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How to Remove Beach Sand or Glitter from your Car

Don’t get me wrong, I love spending some good quality time at the beach — it’s removing the sand from in between the seats, in the carpet, and everywhere else it gets trapped in my car that always seems to be the problem. And glitter is no different, and sometimes worse.

No lie, glitter showed up in my car at sixteen after picking up my prom date and stuck around (literally) for a pretty long time. If you’re dealing with how to remove beach sand or glitter from you car, in this blog I’ll cover a few effective methods you can try.

Removing beach sand from your vehicle? Start on the outside

If you live in a relatively humid area, keeping sand off of the exterior of your vehicle is a must to prevent rusting even though it’s not usually the first place you want to start. Removing those big piles of sand that tend to accumulate in the floorboards after a long week at the beach is the first thing you want to do, but it’s more important to go ahead and wash it off the outside.

Salt combined with the abrasive nature of sand can accelerate rusting over time to just about every area of your car but usually is most noticeable on paint to begin with.

For those who live at the beach year-round, it’s almost unavoidable and really comes with the territory which is why an old Jeep or truck is nice to have. If you plan on driving on the beach, a lifted vehicle you use solely for beach trips is just going to be the best thing to do.

Start with the undercarriage

Probably the first thing you will want to do when returning from the beach is to wash to undercarriage of your car. I’d recommend a car wash with an undercarriage option for most people, since it can be tough to do a thorough job with just a hose.

With that being said, if you have a cheap lawn sprinkler that pivots back and forth, these are pretty effective as well. Just place it underneath your undercarriage for a few minutes, and let it work. You really don’t want to apply any high pressure when removing sand underneath your car, just enough to remove it.

 Always remove sand stuck on your paint to avoid rust

Obviously, you will want to hose off all sand that is stuck on paint, in door jams, etc. Over time, sand can eat into your clear coat since it is abrasive and accelerate rusting over time so it’s definitely good practice to remove it sooner rather than later.

Quick Tip: Make sure you don’t let sand sit on your windshield, as it can get embedded in the glass and cause pitting. Sand can also clog up your air filter if you spend alot of time at the beach, so be sure to clean it out from time to time.

If you have an air compressor, another tip is to blow air in hard-to-reach areas (around windshield, wheels) after rinsing off.

Protecting your car’s paint from sand

Waxing your car or truck is a good first step in preventing sand from sticking in general, so it’s never a bad idea to create that extra barrier of protection between your clear coat and the elements. If you live a couple of blocks from the coast and park outside for extended periods of time, a car cover may be a good option as long as it is clean (and your car is clean).

Another option to help protect your paint just a little better is buying a clear paint protection film that you can either get applied professionally or yourself. I’m currently having this done

It can get quite windy at many of the beaches I visit regularly from Florida to Virginia, and it’s not uncommon to see piles of sand accumulate after a windstorm.

How to Remove Sand from your Carpet

Before vacuuming, there are a few tricks to help you remove as much sand as possible from your vehicle assuming you don’t have piles of sand. In that case, you want to try and remove as much of it as you can with a Shop Vac or something with even better suction.

Obviously you will want to take your floor mats out and give them a shake before proceeding to cleaning carpet.

Use a drill brush

This is a great device for dislodging sand that has embedded itself in your carpet in areas that are hard to reach with a vacuum alone. You can pick up a drill brush attachment for a couple of bucks online and does a good job at helping to displace sand that is stuck in corners, behind pedals, etc.

Sand in cracks on leather? Try tape or silly putty

As described in the next section, silly putty or masking tape can be effective at removing sand from hard-to-reach areas, and is a common detailing trick. I wouldn’t use very sticky tape on high quality leather, but something like painter’s tape should be okay. See the glitter removal section below for more.

Sand removal with a sander and vacuum

This is probably one of the coolest detailing tricks I’ve seen for removing sand. Simply take a vibrating sander or polisher with no disk and place it on the carpet. The vibrations the device makes should lift trapped sand particles to the surface, making it easier to do a more thorough job.

Sand (especially fine beach sand) can be incredibly difficult to remove completely due to the nature of carpet, so this is a good way to lift particles you’re not able to see to the surface.

I found this video on YouTube that does a good job demonstrating this technique.

How to Remove Glitter from your Car’s Interior

Glitter can sometimes be a little trickier to remove than sand, and may require a few different techniques to remove completely. You may need to try several of these techniques to completely remove the glitter from your car altogether.

Option 1: Brush and vacuum

In addition to a good vacuum, try taking a brush with stiff bristles to loosen it up, and try to bring as much of the glitter to the surface of your carpet (or mats) as you can. If you still are having a hard time removing all of it, you may want to proceed to an adhesive.

You may also want to try the sander trick described in the sand removal section above.

Option 2: Lint roller, tape, or hairspray

Taking a lint roller to your trunk or carpet may be effective for some types of glitter, but it can be hit or miss at times. Another good option is clear packing tape, masking tape, or Gorilla tape. The stickier the better, unless you are using it on leather. In that case, I’d go with the masking tape.

Starting with the sticky side facing up, wrap up your palm (like a mummy!) and pat the areas affected.

If the glitter is very fine, a wet paper towel be all you need to lift the glitter off of carpet. Misting it with hairspray may help promote some adhesion to the towel itself, so give it a try.

Option 3: Silly Putty or dull-colored Play-Doh

The silly putty trick I haven’t tried yet but is said to be great for cracks. Basically flatten the Play-Doh into a ball, flatten one end, and begin to dab the carpet. If you only have Play-Doh handy just be sure not to rub it against the carpet to avoid leaving marks.

Option 4: Shampoo and steam cleaning

As a last resort (or in some cases where the glitter is dried on) or very difficult to remove, you may want to proceed with shampooing your carpet or using a carpet steamer if you have one. If the glitter is in gel form and dried on, this will probably be the best option.

For leather seats: Applying a good leather lotion with a microfiber towel may be all you need to remove glitter from leather, and should be able to loosen it up enough to get it off with tape.


Overall, these fine particles can be difficult to remove no matter what method you try. For extreme cases, it may not be worth your time to purchase these supplies you may need if you don’t have them, and would probably just opt to have your interior detailed.

Starting at around $30-$40 you should be able to remove the sand, glitter, and whatever else is in your car and be done with it.

Let me know if you have anything that has worked for you in removing sand or glitter in the comments.

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