How to clean a classic car inside and out

Knowing how to clean a classic car can help you to keep it safe and hygienic, as well as preserving more of its value.

Something as simple as using two buckets when you wash it can have an effect on keeping the paintwork in good condition – more on that method below.

Here we look at some top tips for cleaning classic cars on the outside and the inside, and how to keep them clean en route to your next track day, race or car show.

The two-bucket method

One of the easiest things you can do is use two buckets when you wash your car’s exterior.

The first bucket should contain soapy water, and this is where you should soak your sponge before applying it to your car’s bodywork.

In the second bucket, you have clean water where you can rinse your sponge – this bucket catches any sand or grit, so by the time you soak up more soapy water from the first bucket, there should be nothing abrasive that could scratch your paint job.

Microfibre cloths

For an even smoother finish, swap your old car sponge for microfibre cloths instead. These have even less chance of leaving behind fine scratches and ‘swirl’ marks.

You can also get microfibre mitts, which you might find easier to use – just wear the mitt like a glove and wipe over your car’s exterior with the palm of your hand.

Use multiple cloths and mitts as you work your way down the exterior from top to bottom, as it’s normal for the lower bodywork panels and especially the wheels to contain more dirt and grit.

Engine bay

If you want your classic car to look pristine under the bonnet, first make sure you’re aware of any electrical connections, and keep those dry while you work on the rest.

A good degreaser can help to shift stubborn and caked-on engine fluids, and of course regular cleaning should make those less of an issue in the future.

Exhibition cars often go on show with the bonnet open, so interested spectators can take a look under the hood – you might want to consider using a covered car transporter to get to the event, so the engine doesn’t get dirty during the drive there.

Plastic trim

Plastic trim both inside and outside can be restored with ‘back to black’ polishes, which restore a deep black finish to faded grey plastic parts.

Different cleaning products can leave a different level of matt or gloss finish, so decide whether you want shiny or smooth plastic and shop for the right polish or wax accordingly.

Leather interiors

Leather interiors need regular maintenance to stop the leather from fading, cracking and drying out.

If you’ve bought a classic car that was not looked after, there are ways to restore cracked leather back to its best.

Remember also that UV light coming in from outside may lead to faded upholstery over time, so try to keep your car out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

Once your car is spick and span inside and out, you just have to get it to the racetrack or exhibition ground – again, a covered car transporter can keep it clean on the way, while shielding it from weather conditions like wind and rain, or harsh direct sunlight.