Detailing the interior of your car is just that—getting dirt, dust and grime out of every nook and cranny and tending to the minor details that make your car stand out. The process is much more detailed (pun intended) than regular washing or what most car owners consider a thorough cleaning. Specially formulated products for the interior work remarkably well on different surfaces and materials and help bring your car to a near-showroom look.
How It’s Done
Reviving the inside is done with a selection of interior car detailing products. These are applied in stages and to different parts to restore the condition of the materials, removing any instances of damage or visible wear and creating a more pleasant space to look at and healthier. The stages in which this is achieved include:
Getting Your Gear Sorted
Having everything ready cuts down on overall time and hassle. Detailing specialists have everything from multi-purpose cleaners to specialised products like leather conditioner, carpet shampoo, odour and mould remover, no-stain glass cleaners and more. Have a look at the materials and surfaces inside the car, and shop accordingly.
Most products are applied by bottle spray, but you’ll also need several microfiber towels to wipe the cleaner down as well as a decent wet and dry vacuum or steam cleaner to get muck out of the carpet, seats and fabric mats. For hard-to-reach places like inside the air vents, you’ll want the right set of brushes or swabs for the fiddly bits.
Remove Rubbish and Clean the Floor Mats
Follow up by clearing the car of any bottles, grocery bags, spare change, and anything that’s not meant to be there. Check around the seats, the door pockets, the glove compartment and other storage space, and continue with the boot.
Next, remove the mats and give them a good shake. The general-purpose cleaner should get most stains and dirt out, but you can also use a carpet cleaner, rubber or vinyl solution, depending on what they’re made from. Let that soak it. Hose them down (or pressure-wash them) and hang them to dry.
Continue With the Seats and Cloth
The seats can take up a lot of time, so be patient. Besides visible stains, dust can be ingrained deep inside and hard to spot; it’s not good news if you’re susceptible to allergens. You can detail the seats by removing them completely or vacuuming them on the spot, moving them forward and back to get to fallen bits and pieces.
Cloth seats are dealt with a dry foam interior shampoo or general-purpose fabric cleaner, left to sit for a few minutes and wiped off with a clean microfibre cloth. Anyone with pets can remove pet hair with the appropriate hair brush. Apply leather cleaner with a brush to leather seats or inserts, spray some conditioner and deal with cuts and cracks with branded leather repair kits. Also, dab a little UV protectant to prevent fading.
The Dash, Door Trim and Glass
Dashboards are often a mixture of different materials, so when in doubt use multi-purpose interior cleaner. There are also combo rubber and vinyl cleaners, formulated wood cleaners, and solutions for metal or leather inserts. Touchscreens are dust and fingerprint magnets, and here distilled water and a microfibre cloth do the job nicely without leaving stains or colouration. Patch up any scratches or dents with a protectant, and repeat the UV spray to avoid cracking or wrinkling.
Follow up by clearing out the air vents, tending to the door trim and side pockets, and the plastics around the centre console. Glass collects smoke, grease, dust, and all sorts of contaminants. Rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth gets most of this out, but you can also use car glass cleaner. Once you’ve done the windscreen, continue with the windows, and don’t leave out the vanity mirrors in the sun visors.
Steering Wheels, Gear Knobs and Final Touches
High-touch places like steering wheels and gear knobs are often forgotten but accumulate a lot of grime. This can be removed with wipes, or a solution based around warm water and a non-detergent cleaner. For leather steering wheels, go with leather balm and conditioner and clear out stubborn grime with a mild-bristle brush. There are also special leather steering wheel repair kits if you have a few scratches to patch up.
Continue with the gear knob, using a general-purpose cleaner to free up ground in dirt and a toothbrush for stubborn stains. Finish up by spraying with an odour remover, and get rid of musty smells with an air freshener.
You can buy interior car detailing products separately or go with packaged kits that include everything you need and save some cash at the same time.
A Quick Overview of Exterior Detailing
Detailing the exterior involves removing all dirt and grime, enhancing the paintwork and applying a protective layer to keep the car looking good for longer. The process starts with the wheels, using a pre-soak to break down encrusted contaminants and a special wheel cleaner to remove stubborn bits. You also want a bucket with clean water, a few mitts or microfiber cloths, and brushes to tend to the hard parts.
The major stage in exterior detailing is applying a snow foam prewash to loosen up ingrained dirt, spraying from bottom to top, and then rinsing with a pressure washer after a few minutes. This is followed by the two-bucket clean, where you’ll be applying a formulated car shampoo, wiping it clean and rinsing.
Tar spots, rust pockets and birdlime are your next concerns. These each have their own dedicated solutions. Next is applying polish and then waxing to get your intended look. The finishing stages deal with the headlights, windscreen and glass, and bring tyres back to life with tyre cleaning and dressing. Like car interior products, packaged exterior kits contain everything you need to bring your car back to showroom looks.
Once you get a knack for detailing the car, you can assess what works and what doesn’t and get everything done quicker. And you can reap the rewards of having a car that’s not only clean but also looks much better and is protected from the elements, regardless of where, how often and how much you drive. You’ll also be saving a heap of cash, considering how much professional detailers charge.