So you want to clean your car and have read our cleaning tips guide? Now you need the right tools. Here’s our selection of 10 of the best cleaning products around to help you achieve a pro finish.
Been using a sponge bucket and washing up liquid? You are doing it wrong. To be fair, everyone has their own process but there are definitely things you should do and things you shouldn’t, which we covered here: How to clean your car – 15 essential tips.
Now it is time to go into more detail about what sort of products you can use and why, including the basic essentials and some fancy extras that do make life easier. For a price, of course.
We would love to have used every car cleaning product, but there are so many it would be impossible. So use our recommendations as a guide, consider joining a detailing forum for help and check online shop product reviews to see if something will do what you want it to.
1) Autoglym Clean Wheels (makes life easy)
Usually it makes sense to start cleaning your alloy wheels first, so we shall lead with our preferred alloy wheel cleaner. Spray on Autoglym’s Clean Wheels, leave for 60 seconds and prepare to be amazed how much brake dust and other grime comes off. Sadly it can’t remove kerb damage.
A litre bottle lasts for a few washes, which makes the £12.50 price more bearable, and the finish is as good as it gets.
2) Victoria Wax Deep Cleanse (ooh shiny)
Although pricey, a very small amount of Victoria car shampoo goes quite far so it lasts a long time. Plus the finish is extremely shiny regardless of the colour of your car. Well, unless you have a matte paintjob. Chemical Guys and Meguiar’s also do great car shampoos – some of which include was to save time. £11.95 from Cleanyourcar.co.uk.
3) Wash mitt (essential)
Microfibre wash mitts are cheaper and work well, but you are better off using one made of lambswool to help protect the paintwork. Apart from making you look like you have really hairy hands, they help remove scratchy debris and bury it deep in within the soft exterior to avoid scratches.
Simply clean a panel, rinse in cold water and then dip back in the shampoo and off you go again. A Meguiar’s lambswool mitt costs £13 and can usually be had as part of a 3 for 2 deal at Halfords.
4) Wash buckets (essential)
Any old bucket will do. What is important is that you get two because one will be for removing grime and the other filled with your preferred car shampoo of choice. You’ll thank us later providing, of course, you can refrain from chucking the dirty water over the car at the end…
5) Karcher K5 power washer (fancy)
There are a lot of power washers out there but Karchers have always done us proud and the K5 is a good mix of value and features. Ideally, the ability to control the level of pressure helps because too much can actually do damage and remove any repair work you have had done on the bodywork and alloys. £253.33 on Amazon UK at the time of writing.
6) Microfibre cloths (essential)
Having a lot of microfibre cloths is essential because using one microfibre for too long increases the chance of scraping a stone or dirt over the paintwork, causing damage. Halfords does a cheap pack of them, but you can also get them from most supermarkets.
Chucking them in the wasing machine after use keeps them pristine unless you use them to clean off dirt, which you really should do with the mitt and hose or power washer instead.
7) Water-less shampoo (potentially useful)
For those who have no access to much water, you can always use a bit of Smart Polish Pro Waterless Wash & Wax, which provides a shiny finish and helps protect your paintwork after the wash. It’s pricey, but it serves a niche that some car owners may appreciate. Yours for £24.99 for one litre of the stuff.
8) Victoria Wax (essential)
Most car wax products will do the job of stopping liquids from settling on your car, but a firm favourite of ours comes from Victoria Wax. It is called Concours Wax and looks like a giant lip balm (you can actually apply it by hand), but does a very good job of protecting your car.
Use on a panel by panel basis to avoid hours of trying to remove it and keep it off hot panels. It is better suited to deeper colours. £23.95 gets you a pot that lasts years if you only use it two or three per year. Available to order from Cleanyourcar.co.uk.
9) Car polisher (fancy)
To save you the hassle of doing lots of small circles across your entire car to remove the wax for a truly shiny finish, you can buy a polisher. You will need to know how to use one, but it is worth it. There are machines that plug in to the mains and others that can be attached to a drill. Either way, expect to spend a fair few quid. £159.95 gets you a DAS-6 Pro, which seems to do the trick.
10) Poor Boys Black Hole (great for black cars)
Black cars are a nightmare to keep clean and the most depressing to look at once done, mainly because of all the swirls and other damage previously hidden by dirt. Luckily there are a few ways to reduce the misery and PoorBoys Black Hole is one of them.
All you do is apply to a dark vehicle using a soft foam applicator (a clean one), wait a sec then polish out using a microfibre or polisher set to a low speed. At the very least it will really bring the shine out. £12.95 gets you a 500ml bottle.
11) Dodo Juice drying towel (essential)
Easily the biggest mistake people make when cleaning a car is to do it on a really hot day. Why? Because everything dries so quickly, particularly the water, which leaves unsightly drip marks that are hard to remove. Even in the cold, a good drying towel will help you end up with a much nicer finish.
A home towel is likely to be too rough so it is worth paying to get a proper car-specific offering. The one we have been using for years is from Dodo Juice and the amount of liquid the fluffy yellow fabric can hold is mesmerising. A steal at £9.95.
12) Hose (essential)
If a power washer is too expensive and the idea of using a bucket too much hassle, we present to you the old-fashioned hose. Basically, pick a length that runs from your tap to where your car is with enough excess and away you go.
We use this Karcher one from Amazon UK as it has the reel that keeps things tidy (once you have worked out how to assemble all the piping), but most will do.
13) Interior cleaner (damn useful)
When the outside is done, it is time to vacuum the inside and remove all the McDonald’s toys you accumulate and other rubbish. A slightly damp cloth works well on most plastics but you can get something like Sonus Cockpit Detailer for a cleaner finish and a citrus smell.
A mixture of vinegar and water is a great way to clean glass so consider that for your windscreen and windows. The spray bottles are cheap to buy.
14) Leather treatment stuff (essential)
For anyone with leather inside their car, such as on the seats or door trim, it is essential to treat it or risk unsightly fading. This is more useful for older cars that have never had any TLC. We favour a good leather cleaner, such as this from Chemical Guys, then use some sort of leather treatment.
15) G-Tech Multi vacuum and car kit (adios, crumbs)
Just about any vacuum will do (if you have a plug near your car or an extension lead), but we have a soft spot for the G-Tech Multi because it sucks hard (no jokes) and can be had with a car-specific kit that comes with lots of useful ends. The fact it is cordless is also useful and it does a mean job on stairs if you need to justify buying one. £149 is the cost.