Apartment Living: Vacuuming & Cleaning Your Car

When living in an apartment, you’ll sometimes miss out on the little things like the ability to wash your car easily. Sure there are car washes and automated ones that make it super easy, but they cost a lot more than just doing it yourself.

My biggest problem with automated car washes is that they don’t do as well as washing it myself. Those things often miss a lot and can be super rough on your car too.

I’ve found some clever ways to get around this issue that I’ll like to share with all the other people who live in an apartment and need to clean and vacuum their cars.


The best thing to use to vacuum your car has got to be a shop vacuum. This is not an easy solution if you live in an apartment as you have no real place to plug it in.

The Apartments I lived in they sometimes had a coin-operated vacuum cleaner, but they all lacked suction and were never clean as often as they should be. So using them was out of the question, plus I always fear that the last guy before me might have vacuumed puke and I did not want that puke-nozzle touching my car.

I have found that many apartment buildings coin operated vacuums plug in a typical household outlet and that outlet is often easy to get to. Since I’m parked there to use the vacuum, I just unplugged their vacuum and used my shop vacuum to get the job done.

Many apartment buildings will frown on this, but none really could tell as I’m already at the vacuum bay and it looks like I’m using there vacuum. Also, I’ve found that the maintenance guys are usually cool with you parking near them and using their outlets to clean out your car. Always these this at your own risk.

If you don’t feel like jumping through all those hoops, then the next best option is to get a cordless vacuum. I’ll be honest, most cordless vacuums suck – and not in a good way. About the only vacuum I think is worth it are the cordless Dyson V6 or V8. The Dyson’s are the only ones that operate long enough to clean and have great suction power.

The problem with the two methods above is that it can be costly. But honestly, I find it cheaper to go ahead and buy the vacuum instead of feeding an overpriced vacuum machine at some of those places. There does exist some carwashes that will allow you to vacuum your car for free. But you usually have to buy the car wash to get that perk.

—Another option that is very cheap is to use a regular brush and a rubber brush like this (Amazon Link Ad) to clean hair and such from the carpets. The carpets in your car don’t get dirty like in your home. Your car’s carpets usually get bigger items like rocks and leaves or even hair which can be easily cleaned. I like to use the regular brush to clean hard to reach areas like around the seats mounting points and the hair remover rubber brush to clean the actual carpets of things like hair and fur.

Washing Your Car

Some apartments will have a place where you can wash your car. It’s usually just a hose, and that’s it. The problem I’ve found is that no one respects it and the hose is often worn out with a hole in it. The sprayer nozzle is non-existent or broken to the point no one can use it. Often I wonder why apartments even try to have a wash area since no one ever cares to take care of the items.

I’m often to the point of going to self-serve car washes. You know the places where you drive under a covering, and there is a pressure washer hose for cleaning your car. You feed the machine coins, and you have options to use their soaps and such. This is a great place and the equipment is more heavy duty and taken better care of. The only problem is that it can get real expensive quick with using their soaps and such.

When I go to the self-serve car washes, I only use the pressure washer to rinse off my car. What I like to do is bring my own bucket, soap, cleaning brushes, and a gallon of water. Yes, a gallon of water. I fill up an old tea-jug with water, and I use that to fill up my wash bucket. I’ll dump half the jug of water in the bucket and add a little bit of soap to the other half of the tea jug and shake it up, so that it gets sudsy, and dump the rest in the bucket. I’ll clean my car like normal and then pay to rinse off the soap. This way I avoid those high prices they charge for soaps and waxes.

The jug method may seem extreme to some, but those soaps and waxes add up real quick when you’re trying to keep your car clean.

If you want to get real fancy with this idea you could buy those 5-gallon paint jugs you see at Lowes or Home Depot and fill those up with the soap and water then place the lids on them, so they don’t spill when you go to the car wash. With the lid on you could shake the bucket also to get the suds going too.

Automated Carwash

If you only have automated car washes near you, like the ones where no one works at, then I do have a solution for you. Like before I bring my bucket of water with soap in it and I clean my car outside of the automated carwash. When it’s time to rinse it off, I send it through the automatic carwash to get “washed” again. This way I know my car is cleaned before it even goes through the car wash. I guess you could say I’m only using those automated car washes as a way to rinse off my car.

This is the most complicated way to do it as you need to move fast to keep the soap from drying. At this point, I would just see a friend or family member so I can wash my car. Maybe even see if where you work will allow you to rinse your car off out back.

Rain Wash

I don’t recommend you do this but I feel that I must tell a story. My father would only wash his car when it rained. He lived in an apartment and this was about the only time he would wash it. To be fair it did keep his car clean. It was odd to see him go out with only a rag and soap to clean his car off in the rain.

The car was already going to get wet anyways while in the rain, might was well put some soap to it. For the spots the rain did not rinse off he would use a bucket and splash the area.

It was something interesting to see and quite embarrassing at times. But he really knew how to think outside the box and even save money on water too. I guess this would be the most eco-friendly way to wash your car?

One Important Tip

The car is not completely washed until it’s dried. I use to clean cars and other things like cars for a living and the only time it would get fully cleaned was when we dried it off. You’ll miss some spots and drying your car is the only way to make sure you get all the spots.

I recommend using a shammy or drying towel like this one (Amazon Link Ad)to dry the car off. Trust me, don’t air dry the car as good old elbow grease and a shammy is the best way to make it shine.