Cars can be a dirty business. Especially if you don’t clean them as often as you should. And let’s be honest, who does?
It’s easy to shut the car door and forget about that six months’ worth of clutter. Whether that’s clothes, rubbish from a meal on the move, excess dog leads or our children’s belongings. You name it, most cars have endured it.
So it’s no wonder then that cleaning cars has become big business…
Health risk: It’s easy to shut the car door and forget about that six months’ worth of rubbish and clutter
Beyond traditional dangly air-fresheners, firms such as Citroen offer scented diffusers through the air conditioning.
Some carmakers such as Land Rover and Range Rover offer in-car ionisers to help keep the air fresh and promote ‘wellness’ and leave you relaxed.
Firms go to great lengths to get that ‘new car smell’ — but also to remove any chemicals or treatments that might be overpowering.
The UK’s car cleaning and valeting industry is estimated to be worth around £1 billion a year.
The jobs website uk.talent.com reckons a car valeter in the UK makes on average £18,525 a year — or £9.50 per hour — from £17,063 for beginners, up to £22,500 for experienced staff.
There’s plenty on offer from the automated car-wash machine at the garage, or fast and furious squeegee guys at the bottom of the street charging from a few pounds to £15, to upmarket firms charging £100 or more for a full professional inside and out valet service.
But you can always do it yourself. That may mean a trip to the local garage or there’s loads of home valeting equipment in the market from the likes of specialist cleaning machines to suitable bottles of cleaner.
Tidy profits: The UK’s car cleaning and valeting industry is estimated to be worth around £1bn a year
Pop into any Halfords and the shelves are groaning with products. Check out consumer magazines — such as Which?, What Car? and Auto Express — to see what’s on the market and what to avoid.
What Car? carried out a test on ten different car upholstery cleaners. It rubbed in melted chocolate and jam, and scribbled Biro ink into the seats of a classic Jeep.
And even What Car? was surprised at how well the products coped, noting: ‘Many products on the market are more or less miracles in a bottle — melting away grime with unbelievable ease.’
Five top tips to spruce up your car
Just like the exterior, your car’s interior needs a fortnightly spruce up
Wash and go
Clean the outside of your car around once a fortnight — whether by hand, at a car wash or with valets, say experts.
Don’t forget inside
Just like the exterior, your car’s interior needs a fortnightly spruce up.
Mud splashes remind us to drive to the nearest car wash, but we don’t see the bacteria building up in our vehicles.
Shampoo the upholstery of your vehicle once in a while to ensure the car is clean bacterially as well as physically.
Keep your vehicle hygienic between deeper cleans by spraying antibacterial sanitiser on to a tissue and wiping it over the gear stick and steering wheel
Not all about looks…
Don’t just rely on appearances: There’s a big difference between being clean visually and being clean biologically.
Just because something looks clean or tidy, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cleanse more deeply.
Spray between washes
Keep your vehicle hygienic between deeper cleans by spraying antibacterial sanitiser on to a tissue and wiping it over the gear stick and steering wheel.
- Visit scrapcarcomparison.co.uk/blog/the-dirtiest-areas-of-cars/
Britain’s leading independent supercar salesman Tom Hartley (tomhartley.com) learnt his trade by cleaning cars inside and out — before selling them on — so he has an eye for every speck of dirt or grime, though now his professional teams do the work before customers take delivery of cars costing into the millions.
He said: ‘I smile when I think back to those days of cleaning a car in two hours using elbow grease and nothing more than a bucket, Turtle Wax and T-Cut.’
By contrast, he noted: ‘Today our valetors call the process ‘detailing’ and wear gloves.
‘They also enjoy the bonus of a jet washer and three kinds of electric buffer polishers, and it takes them four days to do a supercar. How things change.’
However, a study by academics at Aston University’s School of Biosciences — commissioned by vehicle comparison website scrapcarcomparison.co.uk — revealed that the inside of the average car is actually dirtier than the average toilet — with the boot and driver’s seat often host to bugs that could make you ill.
The researchers sampled five interiors with varying histories — including with pets and children — to establish bacterial contamination levels and highlight how thoroughly people clean their cars. The vehicles included:
- A second-hand 17-year-old Peugeot 307 SW with one previous owner and pets;
- A five-year-old Volkswagen Golf with two previous owners and a history of animals and children;
- A 13-year-old Ford Focus with animals and children with one previous owner;
- A nine-year-old Honda Jazz with animals and children with two previous owners;
- A two-year-old Peugeot 308 with one previous owner. Swabs were taken within the cars before bacteria cultures were grown, identified and measured. They also tested two domestic toilets.
The tests revealed the highest levels of bacteria were found in the boot (1,425 bacteria identified), as well as on the driver’s seat (649).
The gear stick (407), back seat (323) and dashboard (317) also saw higher levels of bacterial contamination than is found on the average domestic toilet.
The steering wheel (146) was the cleanest area of the car, which researchers said was likely to be due to the increase in hand sanitiser use during the pandemic.
Hidden threat: Although older cars are worst, a study by Aston University found harmful bacteria is also likely to be discovered in some of the newest cars on the road
Motorists should be cleaning the inside of their vehicles much more often. And although older cars are worst, harmful bacteria is ‘likely to be discovered in some of the newest cars on the road’, said the report.
It noted: ‘In particular, the car boot plays host to significantly high levels of bacteria, with E.coli likely found in every boot and potentially on your driver’s seat.
‘The findings pose a concern for anyone that puts fruit and vegetables in the boot, or enjoys a drive-through dinner.’
Study leader Dr Jonathan Cox, senior lecturer in microbiology at Aston University, said too often motorists clean cars based on whether they ‘look’ clean, adding: ‘But you would never even think about eating off of your toilet seat. Upholstery, in particular, should be given a deep clean.’
‘Many of us have placed loose food shopping in our boots, or dropped the odd crisp on to our seat, before eating it. These results however highlight we should change how we think about our cars and cleanliness.’
He noted: ‘People don’t get sick every time they get in the car. We don’t need to be overly concerned, but should be aware not all dirt is visible.’
Peugeot wins the votes of women
Peugeot’s 308 hatchback has been named ‘Women’s World Car of the Year 2022’.
The award was announced to coincide with International Women’s Day on Tuesday.
The all-female 56-strong jury representing 40 countries put the smart French runaround ahead of 65 new models launched in 2021.
Peugeot’s 308 hatchback is already a ‘best-seller’ with more than 65,000 orders across the UK and Continental Europe since its launch at the end of 2021
The title goes to the two body styles of the new Peugeot 308 — both the hatchback and the SW estate.
Available to order now with first deliveries early summer, the new Peugeot 308 ranges from £24,000 up to £38,800 for the plug-in hybrid GT.
The car is already a ‘best-seller’ with more than 65,000 orders across the UK and Continental Europe since its launch at the end of 2021, of which nearly a quarter (23 per cent) are plug-in hybrids.
Judges said: ‘The new Peugeot 308 seduces through its design, technology, and choice of efficient powertrains.’ Customers can choose from plug-in hybrid (PHEV), petrol and diesel powertrains, with full electric variants launching in 2023.
The new 308 is the first Peugeot to win the Women’s World Car of the Year award — the only automotive award in the world that is judged exclusively by women automotive journalists.
Cars were judged on excellence based on safety, quality, price, ease of driving, comfort, technology, design, efficiency, impact on the environment and value for money.
Judges said: ‘The objective of the awards is to highlight the role of women in the car world and also to choose the best cars of the year.’
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