Best Car Detailing Products: Top Picks for a Spotless Ride
These top car detailing products will freshen up your car’s look.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
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.
- Quick and easy to use
- Spray smells pleasant
- Wipes away cleanly
- Brings out a nice shine and provides a hydrophobic coating
- Will not work if your car is caked up with dirt and grime
- Can leave behind streaks
- Contents may leak during shipping
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.
- 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
- 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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
For car detailing brands, we highly recommend the following, based on longevity, effectiveness, and the sheer volume of positive reviews.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.