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Best Car Wash Kits

Updated May 2023
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Chemical Guys Car Wash Bucket Kit
Chemical Guys
Car Wash Bucket Kit
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Most Comprehensive
Bottom Line

An 11-piece kit that includes everything you need to perform the perfect car wash.

Pros

Includes a heavy-duty detailing bucket that is 30% thicker than competitors' buckets for ultimate durability. Comes with an ultra-soft microfiber wash mitt and drying towels that make it easy to remove heavy debris. Features specialty car wash soaps that deliver proven results.

Cons

Large sprayer that is included in the kit does not fit inside the bucket.

Best Bang for the Buck
Armor All Premier Car Care Kit
Armor All
Premier Car Care Kit
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Practical and Affordable
Bottom Line

This is an affordable car wash kit that includes a surprising number of useful car care products despite the low price.

Pros

Features a large selection of items including car soap, protectants and cleaners for almost every part of a vehicle. Wash pad is soft and versatile. An air freshener is also included. Products are made by one of the most trusted car care brands on the market.

Cons

A few customer gripe about bottles that were broken or leaking when they arrived.

Meguiar's Complete Car Care Kit
Meguiar's
Complete Car Care Kit
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Feature-packed
Bottom Line

A fine assembly of products you can use to enhance all aspects of your car's appearance, from the cleanliness of your exterior (including wheels/bumper) to the interior.

Pros

This thoughtful package even includes products to address scratches and stuck-on debris. Includes car soap, wax, protectant and exterior and interior detailers. Everything you need is all in one place, and the price is affordable.

Cons

Some of the products may not be strong enough for certain cosmetic problems, such as dried-on debris.

Chemical Guys Clean and Shine Car Wash Starter Kit
Chemical Guys
Clean and Shine Car Wash Starter Kit
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Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

If you need a starter car wash kit with just a few must-have products that will make your car look great, this is the one to buy.

Pros

Stocked with a few essential items, including a gloss-promoting wash, wheel and tire cleaner and interior protectant. Wash earns praise for cleaning well and delivering an awesome shine. A washing mitt and drying towels are also included.

Cons

Products are packed in a box that's prone to damage during shipping. Wheel cleaner has a subpar spray nozzle.

Relentless Drive Car Wash Kit
Relentless Drive
Car Wash Kit
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Most Versatile
Bottom Line

You'll get numerous car cleaning products and tools in this large kit that's ideal for anyone who spends a lot of time washing and detailing cars.

Pros

Packed with brushes, sponges, towels and more. Includes a collapsible bucket and storage case. Comes with car soap and other cleaners plus wax and detail spray that make it a good choice for a car's interior and exterior.

Cons

Some kits arrived with damaged or missing pieces. Several tools feel flimsy.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best car wash kits

Cleaners, sponges, protectants, waxes and more: It takes multiple products to keep your ride looking showroom-new. One of the easiest ways to keep it clean and make it shine is to invest in a car wash kit that includes the essentials. 

Car wash kits take the guesswork out of choosing products for cleaning and detailing your car, truck or SUV. That’s because they are packed with the car-cleaning items you need so you don’t have to buy them separately. 

Some kits only include items such as car soap, a sponge and detail spray for a basic wash. Tool-only kits come with brushes for different tasks, sponges for washing and waxing and towels for drying a car’s finish. If you want a kit that’s curated for washing, waxing and detailing an automobile, comprehensive kits, such as our top pick, Chemical Guys Car Wash Bucket Kit, come with everything from a bucket to detailing must-haves so you can clean and detail your vehicle with ease. 

Cleaning your car’s exterior isn’t the only task required to protect your investment. It’s also important to clean and care for the carpet, dash, upholstery and other components of the interior. The good news is that some car wash kits, such as our best value pick, the Armor All Premier Car Care Kit, also include cleaners and protectants formulated for the interior of an auto. 

Best car wash kits and accessories

Chemical Guys Car Wash Bucket Kit

This car wash kit comes with soaps that are formulated to clean a car’s finish and create a vibrant shine. When you follow a wash with the kit’s after-wash spray, you’ll make your vehicle’s finish look like new. It also includes a wheel cleaner to make wheels sparkle just like the paint job.

In addition to cleaners and a highly effective polish, you get a soft-wash mitt made of microfiber that’s gentle on automobile finishes. The included towels are soft and absorbent for thoroughly drying a car so no water spots are left behind. 

The bucket is durable and includes a grit guard to trap debris and prevent it from ending up back on the mitt where it could cause hairline scratches and swirls on the vehicle finish. It has a lid so you can use it as a stool or step while you work. 

Armor All Premier Car Care Kit 

It’s easy to give your car a complete clean with this kit’s versatile products which include car soap, wheel and tire cleaner, glass cleaner and multipurpose cleaner. The soap is infused with a shine-promoting wax so you can wash and wax your vehicle in one step. Cleaning the interior is a snap with a multipurpose spray cleaner that’s safe to use on numerous surfaces, including those inside a car. You’ll also receive a soft cleaning pad that’s safe for auto surfaces. 

Once you’ve cleaned every part of your vehicle, you can make it stand out with the included tire shine that produces a glossy black finish. The Armor All protectant is a popular product that safeguards components in the interior from sun damage. The kit comes with an air freshener too, so your car will smell as good as it looks. 

Meguiar’s Complete Car Care Kit

If you’re looking for a comprehensive kit with products for cleaning and detailing just about every part of your car, this one is worth considering. Made by a popular brand in car care, it starts with the proprietary Gold Class Car Wash that conditions vehicle paint while whisking away tough dirt. Gold Class Carnauba Liquid Wax produces a mirror-like shine.

This Meguiar kit comes with interior and exterior detailing sprays that protect and shine and a cleaner that protects clear plastic from discoloration. Tire gel and fine scratch remover are formulated to complete your detailing tasks. The kit also comes with a microfiber mitt, towel and car wax sponge. 

Chemical Guys Clean and Shine Car Wash Starter Kit

Whether you’re a first-time car owner or just need a basic cleaning kit, this one will fit your needs. That’s because it comes with three essential items, a soft mitt and microfiber towels — all you need to complete your car-cleaning tasks. 

The starter kit includes a car wash soap formulated to clean well and produce a glossy finish. Additionally, you get a spray cleaner made for numerous uses inside the vehicle. The included wheel cleaner can be used on tires to make your car look as if you took it to a pro-level car wash. 

Relentless Drive Car Wash Kit

From car cleaners to car cleaning tools, this kit has it all. It comes with cleaners and detailers that are safe for automotive surfaces and highly effective at cleaning and polishing a vehicle’s interior and exterior. Car wash soap, interior cleaner and glass and wheel spray are included. Wax and detail spray protect and produce a beautiful shine. 

Along with the cleaning and detailing products, this kit has a large collection of tools for cleaning any surface on the exterior and interior of your automobile. Brushes, microfiber towels, sponges and even a squeegee will help you get the job done. Additionally, the kit includes a collapsible bucket and storage case. 

Forcar Car Wash Cleaning Kit  

This car wash tool kit stands out for its versatile tool that features interchangeable mop and squeegee heads and an easy-to-adjust telescopic handle for a long reach. This feature makes it a great choice for cleaning large SUVs and trucks so you don’t have to climb to clean hard-to-reach areas.  

Additionally, this bundle is well-stocked with every cleaning tool imaginable. A wax applicator, assortment of soft towels, brushes, duster and cleaning mitt are some of its other selling points. What’s more, the rugged storage case will keep the items organized and is ideal for transporting them anywhere you wash your car. 

Armor All Quick Clean Kit 

If you want a car kit that’s basic and affordable, Armor All’s Quick Clean is likely to fit your needs. It’s a small yet capable collection of items from a trusted brand that’s effective at putting the finishing touches on a freshly cleaned auto.

The brand’s top-selling protectant, tire shine, car glass cleaner and multipurpose cleaner are included. Each product is formulated to remove debris and bring out a vibrant shine. The sample-size spray bottles are ideal for giving the products a try. A sponge and microfiber towel are included for easy application. 

Jay Leno’s Garage Exterior Essentials Kit

Presented by a well-known celebrity who collects cars, this kit includes products for detailing automobiles so they look as if they rolled fresh out of the showroom. First, you’ll use the car wash, which does an excellent job removing dirt and debris. It’s formulated to dry easily without leaving behind noticeable streaks.

Once your car is clean, you can give it a high shine using the detail spray made with polymers that protect the paint. To keep tires, trim and other plastic and rubber pieces looking their best, tire and trim spray is included. The sponge and two soft towels make application and polishing a snap. 

Meguiar’s Ultimate Bucket Kit

This quality car wash kit includes products made by one of the most popular brands in the business. We love that they come packaged in a bucket for storage and car washing. 

With purchase, you get Meguiar’s wash and wax combo that cleans and polishes in one step. When you follow up with the brand’s quick wax, your vehicle will have a noticeable shine with less effort than using standard car wax. Tire foam and glass cleaner complete your car’s exterior look. The interior detail cleaner is formulated to clean and protect surfaces and components, including vinyl or leather seats, dashboards, screens and more. 

What to know before you buy a car wash kit

From tools to cleaners, protectors and polishes, there are car cleaning kits available for different purposes. Some are comprehensive for every aspect of cleaning and beautification. Others contain products for specific needs, such as quick cleaning. 

There are several key goals that a well-stocked car wash kit should help you accomplish. 

Protecting your car’s finish

The easiest way to clean your car is to pop down to the local car wash. But this can be expensive, and the clean you get is unlikely to be thorough. To perfect the look of your car's bodywork, it's time for a bucket and some elbow grease. The right car wash kit will have you covered with the items you need to keep your vehicle’s paint job clean, protect it against the elements and produce a lasting shine. 

Cleaning the interior 

While a car’s exterior is the most noticeable part, the interior is important, too. In addition to using a car vacuum to pick up dirt, crumbs and debris, you need products to remove stains and odors from fabrics and carpet. There are also protectants that moisturize and prevent sun damage while keeping vinyl and leather components looking new. 

Focusing on detailing

Many car wash bundles don’t stop at the cleaners. Comprehensive car detailing kits also include wax, trim and wheel polishes and tire dressings to make autos look great from the hood to the wheels. 

Car wash kit products

If you want to properly look after your pride and joy, you need tools and products that will clean and preserve its sparkling finish. Furthermore, you need products for cleaning and protecting the interior of your vehicle. 

Fortunately, there are car wash kits available that contain many of the essentials needed to keep your automobile looking its best.

Car wash kit tools

Buckets: A bucket is included in a few car wash kits. Ideally, you want two good-sized buckets: one for cleaning and one for rinsing. You can supplement any kit by purchasing a bucket separately 

Mitt or cloth: A microfiber mitt or cloth is appropriate for cleaning paintwork. Microfiber absorbs shampoo and water, but it doesn't grab and hold dirt the way cotton does, so there's less chance of it scratching the paint. Chamois leather has been used for decades, and it's OK, but microfiber performs better. Foam sponges can be found in many kits, though they tend to disintegrate after a while.

Wheel brush: Wheel brushes have stiff bristles to get dirt and grit out of all the nooks and crannies of wheels. Keep in mind that abrasive brushes can damage some wheel surfaces. 

Drying towel: Microfiber towels are commonly found in car wash kits. This material is best because of the amount of water it can absorb and how efficiently it dries. It is also lint-free, so it won't leave fluff or dust on your bodywork that could contaminate a wax finish.

Sponge: A damp sponge is best for applying hard wax. If you're using liquid wax, an applicator is sometimes supplied with the product. Or, again, you could use a microfiber cloth. Cotton should not be used because the fibers will leave marks in the wax. Buff with a clean cloth — not the one you used to apply the wax.

Car wash kit cleaners and detail products

We all have our favorite brands, and enthusiasts can debate the pros and cons of each for hours. In general, there are specific must-have products that can be found in well-stocked car wash kits. 

Car shampoo: This comes in many forms, but it is all formulated to clean paintwork without causing damage. Car shampoo is superior to household soap because it’s safer for your vehicle.

Polish: Polish is sometimes incorporated into the shampoo, but it can be separate. Don't confuse it with wax. A polish brightens the bodywork, but it doesn't protect it.

Wax: Wax can be liquid or solid. While it certainly improves the car’s appearance, its main job is to add a layer of protection. Liquid wax is quicker and easier to apply and by far the more popular choice. Double waxing is a process that professionals use, following a liquid wax coat with a solid wax — often carnauba wax — for an ultra-deep, lustrous finish.

Wheel cleaner: Wheel cleaner is more aggressive than car shampoo because it’s designed to remove tough stains like brake dust. It often comes as a convenient spray, but be careful to keep it off of the paintwork.

Tire cleaner and shine: Tire cleaners remove dirt and debris, while shine or gel will return your treads to the deep black they had when new.

Glass cleaner: A cleaner that makes auto glass crystal clear is included in many detailing kits. The cleaner is formulated to remove dirt and streaks from windows, light covers and mirrors. 

Clay: Auto-detailing clay is a bit of a specialist product, but it's what you need if you're aiming for the kind of finish you see at auto shows. It's used after washing and before waxing. The clay is a bit like kids’ modeling clay in texture, and it's designed to draw out tiny metal particles, brake dust and industrial pollutants that car shampoos leave on the paint surface.

Interior cleaners and protectants: Some car wash kits include products for cleaning and protecting an automobile’s interior. Look for upholstery cleaners and multipurpose protectant sprays that provide UV protection for dashes, screens, leather and vinyl seats and more if you want to clean your car’s interior along with its exterior. 

Extras: Although not as common as other items, some kits include vent clean tools, interior wipes, air fresheners and more. 

Remember that not all car wash kits contain all of the products you need. If you’re hoping to find a large variety of items for cleaning and detailing your auto, look for a large kit with a comprehensive collection of items. Otherwise, you may need to supplement the kit you choose with other essentials for sprucing up your ride. 

Tips

  • Take a slow walk around, and inspect your car. Deal with stubborn stains like bugs and tree sap first. Soak and/or apply specialized cleaners if necessary. Be patient.
  • Use two buckets. One bucket should contain the car wash product; the other should contain fresh water to rinse your cloth or mitt. This keeps you from putting grit and dirt back on the vehicle. A bucket with a dirt trap is another option. Change the rinse water when it looks muddy, or you'll just be putting dirt back on the car.
  • Don’t wash your car in full sun. You'll likely get water spots, which are surprisingly difficult and frustrating to get rid of.
  • Wash the wheels first if you do a lot of country driving. If you do a lot of city driving, your car is likely subject to a similar level of grime all over. If you drive out in the country, the wheels and wheel arches collect a lot more grit and mud. Clean the wheels first. Then, get rid of the dirty water and start over from the top.
  • Work slowly with gentle pressure. A lot of people use a circular motion, but straight lines mean you're not concentrating on one area and are less likely to leave marks.
  • Dry your vehicle thoroughly. This will prevent water spots and prepare the surface for detailing clay and/or waxing.
  • Wax once each season. Your vehicle might need two coats. When waxed properly, water should bead on the car’s surface.
  • Use your car wash mitts, cloths and brushes on your vehicle only. That way, you reduce the risk of contaminating them with dirt or chemicals that could damage your paintwork.

FAQ

Q. How much does a car wash kit cost?

A. Car wash kits range in price from $10 to over $200. On the lower end of the price range, you’ll find kits with sample-sized bottles or smaller bundles with a few essentials for washing and polishing your ride. 

The sweet spot for most kits falls between $50 and $100. In this price category, you’ll find complete kits with tools, cleaners, polishes and protectants. You’ll also find tool-only bundles here, some of which include buckets and storage cases. 

Kits for professional-level rigs fall on the high end of the price spectrum and cost upwards of $200. 

Q. Can't I just use dish soap to clean my car?

A. There are two products to consider here. Neither is recommended. Here is why.

Dishwasher detergent contains abrasives to cut through grease and baked-on food. Those same abrasives cut into the clear topcoat of your car's paintwork. You won't notice it at first, but it will eventually dull the surface.

Dish soap that you put in a sink of hot water is not usually abrasive. It's better than not washing your car at all, but it may still contain chemicals that can soften and eat through wax coatings, potentially exposing the paintwork to harm. Many people wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes to protect their hands, so it's not a good idea to put that stuff on your car. Dedicated car shampoos are much gentler.

Q. Do bird droppings cause harm to car paint?

A. They do, and you should clean droppings off as soon as possible. Bird droppings can be acidic or alkali and also contain grit and bacteria. Once they start to harden, the real damage is done. This toxic mix reacts with the paint's surface, making it shrink. It leaves dull patches in the paint that are extremely difficult to fix. 

If you didn't get it off before it hardened, soften the spot by leaving a damp cloth over it for 10 or 15 minutes. Then, carefully clean it off. Avoid spreading the mess further. It's best to dispose of the cloth — bird droppings really are that unpleasant.

Q. How do I clean road tar off my vehicle?

A. Above all, be gentle. Don't try to peel or chip it off because you'll likely take off the paint at the same time. There are a number of products you can buy that specifically target tar and other sticky substances. WD-40 is often recommended. Most people look at WD-40 as a lubricant — a job it does very well — but it was originally designed to penetrate and remove dirt and corrosion. “WD” actually stands for “water displacement.”

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