Rain sucks. Seriously, while it might be the bringer of life-giving hydration, it can also completely fuck-up your freshly washed and waxed ride. While there have been some amazing car care products launched in recent years that repel water, and keep cars shiny, the struggle of keeping cars clean is indeed real. This is what inspires us to look for the best car detailing supplies.
One must keep in mind that detailing supplies for black cars would be different, as the approach to detailing is indeed different.
This fact of life inspires car owners across the globe to search high and low for the best detailing supplies. The problem is; how do you find detailing products that won’t break the bank?
Fortunately – we’re here to provide you the inside scoop on what you should be looking for in any detailing supplies; from which microfiber towels to use, to whether a clay bar is a smart investment.
So, let’s break down some tips for finding a car wash and car detailing supplies that will provide you with value.
Breaking Down the Steps for Auto Detailing
Before you head out to the local auto parts store, or Google search for the best car washing and detailing kits, it’s probably a good idea to review what’s included in a full automotive detailing job.
Honestly, the coolest thing about automotive car care is that it can be customized based on the likes, ability, and skill level of each car owner.
Generally, most detailing experts suggest that a complete automotive detail job will include the following:
- Exterior Car Detailing
- Interior Car Detailing
What is Involved in Exterior Car Detailing?
The outside of any car, truck, or SUV is exposed to a lot of dirt, debris, and contaminants. From bird droppings to smog-enhanced raindrops, there are several materials that can transform your car from sleek and clean – to down and dirty.
Wash the Car
To begin the exterior detailing process, car care product manufacturers like Chemical Guys recommend washing the wheels and tires. This actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it for a few reasons.
To wash the wheels and tires correctly, you’ll need to gather the following supplies:
- A good wash mitt, microfiber sponge or towel
- A soft bristle scrub brush
- A spray-on multiple purpose cleaner or tires and wheel cleaner
- Tire dressing or tire shine product (after you complete the car washing step)
The second step would involve washing the car. The intent of washing the vehicle is to remove dirt, debris, bird droppings, tar, bug splatters and more from the paint surface. The problem is that some of these materials can be a pain in the ass to remove.
However, once you’ve washed the car with soap and using the ‘two-bucket’ method (watch the video above to learn about this) – using a clay bar to remove those hard to remove materials is a smart idea.
In order to wash your car correctly, you’ll need to gather the following car detailing products:
- An automotive specific car wash soap or shampoo
- A high-quality wash mitt
- (2) wash buckets
- A good spray nozzle
- Drying towels or chamois
Waxing & Polishing
The final step in exterior car detailing is waxing and polishing. This is intended to provide an extra layer of protection of the clear coat of your paint surface.
While there are more proactive and effective ways of protecting your vehicle’s paint and enhancing shine (see this article on DIY nano-ceramic coatings) – the traditional method of car waxing and polishing is still a fairly decent way to keeping your car looking clean.
To complete the car waxing and polishing step, you’ll want to gather the following auto detailing supplies:
- A liquid car wax and car polish “all-in-one”
- An orbital polisher
- Several microfiber buffing pads
Interior Car Detailing
Cleaning and detailing the inside of your vehicle is just as critical as the outside. Fully detailing the interior involves vacuuming and cleaning seats, plastic, vinyl, and leather trim, and cleaning the glass (inside and outside).
During the interior car detailing process, you’ll want to gather the following car cleaning equipment and supplies:
- A portable vacuum
- Interior floor mats and leather cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- A high-quality car cleaning interior cleaner
Tips for Finding the Best Exterior Detailing Supplies
There are a ton of exceptional brands that specialize in exterior car cleaning including Meguiar, Car Guys, and others. But we’re not here to pimp other people’s products.
Our goal here is to arm you with factual tips on what attributes or features you should be looking for in each of the products you purchase. But we’re not going to recommend specific products or brands – that’s up to you.
Each exterior product should reduce the build up of road grime or improve your ability to completely remove dirt and debris.
The product categories noted below are ones that most car owners struggle with, so – here are some important features to look for in any car detailing supply.
Wheels and Tires Detailing Supplies
The first step in car detailing is washing the wheels and tires. As we noted above, there are several tire washing supplies that you’ll need to gather to correctly complete this step. Here are a few tips on what you should be looking for with each of the items on our list.
A Good Wash Mitt, Microfiber Sponge or Towel
You don’t want to scratch your wheels when they are being cleaned – right? Well, to accomplish this, you’ll need to wash them with a soft, yet durable material – such as a cotton wash mitt, or microfiber sponge/towel.
Here is the tip – make sure that it’s made from thick and absorbent materials, is lint and scratch-free, and don’t skimp on size. In this case, the bigger your wash mitt, the better.
Soft Bristle Scrub Brush
If you own steel wheels, you should use a soft bristle scrub brush to clean them. Here is the tip – make sure it’s made with a medium stiffness bristle and a rubber handle. This will reduce the potential of damaging wheels or hub-caps if you have those.
Spray-On Tires and Wheels Cleaner
There are four attributes you need in a quality tire and wheel cleaner. Any product you use to clean wheels and tires should be acid-free, maintain a neutral pH-balanced formula, is safe for multiple wheel types, and changes colors when it’s penetrating brake dust or deep grime. This will inform you that it’s working well, and when its time to rinse off.
Tire Dressing or Tire Shine Products
With a tire shine or dressing product, the key is to make sure it’s a non-greasy formula, as that will just smear when applied. Try to find one with no alcohol as well – as this will dry out the rubber on tires and lead to cracking. Finally, self-drying tire shine products are also quite good – especially if they are polymer-enhanced.
Washing the Vehicle
Once you’ve cleaned the tires and wheels, you’ll move onto washing the exterior. Noted below are some tips on how to find the best car washing supplies.
Car Wash Soap
One mistake that several car owners make is using dish soap or multipurpose soaps or degreasers to wash their cars. This is a bad idea for several reasons. The important tip is to only use an automotive paint specific car wash soap or shampoo. The soaps should be in a concentrated formula, can be used for hand wash or spray washing equipment, has a pH balanced formula, and develops a strong, long-lasting lather.
Any wash mitt should be made from a thick and absorbent material that is professional cleaning quality (meaning its lint and scratch-free) and is comfortable to use.
Professional detailing experts recommend using a two-bucket method of washing a car. This ensures that you’re not reapplying dirt and grime back onto the surface. The buckets themselves should be at least 5 gallons, made from plastic, and with handles for easy transportation.
High-Quality Spray Nozzle
Rinsing your vehicle is the penultimate step of washing the vehicle. This should be done with a high-pressure spray nozzle attached to a standard hose. It’s recommended to purchase one that is metal with a rubber outer coating, high-strength, and adjustable.
Drying Towels or Chamois
Finally, you’ll want to purchase thick, microfiber drying towels or use a chamois to dry your vehicle. This will reduce the potential of scratching, water spots, or swirl marks.
Car Waxing and Polishing
Car wax and polish is a proven, and time-consuming way to protect paints clear coat – while improving the shine. If you’re going to use this method as opposed to applying a DIY Nano-ceramic coating or paint sealant, you’ll want to follow these tips.
Liquid, Wax, and Polish Combined Product
First, use a liquid, wax, and polish combined synthetic product. These all-in-one products are much easier to apply and remove – and do quite well to protect and shine your vehicle. Make sure any product you use has exceptional hydrophobic properties and is a non-greasy formula.
To apply and remove, you should use an orbital polisher with microfiber pads. A good orbital polisher should offer multiple speeds, have a rubber protective coating, and fits your hand well. The pads should be made from microfiber, and specifically for applying and buffing the type of car wax and polish you use.
Interior Detailing Supplies
The final step of a professional detailing job usually involves the interior and glass. You’ll first begin by vacuuming and removing all trash from the vehicle, use a spray cleaner or restorer product on plastic, vinyl or leather, then end by cleaning the glass (inside and out).
There are several portable vacuums on the market that can be used inside and out. However, one thing you’ll want to ensure is to clean your vacuum or vacuum bags as often as possible. You don’t want to recirculate dust and debris inside your car when you’re trying to remove the crap.
Plastic and Vinyl Restorers & Cleaner:
Detailing the interior then moves to wipe down all interior materials. The problem is – depending on your car, and trim level; you could have all plastic with some vinyl or leather interiors.
Here is the tip – make sure to purchases cleaning supplies that are intended to be used for the type of material.
The final step is cleaning the glass on the inside and out. You’ll want to use a glass-specific microfiber cloth to clean the glass. This ensures you can remove embedded debris, reduce the streaking, and scratching.
Make sure the cleaner itself is ammonia-free, 100% residue-free, has anti-hazing and dust repelling properties and can be used inside and out.
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