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How to Detail a Car in Ten Simple Steps

Maryse Dubois

With Summer just around the corner it’s only a matter of weeks before you can finally enjoy a beach weekend – and maybe show off a little in your gleaming pride and joy. Getting a professional car clean can be expensive though, so a great way to save money is to do it yourself at home. It's cheap, quick and easy.

How To Detail a Car

  1. Check the weather conditions
  2. Always clean your car when the bodywork is cool and out of direct sunlight. Liquids evaporate a lot quicker on hot surfaces or in direct sunlight, which can leave ugly water marks. We recommend cleaning your car in the morning, in the shade or in your garage to ensure the surface is cool and out of direct sunlight.

  3. Before you start: Assemble your kit.
  4. A 30-minute clean is like one of Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals: a bit of practice and preparation will pay off in speed. For this job, you’ll need:

    • a microfibre mitt
    • a couple of absorbent microfibre cloths (for drying)
    • a lint-free cloth
    • 2 buckets
    • a hose, or tap nearby
    • window cleaning spray
    • PH-neutral car cleaning liquid (or a mild liquid soap)
    • an old toothbrush (optional)
    • a vacuum cleaner (hand-held is easiest, or you could run an extension cord and use your home vacuum)
    • a bag or box for the rubbish and clutter that you’ll be taking out

  5. Declutter
  6. Cars have so many compartments and crevices that can fill up with tickets, gum wrappers, tissues and other junk. Do a quick but thorough once-over and get all of this stuff out. (If you’re a fan of the 80/20 principle, you’ve probably just achieved 80% of your results).

  7. Vacuum
  8. Take out the floor mats and give them a good shake. Remember all those little attachments that came with your vacuum? Now’s the time to use them. The upholstery attachment is great for the seats and carpeted areas, and the narrow nozzle is good for sucking dust out of cracks at the back of the seats and down by the door.

  9. Wipe surfaces clean and clean inside the windows
  10. Get your damp cloth and wipe over the dash, steering wheel and gearstick area. If it’s been a while since you cleaned, that old toothbrush will come in handy for getting gunk out of corners in the console.

    Use your window spray and lint free cloth to clean the inside of all of the windows.

  11. Wash and dry the outside
  12. Here’s a simple two-bucket method to get all the dirt off without wasting gallons of water or scratching the paintwork:

  13. Clean your wipers for a streak-free windscreen
  14. Wipe down your windscreen wipers with a rubbing alcohol to prevent a smeared windscreen. This one's important for safety as well as keeping your car shiny and clean!

  15. Polish the windows
  16. Your windows should be pretty clean after the wash you just did, but if there are any streaks then you can use your window cleaner and lint-free cloth to give them a polish. Some people like to wax the windows to make them super-shiny and to make the water bead right off when it rains. We haven’t tried it, but let us know if you do!

  17. Don’t forget your tyres!
  18. Tyres face the harshest conditions, like heat, water, road tar, dirt, grime and general degradation. Tyre cracking is a particular problem in areas with warm climates due to the strong UV Rays.


    There are a number of factors that can affect how long tyres should last, but a good tyre dressing will help to prevent cracking, fading and hardening of your tyres while leaving behind a deep shine. Make sure you go for a water-based dressing over a solvent-based one: water-based dressings shouldn’t damage the rubber, while solvent-based ones contain ingredients that may lead to premature drying and cracking over time.

  19. Can’t stop cleaning? Try these optional extras:
  20. Borrowers love a car that’s fresh and tidy on the inside and not covered in mud or bird poo, so you can stop now and pat yourself on the back.

    If you’ve really got the cleans and don’t want to stop there, you can also clean the tyres with a hose and specialist tyre cleaner, and wax your car till it shines.

    You might be tempted to stick an air freshener in the car. Go easy on these – the chemical scent can be pretty overwhelming for some people. Keeping your car clean should avoid any stinkiness, but if you’re struggling, try these tips.

Put your car to work

Sure, some people clean their car this much just for fun – but now you want your hard work to be rewarded!

If you’ve had some bookings already, you could send an sms or email to your previous borrowers letting them know the car is freshly cleaned and ready to go.

Or if you’re just starting out, why not take a walk around your neighbourhood and put up some flyers or leaflets; or ask local groups to let their members know about this new car-sharing option?

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