Top seven DIY car detailing and cleaning tips

Your car is a source of pride and of the most expensive purchases you’ll make, so keep it looking great with these top car cleaning tips.

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Taking your car to a professional detailer will certainly make it look beautifully shiny, but it will also certainly drain your bank account. However, it is possible for anyone to get a professional-looking result when cleaning your car yourself – with the right gear and some elbow grease.

Your car is a source of pride and you want it to look its best. As it is one of the most expensive purchases you’ll ever make, you want to ensure that you keep it in tip-top shape.

Many of the traditional methods of cleaning your car are dated, yet people still use them.  They’re proven to wear away the car’s paint and coating over time. Other methods have proven to damage other areas of the car. Let’s clear up some myths and get your car looking its best!

1. Make sure that your cleaning products are designed for cars

Often people look for the most cost-effective way of doing things, such as using household cleaners to wash the car. In the end, though, they end up spending more money to repair the damage they caused. Poor quality products result in a cheap finish. You can find great quality products within your price range that will enhance your car’s appearance.

If you insist on using household brands to clean your car, don’t be surprised when you find your tinted windows become damaged, especially if the product contains ammonia. Each automotive cleaning product contains ingredients that are specifically designed to tackle a specific problem, such as bugs on the bonnet or brake dust on your alloy wheels.

2. Don’t use ammonia to clean your car windows

Many glass cleaners contain ammonia, as it is powerful and can clean dirt and grime easily. Many cars, though, have tinted windows that use an adhesive film attached to the glass. Ammonia is so powerful that it can remove the tinting film on the windows, with horrible-looking results.

Since you’ve invested good money into having tinted windows, you’ll want to ensure that they last. Specially formulated automotive glass cleaners without ammonia have proven to be very effective in removing dirt, grease and other material residue on your tinted windows and mirrors without damaging it.

3. Before cleaning your car, test the product first

Different products can react differently with different cars and different materials. When trying out any new car cleaning product, test it out in an inconspicuous area first before going to town on the whole car. Then check for discolouration, damage, texture, and any other changes.

For example, a black leather cleaner may discolour your car’s beige leather seats. Be extra cautious when trying out a product for the first time.

4. Park your car in the shade while cleaning

car cleaning and detailing

If possible, it’s best to keep your car away from nature’s elements when cleaning it. The sun may dry out certain products too fast. As a result, the cleaning power can be reduced.

The products will be washed away too quickly. By keeping your car out of nature’s elements, your car will be cleaned more thoroughly.

5. Clean your car twice a month

Cleaning your car regularly will prevents dir from getting caked onto the bodywork, which makes it much more difficult to remove later on.

Rather than cleaning once every couple of months and doing an extremely aggressive clean, it’s advised that you clean more regularly to reduce exerting more energy in removing caked-on dirt. Cleaning your car’s interior also prevents deep stains and bad odours from building up as well.

6.  Use colour-coded microfibre cloths

Ideally, when washing your car you should have three microfibre cloths in different colours to distinguish their individual uses. The best detailers will tell you that you should use different microfibre cloths.

For example, you wouldn’t use the same cloth on your car’s body as you would on the tyres. There is far more dirt that gets caked onto tyres, requiring its own cloth. You also need a separate cloth for the interior of your car.

You also need to ensure that you don’t wash microfibre cloths with your regular cotton items as it can build up lint. Also make sure you avoid fabric softeners.

7. Be patient!

When detailing a vehicle, you need to be patient. Professional detailers don’t rush a job because if they did it wouldn’t look perfect. You need to work through each part of the car without taking any shortcuts.

The final result from a thorough cleaning always pays off. Start from the inside and work your way out.  The reason for this is that when you clean the outside first sometimes the dirt from inside the car gets onto the exterior afterwards requiring you to clean the outside again. When you do clean the outside, start from the top down to the bottom.

car detailing and cleaning (The Car Expert)
Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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