There’s a certain gratification that comes from personally detailing your own car. Grabbing a bucket of suds during warm weather and sponging off vehicular surface grime has become an American ritual—one right up there with backyard barbeques and block parties. But there is more to detailing a car than soapy water and dedication.
Good intentions may actually ruin certain surfaces of your car, so you want to make sure you are taking care of your vehicle the way the professionals do. Always use products that are properly formulated to clean and protect each individual surface and never cut corners by having your glass window spray double as a cleaner for your car’s paint job.
- Car Wash – Without proper care, your car’s exterior finish will begin to show age. The paint may bubble, crack, lighten, or peel away within a few years without maintaining it. Only buy car wash products that are pH balanced, non-detergent formulas. These specially formulated liquids won’t strip off your car’s wax and may even be safe for multiple surfaces and finishes. Try Meguiar’s Brand for a synthetic concentrate that helps loosen dirt and emulsifies.
- Wax-On – Choose a separate wax from your car wash product because “Wash & Wax” formulas often lack in the protection of your car’s surfaces. Select a product that is a blend of synthetic polymers and premium carnauba wax for the ultimate protection.
- Kits – You may opt to buy a complete car wash kit that includes everything from the wash product and wax to the microfiber towels. Paint restoration kits are also available.
- Polish – A polishing product helps create a high gloss finish and even eliminates fine scratches in your car’s paint job. Not all polishes are the same, so look for a formula that is designed for dark or light-colored cars.
- Eco-Friendly – For a green clean, use a natural cleaning product that doesn’t contain phosphates. Using phosphates may end up damaging your car’s paint and sealant. You can buy a gentle, natural soap detergent or mix your own cleaner by adding 1/3 cup of vinegar to a full bucket of water. Adding vinegar to your car’s wash or rinse water will also cut down on water spots.
Aluminum and Chrome
- For your car’s aluminum grill, rims, and wheels, use a special cleaner combined with polish paste to battle aluminum corrosion.
- Sometimes all your rims need are a little soap and water. Adding acidic vinegar to the mix works wonders for ridding chrome of tarnish. For heavy-duty cleaning, use baking soda in combination with vinegar.
- Don’t forget to wax. Special aluminum and chrome wax products are available and should be used after every car wash. Put on a couple of coats and make sure to buff in between.
- Tires are pretty simple to maintain because everyone expects them to take quite a beating, but regular washing can make your tires look like new.
- Use a water hose on the tires to blast away any chunks of dirt or road debris. Use a bristled brush to get in between the treads, but use one that isn’t firm enough to scratch your hub caps or rims.
- Pre-treat the tires with a foam product to help dissolve debris before hand-washing.
- Clean your tires with a product that has a high gloss finish and tire protection. Spray-on or gel products are safe to use on rubber tires.
Glass & Mirrors
- For clean windshields and reflective rearview and side mirrors, use a glass cleaner that provides a streak-free finish.
- If you don’t have a microfiber cloth, use black and white newspaper or a large coffee filter to apply cleaning product. Using paper towels or non-microfiber fabrics will only cause streaking.
- Use products like Goo-Gone to remove stickers and decals safely.
Plastics & Vinyl
- Since these surfaces are found mostly in your car’s interior (i.e., dashboard, floor mats), use a cleaning product designed for vehicle interiors.
- Cleaning wipes are especially easy and effective in maintaining the look of your dashboard and steering wheel. As an added bonus, they make your car smell like new again.
- Use a shine product that offers UV protection to prevent sun aging.
- Buy a product like Lexol leather cleaner or something similar.
- Special leather cleaning products should be ultra-gentle so that they do not damage or dry out your leather seats.
- Only buy a product that is pH balanced with conditioners.
Cloth & Carpet
- Don’t use too much water or product on your car’s cloth or carpet interiors. Doing so will only mean an excessive drying time which, if not given enough time, could lead to mildew and a musty odor.
- Vacuum the carpet and fabric thoroughly and use a low-moisture shampoo or powder product to clean these surfaces.
Be sure to rinse every surface of your car after cleaning to remove excess product. Gently dry the vehicle with microfiber towels instead of allowing it to air dry. After all that hard work, you don’t want to be left with watermarks.