If you’re someone who drives their vehicle every day, you probably pay more attention to whether you have gas in your tank than the way your car looks. But trust me, you don’t want to neglect your cabin. If you don’t want to clean it for your passengers, at least do it for yourself. To make it easier to start dealing with the cabin, I’ve made a list of the best household products to clean and polish your dashboard.
You likely have everything you need to get your ride looking as good as new right in your pantry. I’ve already told you about home remedies for getting bug residue off the surface of your vehicle. Today, I’m really going to focus on the central console — so let’s see what you need to do to get a clean and shiny dashboard.
How to Clean and Polish Your Dashboard
Before I spill all my secrets, I want to talk a bit about cleaning the dashboard in general. I’m a fairly neat person, myself, so I like to keep my car clutter-free. However, if you, like many others, toss all of your junk in the back seat, on the floor, or on the dash, now is the time to reform.
So go ahead and remove all of the food wrappers and water bottles you’re keeping on the right side of your dash. If something is important, put it in the glove compartment or take it home. Toss everything else in the trash.
At this point, you can check for any pattern in the way the dust has settled onto your dashboard. If you see any streaking, you could have:
Once you establish where you stand on the leaking issue, you can dust, clean, and polish your dashboard. You likely won’t need to use a lot of products to do these things, either:
- A spray bottle is always useful for homemade solution applications
- You should have at least two or three clean rags on hand
- You can also get a handheld vacuum if there’s a lot of dust and grime on your dashboard
Aside from those things, you can also buy a dashboard cleaner or use some of the products from the following list.
Best Household Products for Cleaning and Polishing a Car Dashboard
As I’ve mentioned, cleaning the dashboard starts with dusting, so the first few household products on my list will deal with that task. The following few items will be related to cleaning stains, and I’ll wrap up with products that add polish and fight odor. Without further ado, let’s see what we’re working with.
1. Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are great for so many reasons, not the least of which is their ability to get rid of the layer of dust that settles on a dashboard. I like to keep a pack of them in my glove compartment. If I ever notice that I’ve been neglecting my car, I quickly swipe the dash, just to tide me over until I can clean it properly.
Even though baby wipes are, in my opinion, a great addition to any car, they’re definitely more of a quick fix. Similarly, you can also get special car wipes that come in 90-piece canisters.
But if you’re not in a rush, you might as well get a clean, damp cloth and wipe off the dust with that. Unlike baby wipes, a cloth won’t leave a residue on the center console. But then, even a damp cloth towel could leave streaks behind if there’s a lot of dust on the dash.
2. Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets
If you just want to get the dust off and let it fall to the floor — like when you’re planning to clean the floor afterward — I recommend using dryer sheets. They’re obviously dry, so they won’t leave any streaks at all. They should also trap any dust so you can also collect it when you get to the edge of the console.
I’ve previously recommended using dryer sheets for improving the smell of a car. So if you have issues with smells in the front of the cabin, you can also put a dryer sheet on the floor. You may also think that leaving a dryer sheet on the dash itself would be a good idea, but I wouldn’t try that.
Even though you should really limit your car’s exposure to the sun, the fact is that your car is bound to be exposed at some point. When you’re driving around in the sun, the heat will cause the dryer sheet to release some of the chemicals it’s been treated with, which may stain the dash. Trust me, you don’t want to be the cause of any more stains on your dash.
if you do end up with stains, though, there are several ways to get rid of them. One of the easiest concoctions you can mix consists of 3 parts vinegar and 1 part water. This is where that spray bottle is going to be useful — you can pour your liquids directly inside and apply them to the dashboard.
Then, you can simply wipe the cleaner away with a soft and clean rag. You can also add vinegar to any other cleaner you make using the rest of the ingredients on my list. As I’ve explained in my article about homemade cleaners for carpets, white vinegar is going to help lift any stains as well as remove odors. For example, it’ll be the perfect remedy to use if you’ve left an apple core on your dashboard for days or weeks.
4. Dish Soap
If you want to give your vinegar a boost or you have a grease stain on your dashboard, you can always use dish soap. In fact, I’ve mentioned this ingredient in my article on cleaning carpets as well. High-quality dish soap can help you clean a car from the inside out.
Once again, you can use your trusty spray bottle to get it started. Pour some warm water in and add a few drops of the dish soap. Add vinegar if you think you’ll need it and shake up the bottle before spraying the central console.
You can use this on the plastic and even the glass behind the steering wheel. And, of course, no matter which ingredients you end up using, don’t forget to clean out the glove compartment as well.
Obviously, though, Windex would probably work better than soap and vinegar for the glass. However, you could also use it on the rest of the dashboard as well. Simply spray it on and wipe off with a clean rag, as always.
I should warn you, though: serious stains likely won’t come off with Windex. You can use the next two ingredients instead.
If you’ve spent enough time on the Internet, you’re probably aware that introducing toothpaste into a situation always makes for a fun lifehack tip. You can rub it on your headlights if you want them to be crystal clear, and you can even use it on the rearview or wing mirrors.
But we’re here to deal with a nasty dashboard. Toothpaste can really help you lift stains even from leather and vinyl. Still, you’ll want to be careful when dealing with anything that can lift a stain. Test it on a small area first to make sure that it won’t cause unwanted discolorations later.
7. Rubbing Alcohol
Now, if toothpaste doesn’t do the trick on whatever stain you’re trying to lift, you can also use a bit of rubbing alcohol. Once again, you’ll want to do a small patch test before you commit to it. When you’re sure that your dash won’t react poorly to alcohol, you’ll want to soak a section of a clean, dye-free rag and press it on the area.
Whatever you do, don’t rub the stain with the alcohol-soaked rag. That will only cause more problems. Instead, dab the area and wash it with soap and water again for good measure.
You can also use alcohol in a solution. Just mix equal parts of rubbing alcohol and warm water in your spray bottle. Then, apply that to a dashboard and wipe it off with dryer sheets or a clean cloth rag.
8. Essential Oils
Now, what can we do about the smell of your dashboard? Don’t worry — you’re neither the first nor the last person who let their car get to this point. When in doubt, essential oils are the perfect way to make your car smell less rank.
If you happen to have an aromatherapy essential oil set lying around, you can mix and match your favorite scents. While you’re cleaning the dashboard, you can clean the air vents with either a dryer sheet or a foam paintbrush. Then, you can clip a piece of cork to the air vent and dot some of your favorite essential oils on it. The next time you turn on the AC, your car will quickly start smelling heavenly.
Still, if you want to avoid looking for a clip and a piece of cork, you could also add a few drops directly to the dash. Your motor will heat it up, dispersing it throughout the cabin.
You can also use equal parts of flaxseed oil and vinegar to remove grime and leave your car smelling fresh. The flaxseed oil will also moisturize the console and make it look nice and shiny.
9. Baking Soda
As I’ve mentioned before in my articles on dealing with milk stains and gasoline spills, baking soda is an excellent defense against bad odors. Sprinkling it over the source of the smell and letting it sit would allow it to soak up those smells.
In this case, you can put it into the ashtray after you’ve emptied it. Let the baking soda soak up all of that odor. And don’t forget to switch it out every once in a while.
10. Olive Oil
Like flaxseed oil, olive oil can help add shine to your dashboard. If you’ve cleaned it with all of the ingredients I’ve mentioned above, you can first do a spot test.
If you want, you can use olive oil on its own. However, you can add a bit of lemon juice to the mix as well. Then, you’ll absolutely have to do a patch test, as citrus may lighten the color of your dashboard. After you’re sure that the dashboard won’t react badly to your homemade solution, you can apply it.
Dab a clean rag into a small amount of olive oil and spread it out over the central console. Just avoid putting it on anything you need to drive, as it may be a bit slippery. If you don’t overdo it, you’ll end up with a beautifully glossy and clean console.
More on Using Household Products to Clean a Dashboard
As you know by now, I’m a big fan of improvising when it comes to cleaning the car. After all, why would you have to get additional products when you likely have everything you need right in your kitchen or bathroom?
Make sure to learn why you’re using each of the items I’ve told you about. Once you do that, you’ll be able to take that knowledge and use it in other places as well. So remember:
- Declutter first
- Remove dust with baby wipes, dryer sheets, or a damp rag
- Clean with vinegar, dish soap, Windex, or a mixture of your own
- Lift stains with toothpaste or rubbing alcohol
- Remove odor with baking soda and essential oils
- Add shine with a bit of olive oil
Now go get your dashboard in order.