Skip to main content

Summer is all but here, and that means it’s time to get out and wash those cars. But if you’re new to car cleaning and detailing, there are a few things to know before you get started. In my time as a professional detailer, I learned a host of tips to make life easier on both you and your car. Here are a few of my favorite beginner car cleaning tips to make your next at-home car detail a breeze.

Start with the interior

If you’re doing a full inside and out detail, always start with the interior first. There is nothing more annoying than doing a full wash and wax, only to have dust and dirt from a vacuum fly out onto your freshly-cleaned car. It may seem like a small change, but for a beginner cleaning your car for the first time, it’ll make a big difference.

The best car cleaning tip: Buy special microfiber towels, not sponges

Sponges and regular towels have no business on your car’s paint. On the surface, these things feel soft, but to our car’s paint, they are quite abrasive. If you’re a beginner looking for car cleaning tips, none are more important than this:

Buy microfiber towels!

Use of the proper microfiber towels will help your car cleaning process go more smoothly in a few important ways.

First, sponges and bathroom towels can’t trap and lock dirt. Instead of picking it up, these items will simply move it around the surface, causing swirling and scratching all over your paint.

Second, sponges and cotton towels will scratch even clean paint! Because they’re made for scrubbing, they are too aggressive for car paint and will often leave marring behind.

And third, microfiber towels feature a unique weave. The looped material means no exposed fibers can contact your car’s paint. It’s these filaments that often leave marring behind. But because microfiber towels feature a looped construction, these ends are buried where they can’t scratch your car.

Get a specialty wheel brush

Cleaning a car outside
Car cleaning | ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

These can be found on Amazon for less than $15, and they’ll save your knuckles a world of pain. When it comes to car cleaning, the details matter most and you want your wheels to be clean. Buy trying to clean wheels by hand is often a nightmare. The tight spaces are hard to reach into. Even worse, the sharp edges of the wheel openings and brake caliper shields can easily cut up your hands while you work. 

A specialty wheel brush can get into these hard-to-reach areas instead, providing the same great clean without busting up your hands.

Use a drying aid before you wax

Often classed as waterless washes, drying aids act as a final rinse step before you wax. As you dry the vehicle with your microfiber towel, first apply a few sprays of a drying aid. Available from brands like AMMO NYC, Meguiar’s, and even Jay Leno’s Garage, there are several options out there.

This will help leave a streak-free shine versus simply trying with a towel alone. Now, the car both looks cleaner, and you won’t have to worry about any residual moisture affecting the adhesion of your wax.

Related When Should You Call a Professional Detailer?

When Should You Call a Professional Detailer?