The Ultimate List Of Car Detailing Tips: Equipment & Steps

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Many people take their car in to have it detailed. However, that can be expensive. If you want to do it yourself, you should know these best car detailing tips. There are many reasons people prefer to detail their car at home. Maybe it is to save money? Having your car professionally detailed can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 each time, depending on the services you choose. Or, maybe it is because, for some, detailing a car can actually be a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There is nothing like taking the time to put a little tender loving care into your vehicle to make you feel good driving around in your vehicle. Whatever the reason for deciding to detail your car at home, you are going to need to purchase some products to make sure you are giving your automobile the best cleaning possible. 

Car Detailing Tips 1 The Ultimate List Of Car Detailing Tips: Equipment & Steps

Table of Contents

What are the best tips to remember when detailing a car?

The best car detailing tips include having all the proper equipment readily available as well as:

  1. Start with the wheels
  2. Use a pre-cleaner
  3. Use a foam cannon
  4. Practice the two bucket method
  5. Use a solvent tar remover
  6. Dry the vehicle thoroughly 
  7. Use a polish, glaze, wax, and/or a sealant
  8. Do not skip over the glass

When you decide to start detailing your and your family’s vehicles at home, you may have a lot of questions. Questions like what kind of car detailing vacuum should I get? What types of equipment are best to use for washing and detailing a vehicle? 

Should I invest in a foam cannon? What are the best types of waxes and polishes to get? Are there any tips that I should be aware of when washing and cleaning the exterior and the interior of my vehicle? These are all normal questions that anyone may have when they first decide that they would like to start detailing their vehicles at home.

Let us take a deep dive into some of the equipment that you will need to purchase, some of the most recommended cleaning, waxing, and polishing products available, as well as some tips to help you detail your car at a professional level. 

What kind of equipment do you need to detail your vehicle?

If you are looking to start detailing your family vehicles at home, then you are going to need to make some purchases to help you with the job. Not all of these equipment recommendations are required, you could probably just wash your car with a garden hose and a bit of car washing soap, then vacuum out the interior using the hose attachment from your home vacuum cleaner. 

However, if you are looking to get that professional-grade cleaning that you get when you take your vehicle into a professional car detailing service, then you may want to consider purchasing some equipment and accessories to keep in your garage. 

Some of the equipment you may want to consider purchasing include a car washing bucket, a car washing hand mitt, various applicators and brushes, a foam cannon, a car detailing vacuum cleaner, plastic razor blades, drying tools, an auto detailing belt, and a rolling work seat. 

Again, not all of these are 100% necessary; however, they can help make detailing your car at a professional level much easier. 

Car washing bucket

Car washing buckets are specially designed to keep your soapy water clean during use. Each bucket comes with a dirt screen on the bottom of the bucket that traps dirt, grime, and other debris in the bottom of the bucket keeping the soapy water near the top clean and clear of debris. When you are washing your vehicle, the water you are using can get dirty fast.

If you do not have the dirt screen at the bottom of the bucket, then dirt and debris can get onto your sponges, cloths, or car washing hand mitt

Having dirt, sand, or small particles of debris in the tools you are using to wash your car can cause scratches and make the process of washing your vehicle take longer. 

Professionals prefer to have two buckets sitting side-by-side when they are washing a vehicle. The two-bucket method involves having one bucket with soapy water and one bucket with plain clean water. First, take your sponge, brush, or car washing hand mitt and dip it into the soapy water bucket. Next, soap and lather a small section of your vehicle for several minutes.

Last, clean the sponge, brush, or car washing hand mitt off in the bucket of plain clean water. Repeat this two bucket method until the entire vehicle is covered in car washing soap from head to toe.

 You will see that all the dirt you are removing from the body of your vehicle is getting trapped at the bottom of the plain clear water bucket. Replace the water in the buckets as needed. 

In terms of recommendations for a quality car washing bucket that comes with a grit guard, many professionals sweat by Adam’s Car Wash Bucket.

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Adam’s Car Wash Bucket

The Adam’s Car Wash Bucket is a five-gallon bucket that comes with a grit guard to keep dirt, grime, and other debris, including harmful contaminants, at the bottom of the bucket and out of your sponges, brushes, or car washing hand mitt. 

The bucket is reasonably priced, and it is recommended that you purchase two of them if you would like to maintain the two-bucket method when washing your car. The Adam’s Car Wash bucket is ideal if you are looking to wash your car without the risk of scratching the paint. 

Car washing hand mit

Car Detailing Tips 1 1 The Ultimate List Of Car Detailing Tips: Equipment & Steps

Car washing hand mitts are the ultimate way to wash the exterior of your car. Simply place your hand into the mitt and dip it into a bucket filled with soapy water. 

Next, go ahead and slap your hand down onto the body of your vehicle and methodically take your time scrubbing every square inch of the car. Focus on smaller areas and make sure to rinse your car washing hand mitt off in a second bucket filled with plain clean water before moving on to the next area. Last, soak the mitt again in the soapy water and lather up the next area of the vehicle that needs attention. Continue this cycle until the entire car is soapy and lathered. 

When it comes to car washing hand mitts, there are so many good products on the market that you cannot really go wrong. You should be able to find a quality car washing hand mitt for under $20. The WM2 Microfibre Wash Mitt comes highly recommended and it costs only $18.95

WM2 Microfibre Wash Mitt

The WM2 Microfibre Wash Mitt is an ultra-low friction polyester and foam core hand mitt that is specially designed to capture and release dirt, sand, grime, and contaminants. 

The foam core is excellent for absorbing a large amount of car washing soap and water and removing dirt and grime without leaving behind swirl marks. The wash mitt is reasonably priced at $18.95, constructed to be durable, and can be machine washed after use.

Applicators and brushes

In addition to a car washing hand mitt, you are going to want to purchase some brushes and applicators to use on your tires, rims, and other unpainted metallic surfaces on your car. Make sure you understand the different coarseness of each brush and how they are intended to be used.

If you happen to use a brush that is designed for cleaning rims on the hood of your car, you may end up scratching the paint. 

Brushes are often designed to create a good amount of friction that can help shine and polish your tires and rims. 

The extra coarseness is what is needed to scrape off dirt and grime from rims and other metallic non-painted surfaces. Some brushes may be soft enough to use on painted surfaces; however, it may be better to use a car washing hand mitt on the body of your car if you are looking for the best way to wash your car without scratching it.  Since there are so many different products available on the market, you should be able to easily find a quality brush for your intended use with little to no issues. 

If you are looking for a quality brush to clean and polish your wheels, then many professionals recommend the  WoollyWormit Wheel Brush. 

WoollyWormit Wheel Brush

This wheel brush is perfectly designed for washing car tires and rims and for getting into all the tiny and hard-to-reach spaces like between spokes, in the wheel well, and more. 

Additionally, the WoolyWormit Wheel Brush comes with a built-in lug nut cleaner. When you are through using the brush, simply remove the microfiber cleaning pad and throw it into the washing machine. 

Foam cannon

Foam cannons are the fastest way to get your entire vehicle lathered up with car washing soap and ready for you to rub down with a soft brush, sponge, or car washing hand mitt. Most foam cannons simply hook up to your garden hose or pressure washer; however, there are some aerators out there designed to apply foam without the use of running water. 

Although a foam cannon is not completely necessary, they make the process of lathering car washing soap onto your vehicle much more efficient and fun. Additionally, foam cannons are excellent for projecting soap into hard-to-reach areas like your wheels, grill, and around your headlights and tail lights. 

The best foam cannon for individuals who own a pressure washer is the TriNova Foam Cannon.

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TriNova Foam Cannon

If you are fortunate enough to own a pressure washer, then washing and detailing a vehicle will be much easier and fun to do. If you are looking for a foam cannon that can easily hook onto your pressure washer, then this is a product you will want to consider. This foam cannon is affordable, extremely easy to use, and durable. There is also an adjustment knob that allows you to adjust the amount of foam that you would like coming from the nozzle. 

If you are looking for a foam cannon that hooks onto your garden hose, then you may want to consider the highly recommended Foam King Foam Gun Car Wash Sprayer.

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Foam King Foam Gun Car Wash Sprayer

This foam cannon is ideal for vehicle owners who do not have a pressure washer at home but have a garden hose that they can use to help wash their car.

The Foam King Foam Gun Car Wash Sprayer simply attaches to the end of a hose to provide a steady stream of low-pressure soap and water that can be applied all over your vehicle and its wheels. There are six different settings that provide varying degrees of soap that can be adjusted with a simple flick of a switch. 

Car detailing vacuum cleaner

A car detailing vacuum is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you will purchase when you want to start detailing your vehicle at home

Having a quality vacuum can make a big difference when it comes to getting all the dirt, sand, and debris out of the interior of your vehicle. Not to mention if you have dogs, then you know how hard it can be to get dog hair out of the seats and carpets in a vehicle

Not only do you need to worry about the seats, carpets, floors, mats, and dash of a vehicle’s interior when you are vacuuming, but there are also the cup holders, under the seats, and the cracks in the windows and door frames that are incredibly hard to vacuum.

That is why if you have a proper car detailing vacuum cleaner, you should also have all the attachments that you will need to get into those hard-to-reach places and to make sure that all the dirt, sand, and dog hair are removed from them. 

When you are looking for a new car detailing vacuum cleaner, you may notice that there are three main types. There are wall-mounted, canister, and handheld vacuums. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, a wall-mounted vacuum cleaner is a stationary vacuum with an extra long hose that can sit on the wall in your garage

Wall-mounted vacuum cleaners provide incredible suction power, and can typically handle both wet and dry spills, and when the canister is full, they are easy to empty to get ready for the next time they need to be used.

The main downside of wall-mounted vacuum cleaners is that they typically are much more expensive than canister or handheld vacuum cleaners. 

When it comes to handheld vacuum cleaners, you will find that they often are lightweight, cordless, and extremely convenient to use when you are moving around the interior of your vehicle. 

Their main downsides include the fact they tend to be less powerful than other types of vacuum cleaners, and if you happen to purchase a more budget-friendly model, then you may find that the battery does not last that long. 

Either way, you will not want to cut corners when it comes to selecting a quality car detailing vacuum cleaner. Also, you should avoid using your regular home vacuum cleaner to detail your car if you are concerned about tracking in pollen, dirt, and other outdoor contaminants into your home. 

When it comes to a wall-mounted vacuum cleaner, many professional detailers have a Bissell Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vacuum at home. 

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Bissell Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vacuum

This wall-mounted vacuum comes with a 12-amp vacuum motor that is powerful enough to suck up any type of mess from dirt and sand to dog hair.

The vacuum is designed to handle both wet and dry messes and comes with seven different attachments to make it easier to vacuum your seats and floors, and to get into hard-to-reach spaces like cupholders and door handles. The tank holds four gallons of debris so it can be used quite a few times before it needs to be emptied. 

When it comes to a quality handheld car detailing vacuum that is strongly recommended, then you may want to take a look at the VacLife VL189 Handheld Car Vacuum Cleaner. 

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VacLife VL189 Handheld Car Vacuum Cleaner

This affordable and high-powered cordless handheld car detailing vacuum is ideal for cleaning the interior of your vehicle. It contains a HEPA filter to remove allergens and other contaminants from your car and comes with a brush and a crevice attachment.

The brush attachment works magic if you are trying to get dog hair or other dirt and grime out from deep in your car seats and floor carpets. The brush is also great for working the dirt out of floor mats.

The crevice tool is specially designed to get into cup holders, door handles, and the smallest cracks around your windows and door frames. There is also an LED light mounted on the vacuum that can illuminate the areas you are cleaning and help see dirt and debris that may be hiding under your seats. 

Plastic razor blades

Car Detailing Tips 2 The Ultimate List Of Car Detailing Tips: Equipment & Steps

Plastic razor blades are perfect for removing stickers, bird droppings, tree sap, and other hard-to-remove substances from the windows and hood of your car. 

Plastic razor blades are recommended strongly because they can be used to scrape off some sticky tree sap from the body of your car without scratching the paint. Although they are plastic, you still will need to be careful with how you use them to make sure you do not cause any unnecessary damage to the body of your vehicle. 

When it comes to product recommendations for plastic razor blades, there really are not any brands or products that stand out above the rest. 

You can get a plastic razor blade online or at any of your local auto-part dealers. If you are trying to remove stickers from your windshield, like State Park stickers, then you may need to use a steel razor blade instead. Just be sure to never use a steel razor blade anywhere on your vehicle that is painted.  

Drying tools

Having a proper set of drying cloths for your car is important to make sure that you do not leave behind any water stains, streaks, or residue on the paint of your vehicle. 

Water stains and residue left behind not only look bad, but they could also potentially be hazardous to your vehicle. Water droplets that dry onto your vehicle can contain small amounts of mineral deposits that can corrode paint over time. 

When choosing a set of towels to use for drying off your vehicle after it has been washed, at a minimum, you will want to find a set of microfiber cloths, however, if you want the best, then you should go for Chamois Cloth. 

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Premium Mini Chamois Cloth

Chamois cloths or towels are truly the best when it comes to material. They are perfect for drying off the surface of your car without leaving behind streaks, water stains, and other residues that could potentially damage your vehicle’s paint in the long run. 

Auto detailing belt

An auto detailing belt may not be 100% necessary, but they sure are convenient when it comes to having quick access to your car wash soap, wax, polish, brushes, sponges, and any other car washing accessory that you may need when you are getting busy. Having everything in one place is not only quick and convenient, but it can also help you keep everything organized and easy to store when not in use.

When it comes to an auto detailing belt, many detailing professionals use and swear by the Auto Detailing Waist Bag Belt.

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Auto Detailing Waist Bag Belt

This adjustable canvas auto detailing belt is perfect for storing a large number of soaps, waxes, polishes, sponges, brushes, and any other car detailing accessory that you may need. The canvas material is extremely durable, even when wet. The belt is adjustable, so one size fits all. 

Rolling work seat

A rolling work seat can be extremely beneficial for someone who wants to wash their car tires and rims but does not want to hurt their back by bending over the entire time or hurt their knees by kneeling on the ground next to their tires. Many mechanics and professional car detailers use rolling work seats to access lower points on a vehicle without putting unnecessary strain on their backs and knees. 

A rolling work seat that is built specifically for car detailing can also come with storage space and bottle holders where you can put your carwashing soaps, waxes, polishes, and detailing accessories like brushes, sponges, and car washing hand mitts. 

The Adam’s Detailing Seat comes highly recommended by professionals who understand the importance of protecting your back and knees at all times. 

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Adam’s Detailing Seat

This rolling work seat is carefully crafted by Adam’s brand. It contains high-quality casters with rubber wheel tread, an undercarriage storage drawer, and two bottle holders.

If you go with this rolling work seat, then you may not need to purchase an auto detailing belt because all of your storage needs are taken care of. Additionally, all of your car washing accessories can be stored in the seat when they are not in use.

 The Adam’s Detailing Seat can be used when you are washing the lower part of your car, the tires, and rims, and also whenever you do any type of maintenance to your vehicle that may require you to bend over or sit on your knees. Avoid doing unnecessary damage to your back and knees by using this rolling work seat. 

What are some tips for detailing a vehicle at a professional level?

If you are looking to do a professional-level detailing job on your vehicle from the comfort of your own garage, in addition to having some of the equipment discussed above readily available, you may also want to follow these tips. 

1. Start with the wheels

By far, the wheels of any vehicle are going to be the dirtiest and grimiest parts of the car that will need the most attention. That is why it is important to start with the tires by applying a deep pre-soak with a quality wheel cleaner. Wheel cleaners contain the toughest chemicals to help eat away at all the grime that will accumulate on your tires, wheels, and rims.

 After a good pre-soak, you will want to use a specialized wheel cleaning brush that will be coarse enough to remove all the dirt and grime.

 Another good thing about using a wheel brush is that they will be able to fit in between any spokes and access every little crevice that you will find on your wheels. Also, when it is time to wash the wheels with normal soap and water after the pre-soak and an intense scrub down with a tire brush, make sure you use separate buckets than what you will use for the body of your car.

 Go ahead and make the two buckets for the wheels, and once the job is complete, dump out the buckets and start fresh when it is time to move onto the body.  

2. Use a pre-cleaner

When it’s time to move on to the body of the vehicle, the first thing you should do is apply a pre-cleaner. A pre-cleaner is a stronger formula that can help break down grime and sticky messes like bug splatters, bird droppings, and tree sap. 

Apply the pre-cleaner generously to the entire body of your vehicle and let it soak in for a few minutes before moving on to the next step. 

3. Use a foam cannon

A foam cannon is the most efficient and best way to apply car wash soap to your entire vehicle. If you have a pressure washer, even better. 

Many foam cannons are designed specifically to hook up to a power washer. All you need to do is clip on the foam cannon and fill the reservoir with your favorite car soap. 

If you do not want to invest in a pressure washer, then you can find foam cannons that hook up to any ordinary garden hose. These can be just as good; however, it may just take a little longer to apply your car washing soap to the vehicle.

Either way, use a foam cannon to lather your entire vehicle in a quality car shampoo before you start to scrub your car. 

4. Practice the two bucket method

Once your car is completely covered in foam, it is time to scrub it down. You can use a sponge, a soft brush, or a car washing hand mitt. 

Microfiber car washing hand mitts are strongly recommended. When you make the buckets for the scrubbing session, you will want to have one bucket that is filled with soapy water and another that is filled with plain clean water. 

Both buckets should have dirt filters to make sure that any dirt and grime that is removed from the car stays at the bottom of the bucket and does not mix into the water that will be used to continue to clean the vehicle. 

The two bucket method is simply taking your sponge or carwashing hand mitt and soaking it in the soapy water bucket, scrubbing down a small area of the car, and then washing the sponge or car washing mitt off in the plain water bucket before soaking it in the soapy water bucket again. Repeat this cycle until you have scrubbed the entire car. 

5. Use a solvent tar remover

After you have fully rinsed off all the soap and foam from the vehicle with a power washer or garden hose, you may want to consider applying a solvent tar remover. The solvent tar remover will dissolve any industrial chemicals or rail dust that has stuck to the paint. If you use a solvent tar remover, then you will want to do another foam session and rinse. There is no need to scrub again, but make sure you rinse the vehicle thoroughly.  

6. Dry the vehicle thoroughly

Do not simply let your car air dry. That is how you get water spots, streaks, and residues that remain on the vehicle and could potentially be damaging to the paint.

Using a proper Chamois Cloth is the best way to dry your vehicle to ensure that no water spots are left behind. 

7. Use a polish, glaze, wax, and/or a sealant

Once the vehicle is dry, if you are looking to use any special polishes, waxes, or sealants, this is the time to do so. You can choose to do any or all of them, however, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and to start with polish and end with waxes and/or sealants. 

8. Do not skip over the glass

Some people may overlook the glass on their vehicles. Once your car is washed and dried, you may want to apply a high-quality glass cleaner both inside and outside of the vehicle on all of the glass windows. 

A high-quality glass cleaner will remove smudges, fingerprints, and any other blemishes that were missed during the wash.