well). After just a few minutes, depending on the weather, it will fog over and look chalky.
Then it is time to "buff" it off. You can do this by hand, but I prefer a hand-held orbital buffer that offers more strength and power and brings out a greater shine with less muscular effort and takes less time.
Once you are done, your car will be nice and shiny, with a strong protective layer that will last for months! You will find that dirt just won't stick to your car's surface, and it will require a lot less effort the next time you wash your car. I find that with our very temperate weather in San Diego, this polish job lasts 6 to 8 months. Well worth the one to two hours it takes to do the whole job!
I put my mats in the washer on the "delicate cycle." Then I just let them dry on the counter. I do this once a year and my mats look great (after 10 years).
The key is to be proactive and avoid the damage altogether. To take care of your car, you must hose off the snow within a week. People fail to realize that snow also has salt in it and it will chip away the paint of the car, which in turn chips away at the exterior quality.
For carpeting, there is an excellent spot remover called Spot Shot, which is sold at Shoprite or your local supermarket. Next winter, don't wait until the damage is done. It is much easier to avoid a problem than to fix one.
Ariaceliz in Newark, NJ
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