Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best car detailing kits

Do you take pride in your ride? For some, a car is not just a means of transportation but a statement, a passion, and a symbol of indepence. If that sounds like you, you’re going to need a car detailing kit to keep your vehicle looking as fresh as it did on the showroom floor. 

Car detailing kits generally include washing supplies, a clay product, wax/sealant, wheel cleaner, applicators, and drying tools. A lot of exterior car detailing kits share similar components. There are some car detailing kits geared specifically toward large vehicles or certain paint colors. There are kits for car interiors as well, complete with detailing wipes and carpet cleaners, but these are less common.

A car detailing kit is a fantastic investment that can help you preserve the look of your car. The right kit will pay for itself when it comes time to put your car up for sale.

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Allowing your car to air dry as you drive it isn’t the best idea. Your car could be slightly wet from the wash, or it may have water in hard-to-reach areas. As you drive, this moisture could spread around, causing new dirt to adhere to your car’s finish.

What’s in a car detailing kit?

There are mainstays that you should expect to see when looking for a car detailing kit. We list them here in the order they should be used for best results. Of course, before using any of your kit supplies, you should start by rinsing your car exterior thoroughly with water. You may also want to vacuum your vehicle’s carpet and upholstery before starting an interior detail, washing them if necessary.

Interior cleaner: This may include cleaning wipes for the dashboard, trim, vents, and other vinyl or rubber parts. Detailing wipes work both as cleaners and polishes, leaving a clean, shiny finish on interior surfaces. Purpose-built window cleaners are adept at removing fingerprints and streaks without smearing. 

Washing supplies: This may include soap or car wash solution, as well as a washing tool. Washing tools can be sponges, soft brushes, and mitts. Lamb’s wool is the top mitt material for professional exterior detailers. The fibers are extremely gentle on the paint, which lets the washing solution do the work, and the knit is typically deep enough to catch dirt and contaminants to prevent scratches. 

Drying supplies: This may include microfiber towels or a chamois to remove water from the vehicle’s exterior.   

Clay supplies: Clay bars or similar products are often included because they help remove microscopic, ground-in particles that can cause scratches. When used properly, your paint should feel as smooth as glass. 

Sealants: A sealant is a synthetic protectant for your car’s paint that acts much like wax but lasts far longer with higher durability. However, sealants may not shine as warmly and deeply as wax. 

Waxes: A natural or synthetic wax can add an invisible protective finish to your vehicle. Wax is commonly spread with a foam applicator. Wax will safeguard your exterior from water, dirt, oil, and UV light while creating a mirror-like shine. 

Wheel cleaner: This is a cleaning spray or foam solution that cuts through tire and wheel grime: caked-on dirt, brake dust, oil, and other road gunk. Make sure you use wheel cleaner only on its recommended surfaces; read the instructions to be safe. Consider adding tire shine to give the rubber a deep, reflective finish. 



Some car detailing kits come with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner. Granted, these kits may be more aptly referred to as vacuums with detailing supplies! But the positives are the same. A car vacuum comes in handy after a long day at the park, a dog play date, or vigorous offroading. It’s also extremely useful to have on hand for projects around the home.

Scratch removers

Wax can go a long way toward diminishing the appearance of surface scratches and swirls, but a dedicated scratch remover may be needed for deeper blemishes. A scratch remover won’t fix scratches that penetrate all the way to the metal, but it can make a noticeable difference in some imperfections. If you notice deep swirls or scratches on your ride, consider a kit with scratch-removing solutions or polishing compounds.

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Did you know?
Fabrics, much like exterior finishes, require a bit more than superficial cleaning. This is especially true with carpet. We recommend using a foaming aerosol first, then thoroughly vacuuming the fabric after it dries. For a deeper clean, consider renting a carpet extractor or steam cleaner.

Car detailing kit prices

Inexpensive: At the entry level, expect to spend as little as $10 to $25 for a basic car detailing kit. A quality kit in this price range can have a huge impact on your car’s appearance. Contents typically include washing solution, wax, interior cleaner, glass cleaner, and some applicators. At the lower end of this price range, you may see more liquid wash/wax combos and kits without applicators.

Mid-range: Bump up to $50 or so, and you’ll find kits with high-end washing solutions and waxes, quality mitts and sponges, scratch removers, polishes, and clay bars. These pricier kits boast a significant uptick in quality and can help you get your ride ready to show or sell. 

Expensive: At the top of the range, you may spend $100 to $150 for a high-end car detailing kit. For the money, you should expect a robust collection of washes, clay bars, waxes, sealants, and polishes that can raise the finish of your car to show quality. Only the softest towels, wash mitts, and applicators are found here, as are top-flight wheel polishes and scratch removers. 

Technically, there are more expensive kits available, but they either include an appliance such as a wet/dry vacuum or rare, boutique-quality wax and polish.

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Did you know?
Carnauba wax is a natural product derived from the leaves of Brazilian palm trees. When applied to freshly washed paint, it delivers a warm, deep shine that protects the paint from water and road contaminants. It’s excellent for dark paint. However, it wears off more quickly than synthetic wax.


  • Clean the exterior of your car with care. Wash it out of direct sunlight, starting at the top of the vehicle and working your way down. Resist the urge to use household dish soap or laundry detergent. These harsh solutions can dull your car’s finish over time. 

  • Dry your car with a chamois or soft towel. Allowing the finish to air dry could leave nasty watermarks, which require an extra step to remove. 

  • After your car dries, use a clay bar to remove microscopic contaminants from the finish. Address small areas at a time, applying clay lubricant and gently pulling the bar over the body. When the bar glides over the paint with no resistance, give the exterior a quick wipe with a microfiber cloth. 

  • Apply a thin, even coat of wax over a dry area. As long as the wax is non-abrasive and the surface is clean, it shouldn’t matter whether you apply it in circles or lines. Remove the dry wax with a soft microfiber cloth. If you’re using sealant, apply that first, then wax. 

  • To clean the wheels, coat them with a wheel-cleaning solution. Let it sit for a moment, then scrub with a sponge to remove brake dust and road contaminants. Use a separate sponge for this task, and be careful of overspray.

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When cleaning your car’s interior plastic parts, steer clear of products with ammonia. Ammonia can cause plastic surfaces to bleach, turning them into a real eyesore.


Q. What other supplies do I need to completely detail my vehicle?
A. A good car detailing kit should cover the majority of your needs when beautifying your car or truck. However, you’ll still need to provide a water source and bucket. Additional towels are never a bad idea, either. Think about where excess water and soap will drain. It’s best if it drains over an area that naturally absorbs and filters water, such as gravel or grass — as long as you use biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaner, that is.

If you want to take your detailing to the next level, invest in a wet/dry vacuum, leather cleaner and polish for the interior, buffing tools for professional-level polishing, and a low-pressure air blower to blast water out of hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. A playlist and cold beverage never hurt, either.

Q. How do scratch removers work?
A. Scratch removers are quite effective at minimizing flaws that don’t go all the way through the clear coat and paint. They’re designed to tackle scrapes and scuffs from keys, branches, or people rubbing up against your vehicle in crowded parking lots. They work by effectively breaking down the top layer of finish (clear coat “lacquer” and paint) until the scratch blends in with the surrounding area. Scratch remover has the same effect on wax as it does scratches, though, so remember to apply wax after you apply scratch remover. 

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