There’s nothing quite like driving your new car away from the dealership for the first time. Whether it’s new or used, thanks to a recent car detailing the car is likely in the best condition you’ll see it until it comes time to sell. The interior is dust and dirt free, surfaces shine, and it smells great. From the outside everything reflects the sun beautifully, from the wheels to the hood, and there are few if any scratches. Sadly after even a week the daily driving toll starts to turn your car from a piece of art to a piece of… well… let’s just say “not art”.

 Taking your car to the local car wash will certainly clean off surface grime, but the only way to restore your auto to showroom quality is through a thorough car detailing. Car washes can perform this work for you, but it comes at a cost of $200 or more. Save money and treat yourself by performing a car detailing and car wash yourself! Whether you’re planning to keep driving the car and just want a fresh new shine, or you’re ready to sell and want to add thousands to the price, here’s what you need to know:

The Right Tools Do Matter for Car Detailing

Start by collecting all of the auto detailing tools and cleaners you’ll need. I recommend the following:

  • Many cotton rags
  • Paper towels
  • 2-3 large, unused sponges
  • A buffing pad
  • 2 large buckets
  • A large wheel brush
  • Garden Hose
  • Vacuum or Shop Vac
  • Car wash soap
  • Polishing paste
  • Auto wax
  • Glass cleaner
  • Vinyl cleaner
  • Leather conditioner (if you have leather seats)
  • Carpet cleaner
Car Detailing Tools
Credit: rocketboom

Start with a Basic Car Wash

As crazy as it may seem, I like to start my auto detailing with a basic car wash from a neighborhood car wash. This will remove any light dirt and make imperfections easy to spot. You can do the interior if you’d like, but it’s really the exterior that matters. Make sure you spring for the under wash – as you won’t be able to get to this area easily. Don’t pay extra for any waxes or polishing as you’ll be doing this in your do it yourself auto detailing.

When you arrive home, make sure to park your car in a shady place that has garden hose access. The shade is import to prevent water spots.

Remove Everything from Your Car

Remove all personal items that have found their way into your car. You won’t want anything in the way for your auto detailing. Throw away any trash, and keep other items in a safe place.

You should also remove all of the mats from the car, and even take out the seats if you feel comfortable doing so.

Thoroughly Vacuum for Proper Car Detailing

A do it yourself car detailing requires careful attention to vacuuming. Go over all of the carpeted surfaces, including the seats. Make sure you change vacuum attachments to get into nooks and crannies. Don’t forget about vinyl surfaces like the dashboard and plastic like cup holders.

Shop Vac
Credit: Shop Vac

Auto Detail Your Vinyl

Start by wiping down all vinyl surfaces with a damp rag to remove any loose dirt that didn’t get picked up by the vacuum. Next scrub all surfaces with vinyl cleaner or conditioner. You’ll have to use a bit of elbow grease to get out tough stains, and don’t be afraid to get out that toothbrush to get into tight areas.

Clean all Plastic Surfaces

Using water and a small amount of soap, clean every plastic surface in your car. Again, use the tooth brush if needed.

Condition the Leather

If you have leather seats, now is the time in the auto detailing process to use a leather conditioner. Make sure to spray it onto a cotton cloth and not directly onto the leather itself. Then work it into the material using a circular motion.

Car Detail Interior
Credit: shutterbc

Clean the Glass

Start by removing any old stickers that are on the inside of your glass. You can use a commercial product, but I find that rubbing a bit of vegetable oil on these stickers works just as well. If it is very stubborn, consider using a razor blade – just be careful!

Next use glass cleaner to get everything crystal clear.

Deep Clean the Carpet

A do it yourself car detailing mandates that you get all stains out of the carpet. The good news is that auto carpet is much more stain resistant than home carpet. Simply follow the product’s instructions and get to work. For very difficult stains you might consider renting a steam cleaner from the local store.

After everything is dry you should have a wonderfully clean interior! Enjoy!