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?

Finding the best detailing supplies is crucial when performing a complete automotive detail job

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

How To: Detailing Flow Chart - Detailing Steps - Chemical Guys Car Care

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.

Car detailing experts suggest that a complete detail job will include an exterior car detailing and interior car detailing

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

A detailers SECRETS to hand washing

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.

Wheels have a lot of brake dust embedded and trapped on the inside and outside. If you wash them before the body, excess brake dust that is sprayed off can be washed off the body panels.

Tires can be coated with oils, grease, and tars from asphalt. Like brake dust, when it’s washed off, the residue will find its way onto the body.

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 car should be first washed when performing detail job to remove dirt, debris, and more from the paint surface

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.

You should use clay during the final phase of washing to remove contaminants from the paint surface of your car

So, here is an insider’s tip – use a clay bar during the final phase of the washing process. A clay bar is a resin compound the is used to remove contaminants from the paint surface of your car, fiberglass, metal, or glass. Most detailer’s use a clay bar as a pre-wax application supply or prior to completing paint correction.
How To: 2 Bucket Car Wash Method With Cyclone Dirt Trap - Chemical Guys Car Care

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

You should finish off car detail job with waxing and polishing the paint surface to provide a layer of protection

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

You should detail and clean the inside of your vehicle by vacuuming and cleaning the seats, plastic, and glass

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

Start your exterior car detailing by washing the wheels and tires using supplies that suit you

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 can be used as washing supplies when performing exterior car detailing

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.

A soft bristle scrub brush can be used as washing supplies when performing exterior car detailing

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 wheel cleaners can be used as washing supplies when performing exterior car detailing

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 can be used as washing supplies when performing exterior car detailing

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.

You should use Car wash soap to wash the exterior of your car when performing exterior car detailing

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.

You should use wash mitts to wash the exterior of your car when performing exterior car detailing

Wash Mitt

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.

You should use wash buckets to wash the exterior of your car when performing exterior car detailing

Wash Buckets

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.

You should use spray nozzle attached to normal hose to wash the exterior of your car when performing exterior car detailing

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.

You should use drying towels or chamois to dry the exterior of your car after performing exterior car detailing

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

You should wax and polish the exterior of your vehicle when performing exterior car detailing

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.

You should use liquid, wax , and polish combined synthetic product to protect and shine your vehicle

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.

You should use orbital polisher to apply or remove liquid, wax, and polish products when performing exterior car detailing

Orbital Polisher

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).

You should use a vacuum to clean the insides of your car when performing interior car detailing


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.

You should use a plastic and vinyl cleaner to wipe down all interior materials when performing interior car detailing

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.

You should use a glass cleaner to clean the inside and outside of the glass when performing interior car detailing

Glass Cleaner

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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