Taking your car for a spin through the car wash is fine. If you really want to make your ride sparkle with that just-off-the-lot look, you’re going to have to either fork over some serious cash for a professional detailing, or you’ll have to buy a few supplies, roll up your sleeves and use a little elbow grease to get your gently used car looking its best.

Fortunately, the supplies shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg – and they should last you through several detailing sessions. But just what are these supplies and how should you use them? Read on!

Air compressor

Most DIY-ers have one, but you may not have realized that you can use an air compressor to spiff up your car. By powering it up, and aiming it toward all the nooks and crannies before doing any of the real cleaning, you can clear out some debris and loosen some of the more stubborn bits of grit. Just be sure to remove the floor mats before you use the air compressor.

Once complete, then rake a stiff brush over the carpets and the mats, then use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the
mess before moving onto the next phase of your work.

DegreDetailing your caraser & Tire Dressing

Working your way from the ground up, start the actual cleaning by tackling your wheels and tires. Use the degreaser on your wheels, then wipe down your tires with a sponge and plain water. Afterwards, apply a tire dressing to make them shine.

Soft Sponge, Car Wash Solution & Silicone Squeegee

Although most people use dishwashing liquid to clean their cars, it can strip your vehicle of beneficial waxes and finishes, so it’s best to use a specially formulated car wash solution – and a soft sponge to apply it, per the instructions. Once complete, rinse the vehicle with plain water and wipe down the entire car using the squeegee – which will help remove minerals and dirt left behind by the water.

Paint Cleaner

To remove tough stains, like bird dung residue, tree sap, or even environmental pollutants, use a paint cleaner – like a block of paint-cleaning clay that has been lubricated with a liquid cleaner wax. Just follow the instructions on the packaging and you’ll be good to go.

Car Polish/Wax Combo

Because a polish will smooth the surface of your paint – and a wax will protect it and make it shine – it’s best to get a combination product. If you have an oscillating buffer, use it now. If not, use a soft cloth or sponge and work in small sections until the car looks showroom ready (at least on the outside).

Upholstery Cleaner

Buy an upholstery cleaner that’s suited for your vehicle seats, as well as one that’s designed for fabric areas, like your door panels. Use as directed.

Vent Duster, Cotton Swabs, Vinyl/Plastic Cleaning Solution & Trim Dressing

Because you’ve already used the air compressor and vacuum on the interior of the car, all you have left to do is dust and polish.

Start by using a vent duster (or stock up on many cotton swabs) to clean the vents, then use cotton swabs to clean around each individual control and along any seams or hard-to-reach areas. Finally, use the vinyl/plastic cleaner as directed. Once that’s complete, apply trim dressing.