Cleaning up That Garage Find | Garage Rescue Miata

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David S.
Update by David S. Wallens to the Mazda Miata project car
Jan 1, 2021

The first step in putting our 1992 Mazda Miata “garage find” back on the road? Cleaning it up. 

The car looked horrible: The exterior was covered in dirt, while the interior started to harbor some kind of science experiment. It was quite sad. We wouldn’t sit in the little car without donning a hazmat suit. 

Despite the temptation to hit it with everything possible, we started delicately. The goal: not turn a small problem into a big problem. 

We started on the paint with quick detail and a microfiber towel. Would that be strong enough, or would the dirt just laugh at us, begging us to fire up a pressure washer–or even a flame-thrower?

Turns out that the quick detail was plenty: squirt, wipe, repeat. The dirt started to run as soon as it got wet, in fact. (Thank you, younger version of ourselves, for keeping the car waxed back in the day.)

We used Griot’s Garage Speed Shine–fairly easy to find online or at the local parts house–along with the fluffiest microfibers in our collection. A tip from Tim McNair, our detail buddy who does cars for the world’s top concours yet still takes our calls: Work with the lines of the car. That way, if a piece of debris happens to scratch the paint, at least it will go with the flow. 

A few lessons here: Wax is good, and sometimes a sympathetic hand is best. 

The top had gotten splotchy–mold, maybe–and while it might finally be time to replace the original fabric, we couldn’t leave it looking sad. Simple Green and some more microfibers quickly cleaned it up. Then we topped the top with Griot’s Garage Vinyl & Rubber Dressing–a spray bottle of this magic elixir costs about $20. It even smells good. 

The interior was the true horror show. We’ll let the pictures tell that story.

We grabbed a mask–they’re everywhere now–and dug in. How much would this mess challenge us? 

Again, we started with a mild product: Simple Green and some microfiber towels. If it didn’t work, we figured, we could easily get more aggressive. 

The Simple Green immediately cleaned away the funk. Again, we just had to spray and wipe. No scrubbing, no drama. 

Then we wiped down everything with more of the Griot’s Vinyl & Rubber Dressing. For our leather Momo Prototipo wheel, we used Griot’s Leather 3-In-1 Spray. 


At this point, the Miata looked presentable. Once the car is running, we can blow it apart and do a deep clean. 

Now to turn our attention to the mechanical bits and pieces. 

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View comments on the GRM forums
LifeIsStout GRM+ Memberand Reader
12/31/20 2:04 p.m.

That funk could be down in the seating material as well, it looks like you did a vacuum job, but I would pull the seats, get under them, and then even pressure wash the seats after a simple green soak just to make sure you have the mold out of them especially if you are going to run with them.  You might also have stuff in the venting, if you can pull those it might be a good idea to get in there as well.

Looked like some mold to me.  I'd remove the seat ms and get them steam cleaned too.  It is looking way better though and with clean NA prices is worth some effort.

alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/1/21 9:27 a.m.

Seems like the vents would be pretty bad with crud, too.  And I've wondered how to clean the insides of the HVAC system....

And what about the back sides of what you cleaned?  Door cards and dash- do they need attention, too??  (I don't know that- really asking...)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/1/21 9:29 a.m.

Once the car's running, we can clean deeper. But at least now you can sit in it. 

NOT A TA SuperDork
1/1/21 10:39 a.m.

When it's running put the heater on hot and let it run a while changing the air flow to the defrosters, feet, etc. to bake the insides of the ductwork dry and stop further growth of the mold. Carpet will hold mold that smells just as the seats already mentioned so might be worth pulling & cleaning if you remove the seats. Don't forget the inside of the conv. top.

dxman92 Dork
1/1/21 10:48 a.m.

Simple Green is worth it's weight in gold. That is all I have to say.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/1/21 4:27 p.m.

Rounding up some cleaning supplies for Round 2.

Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
1/1/21 4:30 p.m.

Wow, what causes all that mold? I have cars that sit for a long time in the garage but never had that happen to them. 

johndej Dork
1/1/21 4:36 p.m.

Needed to get some more simple green myself and just ordered some Griot’s Vinyl & Rubber Dressing too.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/1/21 4:48 p.m.
Slippery (Forum Supporter) said:

Wow, what causes all that mold? I have cars that sit for a long time in the garage but never had that happen to them. 

No idea, to be honest. Florida, I guess. And not sure I need all that mold cleaning stuff, but figured I'd give it a try. I do want to spray it down the HVAC vents. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/1/21 4:49 p.m.

In reply to johndej :

Tim McNair, our detailing pal, recommends the Griot's vinyl cleaner. I'm very happy with it. I have a gallon of Simple Green in the garage. :)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/1/21 4:50 p.m.

Although, speaking of Simple Green, a very good friend from school now owns a company that makes cleaning products--like, various cleaners sold by the drum. I want to see what she offers and give it a try. 

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