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Keeping your car clean can be an art form, but there’s also a lot of science behind it.

Just like when you’re working under the hood, making sure your ride is the shiniest car on the block is easier with the right tools.

And if you think you can get by with just soap, a bucket and a hose, here are seven affordable car cleaning items you need to keep your ride looking like something you can be proud of.

Black Trim Restorer

Ever notice how black trim tends to fade to a gloomy grey? You can actually buy cleaners specifically made to treat black trim and restore its original luster. We’ve had good luck with Mother’s Back to Black.

Clay Bar

If you’re planning a full detail job, you’ll want to “clay” the car using a special clay bar that literally pulls dirt right out of the paint. Clay bars shouldn’t be used after being dropped (they can pick up grime that will scratch the car’s paint), so it’s best to buy extras.

Detailing Spray

Ever wonder how the vehicles at car shows always have that just-washed look? Their secret is detailing spray, such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer. Spritz it on, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth, and your car will have that just-washed look too. We hear the team uses this stuff religiously when they’re shooting their car videos.

Microfiber Towels

Microfiber towels have replaced diapers as the car detailer’s best friend. These super-soft cloths won’t scratch paint and won’t leave lint. Buy them in bulk — you can’t have enough.

Detail Brushes

They don’t call it detailing for nothing! These small brushes let you get at hard-to-reach areas like small wheel openings and give them a good scrubbing. For best results, have a variety of sizes on hand, and beware of using stiff bristles on easy-to-scratch paint.

Sheepskin Wash Mitt

Most people use a towel to wash their car, but a sheepskin wash mitt makes a better choice, as it allows you to apply pressure as needed and reduces the risk of scratching the paint.


OK, you probably know you need a bucket to wash your car — but you might not realize that you need two. Rinse off your dirty wash mitt in one bucket full of just water, then use another bucket to load up with soapy suds. That way you’re not wiping down your car with dirty water. Get rid of your dirt for dirt cheap with these buckets.

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61 Posts
I have a few issues with this guide. For one, sheepskin mitts are passe. Microfiber mitts made by a few different companies (Meguiars, etc) are a far better option. They don't matt up like sheepskin and offer a softer, deeper pile.

Two bucket systems are OK, but there are better options now. Simoniz and others have a car wash bucket that has a screen at the bottom which keeps grit down at the bottom and out of the soap. it also allows you to rub your mitt against it and have any debris drop under the screen.

As for microfiber cloths, one should keep in mind that there are VAST differences in the quality of what's available. The best idea would be to order them from a reputable online detailing store. Yes, diapers are mostly a thing of the past, but I'd rather THAT than an inferior MF which WILL "scratch paint" (contrary to the article). Labels should also be removed from them after purchase.
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