Guide to DIY Auto Detailing

Busy Bee: Guide to DIY Auto Detailing

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Do-it-yourself (DIY) auto detailing is an effective way to ensure the maintenance, cleanliness, and longevity of your vehicle without the need to hire an outside service. Whether it’s a new luxury car or a used compact car, everyone can benefit from understanding auto detailing steps and the processes involved to produce excellent results. Auto detailing does more than just make your vehicle look good; it also preserves its interior and exterior features. By using proper and timely cleaning methods, vehicle owners can take necessary steps for preventing damage to their vehicle’s paint and interior fabrics. Auto detailing steps may be divided into two categories: dry and wet. It is recommended to perform interior dry and then wet cleaning tasks, followed by exterior wet and then dry cleaning tasks. Always check your owner’s manuals for recommendations regarding cleaning methods and safe cleaning products.

Dust Removal

Interior dust removal is the first step in auto detailing. Whether showing your car professionally or simply removing dust for your day-to-day travels, a duster is a handy tool to keep your car in top shape. Choose a soft, merino wool duster, and give the handle a quick spin between your palms, as this fluffs up the duster and removes any debris, fibers, or dust that may be on the duster. When ready, gently wipe the dust away from all interior areas. Don’t neglect areas such as glove compartment boxes, doors, visors, steering wheel columns, and dashboard fixtures.


While a duster is a great way to remove light dust, vacuuming is the preferred method for heavy dust or built-up debris. Always pay attention to large debris and excess dirt that collects on floor pads or in the car’s areas that are easily accessible and trampled on. You may want to sweep away large debris before vacuuming. There are industrial-strength car vacuums that contain various extensions, nozzles, hoses, tips, and brushes, enabling users to remove dust and debris from small areas. Look for car vacuums with a turbo attachment, as these apply more centralized power, making them the perfect choice for removing built-up debris. Many car vacuums are small and compact, making them easy to store in a vehicle’s trunk and easily accessible. Use an appropriate nozzle to remove debris from car seats, floors, door handles, door pockets, dashboards, trunks, and corners. Car vacuums vary in power, performance, and design. Choose one that best fits your needs.


Car seats and upholstery should be deep-cleaned and then conditioned with an appropriate car cleaner/shampoo. Deep-cleaning your vehicle’s upholstery removes dirt and debris that can build up and become difficult to remove over time. By maintaining your car’s upholstery and carpets, you can help prevent your vehicle’s overall depreciation. It isn’t enough to vacuum your car seats; they need to be shampooed as well. Use a professional-strength carpet and upholstery shampoo-cleaning machine that has two-way vacuum power. The shampooer emits hot water mixed with an appropriate cleaning system, then sucks up the dirty water. Keep in mind that it may take up to 24 hours for your shampooed interior to become thoroughly dry.

Leather Cleaning/Conditioning

Those who have leather upholstery will want to ensure that the material is thoroughly cleaned and conditioned. Choose an appropriate leather cleaner/conditioner, apply it with a microfiber towel, and rub it into the leather to clean. Leather cleaners foam when applied and rubbed in. After the foaming process, use a clean, dry microfiber towel and wipe away the cleaning solution. Make certain not to let the leather condition or cleaner dry on the surface. Wipe it away as soon as it lathers. Always remove dirt and debris from leather seats, especially in the nooks and creases, as these have an abrasive effect over time and will cause the leather to deteriorate.


Not only do dirty car windows and windshields look bad, but they are a safety hazard. Windows and windshields often attract dirt and debris, such as bug and water stains. Clean the interior of windows and windshields first, and then, when detailing the exterior of the car, do the outside windows. Never spray windshield or window cleaner directly on the glass, as it will spray, mist, or drip on to the dashboard or other interiors, potentially causing discoloration and stains. Remove large items on the windshield, such as GPS or radar devices, before cleaning the glass. Look for window cleaners that are ammonia-free and safe for tinted windows, if applicable. Spray the cleaner directly onto a microfiber towel, and apply the towel directly to the glass. Use a second, dry microfiber towel to polish and buff the glass.


Washing your vehicle’s exterior is paramount to maintaining its condition. Cars are exposed to numerous elements each day, and even something seemingly trivial like bird droppings has the potential to cause devastating damage to a vehicle’s exterior paint. Maintaining the exterior of a vehicle often involves dusting, washing, drying, buffing, and waxing. While dusting is an effective way of dealing with light debris, it is ineffective at removing large stains, bird droppings, mud, and grime. Knowing the most effective methods for washing your car’s exterior can help preserve its longevity and maintain its appearance. Always check your owner’s manual for any chemical products to avoid or that are recommended. Some car owners prefer the two-bucket method, where they use one bucket for soaping and washing and a second bucket for rinsing; others may prefer pressure-washing their vehicle. Always ensure that your vehicle can withstand pressure-washing, as this method may not be suitable for older vehicles with noticeable body damage.


Tires, rims, and wheel wells must be cleaned and checked for damage on a regular basis. The tires are one of the most important features of any car, and they must be kept in optimum condition. By using proper cleaning methods, vehicle owners can keep their tires looking new, which helps maintain the car’s value. Always replace damaged tires immediately, and keep your set clean, free of debris, and looking their best. Older tires may have stress marks or discoloration and can trap dirt and debris. Use an all-purpose tire cleaner, microfiber rags, and a brush designed for cleaning. You can also use cotton swabs in order to remove dirt from small areas within the wheel well. Always spray the tire with water before applying cleaner. Work the cleaner in, and pay close attention to the crevice in the rim. Dry the tire with a clean, microfiber cloth after washing.


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