Homemade car cleaning products

By glblguy

Car Wash
Photo by: Aislinn Ritchie

This article is part of an ongoing series called Money Saving Monday. Each Monday, I share tips and techniques you can use to start saving money.

Inspired by Lynnae’s Homemade Laundry Detergent article, I decided to do some research and see if there were any homemade recipes available for car cleaning products. I found a number of recipes, some a bit crazy and some not so home made at all (i.e. mixing two commercial products together). Fortunately though I did find a few that I would actually consider using on my cars. Once our water restrictions are lifted, I plan to give them a try.

Car Soap

Car soap isn’t near as sophisticated as the manufacturers would like you to think it is. Here’s a simple recipe that will make all the suds you need and keep your car nice and clean:

  • 1 cup liquid dish detergent – Ivory works well
  • 12 T powdered laundry detergent
  • 1 large bucket of water

Car Wax

Carnuba is the key ingredient for a good car wax as it provides a very hard protective coating over your car’s paint. Here’s a carnuba based homemade car wax recipe:

  • 1 cup linseed oil
  • 4 tbsp. carnuba wax (available at automotive stores and available online)
  • 2 tbsp. beeswax
  • 1/2 cup vinegar

Put ingredients in top half of a double boiler or saucepan. Heat slowly until wax has melted. Stir, and pour into a heat resistant container. After wax has solidified, rub it on the car with a lint-free cloth. Saturate a corner of a cotton rag with vinegar and polish the wax to a deep shine.

Tire Cleaner

I like to clean my tires with Soft scrub with bleach. The bleach whitens any white letters or stripes along with giving the tire a nice black color. Here’s a homemade alternative:

Non-Abrasive Soft Scrubber:

  • 1/4 cup borax
  • Vegetable-oil based liquid soap (such as Murphy’s Oil Soap)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1 teaspoon bleach

Carpet Cleaner/Stain Remover

Here’s a few homemade ideas to clean the carpet in your car and to help you remove stains:

  • A great carpet stain remover is club soda. Soak the spot immediately with soda and blot until the stain is gone.
  • Sprinkle cornstarch onto carpet, vacuum.
  • Grease spots can be removed from carpets by first absorbing excess with a sponge. Next rub a liberal amount of corn starch into the spot. Let sit overnight, then vacuum.

Carpet Freshener

Want your car to smell cleaner? Here’s some homemade carpet freshener:

  • 4 cups baking soda or cornstarch
  • 35 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
  • 30 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 25 drops Rosewood essential oil or any combination of your favorite essential oils

Measure 4 cups of baking soda into a bowl, add essential oils. Break up any clumps that form, stir until well mixed. Before vacuuming sprinkle powder from a shaker type can or jar. Let it sit on the carpet for about 15 minutes then vacuum.

In a bowl, mix the borax with enough soap to form a creamy paste. Add lemon oil, bleach, and blend well.

Windshield Wiper Frost Free Fluid

Mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water and coat the car windows and fill your fluid reservoir with this solution. This vinegar and water combination will keep windshields clean, and ice and frost-free.

Have any homemade car cleaner products you use? Share your recipe!

46 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Homemade car cleaning products”

  1. No Debt Plan Says:

    Hmmm.. I think I remember reading somewhere that using dish detergent soap stripped wax off of the car. That would be my only hesitation on your list. Unless of course you plan on waxing the car every time you wash it :)

  2. glblguy Says:

    @No Debt Plan – Actually I thought the same thing and did a considerable amount of research. It’s actually a hotly debated topic. What strips the wax off is the high PH of the detergents. Detergents like Dawn and Ivory have a low PH similar to car cleaning soaps.

  3. Frugal Dad Says:

    Great ideas for a “frugal” carwash! Now if I could just convince my kids to actually wash the car. I may have to resort to bribery.

  4. Matt Keegan Says:

    I’ve done the windshield wiper fluid routine in the past, but haven’t thought about doing it again in quite some time.

    Most of the suggestions listed seem like more of a hassle then what they are worth; I usually find a “no brand” item at Wal*Mart — such as car wash detergent — and have paid less than half the price of the big brand items.

    I don’t even have rosewood, eucalyptus or lavender oils handy — wouldn’t it cost more to buy these oils instead of finding a low-cost ready made product that can do the job for less?

  5. glblguy Says:

    @Matt – Not sure if it’s a hassle, as most of the ingrediants my wife keeps around the house anyway, including the scents (eucalyptus and lavender). Not sure on the cost if you didn’t already have it, I’ll have to ask my wife.

    One thing to consider…all of these product are environmentally friendly and bio-degradable. Not sure if that applies to store bought products in all cases or not.

  6. Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net Says:

    My husband made me bookmark this page on del.icio.us for him. Thanks! :)

    Matt Keegan – The oils can be expensive to buy initially, but a couple of drops go a long way. I’ll bet you probably wouldn’t need to add so much essential oil, if you didn’t want to. In fact, I’ll bet plain old baking soda would be just fine. It wouldn’t give you a pretty scent, but baking soda is a great deodorizer.

  7. The Financial Journey Says:

    Never thought about making my own car cleaning products. Great post thanks!

  8. claudia Says:

    another good tip is using dollar store baby shampoo, is very mild it won’t strip the wax or paint on your car, also baby shampoo is a good alternative detergent for laudering your black clothes since it won’t leave a residue and your blacks would come out lint frre and smeling like a baby! :-)

  9. Ryan S. @ Uncommon-Cents.net Says:

    From experience, usinga bit of Dawn for a car washing detergent works great! Here at least the majority of the grime seems to be grease.

  10. Funny about Money Says:

    I’ve always used plain dish detergent (Ivory) to wash the car and never had a problem with it damaging the finish or a wax job.

    Also I discovered that the variety of Windex that comes in a spray bottle that screws on to the end of a garden hose (it’s meant for washing high windows) works exceptionally well on a car. Doesn’t do much for windows, but it’s great for cars and sidewalks.

    And Murphy’s Oil Soap (a dilute solution) is lovely for vinyl dashboards and appointments–and smells good, too.

    Has anyone tried to get coffee out of a car’s carpet? I’m thinking of trying a really dilute solution of Simple Green and then vacuuming it up with the shop vac. Ideas???

  11. Stephanie @ PoorerThanYou Says:

    This is a great list! Thanks for posting this – I have to admit, I’m more interested in it for the environmental aspects (as I don’t really spend much on cleaning my car, so there’s no real money for me to save), but that works because most everything on here is better than the 10-syllable ingredients in commercial cleaners!

  12. Bob Says:

    I am just wondering about the cost of the homemade car wash. I would think that the cost of 1 cup of dish soap per bucket compares similarily to (or is even more expensive than) a couple squirts of car wash soap formulated to not degrade your finish.

  13. Napoleon Nahas Says:

    Keep working ,good job! beverly hills carpet cleaning

  14. Learn speak hindi Says:

    Heya im new on here, I find this forum extremely helpful & it has helped me out loads. i hope to be able to help out and help other ppl like its helped me.

  15. Carguy Says:

    Dawn removes wax from automotive finishes. Dawn removes oils and degrade wax.

  16. Craig Says:

    Fantastic tips cheers. I am going to try the lavender and Euculyptus recipe for my car. Thanks Craig

  17. Ken Says:

    Hi Tried the window cleaner. We don’t get ice down out way but it seems great for dirt / Many thanks

  18. Simone Says:

    Hi do you have a substitute for carnuba wax as it is a little hard to find in my neck of the woods. Have you trialed any other waxes at all? Great post thanks. Very enjoyable

  19. Rick Says:

    Indeed, Dawn is typically recommended to strip off any wax that may be present prior to applying any new protection. Many of us use Dawn prior to our process of claying, polishing, and waxing a vehicle to make sure old layers have been removed.

    Maybe the “solution” noted causes the amount of Dawn to be of a low enough amount that this doesn’t occur. I always use a car soap because it is more mild and is less likely to remove any protection you may have applied to your car.

  20. Freedom Journey Says:

    So here is my embarrassing question: once you’ve made the cleaning solution, what type of tool do you use to clean the car? I’ve never actually seen someone clean a car by hand but I’d like to do it…yet without the wand & huge scrub brush from the DIY car wash place I’m not sure what to use.

  21. Tran Says:

    It would depend on the specific ingredients you are using in order to be sure it is all environmentally friendly and bio-degradable (ie. using Dr. Bronner’s soap or Seventh Generation). I’m pretty sure bleach is not environmentally safe.

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  23. MDesign Says:

    We do not stumble all the time on such well organized blogs, as a web designer, i can say “congratulations well done”

  24. the best Says:

    Love these recipes! I was searching for the best shampoo and found you!

  25. Craig Says:

    Hi You may be interested to tell your readers that using WD40 in the shower keeps the glass lokking very clean and shiny (need to buff it hard the first time only) and will stop the lime penetrating the pores of glass and making it go whitesh. hope that ghelps your readers Cheers

  26. Barbara Says:

    What fantasic ideas. I had no idea how easy these can be. I’m definitely going to try the recipes.

  27. Al Says:

    Your suggestion to make a car wash concoction using dish soap is a NONO. I am a professional auto detailer and have to remind you that washing a car with dish soap will stip any existing wax off of the vehicle, removing any protection from the elements. Unless you plan to rewax the vehicle every time after washing with dish soap, I would warn not to use it to wash a vehicle. You can buy a gallon of a concentrated car washing solution for under $10 that will last for many many car washes and end up costing about 25 cents per wash. The dish soap idea is your typical “penny wise, pound foolish” idea.

  28. Ken Says:

    Good that you are helping people in tight times. I have found that baking soda is a cheap way to kill mould in the shower. hope that helps your readers cheers

  29. Trudy Says:

    have you considered some of the home cosmetic ideas for women such as how to makw teeth whiter in expensively or things like that ?

  30. Sunshine6711 Says:

    I was wondering what the borax, soap, lemon oil and bleach was meant to be used for. I am confused on its usage. I know it has been years since you initiated this blog but if you were to
    check back in on it would you reply to my comment. Or if anyone else understood its usage, would you most kindly expound? Thanks.

  31. Bernadette Says:

    I’m hesitant to use white vinegar soltion in the wondow cleaning box as I’m sure that it would degrade the rubber on the wipers in time.

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  33. aby Says:

    i heard of a recipe for shining with peanut butter anyone knows about it?