How to Clean Cars
Better Tips for Easier Results

How to clean cars can be as simple as you want....

or it can be as complex as you want. My goal is to show you a more simplified way to get your cars clean. If you were to follow the lead of auto detailing or cosmetic car care, you would have an entire garage filled with products that would also consume massive amounts of time all in the name of a clean car!

So despite what you may think is the best way to clean, wash, and detail your car, I am going to show you how to clean cars in a more simple and straight-forward way that will not only save you money, but boat loads of time!

How to Clean Cars:
Starting with the Basics

I know... basics are boring!

I completely get it. But when I say basics, I mean basics in the context of simple. As in the simple ways of getting what you want rather than the over-complex ways the industry wants you to follow.

how to clean cars tips and tricks

Therefore I need to make sure you and I are on the same page when it comes to what is important and what isn't.


  • Vacuuming
  • Shampooing


  • Washing
  • Claying
  • Waxing (maybe polishing in some cases)

I just laid out the essentials (basics) for you. This is probably where you are saying, duh!!

You already know all that right!?

I know you already know all that. Knowing it is not the problem.

The problem is in doing it. And the way you probably think you have to do it is overwhelming you. And if you are overwhelmed at the idea of how to clean cars (your car specifically), then what is the likely hood that you are actually going to clean your car?!

Very unlikely is my guess.

SO to come full circle with you, I want to show you step by step how to clean your car in simple, straight-forward ways that are much easier than I bet you think it is.

Interior Car Cleaning Made Simple

how to clean your car

The steps and products to shampoo and clean the interior of your car is very basic and straight-forward.

  • Vacuum to remove dry/loose dirt and debris.
  • Spray area with your choice in a car interior shampoo.
  • Scrub area with scrub brush.
  • Mop up with clean, micro-fiber cloth (the cloth of choice)
  • Repeat until you have desired results.

"The industry would have you believe you need a dedicated cleaner for every type of material within your cars interior. A leather cleaner, fabric cleaner, velour cleaner. A vinyl cleaner, a plastic cleaner, a rubber cleaner. From all-purpose cleaners, to multi-surface cleaners, to interior shampoos. Is there any wonder your head spins with anxiety every time you think about cleaning your car?!"

That is what the industry wants you to believe. A bazillion different types of cleaners. But that is not what I am going to teach you.

I have a better way for you!

How to Clean Cars Interior

Remember, we are going to follow the basic steps and processes as outlined above. You will see there is no complex products or tricks needed to enjoy a clean and detailed car interior.

Detailing Vacuum

Ridgid WD4070 4 Gallon Portable Vacuum

  • The perfect vacuum for your car.
  • Not too big, but big enough.
  • Your very first step towards a clean car.

Darren's Note: I am amazed at how often I still see people drag their household vacuum cleaner into the driveway and attempt to vacuum the interior of their car. Household vacuums simply aren't designed to be very friendly when trying to vacuum the inside of a car. If you are discouraged by the very thought of trying to wrestle a bulky household vacuum cleaner out into your driveway, I say it's about time you got yourself a proper detail vacuum and see if this doesn't dramatically change your attitude.

Car Upholstery Cleaner (RTU)

Adam's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner - Easy to Use and Effective on Even the Worst Stains - Safe, Non-toxic and Hypoallergenic (16 oz)

  • One of my favorite ready-to-use (RTU) car upholstery cleaners.
  • Safe for all materials in your car.
  • How to clean cars requires an effective and user-friendly car upholstery cleaner like this one.

Car Upholstery Cleaner (concentrate)

Chemical Guys CWS_103 Foaming Citrus Fabric Clean Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo (16oz), 16. Fluid_Ounces

  • One of my favorite upholstery shampoo concentrates.
  • Dilute based on your needs or as per label instructions.
  • An ideal way to get more for your money with purchasing a concentrate.
  • Safe for all materials in your cars interior.
  • How to clean cars interior safely and effectively.

Car Upholstery Scrub Brush

  • A tool that doesn't need to be over-thought.
  • Strong enough to be effective, soft enough to be safe.
  • Ideal size for a user-friendly experience.
  • The actual scrub brush I use professionally.

Detail Brushes

  • Perfect for dusting the endless nuances within your cars interior.
  • 3 different sizes to suit your exact needs.
  • As safe as safe can get.

Micro-Fiber Cloths

  • When it comes to interior car detailing you don't need to overthink the micro-fiber cloths.
  • Perfect for the light to heavy-duty interior cleaning.
  • These cloths are the right balance between thin and thick.
  • These cloths are also the exact size I prefer professionally. (some micro-fiber cloths can either be too light and therefore not absorbent enough, or too small in size and then you go through too many of them)
  • When it comes to car paint detailing, then you can overthink the specific micro-fiber cloths.

How to Clean Cars Interior:
Exact Steps of Success

how to clean cars interior
  • Pre-vacuum all areas. (The idea with vacuuming first is to remove all dry, loose dirt and debris before you introduce a liquid cleaner into the equation.)
  • Break your car interior into sections of attention. (Looking at the entire interior of your car will overwhelm most people)
  • I like to start with whichever area of your interior that is either the dirtiest, or the area you are most concerned with.
  • It may also be helpful to accept the fact that you don't have to force yourself to clean the entire interior of your car in a single go. (Break into bite size pieces so as to not overwhelm you once again)
  • Once you have a chosen area of focus, break this into sections and decide most appropriate tool for the job as selected from above tools.
  • Spray area to be cleaned (after you have vacuumed. This includes leather seating to remove dirt from seams) with a few pumps of the cleaner.
  • Scrub area to break up dirt.
  • Mop up area with a micro-fiber cloth. ( I prefer micro fiber cloths for any and all detail chores. They are more absorbent, and the tight weave is far superior to any traditional cloth you may have. But don't let this stop you as any cloth is better than not cleaning your cars interior)
  • Check results and repeat application/process as many times as needed for desired results. (remember that light, repeated applications is always better than heavy applications)
  • Now stand back and bask in the felling of accomplishment of your wonderful results. (You should have a very big smile on your face by this point)

How to Clean Cars Exterior

Cleaning the exterior of your car is more involved than doing the interior, but we can still keep this simple and uncomplicated. There are basic requirements that you will need to do on a regular basis:

how to clean cars exterior paint

  • Washing
  • Waxing
  • Decontamination (using the clay bar or detailing clay)
  • Polishing (not a requirement)

Car Washing and Cleaning Kit

  • I love kits! A great way to save money and to test products you may not normally buy independently.
  • This is an ideal kit that contains top rated products and tools for effective and safe car washing.
  • Comes with everything needed for a quality wash including wheel cleaner.

Tire and Wheel Brush

  • Add this brush to your kit for effective cleaning of your wheels.
  • As safe as safe can get with feather bristle tips.
  • Comes with two types of brushes: large brush for face of wheel and small brush for intricate areas and wheel lug holes.

Detailing Clay

  • You don't need to overthink detailing clay.
  • Every car will need to be decontaminated.
  • Don't underestimate how much better your paint will fell and how much easier it will be to wash, wax, polish a car that has been decontaminated.
  • need to do this.
  • Decontaminating your paint with the clay bar/detailing clay is to be done on a freshly washed car. You can do it while car is still wet or after you have completely dried car.

Darren's Note: Many people have not even heard of detailing clay (the clay bar, surface preparation bar, decontamination bar, etc.) let alone understand the role it plays in the car paint detailing process. Simply put, this clay bar removes air born pollutants that stick and embed into your cars paint/clear coat. Normal washing, waxing and even polishing will not remove these bonded contaminants and you will need detailing clay to remove these bonded contaminants. Even your brand new car will require the use of this detailing clay. You can see the more comprehensive write up at clay bar.

Car Drying Towel

  • This drying cloth is optional since the car washing kit above comes with drying towels.
  • I add this since you may find the supplied drying towels in the car washing kit to be too big to comfortably and effectively work with.
  • This highly rated drying cloth is very often the perfect balance between big enough, but not too big for drying your car.

Water Nozzle

  • The very anti-climatic water nozzle that is the winning balance in my opinion.
  • I have tried so many water nozzles; fancy to basic, and every time I come back to this one.
  • I like being able to instantly adjust spray pattern right at the trigger handle in an instant.
  • Durable metal that doesn't break like the more glamorous plastic water nozzles.
  • The exact nozzle I have been using over a decade now in my professional business.
  • I would love to convince you to buy one of the many over-priced, hyped-up water nozzles but they just don't last, work as well, or create the best spray pattern like this low-cost version does.

Water Hose

  • My favorite hose!
  • Great hose, great warranty!
  • You can't beat a hose made from quality rubber.
  • Stays flexible in the cold.
  • Solid metal fittings on each end that won't crease if you run over them with your car.
  • Kink resistant.
  • Forget about the industrial strength hoses that are miserable to work with.
  • If you are like many who think "industrial strength" is the way to go, you are in for a real treat when you see how easy this hose is to work with.

Car Wax (paste)

  • You can always buy cheaper waxes, but this represents the winning balance of performance, user experience, and cost.
  • Non-staining formulation: won't stain black trim.
  • Doesn't haze up white and chalky like lesser car waxes.
  • What professionals use.
  • Use as a quality base coat of wax and apply every 4-6 months based on your dedication to your car.

Car Wax (spray wax)

  • Use anytime after washing to create that just waxed look in a fraction of the time of conventional paste car waxes.
  • I use after every car wash I do on my own cars.
  • Extends the life of your base coat of wax and adds additional shine and protection.
  • Non-staining formulation. Won't stain black trim.
  • As easy as easy gets.

How to Clean Cars Exterior:
Exact Steps of Success

This is the program you need to follow for your car to look and keep looking its best for as long as you are willing to be diligent with regular maintenance:

  • Wash  your car frequently. Dirt and sun are its worst enemies. ( I recommend washing once a week, but at least once a month)
  • Decontaminate your paint at least once a year. (you can do whenever your paint starts to feel less than smooth)
  • Apply a quality paste wax every 4-6 months. (the longer you allow your car to remain dirty, the more time it spends in the sun will mean the more frequently you should wax your car)
  • Apply a spray wax to maintain the wax base and to create that just waxed look in a fraction of the time. Do this after any wash job where you are motivated enough to go the extra step (you cannot wax your car too much and there is not such thing as wax build-up despite what you may have heard)

how to clean your car tips
  • Prepare your situation at home: car washing kit from above, water hose, etc.
  • It is best to do this in a shaded area so water does not dry on hot paint and create water spots.
  • I generally start with the car itself, then clean the wheels as the next step AFTER washing/drying the car.
  • I start with top surfaces and work down. Specifically, if you were to draw a line horizontally around the half-way point of your car, I would start with the top surfaces and work my way down to this imaginary line. The areas below the lower half of your car will be the dirtiest and often where larger debris will be stuck to your cars paint that has been kicked up from the road.
  • Wash a small section at a time, rinse your wash mitt in the wash bucket between sections, then continue to wash. I make sure to rinse often to prevent any form of drying. (by "rinsing", I mean sloshing the wash mitt inside wash bucket water to release trapped dirt which can then settle into the dirt trap insert that is included with the particular car wash kit from above)
  • Dry using your selected drying cloth starting with the top surfaces that are possibly exposed to sunlight to prevent any spotting. I essentially dry the car the same way I wash it. Top surfaces first, down to the "hip line" of the car, then finish drying everything below the hip line of the car.
  • Once the car has been dried, I then wipe inside all door jambs and trunk jamb to remove standing water along with dirt. (I Use one of the micro-fiber towels I recommend for cleaning/detailing the inside of your car that is included on this page from above)
  • At this point I will clean the wheels making sure to prevent as much water over-spray from getting on the rest of the car during this process. ( I keep a separate micro-fiber cloth with me as I do the wheels so I can wipe up any stray water that might get onto the paint as I clean the wheels and tires)

How to Clean Cars Summary

At this point you should be sitting back with a sigh of relief as you begin to wrap your mind around a more simplified approach to cleaning your car. I have laid out the exact steps. tools, and products for professional results that you can achieve in your own driveway.

I wish you much success in your efforts!


Darren Priest