There has been a great number of clients lately ordering products through me from Detailed Image, so the various orders I made over the past couple weeks drove me to create a list of the basics any beginner detailing enthusiast should have.
These are all products I use on a daily basis when detailing and I have settled on these products after years and years of experimenting with different stuff. There’s always something new coming out and usually I will try it, but this list contains products that I recommend to all clients who wish to take care of their vehicles properly.
The following lists were created with simplicity in mind, which means many people will already have some of the basics, such as buckets, wash mitts, applicators, towels, etc. With that in mind, I left out optional products such as wheel sealants, foam guns, etc, since those aren’t a necessity for proper vehicle maintenance, but would definitely help. Onto the list…
Wheels & Tires
- P21S Wheel Cleaner
- Meguiar’s All Purpose Cleaner +
- Wheel Brush
- Small Boar’s Hair Detailing Brush
- EZ Detail Brush Large
- EZ Detail Brush Small
- Tire Brush
- Spray Bottles
I listed products for wheels and tires first because that’s the order in which I prefer to wash vehicles. Most of the products are self-explanatory here. I find the P21S Wheel Cleaner the best around as it’s safe for all types of wheels but also extremely effective in cleaning power. I typically use 2-3 spray bottles for the wheel cleaner; one for full strength, second for 1:1 with water and third for 2:1 with water. Usually there’s no need to use it at full strength unless the wheel is extremely soiled and requires a lot of attention. I use Meguiar’s APC+ for both tires and wheel wells cleaning. Similar to the wheel cleaner, I have multiple bottles for different dilutions of the APC+. For wheels wells and tires I have either 2:1 or 4:1 dilution (2 or 4 parts water to 1 part cleaner), but I also use the cleaner for interior and other stuff at 8:1, 10:1 and 15:1 dilutions. The large EZ detail brush is great for the inside barrels of wheels as most of you already know, but the small also comes in handy to brush the calipers, tighter spokes and also the backside of spokes. I have found the small boar’s hair detailing brush great for calipers and tight areas, such as around wheel bolts and valve stems. The wheel brush and tire brush respectively are used for wheel faces and tires to clean off all the gunk on there and leave a fresh surface for any sealants or dressings.
Washing & Drying
- Hose Nozzle
- Shut Off Valve
- 2-3 Five Gallon buckets
- 2-3 Grit Guard Inserts
- 3 Sheepskin Wash Mitts
- Chemical Guys Citrus Wash & Gloss (CG CWG)
- Optimum No-Rinse (ONR)
- P21S Total Auto Wash (TAW) (more of an option but I highly recommend it)
- Spray Bottles
- Microfiber Waffle Weave Drying Towel
For washing, I always recommend two to three buckets for the 2-bucket wash method. With three buckets it obviously becomes the 3-bucket method, utilizing 2 rinse buckets instead of one. With three buckets you can usually wash an entire car that’s not horribly dirty without having to dump out the rinse buckets, which is why I prefer to use two, sometimes three rinse buckets. Typically, all clients buy the same amount of grit guard inserts as buckets, but I always recommend using two in a 5-gallon bucket. Better safe than sorry is always a great way to treat paint maintenance :). The Gilmour Foam Gun is a great additional tool, but for this basic list it’s not a necessity. Obviously, the soaps are a subjective matter and I have found to like the CG CWG as my favorite for maintenance washes. ONR is a great alternative for washing inside during the cold weather, but also great as a quick detailer, clay lube and even glass cleaner. I dilute 2oz of ONR into a 32oz spray bottle for any of the above.
P21S Total Auto Wash is a great pre-wash product for some hard to treat areas, side skirts, front bumper, etc. The best and safest method of drying from my experience has been to rinse off standing water using low pressure from the hose, then use the blotting method as seen in my article Winter Washing With Optimum No-Rinse. I always use the shut off valve when detailing because it’s a huge time saver. Whether you’re simply turning the nozzle off/on between rinsing and washing panels, or if you’re switching from nozzle, to foam gun, to whatever, the shut off valve makes it extremely easy to do so as opposed switching the water on/off or rotating the nozzle until it’s off, then back to on.
- 10+ Microfiber towels for paint (by paint I mean for quick detailers, waxes, etc… paint towels only!)
- 10+ Misc Microfiber towels (for stuff like glass, interior, etc.)
- Klasse Sealant Glaze
- P21S 100% Carnauba Wax
- Optimum Opti-Seal
- 303 Aerospace Protectant
- Meguiar’s Glass Cleaner
- Foam or Cotton Swabs
- Spray Bottles
These products are used for after washing and drying. I like to have at least 8-10 microfiber towels for any touchups after drying as well as to take off a sealant or wax when applicable. Of all the products I’ve tried, I can always, on any type paint, and in any situation rely on Klasse Sealant Glaze as a last step product, so I highly recommend it. Check out my article here for a guide on using KSG… Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze Guide and Review. I like to use sealants and waxes in tandem, but for those who simply want a carnauba wax, the P21S 100% is my recommendation. I was a long time user of their Concours paste wax, and after trying the 100% I like it a bit more so I’ve switched. Overall though, the application and removal process is nearly the same as the Concours.
I like Opti-Seal for protecting wheels, clear bra or for my motorcycle since I apply it on there every few rides, but that’s a whole article in itself :). It’s obviously extremely easy to use and offers good protection, so I use it regularly. 303 Aerospace Protectant is another product I highly recommend as it’s extremely versatile and offers great looks and protection. Just so I don’t repeat myself a lot, you can see my full review of it here… 303 Aerospace Protectant Review and Guide. Meg’s glass cleaner is something I recently started using non-stop and it easily replaced Stoner Invisible Glass. It’s extremely effective and non-streaking, plus it’s very cheap for the amount of product you get. Easily a must have in my book. Lastly, I tend to use a LOT of cotton swabs on anything from simple washes to 20 hour corrections. Many vehicles have many little crevices in which years of grime, dirt and dust buildup hide, and the only way to get to this is a cotton swab paired with a good cleaner, such as APC+ or P21S TAW.
That about sums it up. For vehicle interiors, a simple vacuum in addition to all the above is all that’s necessary on a regular basis. The APC+ will cover anything from carpet stains to seat wipedowns, and everything on the interior can be dressed with 303 Aerospace Protectant. Other than that interiors are fairly straightforward and simply need to be done on a regular basis to remain in nearly perfect condition. For more on my thoughts regarding detailing intervals, check out my article Auto Detailing Maintenance Schedules.
As always, thanks for reading and hope you guys found it helpful!