How to Clean Your Car Like a Pro [Definitive Guide]

Whether you own an Audi or a Ford, a car will always remain special among all the other possessions that you own.

That’s why it’s important to take good care of it.

The first thing that comes to mind is to make it for regular maintenance. But you should also clean your car regularly.

Regular and periodic cleaning of your car can keep it looking brand new for a very long time.

But there is a proper way to clean a car, and there are products that you should be using to protect and maintain the vehicle’s looks and performance.

Here’s how to get started.

Get the Right Products

There are a lot of products out there that tout themselves to be the best. And a lot of them can lead you awry.

That is why it is essential to find something that does work for your car. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean the most expensive products out there. There are cheap cleaning products that do the job just fine, if not better than some of the more expensive variants.

Here is a basic list of what you will need.

  • Car Shampoo
  • A washing mitt
  • Water Hose
  • Pressurized hose nozzle
  • Car interior cleaner
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Car vacuum
  • Armor-All
  • Drying Towel
  • Turtle Wax

The Turtle Wax is optional, but it does keep your car looking nice after a good cleaning.

But let’s get to work

Figure Out Your Vehicle’s Condition

First off, is your car reasonably new? Or have you clocked a lot of miles on it? An old car will need a lot more thorough cleaning than something that is pretty new.

A new car will need minimal cleaning and a coat of wax to keep the paint glossy. But an old car will need a thorough and deep cleaning.

Read What Your Products Do

Before you buy your products, find out what they do and if they are suited for your car and its particular paint job. Different companies have different types of paint applied to their vehicles. And you don’t want to end up using something that harms your vehicle.

Start Off With a Water Wash

Before you start applying car shampoo, it is best to pressure spray your car with a stream of water first.

The reason for this is to remove all the dirt and grime that can easily be washed away with water. Another benefit of removing these before applying shampoo is so that you won’t scratch your paint job with the grit particles that can be in all of this dirt and grime.

Have a right amount of pressure from your nozzle, and try to get every nook and cranny you can.

Shampooing Your Car

Squirt some shampoo onto a wet cleaning mitt, and slowly start rubbing your car in a circular motion.

If you find that there is any bird poo or other contaminants, soak them in the shampoo for a while, and wash it off quickly. Although it has not been technically proven, leaving shampoo too long can risk your car’s paint job fading.

Once this is done, wash off all the shampoo on your car. You shouldn’t leave it on for more than three to five minutes at best. Dried shampoo can be harsh to remove.

Use your pressurized nozzle to remove all traces of shampoo. Go over it with a dry towel, so you prevent any water stains on your car.

Cleaning Your Windows

You will want to take special care when you are washing your windows. Improper cleaning can hamper your visibility.

Get a right window cleaner and spray it liberally on your windows. Leave it on for a few minutes, but not enough to dry.

Wipe off the remaining cleaning fluid with a dry cloth. It is best not to spray it off since that will leave water for you to wipe off. If you don’t wipe it off, it will go water stains on your windows and mirrors.

One excellent piece of advice to follow when you are looking for a window cleaner is to find a cleaner that does not have ammonia in it. This is especially useful if you have a window tint applied. Ammonia based window cleaners can damage your window tint, making the tint work look patchy and uneven.

Another tip to make a note of is to wipe your windows cleaner twice. The first time will remove most of the dirt and grime, and the second time will ensure that the window has a beautiful sheen to it after you are done cleaning it.

Wiping Your Wheels

Your wheels tend to get very dirty, and that is natural. They are the part of your car that is most exposed to dirt and mud, after all.

Here, it’a best to start off with a powerful spray onto the wheels, so that you can knock most of the mud and dirt off  before you start cleaning it with a product.

One additional thing that you can do is to spray your brakes as well since they will also be prone to collecting mud and dirt.

Once you’re done spraying all the particulates off, wipe and dry off your wheels. Then you can use your wheel cleaner.

When you are choosing a wheel cleaner, it does help to find a cleaner that is suitable for your particular wheels. But if you cannot be hassled with that, then you can go for a cleaner that has a mostly neutral pH value.

Wheel cleaners with a neutral pH value are suitable for wheels of all types.

Cleaning Your Interiors

This is where it does get tricky since you will need to pay a lot more attention to what kind of interiors you have and what kind of cleaners are suitable for them. You should be able to find the best car carpet cleaner without having to spend too much.

But be wary, since there are a lot of companies that advertise themselves as the best car cleaner for interior cleaning. And they do little better than other cleaners that you can get for a lower price.

1. Vacuuming

This is an excellent place to start from. You can get car portable vacuums for cheap online, and most of them are either battery powered or can be plugged into a car outlet, so you can even use this for periodic cleaning on the go.

One pro tip while you are vacuuming your car. Use a vacuum and a toothbrush while cleaning places like your A/C ducts, so that any dust that you knock off is instantly sucked in.

2. Air Filters

This is relatively simple. You take out your old air filter and replace it with a new one. This will improve the quality of the air in your interiors.

But you should check and make sure that your air filters can be removed. Some cars won’t let you remove and replace it by yourself, which means that you will have to take it for maintenance when you do want to replace the air filter.

3. Brushing

This might seem like a weird step, but trust me, it is worth the time you spend on it.

Take some old makeup brushes and toothbrushes and look for any nooks and crannies where you cannot get dust out with a regular cloth.

This includes places like the car dashboard and entertainment system, the buttons on your steering wheel, and the power window buttons. All these places can accumulate dust significantly over a period, and cleaning these places will give your car that new look feels.

You can even add a bit of water (not too much), to clean any stains that might be stuck in these places.

Next, take some water and your toothbrush to clean off any stains and marks on the vinyl in your car. This works a lot better than trying to wipe it off with a cloth. It will take quite some time to cover every single area in your car, but it will be worth it in the end.

4. Seat Cleaning

If you have fabric upholstery, it will take a bit more work than leather. But you can use an interior cleaner diluted with water to get most of the stains out of your seats.

Keep in mind that if you do want to get a proper cleaning without damaging your fabric, you will need to find an interior car cleaner that is meant specifically for your car’s interiors.

Just apply the cleaner and let it dry. Once it is done, you can go ahead and wipe it off. It’s that easy.

For leather seats, you can do a preliminary cleaning with a wet towel to get most of the surface particulates out. But once that is done, there are leather car interior cleaners on the market that you should use. Make sure you find a cleaner that is compatible with your particular car leather, or you may find yourself with some stains that will not go away.

Once you are done with cleaning the leather, you will want to add a conditioner. This protects the leather from future damage. You will need to apply it regularly, but the result is worth the time you spend on it.

5. Floor and Floor Mat Cleaning

First, take out the floor mats and dust them off. If they are made of rubber, you can use your pressurized nozzle to knock off the remaining dirt and grime.

For the most part, floor cleaning is mostly just vacuuming, but you can use some additional cleaning product to get the smell and embedded dirt out of it. Here, you can also use a cleaner that does smell nice to you, since the interior is where you will be spending most of the time in your car.

6. Waxing

Coming back to the exterior of your car, waxing is one of essential parts of cleaning your car since that is what will be giving your car that new-car luster.

But waxing does have other benefits. It acts as a sunscreen for your car so that the sun doesn’t fade away the look of your paint.

One of the most popular brands of car waxes is Turtle Wax, and it has remained so for years. There are different types of waxes, from polymer to carnauba waxes. They all have different properties and different paints for which they are suited to, so find one that is to your requirements.

When waxing, apply a small amount onto your microfiber cloth and make regular circular motions until the wax disappears into your paint.

If you are intentional about doing this regularly, you can get a hand buffer to make the waxing process that much faster for you. It will make things a lot faster than doing it by hand, and it should give you a more even finish.

Repeat this process for the entire car surface, and you will be ready for the next and final step.

7. Spray Detailing

This is the step that protects your car for all the work you have put into cleaning it. Spray the spray detailer onto your microfiber cloth and run it over the entire external surface of your car to protect it from generic damage.

This is best done after waxing and can significantly enhance the luster of your car.

But if all this does sound a bit overwhelming for you, you can always choose to use one-step car wax, and it should take you a lot less time.

Keep in mind that the result might not be as impressive as the labor-intensive steps.


Cleaning your car is a labor of love, and although it does take some time, it is definitely worth the result.

You can also get this done at a professional body shop, but to do this on your own will save you a lot of money in the long run, and it can teach you a thing or two about cars in general.

All these steps will take some getting used to, but over time, it will be more of an enjoyable experience, watching your car turn from dull to dazzling.

About the Author Roger

Roger is a mechanical engineer by day and grease monkey by night, who spends all his free time tweaking things in his car. His love for car audio equipment is only matched by his desire to help others find the best products suited to their needs.

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