We based our car cleaning kit list on real-world experiences with these detailing products. In nearly all cases these are products that Forbes Wheels staff have directly used on our own vehicles.
Each of the brands in this guide offer different arrays of products that range from specialized finish waxing and interior upholstery cleaning packages to do-it-all uber kits. Some, (such as the products from Adam’s, The Chemical Guys, Meguiar’s and Griots listed above) are very comprehensive, but many kits are geared only toward the interior or exterior, and many focus mainly on the products and applicators, not fancy extras like Foam Cannons. We evaluate each kit individually and rank them on their price and completeness, as well as the efficacy of the products within.
There’s a car cleaning kit for every type of vehicle and owner skill level, and there is no possible way to feature them all. If one company’s bundle looks like way too much or vice versa, there’s probably one out there that’s a better fit for you.
Through testing and research, we evaluate car cleaning kits based on these weighted metrics:
- Price (40%)
- Manufacturer Reputation (20%)
- Comprehensiveness of gear provided (20%)
- Overall value (10%)
- Attention to exterior and interior products (5%)
- Ease of use (5%)
How Do I Wash My Car Properly?
If you’re just doing a casual wash, there is a defined process that can help you make it a little easier. We won’t detail the extended process of clay bar use and paint correction here, but the basics of a simple wash are important.
Make sure you’ve got two buckets, one for your soap and water mixture and another for rinsing any dirty mitt or washcloth. You’ll also want a hose with a nozzle or a pressure washer to blast off some of the most difficult dirt, although you can do part of this by visiting a self-service car wash if you really have no access to these tools.
Step 1: Start With The Wheels
For this step, you’ll want to use your hose or pressure washer to spray clean the wheels, tires and wheel wells, particularly if you’ve been driving in salty conditions. The wheels will always bee the dirtiest part of your vehicle, and in addition to road gunk and salt, they’ll also have brake dust on them. To clean the wheels and tires more deeply, use appropriate wheel and tire cleansers not the suds in your bucket, as it won’t be as effective as these tools for wheel cleaning.
Step 2: Water And Soap
Fill your suds bucket with the recommended mixture of car washing solution (as included in nearly all of these kits) and water. Generally speaking, the solution is a concentrate. Use the soapy mixture in the first bucket to lather the entire vehicle top to bottom, creating as much of a soapy coating as possible. If you have access to a hose or pressure washer, you could also use a Foam Gun or Foam Cannon for this purpose.
Once the car is properly sudsed, it’s time to use your washing mitt. Make clean swipes with one side of the mitt, then the other, then rinse, working from top to bottom. Starting with the roof of the vehicle will cause any dirt and debris you loosen to move down the vehicle with the water and suds. Rinse the mitt every couple of swipes in case any debris gets into it—dragging this stuff over the vehicle’s surface will leave scratches or marks. Similarly, if your mitt falls on the ground wash it thoroughly before using it on the car again.
Step 3: Rinse and Dry
Take your hose or pressure washer and begin rinsing off the vehicle, again, work from top to bottom so any dirt and debris ends up on the ground. Don’t be afraid to spray hard, and to spray into panel gaps where you might not have gone with your mitt but where suds can gather. Leave no soap behind.
Once you’re thoroughly rinsed, use one or more microfiber towels to dry off the vehicle. Leaving beaded-up water to stand and air-dry will result in spots later on. Squeeze any water from the towel into your rinsing bucket and keep running over the paint until it’s streak-free and dry.
At this point, you’re ready to go further with detailing the exterior if you wish, now that the casual dirt is removed. If you want to seal in this clean look, a coat of wax beckons. We recommend a deeper cleaning before applying any Ceramic coating, however, as it lasts longer and requires more careful surface preparation.