Your First Detail
Summary: New to detailing? Start the process with a step-by-step guide here!
Before you spend a dime on supplies, you need to know what you’re up against. Go look at your vehicle. Really look at it inside and out to get a lay of the land. Does dirt build up in the door handles and dashboard crevices? How’s your shifter looking these days?
Take note of any damage to the clear coat like flaking or chips on the front bumper. You can use the Surface Damage Field Guide for examples on what to look for and what’s fixable versus permanent on the exterior.
Check out the Beginner’s Buying Guide to get started with a gear list.
- Plastic Bag (for collecting trash)
- All Purpose Cleaner
- Small Brush
- Microfiber Towels
- Interior Cleaner
We’re starting with the interior because you’ll be opening and closing doors a lot, and it’s easier to clean up marks on the door jambs when you stop getting in/out of the vehicle constantly to clean it.
- Clean out the trash from the door panels, back seat, etc. Don’t eat that french fry.
- Remove the floor mats. Shake them out away from the vehicle.
- If they’re rubber, spray them down with all-purpose cleaner and agitate with a brush. Rinse clean. You may have to do this a few times if they’re caked with dirt or salt.
- If they’re carpeted, vacuum them with a brush to assist.
- Set the floor mats aside to dry or air out.
- Vacuum the floor and seats. Get under those seats, in the door pockets, and all the other crevices that gunk can gather! Move the seats and empty everything. Reclining the seats can help as well. You’d be surprised where dirt can gather, and using a brush can help agitate things out.
- Grab a microfiber and fold it into quarters. Spray your diluted rinseless wash or interior cleaner onto a quarter and clean all the plastics, adding more cleaner and swapping to a new towel when you run out of clean sections. Wipe dry with a second towel.
- The dashboard.
- The area in front of the passenger seat.
- The center console.
- The shifter area.
- The steering column. Wipe down any stalks for wipers and turn signals.
- Each door.
- Wheel brush (soft)
- Wheel mitt or towel for cleaning the face of the wheel
- Wheel cleaner
- If you do any pre-wash, do it before you wash the wheels.
- Spray on your wheel cleaner or diluted all-purpose cleaner. Follow the label instructions for dwell time and any other safety precautions.
- Agitate it with the wheel brush.
- Rinse the wheel (and the brush!).
- Repeat steps 2-4 if wheels are especially dirty. Some wheels may require stronger products.
The Wash and Dry
See the Wash Gear section on the Beginner Buying Guide. The only unlisted item is an overcast or shady place to work since washing in the sun can be harmful to paint and makes for a miserable, sweaty time.
- If you do any kind of pre-washing, do it prior to this step!
- If you use a rinseless sponge to wash, insert the dirt lock into the bucket.
- Fill your bucket with the correct dilution of your rinseless wash. Check the label for the required dilution – it won’t take much product to perform a wash, making rinseless washing a great value.
- If you have a pump sprayer, fill it with the solution from the bucket and spray down the vehicle.
- Toss washing media (sponge or microfibers) into the bucket.
- Using your wash media, wipe down the vehicle starting at the top and working your way to the bottom.
- If using a microfiber towel, fold it into quarters and refold to always use a clean section. Don’t reuse towels – discard them into a dirty laundry bucket.
- If using a rinseless sponge, rinse the sponge out between passes. The more often, the better.
- After washing all the dirt from the vehicle, dry the vehicle with your drying towel working from top to bottom. If your rinseless wash dried during the wash, just spray or rewet the area with the rinseless wash to dry without leaving spots.
- Spray protectant
- Microfiber towels for buffing
- Check if your product can be used as a drying aid. If it can, you can apply it while the vehicle is damp.
- Spray protectant onto the first microfiber towel.
- Apply to the paint in consistent motion. We recommend a crosshatch pattern, alternating left/right and up/down. Work in sections to ensure full coverage. If the surface is hot, work in smaller sections.
- Wipe down with a second clean towel.
- Repeat for all panels until finished.