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Spring Clean Your Car: Detailing on a Budget

Detailing a car is just how it sounds; it’s all about cleaning out the nooks and crannies—or details—of your car, both inside and out. While you can pay a professional about 50 bucks to do some of this basic detailing work for you, a comprehensive package can easily go well over a hundred dollars. But if you don't want to spend your hard-earned cash or tax refund on a professional detailer, you don't have to. Instead, do the detailing on your own. All you need is a few materials and a couple hours. A bright spring day doesn’t hurt, either.

Materials You’ll Need

Car Cleaning Supplies
Photo Credit Thinkstock

You'll see instant savings if you decide to detail your car on your own. That's because you already have some of the materials you need around your home, like buckets (for water), sponges, old towels, glass cleaner and a vacuum. Q tips also come in handy when it comes to cleaning out hard-to-reach dirt in your car; and if you don't already have them at home? They won't cost you much at your local pharmacy.

The other items you'll need can be purchased at your local hardware store. But while you'll be spending some money to purchase them, most of them are good for more than one use, making them worthwhile and budget-friendly investments. For example, you may want to get a chrome polisher for your car's exterior, and shine restorer for your car's interior. Steel wool pads are also worth getting to detail your car, and they can be used for cleaning your home as well. Last but not least, buy clay, which is designed specifically for cars; this clay can be used a few times on your car, so you'll once again be saving some cash. 

Detailing Your Car on Your Own

Cleaning Car
Photo Credit Thinkstock

If you detail your car every three months or so, the easier it’ll be to keep your car clean and shiny. It’ll also help keep costs down, as the materials you’ve bought will still be okay to use.

Start your detailing on the outside by washing your car with simple soap and water. Or, you can head to a coin-operated car wash if you want to save a bit of time. After washing your car from bumper to bumper, be sure to dry it really well using towels, as the dryness will impact the success of the rest of the detailing.

Next, make sure to get rid of any remaining debris from the exterior by using detailing clay. This can be a time-intensive process, but it will really add to the polish of the car. After you’re done with the clay, you can add another level of shine by applying a car polish. Also, don’t overlook the tires and wheels, which can also be spiffed up; just make sure not to use an abrasive cleaner, which might affect the integrity of the tire. Rather, use a wool steel pad to first clean the tire and then apply a tire dressing spray.

Also spend some time focused on the inside of the car. Use a mild soap along with water to wash all the surfaces. Take out all the rugs and both vacuum and wash them. Then get down to the nitty-gritty and clean every crevice. That includes the door handles, all the edges around both the doors and windows, every vent, and more. Q-tips can be handy to make sure to get every last bit of debris out. Use glass cleaner on the windows, windshield and rearview and side mirrors. Now is also the time to also use a shine restorer on your leather seats to make them look like new.

For any products you’ve decided to use, be sure to read the instructions to get the maximum effect. Detailing takes work, but it can be rewarding to make your car shine like new. So when you start thinking of spring cleaning this year, don’t overlook what's in your garage.

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at

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