How to Detail My Car at Home?

May 15, 2022 | The Hub | 0 comments

What is car detailing?

While it might seem like detailing your car just means giving it a clean, it’s a more meticulous and thorough process. Detailing involves cleaning the vehicle to the degree that the end result resembles a factory finish. Even though it’s a more American term, the process is more commonly known as valeting in the UK. 

Typically, you would hire a professional to detail your car as they can do so to a high standard. However, you can detail your own vehicle, and we’ve answered the most common questions about how to detail your car. 

What do I need to do to detail my car?

You’ll need more than just a bucket, soapy water, a sponge and a vacuum cleaner if you’ve decided to detail your car at home. Before you start the deep clean, make sure you have the following: 

For the exterior clean

  • Wheel cleaner: this will better tackle any stubborn dust and grime. 
  • Clay bar: this can mean that you’ll be able to remove any stubborn dirt from the paintwork to avoid it being sealed when waxing the car.
  • Buckets: when it comes to buckets, make sure you have two for clean water and one for rinsing dirty tools.
  • Soap: be sure to use car wash soap as it’s specifically created to protect the paintwork.
  • Wash mitt: this can be more useful than a sponge when it comes to cleaning the paint, as a sponge can cause scratching.
  • Foam pad applicator: better for applying wax to the car.
  • Car wax: this helps to protect the paintwork. 

For the interior clean

  • Vacuum cleaner: great for ensuring the car’s interior is clean before using a carpet cleaner. A vacuum with a hose would be the most suitable.
  • Leather cleaner: to ensure that you can suitably clean the leather without the risk of it cracking or fading 
  • Carpet cleaner: a general foaming carpet cleaner is great for removing stubborn stains and dirt from the car’s upholstery.
  • Brushes: have a selection of different sizes for cleaning between the wheels and other hard to reach places. 

For both

  • Glass cleaner: you can buy a specialist glass cleaner, but whatever you already have at home will be appropriate. 
  • Microfibre cloths: it’s handy to have at least three to hand. These will help you wipe down surfaces without the risk of scratching them.

Should I use a pre-cleaner?

A pre-cleaner is essential when it comes to detailing your car. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can use a spray bottle of car shampoo with a foaming head. Pre-cleaning has the benefit of reducing the appearance of swirls, marks, and scratches when cleaning your car. 

What should I clean first?

As the tyres have the most contact with the road, it makes sense that they should be cleaned first. They don’t necessarily need a thorough clean as any soap scum, and dirt from cleaning the rest of the car will run off onto the tyres. But it’s important to remove as much hardened dirt and grime as possible. 

Once you’ve prepped the tyres, you can then assess the interior of the vehicle, as it can be better to deep-clean the inside of the car first. Then you can start on the exterior, working from top to bottom. 

What’s the best car shampoo to use?

You can use either car shampoo on its own or purchase a product that works as both shampoo and wax. Choosing the latter means that you will add a layer of short term protection to the paintwork. When choosing the shampoo for your car, it’s best practice to avoid products containing TFRs (traffic film remover) and APCs (all-purpose cleaner) as they could strip any protection from the paintwork. 

Is polishing and waxing my car worth it?

In short, yes. After you’ve spent time detailing your car, polishing it will help renew the paintwork to keep the same level of shine and finishes. Waxing will then make sure that the paintwork is sealed and adds a good layer of protection from weather conditions, UV rays and other contaminants. 

How long will it take to detail my car myself?

Like with anything new, the first time you detail your car will take considerably longer than when you’re used to the process. It would be appropriate to assume that it could take you up to 8 hours for your first time. Detailing your car yourself will save you money in the long run as you won’t be paying for the service and labour of a professional, and it’s a task that can be carried out once a year.