The difference between an “OK” and an “incredible” result is tied to the tools you use and the time you spend on the job. It helps to use specialized car detailing products for specific tasks. For instance, toothbrushes come in handy for small areas that are harder to clean, like vents and grilles. Cotton swabs are useful in these spots, too.
Also, try to use name brand products to play it safe, but be certain to read the labels. Even name brand products aren’t suitable for all paint finishes. If the product does not list that it’s safe for clear coat finishes, it’s probably not. And keep in mind that this likely won’t be a five-minute commitment; a high-quality car detailing job can take between four and eight hours.
Step 1: Getting the hard-to-reach places
Work on the interior first. Use compressed air in a can to blow dirt out from the tiny crevices. Save exterior cleaning for later. By taking this approach, you’ll prevent all the dirt you brush out from undoing exterior detailing efforts.
Step 2: Cleaning vinyl, plastic and windows
Hard interior surfaces can be cleaned with a cloth dampened with all-purpose cleaner. Use a window cleaner and paper towels on the interior glass. Pro tip: Finish the glass by rubbing with balled-up newspaper to give it a gleaming shine.
Step 3: Scrubbing the seats
Specific products are important when you get to the seats. Treat dirty fabric upholstery with foaming cleaners designed for the task. Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions. Remember, it also helps to have an upholstery brush. Use only a leather conditioner on real leather – never a vinyl cleaner. For tears in vinyl seats, repair kits can work wonders. Pro tip: If you have pet hair on fabric upholstery, wrap duct tape or wide masking tape around your hand with the sticky side out. Then, roll your hand over areas until the tape is full of hair. Repeat with new tape until all areas are done.
Step 4: Taking out the floor mats
When it concerns floor mats and carpeted areas, it’s best to create extra room by getting all of the heavily soiled items out of your car. Follow these tips:
- Rubber and fabric floor mats should be washed outside of the car.
- If these mats are worn, consider replacing them with new ones.
- If you use a dressing on rubber floor mats, use one that will not make them slippery.
- Use a foaming cleaner for minor carpet stains.
- Avoid getting carpets saturated with water or cleaner, so mildew won’t become a problem.
Step 5: Considering the nitty gritty
This is definitely an optional step. The dashboard and steering column present some of the most time-consuming tasks. Any knobs that can be removed without damage should be taken off so that the bezels beneath them can be more easily cleaned. After you get the air vents cleaned up, spray a light mist of aerosol rubber or vinyl dressing for a polished, “brand new” look. Pro tip: Some crevices can be cleaned with a thin cloth placed over the end of a plastic knife.