How to Detail Your Car

Washing your car is a great American tradition. For decades, car enthusiasts have been taking detailing into their own hands because they enjoy bonding with their chosen machine and want to make sure she gets the treatment she deserves.

However, the auto detailing business has grown, and more people are turning to professionals to get the job done. Washing the outside of your car is important, but keeping the inside clean ensures you have a more comfortable ride and your passengers have a better experience.

If you prefer to do it yourself, it’s not hard, but you need the right tools to make sure you focus your time and attention on what matters.


Before you start, make sure you have what you need. If you’re washing the outside of your car, you’ll need a bucket, soap, water, sponges, wax, and a chamois. But if you plan to detail your car, you need more specialized equipment.

Over time, you’ll build your own collection of tools, but to get you started, you should focus on the following:

  • Vacuum – you need something for both wet and dry surfaces with multiple attachments, allowing you to clean big and small areas
  • Rags – you need a variety including terry cloth towels and cotton rags
  • Brushes – various sizes including toothbrushes and paintbrushes
  • Q-tips and cotton swabs
  • Canned air
  • Plastic spray bottles
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Leather or vinyl surface protector

Always start with your interior first, so you don’t dirty your clean exterior. The order in which you clean items on the inside won’t matter as much as focusing on cleaning everything thoroughly. Here’s where you should try to spend your time, including any stains or surfaces that may need particular attention:

  • Carpets should be vacuumed first. Then remove stains with your stain remover and a brush. Treat stains with as little water as possible to avoid mildew. Clean your floor mats with a stiff brush and lay them out to dry. Allow your carpet to dry thoroughly before replacing the mats.
  • Upholstery can be vacuumed, paying special attention to cracks where crumbs might fall. Use the same process as before to remove stains, and let the seats dry by leaving the car doors open.
  • Door jambs need a wipe-down with soapy solution. You can dry them with a rag and use small tools like cotton swabs and Q-tips to target stains.
  • Door interiors contain both cloth and non-cloth parts. Treat cloth as you would carpet and treat non-cloth parts as you did the door jambs. Pay attention to cracks that collect dirt.
  • Windows should be cleaned with glass cleaner or a soapy solution. Dry them thoroughly to prevent streaking.
  • Steering wheel columns need a soapy solution to remove stains and dust. Dry them thoroughly and use your surface protectant to eliminate the build-up of more dust.
  • Dashboards have a lot of buttons and knobs, so cleaning around them can be tricky. Instead of spraying it with a cleaning solution, apply the solution to your small tools and then clean around them carefully, Dry thoroughly.
  • Center consoles should be detailed with small tools to ensure you reach every seam, crack, or indention. Dry it with a thick cloth.

It may seem like work, but you should detail your car every few months to keep it clean and functional. It keeps your interior looking new, helps with resale value, and can keep small parts working optimally. It can lengthen the life of your car, too.

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