Frequently Asked Questions
I'm new to detailing. Where do I get started?
We recommend reading our Auto Detailing Guide. You'll learn how to properly wash & dry, polish, apply a wax, care for your interior, and much more. The Guide is available to read on our website or can be downloaded as a PDF so that you can read it offline or print it out and keep a copy handy in your garage.
You'll also want to check out our Ask-a-Pro Detailer Blog where you'll learn tips and tricks from some of the very best professional detailers in the world.
When deciding what products to purchase, our customer Product Reviews can also be extremely insightful.
We're here to help throughout the entire process so don't hesitate to contact us for assistance.
I am looking to wash and dry my car, what are your recommendations?
When washing you want to be extra careful. Most swirls come from this process so be sure to use good technique and quality products. We recommend picking up a shampoo like the Chemical Guys Maxi Suds. This shampoo has lots of foam, great lubricity, and it gentle cleaning power. If you pair it with a good wash media like the Sheepskin Wash Mitt you will be able to lift contaminants off your paint safely and easily. For more washing and drying information you can check out the Washing and Drying section on our Detailing Guide.
How do I use a clay bar correctly?
A clay bar is actually very safe and easy to use to help you deep clean the paint. Simply mist some of the clay lube on a small section of paint and glide the bar side to side with very light pressure. It will pull contaminants away from the paint easily so your paint is much cleaner at the microscopic level. Our Gentle Fine Grade Clay Bar & Clay Lube Kit gives you an excellent clay bar and lube at a discounted price.
If you are looking for some more in depth information on Clay Bars you can check out our Detailing Guide and Ask-A-Pro Blog. We have worked hard to provide you with all the information you can think of to walk you through using a clay bar, and every other step in the detailing process.
I am looking to start polishing my car. Can you guide me in the right direction?
Polishing is the step where you actually remove the swirls, oxidation and ultra fine scratches for good and restore that like new shine again! Polishing is generally regarded as the most important step in the detailing process because it creates an optically clear surface so you get that deep shine back where as the sealant and wax can only enhance the way the paint already looks.
We generally recommend a two step process with a light and medium polish and pad combo for best results. However if you only have light imperfections, we would recommend a one step polish. The Menzerna SF 4000 with a white or black pad is a great polish combo that will remove these light imperfections while finishing down extremely well.
These polishing steps generally work best with a buffer. We have a completely safe and highly effective option if desired in the Porter Cable 7424 XP. If you don't want to use a buffer we generally recommend a one step process with the Meguiar's Ultra Finishing Polish M205.
We also have various other resources to help you learn more about polishing. Check out the polishing sections of our Detailing Guide and Ask-A-Pro Blog.
With all the various options for Quick Detailers, I am having trouble deciding on what one is best for me. Can you highlight some of them and recommend what one you like the best?
When it comes to choosing an instant detailer we have a few options.
The Poorboy's World Spray and Wipe is a great instant detailer that will allow you to remove dirt and dust easily and safely, but it doesn't add protection or shine.
If you are looking for an instant detailer that will add protection, we would recommend either the Dodo Juice Red Mist Tropical Protection Detailer or the Blackfire Wet Diamond Polymer Spray. Both of these products are great at adding a fresh appearance to the surface while leaving behind some protection.
The Chemical Guys Synthetic Quick Detailer is also a great option. This instant detailer will not leave behind any protection, but it has anti-static properties that will help repel dirt and dust from sticking to the surface. It will also leave behind an outstanding shine that will enhance the depth and gloss of your paint.
If you are looking for a quick clean the Synthetic Quick would be our choice, with the Red Mist or Blackfire to be used as a topper with the protection they leave behind.
Looking for more information on Quick Detailers? Check out our Detailing Guide and Ask-A-Pro Blog Quick Detailer sections!
What is a glaze and should I use one?
Glaze is probably the most misused word in detailing. In general they are ultra fine polishes that have oils in them that can fill in ultra fine imperfections, but they can detract from a sealant's ability to bond to the paint 100%. In short, we think this is the least essential step in the process and we generally skip it. However applying a glaze can really make your paint look amazing. For more information on Glazes check out the Glaze section of our Detailing Guide.
How do waxes, sealants and coatings compare, and which one is best for me?
Sealants are much more durable than waxes (3-4 months of protection compared to 3-4 weeks with waxes) and very easy to work with so most detailers prefer a sealant, especially on daily drivers. They look great on all colors and can be applied by hand or with a buffer. A sealant provides more than enough protection and an outstanding shine so you can certainly stop there, however adding a wax on top can really add another layer of gloss, depth and protection to take your detail to the next level.
If you are looking for the deepest, wettest look out there we would highly recommend a coating. Semi-permanent coatings take more effort and time to apply, but the results are worth it. Coatings will provide an amazing level of gloss and shine, while protecting your paint for up to 24 months! You can also top the coating with any wax or sealant to add more depth, gloss, and protection to the paint.
For more information on all of these great protection options check out our Ask-A-Pro Blog and Auto Detailing Guide. In particular, you might enjoy The Case Against series of posts that discuss the pros and cons of sealants, waxes, and coatings.
How many and what type of microfiber towels should I use for each detailing step?
Below are the type and number of towels broken up for each detailing step. This way it is easier to determine your specific microfiber needs.
Washing (Wheels): If you use a microfiber towel to clean your wheels, use up to one All-Purpose Towel per wheel. Using microfiber to clean wheels is one of the safest methods, but it can stain and contaminate them, rendering the towels useless for other purposes. It is best to keep these towels separated at all times from your other prized microfiber.
Washing (Car): 1 or 2 Sheepskin Wash Mitts or Microfiber Wash Mitts, one for upper portions of the vehicle, one for lower, dirtiest portions. Always wash from cleanest area to dirtiest. Using one mitt specifically for the dirtiest areas will assure both mitts stay cleaner over time, and will reduce the risk of swirling significantly. When drying your car, you will want to invest in 2 or 3 Waffle Weave Drying Towels. These are super absorbent and minimize adding swirls and imperfections due to the waffle like texture.
Cleaning (Door Jambs): Estimate 1 or 2 All Purpose Towels per door opening. If this is the first time you clean the jambs, expect some staining from grease. These towels should not be used for exterior paint anymore. They will be okay to use for other purposes after a proper wash.
Cleaning (Interior Plastic Surfaces): 3 All-Purpose Towels for the interior cleaner, 3 more for the interior protectant. There are products that do both steps in one application, and can slightly reduce your microfiber requirements.
Cleaning (Leather Seats): 3 All-Purpose Towels per seat. Final buffing with a clean towel will assure the leather conditioners don't feel gummy to the touch.
Polishing: 1 Ultra Plush Two-Sided Towel per panel per polishing step. For example, if you do a two step polish on a coupe, you will want to have about 18 towels ready.
Quick Detail or Final Wipe: 2 to 4 reTHICKulous Towels per car. Use a "one wet, one dry" technique for final wiping to achieve a streak free finish.
Wax Removal: 4 reTHICKulous Towels per car. Fold the towel in quarters and use a quarter for a few wipes, then change sides, exposing fresh towel as much as possible for a streak free shine.
Cleaning Glass: 2 Glass Polishing Towels per side, more if you have dirty or large windows. It is always good to have extra glass towels, and a few stored in the vehicle at all times for quick clean ups of smears and fingermarks.
All-Purpose Towels: 10 to 20
Ultra Plush Towels: At least 18
reTHICKulous Towels: 6 to 8
Glass Towels: 4 to 8
Waffle Weave Drying Towels: 2 to 3
That should be enough to maximize your results. Remember that this is a big investment, and as such, should be cared for religiously. Give your towels the best treatment possible. Treat them also as a collection. You can add and subtract from the collection, but you should always have a base, enough to work on your car. Microfiber is a detailer's largest non-consumable material expense, costing in total more than power tools.
This information was adapted from our Ask-a-Pro Detailer Blog post How To Determine YOUR Microfiber Needs. More information on Microfiber and Microfiber care can be found in the Microfiber section of our Auto Detailing Guide.
How do I choose the correct buffer or polisher for me?
Choosing the best buffer/polisher really all comes down to personal preference. From the super popular Porter Cable to the incredible Rupes, we have many different buffers to meet your needs. For a complete breakdown of each buffer side by side check out our Buffer Comparison Chart.
How long do products last?
Generally speaking most products will stay in perfect condition for 4 - 5 years, assuming they were not exposed to very high or low temperatures. If a product is left in a hot garage or in freezing conditions there is a good chance there can be some separation of the ingredients that cannot be fixed by shaking the bottle. If the product is over 4 - 5 years old it will start to lose it's potency. If the product is less than 4 - 5 years old and it was stored in temperatures closer to room temperature give it a good shake before testing it. Assuming the product looks normal in both color and consistency test it on a less visible area. If the product is working in good condition with no ill effects it should be safe to keep using.
How do I remove sap from a car?
Sap can be one of the most challenging things to remove, especially if it's been dried on there for long periods of time. We recommend giving the Stoner Tarminator a try. With one quick treatment you can remove the vast majority of contaminants on your vehicle's exterior surfaces and it's pretty effective on fresh tar. Simply mist this product onto the contaminated area, let it dwell, and wash it off thoroughly. If that doesn't work, spray again and agitate with a clean and soft cloth, which should work on most fresh sap. If you still have leftover sap we'd suggest using a medium grade clay bar to help remove it safely. If that doesn't work you can move up to something really strong like mineral spirits, just be sure to thoroughly wash the vehicle afterward.
What do you recommend to remove spots or etchings caused by bird droppings?
The problem with bird droppings is that they are often acidic and they can etch in to the clear coat within minutes. As soon as possible you should wash the area and remove all the physical debris left behind.
To remove the etchings we have two suggestions. The Chemical Guys Water Spot Remover can be used to remove light etchings that are hard to see or feel. The more traditional option is to polish that area, starting from a less aggressive polish moving up to a stronger one as needed. We would suggest starting with medium pressure and a polish like the Meguiar's M205 and move up to the M105 if need be. If that doesn't work you may need the extra power of a buffer to help work those polishes in. With the help of a buffer you can remove the vast majority of surface imperfections from bird droppings.
How do I remove water marks or water spots?
Typically a washing, white vinegar and water solution, or a clay bar will not remove the water marks, they only work when it's a light residue on the surface. Unfortunately many water marks actually lightly etch in to the surface and in these instances you'll need a stronger option.
The Chemical Guys Water Spot Remover can be used to remove light etchings that are hard to see or feel. This is a really strong cleaning formula that should be used with care.
The more traditional option is to polish that area, starting with a less aggressive polish to a stronger one. I would suggest starting with medium pressure and a polish like the Meguiar's M205 and move up to the M105 if need be.
If that doesn't work you may need the extra power of a buffer to help work those polishes in. With the help of a buffer you can remove the majority of the surface imperfections from water marks and you'll also remove some of the swirls and oxidation so the entire surface looks like new again.
For the glass we recommend the Glass Science Glass Scrub, which does a great job of deep cleaning the exterior glass and removing water marks.
How do I remove cigarette smoke smell from a car?
Removing the smell and residue from a smoker can be challenging but it's definitely possible. You have to plan on cleaning virtually everything.
To start, give a quick vacuum picking up the most obvious and heavy debris. Wiping down all the interior pieces with the 303 Spot Cleaner will remove smoke residue that has built up everywhere in the car no matter how hard it is to see. It's a great formula that is very gentle and easy to work with. Take your time and do every section of the dashboard, console, trim, doors, arm rest, etc. working the product and towel into every crevice, corner, etc. Now remove the mats and spray down the mats and the carpets with the 303 Spot Cleaner and agitate them with a medium to firm bristle brush. The brush is critical here because you need to get in between the fibers, so work it in multiple different directions. If you are getting a lot of debris work it in one direction to be vacuumed up.
If you have fabric seats repeat the process there working top down. If you have leather seats clean them as well, we recommend the Leatherique Rejuvenator Oil and Prestine Clean.
To thoroughly clean the glass you can use one of our glass cleaners. Use at least 2 - 4 microfiber towels for a thorough job. We generally recommend cleaning with one towel and then buffing off any residue with a separate clean towel. If they are streaking replace the towels with fresh ones for best results.
Next we recommend spraying the Chemical Guys Sofast Odor Eater on the carpets and wiping down the interior with it. It helps kill any remaining bacteria that can cause the bad smell. It has a pleasant smell that it leaves behind for a couple of days as well.
Finally, we recommend using the Einszett Klima Cleaner AC Odor Remover to remove odors trapped in the AC filter and vents. Simply spray it in the vents and the formula penetrates the entire system leaving it odor free. Many people will skip this step and the first time you turn on the AC you get that smoke smell again. It's well worth doing as it really makes a difference and it's the perfect finishing touch.
How do I remove "wet dog" smell from a car?
We suggest a thorough cleaning of the whole interior literally cleaning every surface as dog hair and dander has likely gone everywhere.
Give a quick vacuum to areas with heavy build ups to remove the worst build ups. Remove the mats from the car and then spray the 303 Spot Cleaner directly on the carpets and mats and use a brush to work it in. Make sure you use a brush on the fabrics (i.e. fabric seats, carpets, trim, etc.) to get out the dander and hairs trapped in the fibers. This will take time and patience to be done well so don't rush this step.
Inside the car, especially if you have fabric seats, start on the top and work your way down the vehicle. Spray the 303 Cleaner and Spot Remover on the your microfiber towel and wipe down the dashboard, doors, console, trim, headliner, etc. Quality microfiber towels do a great job of grabbing and collecting particles instead of just pushing them around. Paper towels and rags often just push the particles in to the air and then they circulate around and land on the interior again.
After that use a good leather care product on the seats like the Leatherique Rejuvenator Oil and Prestine Clean, which do an amazing job of deep cleaning and conditioning leather and leatherette seats. This is our favorite combo but if you need a one step product check out the Sonax Leather Foam.
Then clean the windows with a glass cleaner and a clean microfiber towel. Use one towel to clean the glass and a separate clean towel to remove any remaining residue.
Lastly we would recommend spraying the Chemical Guys Sofast Odor Eater on the carpets and on a microfiber towel and wipe down the interior. This product kills bacteria and other sources of odors that cause foul smells. It has a pleasant sour apple scent that usually lasts a couple of days.
Another detailing secret is using the Einszett Klima Cleaner AC Odor Remover on the AC vents. In short the air filter can collect dander, mildew, dust, dirt, etc. so the AC may smell bad, especially when you just turn it on. You just simply spray it in the vents and it basically does it's own thing so it couldn't be any easier.
Upon completion the interior should look and smell great!
How do I remove lovebug etchings from my paint?
Love bugs can be a real problem, within minutes they can etch in to the paint.
For most build ups we would recommend using a degreaser on the front bumper and other problems areas to help loosen up the bug splats. There are a lot of great options like the Einszett Anti-Insekt Bug + Tar Remover, Poorboy's World Bug Squash, and Chemical Guys Bug Bugger. You can just rinse it off but sometimes you'll need a wash mitt to agitate the surface.
If you want our strongest degreasing formula try the Stoner Tarminator, however we do recommend a thorough washing afterward to remove the residue left behind. It's an outstanding product for this job that is strong yet safe on the paint.
If you want to wash faster or not do a full wash we suggest using the Optimum No Rinse (ONR) which is a washing solution that doesn't involve any rinsing afterward.
Unfortunately all of these products will remove some or all of the sealant or wax you put on the surface. After you are done we recommend applying a strong coat of protection to protect against the love bugs, ideally a sealant and a wax. We generally recommend the Klasse All In One, wait an hour and then apply a wax. This strong barrier of protection can help repel the bug splats and prevent etchings in the clear coat and it make future cleanings easier.
How do I clean suede in a car?
Ultra suede is a sensitive material that requires very careful cleaning. First you are going to want to use a soft to medium brush, like the DI Brushes Leather and Vinyl Scrub Brush, and simply brush the suede with light pressure for a light cleaning. This will help remove any lose builds ups and dust. After this you can spot treat any problem areas/stains with a product like the 303 Spot Cleaner. You also do not want to get the suede really wet so if possible you may want to use as little cleaner as possible. After this you can take the same scrub brush and give it another gentle brushing. This will remove any remaining contamination and help air out the suede. We would also recommend leaving the windows open for a few hours to help promote air flow and dry out the suede.
How do I clean Alcantara in a car?
Alcantara is one of the toughest materials to clean and we generally recommend being pretty conservative with it. We typically use a very soft brush like our horse hair upholstery brush with light to medium pressure. Work the brush in different directions on stubborn build ups. We recommend using a cleaner like the 303 Spot Cleaner to spot treat stains and use as little as possible. Brush that area to work the cleaner in lightly and it will also help move some of the moisture. Leave the doors open afterward letting air circulate so the moisture evaporates more readily. Alcantara is also known as ultra suede and it's very sensitive to moisture.