How To Detail A Car: 14-Steps For Perfection

Detailing a car is a process that’s made up of several different steps and stages. Each step is just as important as the last if you want to achieve perfection.

We’ve broken the process down into 14 easy-to-follow steps – 7 interior car detailing steps, and 7 exterior car detailing steps.

Interior car detailing

Interior car detailing is what makes the drive so enjoyable. There’s nothing like taking to the open road in a car that looks, feels and smells like luxury.

The cleaner a car’s interior, the more excited you’ll be to drive it, and invite passengers along for the ride. And the more comfortable you’ll be on long journeys.

So car detailing is as much about the interior as it is about the exterior. Here’s everything you need to know about how to detail a car’s interior.

What supplies do you need for interior car detailing?

Before you get started, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got all the equipment, products and supplies you need. This way you can work your way through the car without having to stop for supply runs.

So what do you need for interior car detailing?

Here are some essentials to get ready before you get started:

  • A vacuum with different heads for carpets/small spaces etc.
  • Carpet shampoo/soap and water
  • Upholstery shampoo/leather cleaner and conditioner
  • Stain remover
  • Upholstery brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Glass cleaner
  • Interior cleaner for plastic/metal/vinyl
  • Detailing brushes or Q-tips
  • Car deodorizer

Interior car detailing: 7 steps for success

1: Empty the car

Before you can get started, the car needs to be completely empty. Remove anything from the trunk, take out any rubbish from the storage compartments, and the mats too. 

2: Vacuuming

We’re all guilty of having the occasional snack on the road, and you’d be surprised how many crumbs can build up in your car.

Vacuuming is the first step of interior detailing, because it picks up the majority of the visible dirt in the car.

But if you want to detail a car like a professional, you really need to go above and beyond with your vacuuming efforts. Get into every tiny corner, using different heads.

3: Remove pet hair

If you’ve had pets in your car, vacuuming might not be enough to remove all of the pet hair. You can use a pet hair remover roller or duct tape to remove any stubborn hairs.

4: Cleaning the floor

You can clean the car carpet and mats with a carpet shampoo and a brush, or with a steam cleaner. If the car is particularly dirty, you might want to do this 3 or 4 times.

It’s not just visible dirt you want to remove from your car carpets, it’s allergens and contaminants like dust too.

Once the car mats and carpets have been cleaned, use a towel to dry them. The towel will soak up the moisture, and remove any remaining dirt.

5: Shampooing the upholstery

You’d be surprised how dirty upholstery can get, so this is an important stage in the interior detailing process.

Mix the right cleaner for your upholstery, whether that’s cloth shampoo or leather cleaner, with some hot water. Then, using an upholstery brush, you can scrub the dirt out of your seats. You may also want to use a stain remove if the seats are in bad shape. You can dry the seats with a towel, but still give them time to dry in the sun as well.

If your car has a leather interior, after using leather cleaner make sure to use a leather conditioner. This is going to leave it feeling soft, and will protect it from cracks and damage.

6: Cleaning the glass

You want your windows to be crystal clear, so use a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to get rid of any smudges or finger marks.

Roll down the windows to make sure you get the edges too!

7: Wiping and perfuming

Using an interior car cleaner that’s suitable for the material in your car, wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel and other hard materials. This will help to bring back their original shine, and will get rid of any fingerprints.

To properly clean in hard-to-reach areas, you can use Q-tips. For example, you might want to clean inside the vents.

The final touch for a professional finish is to use a car deodorizer. Give your car a new car smell, or choose your favourite scent. 

Exterior car detailing

Detailing the exterior of your car is going to bring back its shine. After a full exterior detail, it will look as good as new, and you can bet the replenished shine will attract attention.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to detail a car’s exterior. 

What supplies do you need for exterior car detailing?

Exterior car detailing is a process that involves quite a few different products. Each one plays a key part in the final result, so it’s best to make sure you stock up before getting started.

Here’s what you need to detail a car’s exterior:

  • Pre-cleaner
  • Car shampoo
  • Hair dryer or leaf blower
  • Clay bar
  • Car polish
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Machine polish (optional)
  • Car wax
  • Tire dressing
  • Glass cleaner

Exterior car detailing: 7 steps for success

1: Washing

This stage starts with a pre-cleaner to get rid of obvious dirt, and then moves on to the shampoo stage. The products used shouldn’t just remove dirt, they should also protect the car from future scratches.   

2: Drying

Ideally, the car should be dried manually, but without touching the car. If you’re detailing your car yourself, you can use a hair dryer or a leaf blower. Drying the car without touching it ensures a flawless finish, and prevents water streaks. 

3: Claying

Even after a wash, contaminants can still stick to your car. This is where claying comes in. Using a clay bar to remove contaminants is an important stage of detailing. 

4: Polishing

Polishing up your car’s exterior gives it back a new-looking finish. Professional detailers will use a machine polish for this step, but for DIY detailers, it’s best to polish by hand. You don’t want to risk damaging the paintwork! Just use a microfiber cloth and some car polish if you’re polishing by hand.

5: Waxing

Waxing a car brings out its shine, but it also has an important function. It acts as a sealant, and protects the car from contaminants, dirt, dust, water and more. 

6: Tire dressing

Tire dressing is about cleaning each tire individually – any mud or grit stuck in the grooves needs to be removed. Then products can be used to bring out the original color of the tires, making them look as good as new.

7: Glass cleaning

It’s important to remember to clean the windows on the outside and the inside. Crystal clear windows perfects the car’s appearance, and makes for a more enjoyable driving experience.



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About Me

Hi there, I’m Rod. Honestly, I don’t do much cleaning around the house (and until recently – my car)…

But I’ve always been strict and disciplined in keeping with my workspace clean and organized; my office, my desk, my bookshelfs, etc. A lot of that discipline comes from studying Lean methodologies in the past.

One thing I’ve struggled with has been keeping my car clean! So lately I started buying a few items and putting in some work!

I became interested with “best practices” for detailing a car, and that’s what you’ll find on this website. Hope this information helps you!

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