What’s the point of finally purchasing that beauty of a car you’ve been eyeing if you don’t keep it as beautiful as day one? Interior, exterior, wheels, tires, and more need regular upkeep to ensure they stay clean and shiny. While detailing is helpful for maintaining that new care shine, it’s not just about aesthetics. It maintains your car’s value, creates a more professional look, and protects your health.
Not to be confused with a car wash, detailing is a much more involved process. Car washes are intended for removing dirt, salt, dust, and other grime from the vehicle. A detailing, on the other hand, is intended to make your car continue to look as new as possible both inside and out. While it’s commonly believed that a professional is required for a proper detailing job, that’s not necessarily true. With the right dedication and auto detailing supplies, you can make your car look brand new all on your own.
What Does an Auto Detail Entail?
Each car service details a car a little differently but the end result should be that every nook and cranny of your car gets cleaned. This includes both the interior and exterior of the car. So, what is done to clean each section of the car?
Because the inside of the car is usually the most neglected part, it takes a little longer to clean than the exterior. In general, an interior cleaning includes:
- Vacuuming- the seats, carpets, and truck collect a lot of dirt over time, so any fabric materials will get vacuumed to remove it.
- Scrubbing- While time consuming, scrubbing is an important part of the process that removes stains and marks that can’t just be wiped off. Mats, carpets, and upholstery will all receive this treatment.
- Wipe-down- Windows, dashboard, door panels, and all other hard surfaces will be wiped down to return them to the original shine.
- Optional scented spray- For cars that haul families and pets, a scented spray helps the car smell fresh and clean instead of wet dog and soccer cleats. Flavors are optional and you can choose to skip this step entirely if you prefer.
Short of getting a new paint job, an exterior detailing is the best way to make your car shine like it did the day you bought it. Exterior jobs usually include:
- Wash and dry- first is a high-powered wash to remove loose dirt and dust, then a wash with a mild soap. The car is then dried.
- Mark removal- A clay bar is used to rub out watermarks, soap scum, and other marks.
- Polish- The polish gives the car back its shine.
- Sealant- The sealant gives the car its finishing gloss and helps the shine stay longer than a few days. If a surface wax is desired, this is the step when it is applied. Check out this page to learn more about different types of car waxes.
Must-Have Supplies for Detailing
Achieving a professional grade detailing on your car at home isn’t too complicated, it just takes the right supplies and some hard work. There are some important supplies that you can’t work without and others that are optional. Making sure your garage is stocked with the essentials ensures you are always ready for the next detail job.
Items to have on hand:
- Microfiber towels
- A regular rag isn’t going to do the washing job that you need. Either a wash mitt or a towel is fine, just as long as it’s microfiber. These towels are great for washing and for applying the different layers of treatment to your paint. They are also great for interior cleaning.
- Bucket and garden hose
- As obvious as it may seem, a bucket is important to remember. People often don’t think about such simple details like buckets until they actually need them, so ensure you have one before you start. Most people already have a garden hose on hand, but it’s important to make sure nozzle is working and there aren’t any leaks.
- Car wash soap
- Basic dish soap isn’t going to take care of your nice paint job in the same way a dedicated car soap will. A specific car soap with removed tough contaminants without damaging the paint. For the best paint protection, use a pH balanced soap. This less severe on the paint job, though will require a little more elbow grease.
- Clay bar
- A high-quality clay bar is an important part of removing contaminants from the surface of your car. Lower quality bars can cause more harm than good to your paint job, so be sure to check reviews before purchasing.
- Spray on wax
- Spray waxes create a non-stick protective coating without leaving a sticky film. It cleans and protects the car from UV rays that might harm the car’s finish.
- Detail Brush
- Detail brushes are designed to work on interior and exterior surfaces. They clean the nooks and crannies that are too small for fingers and cloths.
- Tire shine spray
- Return your tires to their original shining glory by treating them with a tire spray.
- Upholstery and carpet cleaner
- Eliminate stains and odors in the interior of your car with this cleaner. Purchase the scrub brush or cloth recommended for use by the cleaner for the most effective cleansing. Note: if you have leather interior, purchase a separate cleaner specially formulated for leather.
- Glass cleaner
- A streak free glass cleaner is important to help complete the shiny clean look of your vehicle.
- Clean your upholstery and carpets with a small, high-powered vacuum. Larger chunks of dirt and debris are best cleaned out this way before you scrub the fabric.
- Metal polish
- Give your chrome and other metals a perfect shine with a metal polish.
Learn more about going above and beyond with an orbital polisher here: How to Polish a Car with an Orbital Buffer Easily (2021 Tutorial) (yourgarageguide.com). Like the orbital polisher, there are many more tools that you can purchase to give your car a professional detailing. In the end though, these eleven items are what you need to restore your car to its shining glory.