Let’s face it, cleaning the car isn’t something many of us look forward to unless you’re a dedicated enthusiast who loves spending hours shining up their pride and joy.

For the rest of us, it’s a task we can’t avoid but one that leaves us feeling satisfied when we see the final product, so long as we’ve got a dedicated car cleaning kit to make it easier.

What’s in a good car cleaning kit? To assemble a car cleaning kit you’ll need products for the interior and exterior of the vehicle.

This includes basic car washing supplies like a wash, wax, bucket, and dedicated cleaning cloth or mitt, and interior cleaners like upholstery and window cleaners to get the inside as well.

The easiest way to make light work of cleaning your car and get it looking like it was professionally detailed is with a selection of the right products.

We’ll show you exactly what you need for inside and out so you can achieve that polished look each and every time.

The Essentials for a Car Cleaning Kit

To assemble your car cleaning kit, it’s easiest to separate it into two categories: the outside and the inside cleaners.

We’ve created a detailed list of the essentials that no car owner should be without, as well as a few extras that can give you a professionally detailed finish.

Exterior Cleaning

The outside of your car goes through the most hardship, whether it’s driving in the rain, getting a load of gravel and road salt thrown up at it, or just dealing with that the various bug guts that come its way.

These are the essential products you’ll need to keep the outside of your car sparkling clean and free from harmful impurities.

Buckets

Buckets

A good bucket is worth its weight in gold when cleaning your car, and it’s an even better idea to have three.

With three buckets, you’ll be able to keep one with your chosen car wash and water solution, one with clean water for rinsing, and the other with your dedicated wheel wash, if you choose to have it.

Buckets are thankfully cheap items but for the purpose of car washing, it’s good to spend a couple of extra dollars to get something durable and with a grit guard.

These guards will keep the dirt and grime at the bottom so it’s not infecting your cleaning cloth and going straight back onto your car.

Car Wash

Finding a quality car wash product is the most important of all and it should cater to your vehicle specifically.

There are hundreds of options out there on the market so you have to careful, choosing one that’s safe enough, pH balanced, and will provide a level of protection for the paint, sealant, and wax coat.

Car washes are usually diluted in water, and you’ll place some of this into one of your buckets with the recommended amount of water.

A little goes a long way with these, and they’re often highly concentrated, so don’t be afraid to spend extra if it means a quality product.

Wax

Wax

Wax is an essential part of car ownership, no matter if your vehicle is new or old.

There are lots of different types of wax to choose from including synthetic and natural, or whether you want to apply it with a spray, liquid, wax, or paste.

Your chosen wax product should be applied after washing your car and once the vehicle is dry.

Depending on the product, you might not need to apply this every time you wash the car, and a good car wash detergent can even prolong its life and protect the wax from being removed.

Wheel Wash

Wheel wash is one of those car cleaning products that you might not class as essential, but it can be helpful to have for removing metal oxide and brake dust.

If you’ve chosen a car washing product that can’t safely double as a quality wheel cleaner, it’s a good idea to invest in a wheel wash to get the job done right.

A wheel washing product is designed for the specific materials found on your wheel and can cause a chemical reaction with the pollutants to help remove them.

You’ll want to use your third bucket to mix it up and a brush to scrub it on, then it can be rinsed away just as your other products are.

Cleaning Cloth

Cleaning Cloth

A quality cleaning cloth will make all of the difference when washing your car, and it’s a good idea to have at least two on hand.

The preference today is to use a microfiber cloth because it’s gentle and doesn’t require a lot of effort to get the job done, but some people prefer a car washing mitt that’s been designed for this purpose.

A good car cleaning cloth should be able to cover a large surface area for the body but also get into tighter spaces like your mirrors and handles.

Avoid materials that can trap dirt as they’ll be rubbed straight back onto your car, and cause micro-scratches and swirls that might not be obvious to the naked eye.

Brush

Invest in a medium bristled brush for cleaning the car’s wheels and choose one made for this specific purpose to reduce abrasion.

It’s best to follow the instructions of the wheel cleaner you’ve chosen and go with the brush or cleaning cloth they recommend but a harder bristled brush can help lift off the brake dust and metal oxide.

When cleaning the wheels, you’ll be using your third bucket and this brush, and then rinsing it off with clean water.

A brush with a longer handle is recommended for easier reach and it allows you to get into the crevices of each wheel, ensuring you’ve removed all of the contaminants that lurk behind there.

Chamois

Chamois

A chamois is a specialised cloth that absorbs moisture and it can help you remove any excess water once the cleaning is done.

It’s important not to leave beads of water on the car as they can leave permanent marks, especially on a hot day, so you need at least one method for removing moisture.

The chamois simply wipes down the surface of the car and picks up excess moisture so it’s dry and ready for waxing.

If you’d rather not use a chamois, other options include using a quick detailer spray that can then be wiped off with a clean towel, otherwise, some sort of forced air like a leaf blower can provide a gentler approach.

Interior Cleaning

Although it might not appear to get as dirty as the outside, the inside of your car is exposed to a whole manner of contaminants and pollutants.

People bringing in dirt on their feet, kids leaving food scraps, and the random assortment of rubbish that gets left behind on the floor.

Thankfully, it only takes a few products to keep it clean and protect the interior components of your vehicle.

Upholstery Cleaner

Upholstery Cleaner

A car’s upholstery is just like our carpets and couches at home, and they need their own dedicated cleaner to keep them in good shape.

Whether it’s food stains, dirt, or just an unpleasant odour, applying one of these upholstery cleaners to the fabric parts of the car is a must.

Upholstery cleaners come in all shapes and sizes so it’s important to match it with the interior of your car.

Think about what your seats are covered in, whether you want a built-in carpet cleaner, and how you plan on applying and removing the product, to lead you towards the best fit.

Dashboard Cleaner

The dashboard and other hard surfaces of a car’s interior are susceptible to dust, and while it might not seem like a big deal, it can cause obstructions in air conditioner filters and other crevices.

An interior cleaner is an all-purpose product that can be used to do it all, provided you’ve checked that it’s safe for the specific materials in your car.

Dashboard cleaner is applied in a spray bottle and wiped off with a cleaning cloth, only after you’ve wiped off the existing dust and debris first.

There are extra options like UV protection, moisture guard, and oil or water-based cleaners to choose from, so you’ll need to do your homework.

Window Cleaner

Window Cleaner

A common error people make when cleaning their car’s windows is applying a regular household window cleaner to them.

This product tends to be more abrasive and isn’t suited to the unique requirements that your car’s windows have.

A specially formulated automotive window cleaner can provide UV protectant and will resist moisture, so there’s less risk of water beading on the glass as you drive.

These cleaners should be applied with a microfiber cloth for minimal abrasion and a gentler touch.

Car Vacuum

While nothing is stopping you from using a regular household vacuum to clean your car, it can be large and cumbersome.

If you want to make the job easier, investing in a compact but powerful handheld vacuum can make the job a lot easier.

The key to finding a good vacuum is one with a range of attachments, as you’ll want to be able to give a deep clean to the floor mats and have a crevice tool to get into tight spaces.

If you do go handheld, choose a vacuum with enough battery life to last the entire job.

Cleaning Cloth

Cleaning Cloth

Microfiber is the best choice when it comes to interior cleaning cloths because they’re known for being gentle and non-abrasive on delicate surfaces.

When compiling your car cleaning kit essentials, you’ll want a good supply of at least five cloths to meet the demands of both inside and out.

The key with car cleaning cloths is to never mix mediums and always have one ready for each job.

You want to avoid using an auto window cleaner with a cloth and then using it to clean your dashboard with another cleaning agent, as this can do a lot of damage.

Related Questions

Our cars go through a lot in their everyday lives and giving them a thorough clean is a great way to show our appreciation, and keep them in good shape for even longer.

If you’re learning the basics of how to keep your car sparkling, inside and out, we’ve answered a few commonly asked questions that can give you a push in the right direction.

How Often To Wash Your Car?

How Often To Wash Your Car?

Most experts recommend washing your car every two weeks to prevent paint and metal damage that can be caused by dirt, debris, and road salt as you drive.

However, if you prefer to do it less frequently or don’t use your car as much, aiming to wash and clean it inside and out once a month is a good target.

Are Automatic Car Washes Bad For Your Car?

An automatic car wash can damage your vehicle’s paintwork and potentially the metal body underneath as well.

The harsh chemicals used in these touchless washes are abrasive on the paint surface and if you’re using a traditional car wash with brushes that touch your car, they’ll likely leave minor scratches and swirl marks on the paint.

What Happens If You Don’t Wash Your Car?

A car that’s not washed will eventually have a build-up of dirt and debris, which will start to damage the paint surface and remove the colour and shine that the vehicle once had.

If left to sit beyond this point, the build-up can start to corrode the metal body, leading to irreversible damage, rust, and degradation.

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