Common Car Detailing Questions

Common Car Detailing Questions

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Bill Tumas

If you love your car, keeping it clean should be a top priority. But knowing where to start can be challenging - especially if you're new to detailing. To help, we've compiled answers to the most common questions about car care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced detailer, read on for some helpful tips!

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Interior Car Detailing FAQs

How often should you detail your interior?

For most people, once every 4-6 months is perfect. But you may also choose to do a detailing after a road trip, before a car show, or any time you want your ride to look its best. The great thing about frequent detailing is that the more often you do it, the less time it takes.

Should you use a professional detailer?

Professional detailers have access to higher-end products and the experience required to do an amazing job. They can take a car from gross to nearly new. But interior detailing can cost more than $300. Especially if your carpeting has gum stuck in it or you want to request a sanitizing treatment.

Though there's no true substitute for professional detailing, you can do a great job cleaning your car on your own. Even if you do get your car professionally detailed, periodic self-cleans can help extend the results of a professional detailing so you can wait longer before your next one.

Related: Check out our step-by-step guide to learn how to detail your car's interior!

Can you make your own all-purpose cleaner?

Many people opt to make their own ACP with vinegar, water, and sometimes a little dish soap. This is a really good cleaner for many things, but its acidity makes it less ideal for vehicles. It'll work fine for blasting out your cup holder, but it will damage surfaces like leather. If you choose to use this as an all-purpose cleaner you'll want a 1-to-1 ratio of vinegar to water with a couple drops of dish soap.

How do you remove bad smells from a car?

While there are great air fresheners available that can cover up almost any scent, getting rid of the source is a little bit harder. Baking soda is an effective odor eliminator. This is because baking soda can act as either an acidic or basic chemical substance, which allows it to neutralize either. Sprinkle baking soda on carpet or upholstery, let it sit, and then vacuum it up. Nothing bad can happen from letting the baking soda sit, so wait until the smell improves. You can also use a box of baking soda to absorb odors.

What's the best way to get pet hair out of car seats and carpet?

Pet hair is notoriously difficult to deal with. While sticky lint rollers can do a great job, you might make yourself broke buying new rolls. A reusable pet hair remover, like a textured fabric or rubber brush, is a better investment. As a bonus, you can also wipe off your clothes. How do you remove tough stains from fabric seats and carpeting?

Many different substances can leave stains in a car, and they're all a little different. A dedicated stain lifter can work wonders, but there are other stain fighters that can work surprisingly well.

One solution that works on a variety of stains is a baking soda paste. Just mix baking soda with water, apply to the stained area, work in with a soft brush, and then blot away. Milk stains are particularly challenging to deal with. Glass cleaner is a simple way to break down the protein that makes it difficult to clean up.

Whenever you're trying a solution to remove stains, remember to check the fabric-safeness on a small, discrete area.

Can you ceramic coat a car's interior?

Ceramic coatings have been hugely popular for car exteriors. These protective coatings extend the life of exterior detailing, keeping the paint shiny for longer. It's no surprise that people also want these benefits for their interior.

Ceramic interior sprays create a hydrophobic barrier to protect carpets and other interior fabrics from stains. Unlike exterior ceramic coatings, which require a precise application, most interior sprays are just that. Sprays. You apply once your interior is clean to add a little extra stain protection.

You can read more about ceramic coatings here.

Exterior Car Detailing FAQs

What is the 3-bucket wash method?

The 3-bucket wash method is recommended by most professional detailers. You have one bucket for your wheel and tire brushes, one to rinse your wash mitts, and one filled with soapy water to clean the car. This prevents dirt, rocks, and other debris from getting stuck in your wash mitt or sponge and being scraped across the paint, which can happen if you only use one or two buckets.

How do you pick the right shampoo for your car?

There are many factors to consider when picking the right shampoo for your car. You have options with wax, scents, and even varying amounts of suds. Choosing the best product for your car depends on how deep of a clean you want and what's on your car's surface layer.

Standard Paint - If your car has a factory paint job, then most car shampoos will be right for you. Select one with a neutral pH. You should also use wax-free shampoo if you plan to add a ceramic coating at the end of your detailing.

Matte Paint - If your car has matte paint or a matte wrap, you want to find a matte-specific shampoo. These shampoos are formulated without the waxes and shine enhancers common in normal shampoos. This helps your paint maintain the matte look longer.

Vinyl Wraps - Vinyl wraps aren't as finicky as matte paint. You should be good to go if your shampoo is a mild, pH-neutral solution.

Ceramic Coating - Ceramic coatings and wax don't mix. This means you must use wax-free shampoo to clean your ceramic-coated car.

What's the deal with tire shine?

Tire shine makes your tires shine like new, protecting them from damaging UV light. While solvent-based shine works longer it can cause tires to dry out and crack. Water-based shine is better for your overall tire health but doesn't last as long.

Can you use oil to shine tires?

You can use oil as tire shine if it's mixed with other components. A quick search will bring up plenty of DIY recipes you can follow to make your own tire shine. However, oil is sticky and attracts more dirt to your tires than a commercial tire shine.

Can you use WD-40 as tire shine?

Some people do, but there is the possibility that the chemicals in WD-40 could negatively affect your tires. WD-40 is petroleum-based and petroleum is known to eat rubber. While WD-40's website does claim it's safe on rubber, the general consensus among enthusiasts is not to do this.

Are drive-through car washes bad for cars?

Yes, and there are plenty of reasons why. The water used by these washes is recycled. That means you're getting water filled with dirt and old soap sprayed on your car. This soap is also highly abrasive and probably does more damage than good. Also, the brushes can scratch and damage the clear coat.

Want to make your car look amazing? Check out our guide on how to detail a car's exterior!

Why are microfiber towels better for detailing?

Microfiber towels reign supreme because they are ultra-absorbent, won't scratch your car, and can dry panels and windows without leaving streaks. While you can use regular towels, they're subpar in every way compared to microfibers.

Fun Fact: Microfiber towels can hold up to eight times their weight in liquid.

Can you reuse your microfiber towels after detailing?

Definitely! As long as you get all the grime and debris off of them, reusing your towels shouldn't be a problem. Just wash them separately from other fabric types, and don't use dryer sheets if you're machine drying them. Microfiber dries quickly, and air drying will preserve the fibers better.

If you're using your microfiber towels for a ceramic coating or tire and wheel cleaning, you'll need to throw them away afterwards. The ceramic coating won't come off and the crystals that harden on the towel will scratch your car.

Will hard water always leave spots on your car?

Good shampoos include water softeners, so you'll get an excellent finish even with hard water. This makes the drying step extra important though, since you may get water spots otherwise.

What is car glaze, and do you need to use one?

Car glaze is a thick coating you apply to your paint after polishing. It fills the imperfections in the clear coat, adding depth to the paint. Some polishing compounds even have glazes mixed into them.

Glazes are compatible with waxes and sealants but don't work with ceramic coatings. This is important to remember when picking a polish.

What is a quick detailer spray?

Quick detailer spray is a light cleaning agent you can use between washes to remove contaminants from your painted body panels. These sprays are typically used to wipe away bird poop, water spots, and any other sticky gunk that finds its way to your car before you're ready for detailing.

How much should a professional detail cost?

Unfortunately, detailing prices vary from company to company. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $600 depending on the condition and size of your vehicle, and the services you want. Your package could even reach $3,000 if you plan to get your vehicle ceramic coated.

Less expensive detailing packages usually include a wash, wax, tire cleaning, interior wipe-down, and vacuuming. The mid-range packages include these services, clay treatments, paint correction, and iron decontamination. The most expensive packages will likely include full interior and exterior detailing with the works.

Can you make a DIY car shampoo?

There are plenty of DIY car shampoo recipes out there. But, most of them recommend using white vinegar as the cleaning agent. Vinegar is acidic and can damage the clear coat. If you decide to make DIY car shampoo, keep it as close to pH neutral as possible so you don't accidentally cause damage.

How do you clean convertible tops?

A convertible top requires more attention while detailing than a hard top. Check out our guide to cleaning convertible tops for a full walkthrough.

How do I remove small dents?

Paintless dent repair is a great option for those looking to remove small dents and dings without damaging their paint. While it's not something that can be done at home easily, it's a relatively affordable option that produces great results.

Get Ready to Detail Your Car with Confidence

Maintaining your car doesn't have to be a daunting task. The answers to these detailing FAQs provide tips on everything from cleaning to polishing, so you can keep your vehicle looking great. Don't forget to stock up on the supplies you'll need to get started. With the right detailing products and expert guidance, it's easy to give your ride the TLC it needs!

Sources: WD-40 Specialist: Lubricant, Degreasers, Cleaners, WD-40 | WD-40 on Tires?, Mustang Forums | WD-40 on Tires, Ford Truck Enthusiasts Forums | 3 Reasons Microfiber Towels Are Essential for Professional Automotive Detailing, Auto Training Centre | Do Microfiber Towels Scratch Cars?, Auto Care HQ | What You Need to Know About Glazes, Dr. Beasley's | Is Using 'Quick Detailer' the Best Way to Keep Your Car Clean Between Washes?, MotorBiscuit

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.