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Car Detailing - Do It Yourself! A Brief Guide and Advice

If you think car detailing is just about a good wash and a proper wax job, you cannot be more wrong. Ok, add the interior shampoo and even steam clean your car’s engine, and you are still not doing your car justice. From one car-lover to another, I can tell you that car detailing is so much more than just that. 

A complete detailing can breathe new life into your vehicle. A freshly detailed car is a work of art that you can flaunt with pride. However, it is a very time-consuming process. So, if you’re half as obsessed with your vehicle as I am with mine, you would understand the pain of being away from it for a long time. 

Fortunately, you can DIY car detailing! Yes, you read that right. You can clean your car at home. Before I go into details about how you can do it, let us first discuss some basics to make you up-to-date with this process and how it works. 

What Is Car Detailing?

Although we sometimes use the terms “car detailing” and “car wash” interchangeably, the two have some distinct differences. While this does start the same way as car washes would (with vacuuming, of course!), the process then gets a little tricky. At the end of this process, which includes cleaning, polishing, and protecting, your car will feel as good as new, if not better!

Since car detailing is a specialised process, you will need professional tools and supplies for a do it yourself job. The process can take anywhere between 2 hours to a whole day, so better to clear your schedule for the day! 

Now you might be wondering if it is such a hassle, why can’t I just get it done, professionally. Why bother doing it at home? 

Well, it is an excruciating task, no doubt, especially if your car is a decade old and has never had to detail before. But, there are several great reasons as to why doing it at home is worth your time. 

Why Should You Perform Car Detailing Yourself: 

1. You save money since you’re doing most of the hard work yourself. 

2. The supplies are reusable, so you will not have to make insane investments every time. 

3. A clean car is a lot easier to keep tidy; small spills and other incidents are effortless to fix. 

4. You do not have to stress about the inefficiency of service since you’re doing it yourself.

5. You get to appreciate the amount of work it takes to keep a vehicle clean. 

6. Your car will last longer thanks to the protection elements in the car detailing process.

How To Detail Your Car At Home? 

Car detailing is a 12-step process, and you can do these in any order. I am going to talk about the method I find effective. 

The Wheels: 

The first thing I recommend detailing is the wheels. They are the dirtiest part of your vehicle and will need a nice and long pre-soaking. Get brushes, wash mitts, and buckets. The brushes will help you clean the hard to reach areas of the wheels while the wash mitt and bucket are for the paintwork. 

Apply Pre-cleaner: 

Spray the lower areas of your car with a pre-cleaner, preferably one enriched with citrus. Not only will this remove road grime, but it will also smell fresh. Since it’s still early in the car detailing process, and you do not want to damage the wax layers just yet, make sure you get something with a gentle formula. 

Get Snow Foam: 

Before you get down to the washing stage, you want to get rid of as much loose dirt and particles as possible. Snow foams are ideal for this; they will break down any stubborn dirt on the car. The main advantage of removing all the grime at this stage is that you’re less likely to get swirl marks on the paint finish during the washing stage. 

Two-Bucket Contact Wash: 

For this step of car detailing, you’re going to need a good quality shampoo, two buckets, and mitts. Ensure that the shampoo you choose is of high quality to avoid scratches or swirls on your car. To begin, fill one bucket with plain water and the other with a wash solution. Use the mitt to start applying the solution to the vehicle from top-to-bottom in small sections. Remember to rinse the mitt in the water bucket before you apply more wash solution to the car. It will ensure you do not accidentally contaminate your wash solution. 


This step consists of many smaller steps that are all very crucial: 

1. Spray iron dissolver to get rid of ferrous contamination. These contaminants could be industrial fallout or rail dust that has fused itself to your car’s paintwork.

2. Use a solvent tar remover. It will soften any tar stuck to the paint. 

3. Rewash the vehicle to remove any residual solvents. Solvents can melt clay (which is what we’re using in the next sub-step) and mess up the entire car detailing process. 

4. Rub a Clay bar over the paintwork. Make sure to use a slip or a lube to help the clay bar slide. This step will remove any leftover contaminants, though there shouldn’t be much left. 

5. Wash and rinse your car again before proceeding to the next step. 


You will now need to dry your vehicle, starting from the top and working your way downwards. Do this in small portions, panel by panel, to make sure you do not miss any spots. You’ll need to be quick enough to prevent water spots but also thorough enough to avoid streaks.  


You can use two options for polishing. The first is polishing by hand, which will give you a good enough finish. The second option is to use a machine polisher, which will render an even better finish, provided you know what you’re doing. I would not recommend the second option if you have no experience with it. However, if you’ve already bought a machine polisher specifically for your car detailing adventures and must use it, I would advise you to practice on a separate panel first.  


The glazing stage comes between the waxing and sealant phases. Glazing enhances the paintwork and helps in the reduction of fine swirls. 


It is a very crucial step, as it protects all the hard work you’ve put in so far. You will need to do some research about what type of wax will go with the paint you have.

Tires And Trims:

You are now ready for the preening stage, which will restore the true colours of plastics and will make tires posher. 


The next part that you should start with is glass. It includes the windows, headlights, taillights, and other glass surfaces. A proper car detailing method should help you clean up any fingerprints and fix small scratches in the glass, as well. 

Final Touches: 

In the last step of this process, you only need to make final touch-ups and wipe-downs. It should remove any residue leftover from waxing and sealing, as well as fingerprints. People often overlook these last few touches, but they are so significant, especially if you’re looking for a show-finish result. 

Our Final Thoughts:

Car detailing is much more than just a simple car wash. This process goes into depth, and the results are rewarding. After proper car detailing, your car should feel and look as good as it was on the day you bought it. While professionals could perform this job for you, doing it yourself has some benefits. These include lower costs, more control over the process, and so on. Car detailing is a 12-step process, and it focuses not only on cleaning but also on polishing, waxing, and giving it long-term protection.