Author Topic: Cleaning/detailing explained  (Read 40768 times)


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Cleaning/detailing explained
« on: 08 September 2007, 10:29 »
Hello guys

Lets start with the basics:

There are many different products and methods that people use to clean their car so it can become confusing coming from only knowing the bucket and sponge method.

The best piece of advise i can give is to get rid of the sponge as it is the cause of 99% of the swirls on your paint.

Lambs Wool Wash Mit

This fits over your hand and is much easier to use and safer on your paint. There are sponges you can use but they are expensive as they have been treated (usually sea sponges but dont worry about these and get a mitt)

Wash Method
The best used, safest method is The two bucket method This is where you fill one bucket with a wash solution and one with plain water. You use the wash solution to clean the car and then rinse your mitt into the plain water bucket to remove the dirt and gritt so it doesnt get into the wash bucket meaning when you get to the bottom you dont pick it all back up and scratch the paint. (i would advise purchasing a gritt guard which sits at the bottom of the rinse bucket preventing you from putting more gritt/dirt on than you rinse off. This is not essential though and not needed if you are careful) Always make sure you do the wheels first as you may find you have sprayed dirt over your clean car if you do them last. I would say you dont need the 2 bucket method but it keeps the wash bucket clean. I use a wash mitt for the wheels and saves alot of time using your fingers in the mitt rather than trying to manage a brush in the spokes! To dry i would say ditch the chamois as it too can cause swirls, a drying towel with waffle pattern is much safer.

When it comes to drying you want your car to be fully clean to prevent any dirt or gritt getting stuck in the towel and causing scratches!

Here is a vid of me drying

If its clean enough you can use a hose to 'sheet' the water off (works best with wax/sealant on

If you use a detailing spray (i have used around 7 now and all of them are fantastic, buy one you like the smell of lol) and spray it on the water it will hugely aid in the drying process allowing the towel to soak up much more water and leave a complete streak free finish  :D

Pressure Washing
There is no harm in using a pressure washer as long as you use it correctly. Any close contact with a pressure washer will not be good for the car and can on some older less cared for models strip paint. To prevent this i advise using the pressure washer along with a foam gun for the body work. This will provide lube for the panels and allow the foam to break up the dirt. I follow this up with an open ended hose to sheet it off after about 3-5 mins. You can then use your wash method to fully clean the car.
I use the pressure washer on areas of the wheels and arches but you need to be careful, forcing water somewhere it shouldn't go is not going to be good for the car. The underside is fairly fine for a good jet blast, be careful around the exhaust, you dont want to be forcing water up there.
Here is my car which has just been foamed using a karcher pressure washer and foam gun along with super snow foam:

Snow Foam

Foam Gun

(if you dont have a karcher this will attach to a hose)

Clay Bar
A clay bar is what it sounds like, a bar of clay. It is used to remove contaminants in the paint that washing alone cannot. It works by applying a lubricant (detailer spray) and then rubbing the clay softly over the paint. When using it you can feel that there is slight resistance and you can hear that it is rough on the paint, you continue to rub with slight pressure untill there is no resistance and no sound (will make sense when being used) This makes the paint feel as smooth as glass but will not remove defects such as scratches. This leaves the paint perfect to have polish applied and will give it the best base for brilliant reflections. (there are different types of clay bars but for a beginner i cannot recommend the meguairs kit highly enough)

You only need to clay bar twice a year at the most!

There are many different types of polish, some with wax contents and some without (basically; there are also polishes with different cutting abilities but this isnt important unless you machine polish) Many people get confused between the difference of polish, wax and glaze, the easiest way to explain is polish will restore the paint, glaze will bring the paint back alive again and wax will protect it keeping the shine locked in and enhance the gloss. The best product for someone with little time would be a product like autoglym super resin polish as it is will restore the paint well. When using a polish you are best going for something thats easy to use, as most cutting polishes (a polish that removes defects such as swirls and minor scratches) are best left to be used with a pc (porter cable random orbital polisher). These will actually dull the paint and will need a glaze to enhance the shine again.
Polishing only needs to be done every so often. I tend to polish every few months (non abrasive polish)
To apply polish go for a pad/applicator. Not a cloth. This will give even application and is easier to use.

Glaze is used to add shine to the paint and wont apply any 'cut' (will not remove swirls etc) Lots of different glazes out there, and, like wax, will be different depending on the paint, age etc of the car.
I love clearkote red moose glaze as it adds huge flake pop (the sparkle in paint) but the oils used it prevent sealants from working too well so best used for summer.
PM me if your unsure what to go for
« Last Edit: 09 August 2009, 09:54 by JulesV6 »


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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #1 on: 08 September 2007, 10:30 »
A sealant is a product used to literally seal in the polish to keep the shine lasting as long as it can while protecting the paint. Most sealant have very little to no gloss enhancing properties, however, a product that has recently come out has very good sealant properties and also very good gloss enhancing properties which is called jetseal109 by chemical guys.
Because it is so good at sealing the polish in and enhancing gloss it is very hard to currently get hold of! I can highly recommend this product for use on both the car and preventing the build up of brake dust on alloys. There are other sealants as mentioned that can be bought cheaper, autoglym extra gloss protection gives good results and has some gloss enhancing properties to it.  There is another kind of sealant which is wheel sealant which is the same as i have described only just for use on wheels, poorboys wheel sealant and jetseal109 are my favorites. I advise two coats of whatever sealant you use, 1st coat leave for 15 mins then buff off and apply second coat after half an hour to an hour and leave as long as possible (over night would be best but not everyone can tuck their car safely in a garage, i know!)

Wax is the final stage in your cleaning process and only needs one coat put on the paint at a time. The wax is what gives you that lovely deep wet look shine you want. Wax comes in different colours, smells, packages and prices. You can get good wax for £8 and very very good wax for £10000. The price tends to give an idea of its carnuba content i.e. the more the better (although not completely true). Carnuba is what gives the paint the deep wet shine that you want. You dont have to spend a fortune to get good wax though but you need to think if you are after a very good finish that will not last that long or an ok/good finish that will last ages. You can apply wax every week if you like but most waxes will stop having an affect after about the 3rd coat as it no longer is possible to get anymore out of it so would be wasting to be honest. The best way to determine if new wax needs putting on is if when you put water on you get very few random beads (beads of water sat on the paint) This is because the water is no longer sitting on the wax as there is very little of it (basicaly, is more technical but thats generally it)
So apply another layer. If the paint seems blurred then i would advise washing the car with fairy liquid (removes all wax, polish and sealant) and then build the layers back up but i would imagine this only needs doing every few months (about 3-6 but depends on products used)

This is straight forward really. I use a trim restorer to make the plastic look new and regularly hoover. Leather condition the seats (by hand for the best results, microfibres will scratch the protective layer off). I do this once every two weeks. This will prevent the leather from cracking.

I use megs next generation glass cleaner as i have had the same bottle for a year and find it brilliant over everything i have ever tried (even smells amazing!) I use this with a glass towel (very fine microfibre towel) My friends comment on how clear the glass is quite often!

These can be nasty if left for a while but meguairs metal cleaner or autosol will bring them up brilliant with some #00 Wire Wool, a cloth and alot of elbow grease.

Dont leave this bit out though as it can ruin a long clean having dirty tailpipes, you will be amazed at how many people notice!
Best steps would be
- Spray degreaser on pipes and leave for 20/30 mins
- Scrub down pipes with wire wool or a stiff brush (inside only to prevent scratching)
- Apply metal polish with wire wool
- Apply metal polish with cloth
- Buff clean
- repeat if necessary
« Last Edit: 09 August 2009, 09:50 by JulesV6 »


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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #2 on: 08 September 2007, 10:30 »
Wheels should be cleaned as often as you can purely to stop you having to take them off every month to get a decent clean done. I have jetseal on mine and find i can spend 2 mins every night on each wheel and they are spotless! There are many wheel cleaners but alot are acidic and can ruin the alloy over time so try and stick to a wash solution regularly for awsome wheels! Tyres i use megs tyre dressing  and love it, gives a great matt look if you spray it on the tyre then rub it in; they look brand new! Many available though!
You can apply polish and wax to wheels, also clay bar the insides if required. Always use sealant to prevent brake dust and protect the wheels

Engine Bay cleaning
This is something quite a few people have started doing recently. I personally do it very little although once a month is usually enough. If you are starting for the first time i.e. your engine is filthy, you are going to need to allow yourself some time as you dont want to rush this.
Cover all electrics (anything water should not be getting in) with foil or something similarly strong and protective. Use a paint brush and some degreaser to agitate most of the dirt off all over the engine. Then use a dedicated engine cleaner or even just some shampoo mix in water to clean around. It is possible to use a pressure washer on the engine, but i think all it does is speed it up with added risk of forcing water where it shouldnt go, so i wouldnt advise it; you will not get better results! After it is nice and clean run the engine for a few mins to dry it off and then apply dressing to areas that need it and metal polish to the metal. (sounds easy but give yourself a few hours, trust me!)

Machine polishing

Right this is going to be a basic description of the porta cable (pc) there are now better products like the Megs polisher available but the process, and therefore this explanation are the same. Basically the pc is a random orbit polisher, this means that instead of spinning and heating up it rotates back and forth which makes it safe as it is hard to do damage with it. The pc is used mainly for paint correction but can also be used to apply polishes, sealants and waxes and also buff them off. The pc is only usefull if the correct pads and polishes are used with the car you are using it on. To make this more straight forward i will show a few examples after going over the pads that are available.

Cutting/Restore Pad - The cutting pad is a rough pad and is used with high to medium cutting polishes. It has a very strong cut meaning that it will remove deeper defects such as scratches and severe swirling. It will generaly marr the paintwork meaning that it will looked blurred so it is advised a lighter polish with a lighter pad is used to restore shine after.

Light cutting/Enhancing Pad - This is used for light paintwork defects such as minimal swirls and light scratches. It can be used with a high to medium cutting polish for defect removal on soft paint

Buffing/Final fiishing pad - This is what you use with a low to a non cutting polish to restore the shine back to the paint as the higher cutting polishes may have marred the paint. You can also apply a 'buffiing bonnet' over this to buff polish off.

You can mix and match pads untill you get your perfect match with the way you use the pc.

Now there are many different polishes available with varying cutting abilities, the best ones (i have found) are the menzerna range!

How to use the Machine Polisher -
This is hard to describe, a simple search on youtube will find you good videos which will show you more than i can say but ill have a go.

When using the pc on the car you need to make sure the car is prepped, this means that it has been washed and clayed and that there is no dirt on or in the paint. The plastic and vinyl needs to be taped up so it isnt marked, you can apply a strip of tape to the paint you are going to use the pc on to check the difference. (i would highly advise you get a scrap piece of metal to practice with first if you are at all nervous so you can perfect your technique but i will briefly decribe what to do)
Apply a small cross of the polish in the centre of the pad and rub on the car (a small square area about 1x1 foot. You can do a bigger area once you are confident) Once you applied this start the pc on speed 1 (make sure it is contacted to the paint, dont ever put on take off while it is on!!) after it is on the paint up the speed to 5 for about 5-6 passes with minimal pressure then up the speed to 6 for 1-2 passes with no pressure just the weight of the machine (increase the passes on both speeds if necessary, you are aiming to break the polish down meaning it goes clear and blurry on the paint. It is crucial you break the polish down) Then buff off, see if the pad and polish combo was effective in removing the defects. If not either do another few new passes (if it was 90% effective) or up the polish and/or pad (if only 60% effective) You will find the perfect technique with polish and pad after a while, as with all things practice makes perfect and it will take a very long time to get perfect!

This is a very basic description of how to use a pc and as i said video tutorials and practice will be the best thing to get you good with the pc. The best thing i can say is its very hard to do damage with a pc so dont worry too much, the worse you can do is not get rid of enough defects and have to go over again (unless you drop the pad and pick up stones but just be careful lol)

These are just basics and there are many more products available to use. As with most things is always great to find out for yourself though

Any further info can be found on Lots of links, info and people to help you!

Any products can be found on

Thanks and enjoy cleaning your car!


Hope it helps!

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Heres a few pics of some cars i have done (so you know i have a good idea of what im talking about )

A GTO i PC'd



Some work i did on a mazda (white is great to turn round!)

The right side has been PC'd

You can see from another angle (the left side has been PC'd)

On the wing you can see the near part has yet to be PC'd

A few others i have done:

I have also worked on:
BMW 325ci
Porsche 911
Mercedes CLK
MK5 Golf GTI
Citroen Saxo
Honda Civic
Ford Fiesta
Subaru Imprezza
Land Rover
Citroen C6


I hope everyone has found this interesting and informative. Please feel free to ask any questions as I am more than certain someone here will be able to help.
« Last Edit: 09 August 2009, 09:53 by JulesV6 »

Offline ...joe

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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #3 on: 08 September 2007, 10:33 »
nice write ups!
team grumpy....... its a way of life, not a forum post


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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #4 on: 08 September 2007, 10:36 »
Some of my results using:
megs #7 glaze
Swissvax Onyx

(my fav pic before i changed my wheels)


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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #5 on: 08 September 2007, 10:37 »
nice write ups!

Thanks. Hopefully will help some people out and prevent too many reposts!

Offline Rhyso

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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #6 on: 08 September 2007, 15:17 »
nice write up mate :afro: and some awesome reflection shots  :cool: you even managed to make your Honda look good  :tongue: :laugh: :laugh: :wink:


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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #7 on: 08 September 2007, 20:58 »
lol cheers buddy

Offline rowlers

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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #8 on: 09 September 2007, 20:28 »
super info, but how do you get thru all that amount of products???

It sounds like it would take you a week to use them all!!!

Surely you only need a wash, polish, seal, and wax?

Every now and then give you the paint a "clean" and build the protection back up.

Am I right or completely wrong!!! :undecided: :undecided: :undecided:


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Re: Cleaning/detailing explained
« Reply #9 on: 09 September 2007, 20:50 »
Technically (sp) right mate. There is definatly a minimum and maximum amount you go into detailing, both being very far apart. I can spend an hour on a quick clean and 15 on a full detail. General cleaning will be mainly what you said though, the big clean help keep the small cleans minimal. My wax will still look like it was just put on in 3 months due to the prep before hand  :cool: