Because I live in an apartment building, I do not have the luxury of a garage. I live in an all-weather state, so my car gets really dirty with the rain and snow. Not to mention, the wear and tear of kids and other passengers beats on my interiors more than I’m sometimes comfortable with.
Luckily, there are plenty of car cleaning products that help me to keep my car clean and spotless. I do have a membership to a local car wash, and I get it serviced regularly at the dealership, but even that only goes so far.
I am a clean freak, and that includes the cleanliness of my car! Here are some of my favorite products for car detailing, for interior, exterior, and engine use.
Exterior Car Cleaning Products
1. Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Shampoo Superior Surface Cleaner
This multi-surface cleaner is a pH-balanced foaming shampoo that will clean your car’s exterior without stripping the wax or sealant. It’s safe for other trim pieces such as vinyl, glass, and rubber. It is concentrated, so a little goes a long way. It may leave a slight residue, so be sure to rinse thoroughly.
2. Chemical Guys Microfiber Wash Mitt
This wash mitt is my favorite for the soap-and-water part of washing (I prefer another mitt below for drying). Its extra-plush, extra-absorbent material cleans your car without scratching any of the paint. I also like being able to put it on my hand; it makes it more manageable than a towel, especially as the water and soap add weight to it.
3. Meguiar’s G7016 Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Liquid Wax
This trusted brand’s liquid wax is an excellent choice. It’s easy to apply, dries quickly, and leaves your car’s exterior looking like a mirror. If you live in a rainy climate, it may not last as long, so you’ll need to reapply more frequently than drivers in warmer weather.
4. 303 Touchless Sealant (wax alternative)
If you want to protect your car’s paint but don’t have the time to apply traditional wax, this sealant may be another option. You spray it on and rinse it off, and it lasts longer than wax does. Its formula includes a UV barrier for your paint, and you can also use it on your windows and wheels. A win-win!
5. Mother’s California Gold Clay Kit
Even after you shampoo and rinse your car’s exterior, there’s a chance you’ll still have more stubborn debris that you can’t get off.
This clay kit from Mother’s is gold (no pun intended). Spray the detailer and buff with the clay. Keep moving through the resistance until the stubborn debris is removed. Your paint will shine like new in no time.
6. Window Genie Car Cleaning Mitt
Unlike other microfiber cloths, this car cleaning mitt from Window Genie was made especially for the car. It will leave your windows and exterior car surfaces shiny and streak-free. It’s machine washable, making it easy to reuse.
7. California Car Duster
It can be so annoying to spend a Saturday washing your car, and then find it covered in dust or pollen or even leaves just a few days later. Instead of having to re-wash your entire car, this duster does an excellent job at removing dust and light debris without any water or cleaner.
8. Invisible Glass Streak-Free Glass Cleaner
If you have a dog (like me) or kids (also like me), you know how quickly your windows get dirtied with slobber and fingerprints. This glass cleaner dispenses a fine mist wherever its sprayed, which allows you to clean the glass without worrying about dripping solution or extra wiping.
9. Quik Detailer Mist & Wipe
If you’re out and about and notice a new spot of bird poop or dirt on your car, this detailing spray is a great product to have on hand. Store it in your trunk with some microfiber cloth and use as often as needed.
The trigger spray bottle makes it easy to clean up small messes before they ruin the car’s wax or polished finish. The formula is neutral so it won’t damage the wax on your car.
10. Armor All Extreme Tire Shine Gel and Applicator
I appreciate this tire shine from Armor All because of how long-lasting it is. The gel formula sticks onto my tires so well, and the gel application helps me prevent over-spraying onto the rest of my wheels.
Interior Car Cleaning Products
11. Black+Decker Flex Auto Compact Bagless Handheld Vacuum
This compact, handheld vacuum is lightweight and powerful. It will easily remove any dirt, crumbs, or sand from your car mats and carpet. It is not cordless, which is its only downside.
The crevice tool allows you to get those hard-to-reach areas of your interior with ease. The flip-up brush is a great add-on for the dash and upholstery.
12. ColorCoral Cleaning Putty for Vents
This putty has more than 9,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. Why? It’s a perfect substance for removing dust and weird debris from your AC vents.
It’s a gel-like blob that is easily moldable to get those super hard-to-reach spots in your console and dashboard. It can also remove gunk from your computer keyboard, which is a plus.
13. Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner & Protectant
To clean and preserve the interior of your car, I highly recommend this cleaner from the Chemical Guys. It protects against fading, has a gentle yet effective solution, and works on all surfaces, from matte and shiny to leather and fabric upholstery.
It also works on glass, vinyl, wood, and metal. It’s not as effective on deeper, more stubborn stains, but it does a great job otherwise.
14. Leather Honey Leather Cleaner
There’s a reason this one has more than 20,000 ratings on Amazon. If you need to give your leather upholstery some love, this leather cleaner should do the trick. It’s a premixed solution, so it doesn’t need to be diluted, which will save you a step in your cleaning process.
Its natural solution works on all colors. You’ll need a microfiber cloth to apply, and it may not spread easily (especially if you’re in a cold climate), so be prepared to use a bit more than you would with a concentrated formula.
15. Weiman Leather Wipes
In addition to the leather cleaner from Leather Honey, these wipes are a great way to maintain your leather upholstery in between deeper cleans.
They even have sunscreen in the formula, which helps protect the leather from harsh UV rays. These wipes easily remove dirt and grime from your leather. Be sure to test a small area before using it regularly.
16. Leather Re-coloring Balm
This is an excellent pate for bringing color and shine back to your leather upholstery. Sun exposure and everyday wear can dull leather over time.
Make sure to test the balm on a small area first before applying, and consider buying two different colors if you aren’t sure which one will match your leather the most closely.
17. Armor All Fresh FX Cloth Upholstery Cleaner
This foam cleaner is the best bet for cloth seats. It breaks up residue, stuck-on dirt, and deeper stains that have been sitting for a while.
It also restores the softness of the fabric, so you can rest assured it won’t be all worn out after being cleaned. The foam also comes with a bristled brush that makes it easy to scrub away stains.
18. SuperClean Degreaser
This degreaser from SuperClean is multifunctional and powerful. It does a great job removing build-up and grime on your engine bay, under-body and exhaust pipes. I would advise against using it on paint, but if you dilute it with water, it works well on cleaning carpet, floor mats, and chrome pieces.
19. Chemical Guys Signature Series Orange Degreaser
Chemical Guys again, for the wind! This citrus-based formula removes all kinds of debris and build-up in your engine bay. Additionally, it can help loosen grime from your wheels and undercarriage.
To use it, spray it on the intended area and wipe away. You can also apply a thicker coat, let it sit, and wipe away later on more heavily affected areas. The citrus scent is an added bonus!
20. Griots Garage Engine Cleaner
This is a good formula if you’re looking for something to maintain an already-maintained engine bay. This formula is a bit more gentle, so it’s perfect for regular maintenance.
It loosens and removes dirt that builds up from normal wear and tear on your engine. Use a microfiber cloth, and rinse after spraying. Dry off the cleansed area with a second dry microfiber towel to avoid water spots.
21. WD-40 Specialist Machine & Engine Degreaser Foaming Spray
This special formula from WD-40 is designed to break down the toughest grime on your engine. The foam sticks and expands to fight the debris that’s otherwise difficult to remove.
It is a water-based formula, so it will not damage any rubber or plastic unlike other harsher cleaners. If you have a tougher cleaning job, you may want to consider a solvent-based cleaner instead.
22. Liqui Moly Engine Flush
This engine flush solution is an easy way to gently clean out the oil systems of both gasoline and diesel engines. It is also compatible with catalytic converters. You simply add it to the engine oil before changing your oil.
Let the engine run on idle for 10 minutes, drain the oil/flush mixture, and refill with fresh oil. Some of the Amazon reviews for this product even include a before and after picture of the oil (before and after using the flush solution). The results speak for themselves!
How often should I wax my car?
You actually don’t need to wax your car as often as you think. It’s not something you do every time you wash your car. Waxing your vehicle every three months is recommended to maintain a good shine and preserve the life of your car’s paint.
I look at waxing my car like a deep conditioning hair mask or full body massage. It’s not a weekly necessity, but it’s important to be consistent for upkeep. If you’re waxing your car 4-5 times a year, your car will be in excellent shape for years to come.
What are the different kinds of engine degreasers?
Not all degreasers are created equally. Formulas can be petroleum-based, water-based, or foamy.
Petroleum-based degreasers are the least expensive and the most powerful. However, they are also the most environmentally toxic because of their ingredients. Use these only for your toughest engine grime spots.
Water-based are more expensive because they have cleaner ingredients, but they are ideal for regular maintenance. They are also usually multipurpose because they are more gentle, so that can sometimes offset the higher prices.
Finally, foaming degreasers are the least common type of degreaser. The foam is easy because you just spray it on and then wipe it off. They are the most expensive kind of all degreasers.