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How to Clean Your Vehicle Like a Boss After a Long Trip

Your tow vehicle and RV can take a real beating on a long road trip! Miles of unforgiving roads can wreak havoc on their suspensions, and dusty, dirty roads can turn your clean truck into a mess in no time. Not to mention the thousands of bugs that are splattered across every inch of your grille, hood, windshield and the entire front profile of your RV. So upon returning home you have the unenviable task of not only trying to restore your vehicle’s exterior to its normal condition, but the interior as well. And if you traveled with kids or pets, this could take a while!

But don’t fret! We have compiled some great cleaning tips to help you transform your truck from dingy to dashing in no time. Here’s how to clean your vehicle like a boss after a long trip so the only things reminding you of your amazing adventure are fantastic memories, not unsightly flaws.


Use a feather duster to clean between the A/C vents on your dashboard and to wipe dust and dirt off the cabin console. With the feather duster in one hand, hold a vacuum attachment in the other hand so you can suck up the dust as you’re loosening it. This will keep it from settling elsewhere in the vehicle. Have extra make-up brushes laying around? These will work too!


After a long trip your vehicle’s air filter is undoubtedly filled with dust and dirt from the road. And if it’s covered with all this gunk, it’s done! It’s time to remove it and replace it with a squeaky-clean one so you’re only breathing clean, purified air as you drive around town reminiscing about your trip.


Head to the car-care aisle of your local automotive store and ask for the Armor All Protectant & Cleaning Wipes. These handy (pun!) wipes make it easy to spruce up your dash, vinyl, console, and leather without adding an oily look to them. You'll achieve a nice matte finish with these odorless wipes. Keep them in your glove box for a quick swipe whenever needed.


So, if you had little campers in the backseat, this step could take a while! It’s amazing how much trash little people make, isn’t it? So open the back doors and prepare to be amazed disgusted at all of the half-eaten food, empty containers and wrappers, drinks, and other random trash that looks like it’s exploded all over the floor. Arm yourself with a few trash bags so you can easily toss it in and toss it out. Slide the front driver and passenger seats up as far as they’ll go (and slide the rear seats around too if possible) to reveal anything that’s hiding underneath them (you’re 97.2% guaranteed to find things hiding under here!). And since you’re doing all the dirty work, you automatically have dibs on anything good (money, unwrapped food)!

For some reason, crumbs settled into seat creases freaks me out! I get the heebie-jeebies when I think of having to sit on a car seat that has crumbs smushed into the folds of the fabric. I would literally rather walk than ride in a car with crumby seats. Weird, I know. So I use this cleaning hack all the time to make sure that my car doesn’t gross me or anyone else out. Using a paintbrush or old make-up brush, I loosen stuck-in crumbs and then I vacuum them up. Just like that, disaster is averted.


If your travels included taking your favorite furry friend along, then you might have a pet hair issue to deal with when you get home. For vinyl or leather upholstery, simply vacuum up the fur and you’re done. However if you have cloth upholstery, it’s not quite as easy to banish pet hair. Try using a lint roller and running it along the seats to pull up any loose hairs, and then take the vacuum attachment to it. For stubborn hairs that just won't budge, grab a small piece of duct tape and slap it on the seats (sticky side down) over and over again until the stickiness is covered with rogue dog hairs.


When you spend so much time in your vehicle getting from point A to point B, things happen. Orange soda gets spilled. BBQ sauce drips where it shouldn’t. A half-eaten chocolate bar melts on a hot seat. In a perfect world, food wouldn’t even find its way into your car. But that’s not reality. So after you’ve calmed down, collected yourself, and realized that it’s not the end of the world, grab some diluted all-purpose cleaner, like Simple Green, and try to gently rub them out of the fabric.


Floor mats get walked all over (literally!), and it’s easy to not notice just how nasty they’ve become. For a super easy way to clean them, pre-treat them like you do a stained shirt and then just toss them in the wash. Hang or lay flat to dry.



Fire up the hose and give your vehicle a good spraying before even thinking about touching it with soap. This will remove any loose dirt, bugs, and debris that could potentially scratch the paint if you rubbed it in with your car-washing mitt. Once it’s thoroughly drenched with water, you can grab your mitt and get to work. Make sure to use car washing soap—never dish detergent or soap that strips your vehicle of wax and can actually harm the paint. Spend time going over every corner and curve of your vehicle with your mitt. Use a separate mesh sponge on your rims. Once you’re satisfied that not even a speck of dirt remains, grab a soft car washing cloth, like Meguiar's X2000 Water Magnet Microfiber Drying Towel, or a chamois and thoroughly dry the entire vehicle (make sure to open the doors and dry the interior door jambs). Any water that dries on the exterior will leave annoying water spots (that probably only you will see!).


Wash away bug guts and bird poop easily with these two ideas. The conventional method is to lift the wipers and set them in the upright position (off the windshield) and spray it with glass cleaner (this is after you've thoroughly washed the car and gotten stuck-on bugs off). Then if you follow it up with Rain X, water will bead up on it nicely. Or if you want to get a little edgy, crack open a soda, pour it over the windshield, and watch in amazement as the bubbles and fizz loosen the crud so you can easily wash it away! No joke! Just make sure to lay a towel across the hood of your vehicle before pouring the soda on it so that none of the soda gets on the paint of your vehicle. After the soda has had a few minutes to work its magic, use a hose to thoroughly wash it away so that none of the sticky soda remains. It should reveal a mess-free windshield with very little elbow grease from you!


Wipers get dirty too! Use a cloth doused in windshield washer fluid to wipe the blades so they don’t leave unsightly streaks when they slide across the windshield. Or you can soak a towel in hot, soapy water and wipe the underside of the wipers with the towel. Dry the blades with a cloth and you’re good to go!


When you’re ready to clean the windows, make sure you put them down a little so you can get to the very top of them where dirt settles and water leaves a line. Use glass cleaner to get them sparklingly clean!


So the front of your tow vehicle looks like a gruesome insect crime scene, huh? An entomology massacre for the ages! Well, no need to call in CSI, just wet some dryer sheets in warm water and start scrubbing. Sure, you might want to remove stuck-on body parts by hand first (maybe using tweezers?), but it won’t take long to unmask that shiny, beautiful grille that you know is hiding under all those guts.


It’s important to know what your wheels are made of when choosing a cleaner, as some chemicals can be harmful if used on the wrong type of wheel. If you’re unsure, use an acid-free pH-balanced aluminum wheel cleaner since this can be used on any type of wheel. Sonax makes great wheel cleaning products.


After you’ve washed your vehicle, you might notice that there are still things stuck to the exterior that didn’t get washed off. This is where you grab a clay bar and go to work! Spray a small area of the car with a clay lubricant, like Wolfgang Clay Lubricant, flatten the clay bar into a thin piece, hold it in the palm of your hand, and run it along the surface of the car. It should remove anything that’s bonded to the exterior and it’ll leave it as smooth as silk. Just know that it also removes wax, so the area will be left vulnerable to UV rays.


The final finishing touch that adds shine and protection to your precious tow vehicle is wax! Choose between polymer or carnauba wax which essentially perform the same. The only benefits of one over the other is that polymer wax is easier to apply and can be removed almost instantly, and it won’t haze as it dries. However it’s more expensive than carnauba wax, so you have to weigh the cost with the benefits. We like Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Liquid Wax for our tow vehicles.

Now that your tow vehicle is in tip-top condition and could impress even the most finicky car owner, it’s time to start planning that next adventure! Where will the open road take you next time? With an RV from Gillette’s Interstate RV in East Lansing, MI, the sky is the limit! If you’re in the market for a new or used RV, check out our huge selection online or come see us for friendly, personalized service with a smile! We offer deep discounts that save our customers $1000s on their new RVs! We also offer special no-money-down financing that takes the stress out of buying! Call, click, or visit us today! And ask about our worldwide delivery service! It’s amazing!

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