Reviews

Best Car Detailing Products: Top Picks for a Spotless Ride

These top car detailing products will freshen up your car’s look.

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BY Ray Prince / LAST UPDATED ON October 15, 2021

Car detailing products and kits are an integral part of your maintenance routine. With constant exposure to the elements, a car's finish could rust, stain, and degrade over time with irreversible effects if not treated in time.

 

Keep reading to learn more about our recommendations for the best car detailing products, along with an extensive buying guide and FAQs to turn you into a savvy detailer in no time.

Best Overall
Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Builder Wash Kit
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Summary
Summary

This kit has a foam blaster that works with a standard water hose. It also comes with wax, detailer, glass cleaner, wheel and rim cleaner, a bucket, and towels, for a total of 16 items.

Pros
Pros
  • Great beginner's kit
  • Foam gun covers the vehicle in shampoo and gets into tiny nooks and crannies
  • Microfiber towels are handy and do not leave behind streaks
Cons
Cons
  • Foam blaster may stop working, leak, or malfunction after a short time
  • May not be as foamy as you'd like 
  • Not as quick as a high-pressure washer
Best Overall
Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Builder Wash Kit
Best Value
Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax
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Summary
Summary

This waterless wash and wax can be used anywhere. The spot-free formula includes a glossy wax barrier that lasts for weeks. It's safe for paint, glass, chrome, metal, and plastic trim.

Pros
Pros
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Spray smells pleasant
  • Wipes away cleanly
  • Brings out a nice shine and provides a hydrophobic coating
Cons
Cons
  • Will not work if your car is caked up with dirt and grime
  • Can leave behind streaks
  • Contents may leak during shipping
Best Value
Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax
Honorable Mention
Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner
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Summary
Summary

This all-purpose interior cleaner can be used on a variety of materials, including leather, fabric, vinyl, and cloth. You can also use it on the carpet and headliner.

Pros
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Provides UV protection
  • Has anti-static properties to ward off dust
  • Doesn't leave behind a greasy or wet feel
  • Has a nice scent
Cons
Cons
  • Little on the pricey side
  • May not work on stains such as coffee and red wine
  • Can fog up your windshield if you spray on it by accident
Honorable Mention
Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Car Detailing Products

  • Keep your car clean. The best products for car detailing make your vehicle look shinier and easily remove dirt and dust, both inside and out. They're typically easy to use and don't take a lot of effort.
  • Make your car look brand new. If you neglect to wash your vehicle, dirt and road grime will build up over time, which can make it look unsightly. The best products for detailing cars really bring out a vehicle’s shine and gloss.
  • Protect the paint. You don't need to use professional car detailing products to take care of your vehicle’s paint. Many detailing sprays and car waxes are widely available, affordable, and do a great job of providing a layer of protection, so your paint lasts longer.

Types of Car Detailing Products

There are many types of car detailing products, each specializing in an area of focus.

Car Shampoo/Cleaner

Car shampoos cut through caked-up grime and dirt like a knife through butter using highly concentrated formulas that use surfactants. Surfactants, also referred to as surface-active agents, use a chemical mix that traps dirt and suspends it above water, allowing for easier rinsing.

Of course, other ingredients are added to the mix, including fragrances and preservatives that work to preserve smell for a long time.

Sealant

Car paint sealants protect your car's paint using special polymers that bond to your vehicle's surface area, protecting against UV rays, sap, and acid rain. Too much exposure to UV rays can cause your car's paint job to oxidize and fade over time.

Wax

Like sealants, wax also helps protect your car's paint job by preserving the clear coat. Many corrosive substances can damage your clear coat and expose paint.

Wax also helps bring out your vehicle's color for a mirror-like shine and prevents water spots. Water spots are an immediate eyesore, even after a thorough wash.

At a minimum, look to wax your car at least twice a year. If exposed to extreme weather (rain and snow), then look to wax as many as four times a year.

Wheel Cleaner

Wheel cleaners are specially formulated products that are designed to remove brake dust, tar, mud, grime, and other debris caked up on your wheels over time. They work specific pH ranges to prevent lacquer from peeling.

For best results, wheel cleaners can be combined with sealing, wax, and clay bars to trap and collect all contaminants before an effective wheel to better protect the wheel's surface. This is especially effective with powder-coated wheels.

Interior Cleaner

Interior cleaners take all kinds of interior surfaces, such as dashboard vents, knobs, seats, and upholstery. Dashboard and trim cleaners focus on UV-ray protection to slow down fading and discoloration on hard plastics.

Others, like upholstery formulas, may consist of concentrated shampoo that uses biodegradable formulas to break down stains and odors at the molecule level. These also carry a dazzling array of different scenes, with the most common being citrus-based.

These days, interior cleaners are very imaginative. Some of the better-detailing products, such as Ultima's Interior Shampoo, use an antibacterial shield-based gel-like liquid instead of a liquid or foam base to cut stains off of leather.

Recommended Brands

For car detailing brands, we highly recommend the following, based on longevity, effectiveness, and the sheer volume of positive reviews.

Chemical Guys

One of the better-known brands, California-based Chemical Guysoffers a full suite of polishing and detailing products. One of its biggest claims to fame is its highly popular, 600K+ subscriber YouTube channel, which releases 3x weekly videos on best practices, product reviews, and more. Consider the Chemical Guys 7 Piece Wash & Shine Kit.

Meguiar's

Irvine, California-based Meguiar's has been in business for over 100 years. They have specialized in all types of automotive cleaning products, including sealants, waxes, shampoos, and rinse-less options. Our highest recommended Meguiar product is Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax.

Mothers

Mothers is a highly reputable brand with more than 100 products to its name after the release of a 4-ounce can of Mag & Aluminum Polish. One of our favorite Mothers products is the Mothers California Gold Instant Detailer. This highly reviewed product does an exceptional job of lifting fingerprints, smudges, and other atrocities on your vehicle's paint. 

Car Detailing Products Pricing

  • $10- $20: You can find a variety of all-purpose cleaners, polishes, sealants, degreasers, and waxes in this price range. Some may even include a microfiber towel, which is a nice extra.
  • $30-$100: Some of the best car detailing products are sold as a kit. They include a wide range of items and products that clean both the interior and exterior, such as shampoo, wax, tire gel, clay bars, drying towels, and more.

Key Features

Versatility

Some car washing products are sold separately, while others come as part of a kit. You need to decide whether you want a one-size-fits-all approach or a specific detailing spray that works for a particular application. The downside with kits is that they may include products that you already own or don't need. However, if you buy products separately, you may end up spending more money.

Quality

Look for name-brand products with established reputations. All the picks in our buying guide are from companies that have been around for a long time and know how to create high-quality, long-lasting products. It also helps to read reviews to see what other people say about the quality of a product.

Ease of Use

While enthusiasts may not mind spending hours detailing their cars, the average driver doesn't typically want to waste an entire afternoon doing so. Look for products that are easy to use and don't require a lot of time to be effective. If, for example, a wash and wax product is simple to apply, you're more likely to use it.

Other Considerations

  • Cost. As we previously noted, car detailing products can range from a few bucks to more than $100, depending on what type of deep clean you want to do you on your vehicle. The good news is that the best budget car detailing products also does a good job of producing a nice, clean shine.

Best Car Detailing Products Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Builder Wash Kit

This is one of the most complete car wash kits we’ve come across. Valued at over $200, this 16-piece kit contains everything you need for a thorough clean.


Our favorite item in this kit is a foam blaster that coats your car with shampoo in seconds. It is very well-constructed, featuring a quick brass-fitted disconnect handle.


Here are all of the products contained in the kit: Butter Wet Wax; Honeydew Snow Foam; Diablo Wheel Gel; Silk Shine Dressing; Signature Glass Cleaner; Speed Wipe Detailer; detailing bucket; Cyclone Dirt Trap; Torq Foam Blaster; foam gun; microfiber wash mitt; short handle brush; four microfiber towels; dressing applicator.

Best Value
<strong>Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax</strong>

Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash and Wax is an ideal option for those without hose access or for apartment building dwellers. It’s a spray-on solution that does an exceptional job of lifting dirt and grime without water, and is safe to use on all surfaces including chrome, glass, and rubber. Kudos for its synthetic wax barrier which leaves a protective coat for several weeks.


Our only knock on Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash and Wax is that one bottle is only good for three to four average-sized cars that are moderately but not overly dirty. For very dirty vehicles, go for traditional car shampoos and foam guns/high-pressure washers.

Best Interior Cleaner
Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner

The Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner for Car Detailing is a jack of all trades. It boasts the latest in nanotechnology to deliver a non-greasy and static-free clean. It works on all kinds of surfaces, including leather, fabric, vinyl, carpet, and cloth. However, it is most effective at preventing dust buildup, which is very common on center consoles and dashboards.


Our only drawback with the Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner for Car Detailing is its price. However, it’s a premium product that has surely built up a loyal following over time.

Best Multipurpose
CarGuys Super Cleaner

The CarGuys Super Cleaner cleans a variety of surfaces, including leather, vinyl, carpet, upholstery, plastic, and rubber. The formula uses nanotechnology to remove dirt and grime. Instead of investing in multiple products to clean multiple surfaces, you can use this one 18-ounce bottle to do it all. 


The Super Cleaner can be used on everything from the dashboard to the floor mats. It also removes bugs, sap, and tar from your vehicle's finish. You can use it on both the interior or exterior of your vehicle, except on glass surfaces. Users like that it removes built-up grime and overall does a great job of spiffing up your vehicle inside and out. In addition, Car Guys backs up all of its products with a 100 percent, risk-free guarantee if you're not satisfied. 


However, some users complain that it doesn't remove all carpet or upholstery stains. Some people also don't like the scent, which is a little fruity.

Honorable Mention
Mothers California Gold Instant Detailer

You apply Mothers California Gold Instant Detailer after you've polished and waxed your vehicle. This instant detailer helps to keep your car's finish looking new (or nearly so). It removes dust, fingerprints, and smudges, so your car has that showroom shine so many people want. 


This detailer also removes minor imperfections. It uses color enhancers and special fortifiers to bring out the best in your vehicle's finish. The product is easy to use and involves spraying the product and applying and removing it with microfiber cloths. The spray trigger emits a fine mist, and it wipes off easily. The more you use it, the better it is for your vehicle. The best thing about it? The low price. 


One drawback is that some users don't like the smell of the product. Also, it doesn't prevent water spots or help with beading as some rival products do.

Honorable Mention
TICARVE Cleaning Gel

Affectionately known as “goop cleaner,” TICARVE Cleaning Gel is one of the more imaginative interior cleaning products we’ve come across. Mimicking a squid’s shape with long tentacles, this lavender-scented gel/brush hybrid can be kneaded and rolled across vents to stick onto and pull off grime, dust, and debris from any surface. It does an excellent job of breaking down dirt between small crevices.


The TICARVE Cleaning Gel is reusable and multifunctional. Just be careful when using it, as it can stick to your hands.

Honorable Mention
Dakota Non-Smoke Smoke Odor Eliminator

Dakota’s Non-Smoke Smoke Odor Eliminator is a 12-ounce aerosol product that eliminates smoke odors by changing odors' molecular composition. Unlike many products that claim to eliminate odors, this concentrated formula actually breaks down odor molecules at the source to completely neutralize them.


To apply, quickly spritz your fabric, seats, and headliner from at least 12 inches away. From there, turn on your fan’s high and max A/C settings to recirculate the air. Do not forget to leave your windows closed for at least 30 minutes.


It can also be used with other applications, including bedrooms and bathrooms.

Honorable Mention
Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax

Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax produces a mirror-like shine using synthetic polymers to form a protective barrier. Several technologies work in tandem, including Hydrophobic Polymer technology for improved surface tension/rinsing and ThinFilm technology for an easier application, even under the sun.


For better results, Meguiar's recommends using its Smooth Surface Clay Kit to remove surface contaminants before allowing the wax to bond to paint. It is very easy to apply. Use a foam applicator to rub the wax onto your finish with a swift, swirling motion before wiping off the excess with a dry, microfiber cloth.

Tips

  • There are a variety of products that are good for car detailing, including soap, wash mitts, drying towels, wheel cleaner, wax, paint scratch remover, etc. You can start out with the essential products and build up your car detailing toolbox if you are aiming for a concourse-ready vehicle.
  • If you are an enthusiast and attend a lot of car shows, you may want to invest in a polisher. This tool removes swirl marks much more efficiently than your hands alone.
  • Do not use a detailing spray on a hot surface. Try to clean your car in a shaded area, such as in the garage or under a tree, so it will work more effectively.
  • Don’t forget to roll the window down and clean the top portion of the window door glass to avoid excess cleaning product, dirt, and debris from building and streaking down when it rains.
  • Car wash products are not one-size-fits-all. Some contaminants cannot be removed with soap, such as road tar, bug residue, rain dust, and hard water spots. Be sure to clean your car with soap and water before applying the correct cleaner for each contaminant.
  • Microfiber cloths are gentler on your car’s paintwork with no risk of scratching. It also produces lower friction and prevents water swirl marks. Do not forget to use two different microfiber cloths — one for washing and one for drying.
  • One of the best ways to deodorize your vents is to use a compressed air can. Compressed air works to spray out dust, dirt, and moisture that can stifle odor over time. No more than a two- to three-second spritz per blast should do.
  • Any layer of dust that sticks to a car can produce light scratches into the clearcoat, wearing away the finish over time. Perform a thorough soaping and rinse before applying wax.
  • Found in household cleaning products, ammonia-based glass cleaners can fog and streak your windshield. Use automotive glass cleaner instead.

FAQs

Q: How do I apply a detailing spray?

Many detailing sprays are waterless. Simply shake the bottle, and spray it on the dirty surface. If it's a wheel cleaner, you may need to wait a few minutes before wiping off the surface with a clean microfiber towel.

Q: Will a detailing spray remove small scratches?

No. Detailing sprays do not contain polishing compounds. You will need to use a rubbing compound with a soft cloth to remove light scratches. Make sure to read the product's instructions to determine its purpose.

Q: How do I clean my navigation screen?

Some products are designed specifically to clean LCD screens. Use a microfiber cloth and, if necessary, spray a tiny amount of cleaning solution that doesn't contain ammonia or alcohol, which can damage the screen.

Q: How often should you detail a car?

We highly recommend detailing your car every 4-6 months. However, this may vary depending on usage. If driving in extreme weather environments, then more frequent car detailing is recommended.

Q: How long should it take to detail a car?

Length of time needed to detail a car depends on the type of service requested and how attentive to detail the technician is. Services can range from the quick (drive-through car wash and volume detailers) to the lengthy (advanced detailers). Quick detailing services take up to 2.5 hours, whereas lengthier detailing services can average 5-10 hours.

Q: Are automotive car washes bad for your car?

It depends on the car wash. Spinning brushes found in tunnel car washes may contain dirt, rocks, and other abrasive debris from hundreds of cars passing beforehand that can annihilate your vehicle’s paintwork. Others, like soft cloth car washes, can also contain micro sand, rocks, dirt, and other debris, even if the cloths are regularly cleaned.

If in a bind, go for touchless car washes. These automatic car washes use high-powered water pressure and a lack of friction to blast debris away from your vehicle. Note: Touchless car wash systems can degrade any wax or ceramic coating applied to your vehicle.

Q: What does car detailing include?

What car detailing includes depends on the service provider. However, at a minimum, car detailing should include an exterior wash, interior clean, polishing, waxing, and tire treatment. Many car detailers package these basic services with more niche services, such as paint repair, road tar removal, and steam cleaning engines. For restorative work on older vehicles, the costs and services are even greater.

Q: What does a car detailing cost?

At the low end, automatic car washes range anywhere from $3 to $15. For basic car detailing services, expect to pay up to $125, with a little more for larger vehicles. For advanced car detailing services, popular with restorative vehicle work, costs can easily exceed $250. Keep in mind that many car detailers offer a la carte service options focusing on one particular area, such as road tar removal and paint repair.

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best car detailing products is the Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Builder Wash Kit. It comes with nearly everything you need to clean your car from top to bottom. 

For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax.