Rediscover washing your car yourself.


It’s quite surprising how therapeutic cleaning your car or truck can be. If you haven’t yet discovered the joy that is an afternoon covered in soap and cleaners, it’s time to stop taking your car through the gas station car wash and start cleaning it yourself.

There’s more to cleaning your car than just soap and water. The paint on your car or truck has a finish that needs to be repaired and polished. Bird poo and other stuck-on gunk can damage the finish and require special attention to clean off. The gas station car wash is blasting your car with recycled water and harsh chemicals.

It’s time to start washing

But where do you start? What do you need? A complete kit of cleaning gear is much easier to get than you think. All you need is a good set of microfiber cloths, the right shampoo, a wax, some interior sprays, and a wheel cleaner. While this seems like a long list, you can find many kits that have all the right stuff. One is the Starter Car Care Kit by Chemical Guys is one of them. The folks at Chemical Guys sent me a kit to take for a spin on my vehicles.

First off, the kit comes with seven of the key ingredients that any good cleaning kit needs. There’s a citrus shampoo, a butter wax, glass cleaner, wheel cleaner, interior surface protector, and a clay bar. You’ll still need to source a good set of microfiber cloths. Make sure to find something that’s washable, durable, and fluffy. Don’t worry about knowing what each of these cleaners does. There are hundreds of how-to videos on YouTube, including hundreds created by the Chemical Guys themselves.

Workin’ it on the outside

The best time to wash your car or truck is early morning or evening. Find a time when the sun is low, but the air is still warm. Start with your shampoo. With the Chemical Guys Citrus cleaner, mix an ounce of soap with about five gallons of water. Give your car or truck a good rinse with your hose. Soak a microfiber cloth into your shampoo and scrub! This is a great time to get the kids involved, make a family game of it! If you’re cleaning on a hot day or in the sun, be sure to rinse off the soap in sections before it dries.

Once the vehicle is scrubbed, give it a good rinse down and then hand dry. Next is polish. You can get that showroom shine while protecting your paint from the things that want to wreck it. The Butter Wax that Chemical Guys provided is an excellent example of traditional liquid wax. Literally, wax onto your dry car, let dry, then buff with a clean microfiber cloth or power buffer. It was surprising how much shine the Butter Wax restored to the finish of my 10-year old Toyota Sienna. This can be a bit more time consuming, but the end result is worth it.

An interior spit-shine

A great way to keep the kids engaged once the entertainment of the soap is gone is to let them attack the interior. Before you crack out the cleaning sprays, give your interior a good vacuum: seats, floors, door pockets, storage cubbies, and the trunk. Since your windows are now sparkly clean on the outside, it’s time to get them spotless on the inside. A microfiber cloth or soft paper towel with the glass cleaner does quick work. Even the kid’s stuck-on finger messes wipe away. Chemical Guys make their glass cleaner ammonia-free, which smells much better than when cleaning with something else.

Finally, spray the internal cleaner onto a microfiber cloth and wipe down all the inside surfaces. From the dashboard to the cupholders, scrub down cleaned surfaces with a treatment. The product Chemical Guys include in their Starter Car Care Kit gives the interior whiffs of that new car smell. If stubborn dirt sticks, spray and repeat.

Molding the clay

An unfamiliar tool in the detailer’s kit is the clay bar. This isn’t to clean hard to reach spots in the interior, but instead, your secret weapon to tackle tough stains on your finish. Before you polish, but after the wash and dry, inspect the finish of your car. Often times bugs, bird poop, and mud can leave a residue. Spray the clay bar and the dirty surface with a clay bar lubricant. The Spot Finish included in this kit works in a pinch, too. Gently rub the clay bar across the surface to work out the dirt.

An all-in-one kit for everyone

Sure, it took some time, but now your car or truck shines like the day you bought it. Buying a kit like the Starter Car Care Kit from Chemical Guys takes a lot of the guesswork out of what you need. The products are ideal for beginners and enthusiasts alike. Now, get outside, have fun, get wet, and stop cleaning your car at the gas station.

Dan Croutch
the authorDan Croutch
Dan is a freelance automotive and technology writer. He enjoys all things pickup trucks, classic cars, and minivans (really). The intersection of vehicles and technology fascinate him.