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Auto Detailing Chemicals

Keeping a wide inventory of high-quality car detailing supplies helps to ensure bumper-to-bumper shine! Get the pre-cleaners, foams, soaps, conditioners and waxes you need to prep for protective finishes. A comprehensive car wash chemical collection makes for first class detailing services, with a formula for every surface. Find premium detailing products including wheel and tire cleaners, paint sealants, polishes, and degreasers here!

9 Categories In List


Essential Auto Detailing Chemicals

  • All-purpose cleaner and detergents - First and foremost, you need a versatile cleaner to properly wash cars and trucks before you get into the more precise steps of the auto detailing process. These types of cleaners are not harsh or damaging, making them safe to use on a variety of surfaces.
  • Tire dressings and shines - Tire dressing and shine is used after tires have been properly cleaned. Adding a glossy, wet look or a classy satin finish provides a special touch to detailing jobs.
  • Carpet and upholstery cleaners - Typically used with extractors, these interior chemicals thoroughly clean carpets, seats, and consoles without causing any damage to fabrics.
  • Wax, polish, protectants, and sealants - Once vehicles are clean, adding chemicals to seal and protect surfaces is crucial to satisfying customers. Car enthusiasts are willing to invest significant money to maintain their vehicles, but they absolutely expect that their car exterior will be protected and shiny for an ample period of time after being detailed.
  • Glass cleaners - Detail customers expect virtually invisible, spotless glass when they get their car. Professional detailers should use special formulations for auto glass and windows that remove all residue without leaving streaks.
  • Wheel cleaners - Rims and wheels commonly get road grime and brake dust on them. Detail customers look for their wheels to be absolutely pristine after their vehicle gets detailed. These cleaners are specially formulated to get rid of that gross stuff that tends to collect on wheels.

Additional Auto Detailing Chemicals

  • Leather and vinyl cleaners
  • Insect removers
  • Degreasers and engine cleaners
  • Deodorizers

Auto Detailing Chemical Tips

In today’s world of advanced paint finishes and hi-tech materials being used on the interior and exterior of the vehicles, it can be overwhelming to decide what to use in order to maintain those finishes. One way to prevent major problems is to go back to the basics.

The best way to start is to use the least aggressive method to solve the problem. Another is to read the label of any product to be sure it applies to the problem you are currently facing. If you are not sure the detailing product will do what you want, don’t hesitate to call the manufacturer or distributor.

Basic Steps to Preserve a Car's Finish

  1. There are five basic steps to use in order to maintain a car’s finish. The first is always "Wash". This is designed to remove the loose particles of dirt from the automobile’s finish. Never try to evaluate the finish without first washing it. There could be far more defects in the paint which are hiding under the dirt. Always be sure to use a good quality cleaning product intended for detailing. Never use dish soap unless your goal is to strip every bit of protection away from the paint.
  2. The next step is to "Clean" or "Prep" the paint. This is designed to remove defects and bonded contaminates that washing did not. This is where the evaluation comes in. Is the paint in fairly decent shape? Does it need to be buffed with a rotary buffer or can you do it by hand or a D/A polisher? Start with the mildest method to see what it will do before proceeding to the next step. Try to pick one area of the car that looks the worst in order to track your results as you go through each procedure.
  3. The next step is "Polish". This is the creation of a brilliant high gloss. This can be achieved either by hand or machine depending on the previous method of cleaning or prepping. Polishing is designed to create a mirror-like finish by removing fine swirls, scratches and feeding the paint with gloss producing oils.
  4. The next step is to "Protect". This is the creation of a long lasting, brilliant high gloss. Waxes and polymers will protect the prior steps and keep the finish looking good.
  5. The last, but certainly not least of the five steps is "Maintain". This is to frequently remove contaminants before they have a chance to etch or bond to the vehicle’s surface.

Frequent car care is easy car care! Starting a regular maintenance program is a great way to keep both the outside and the inside in showroom condition. Removing such things as bird droppings, bug residue and environmental contaminants quickly will help prevent a much harder to repair problem in the future.

Advanced Information on Commonly Used Detail Chemicals

All Purpose Cleaners and Degreasers

Non-butyl all purpose cleaners are safer to use, without the harsh vapors of traditional Butyl cleaners, and are highly effective for general purpose degreasing and interior cleaning. For carpet and upholstery cleaning choose non-butyl APC's which contain fabric brighteners and softeners, rinse or wipe up easily, and do not leave a soapy residue on carpet and upholstery. To use, simply follow the dilution instructions on the label, spray with a trigger bottle, and wipe or agitate the surface until clean.

For heavy grease and grime, especially for engine and undercarriage degreaser, choose a heavy duty degreaser that is strong and effective yet is non-corrosive and safe on most surfaces.

Bug and Tar Removers

The best bug removers apply in gel form, so that they cling to the surface to soften and dissolve tough insect residue, yet are safe on all paint. For stubborn insect residue, allow the insect remover gel to dwell on a cool surface for several minutes, scrub lightly with a special bug sponge if necessary for heavy baked on residue and rinse off with water.

Wheel Cleaners

The key to wheel cleaners is to avoid products that contain hydrofluoric acid, commonly referred to as HF. HF has been used in the past due to its effectiveness at removing brake dust, but it is toxic to human health and will ruin uncoated wheels. The safest wheel cleaners are labeled "non-acid" or "acid-free" but require some agitation to clean. A happy medium are wheel cleaners that contain ammonium biflouride (ABF), which are more effective than non-acid wheel cleaners. ABF wheel cleaners should be applied using gloves and in a well-ventilated area. Always consult the MSDS sheet for safety precautions. For best results apply to cool, wet wheels and avoid uncoated or polished aluminum non-factory wheels.

Dressings and Protectants

Solvent-based silicone exterior dressings are commonly used for tires and rubber trim because they produce a durable high shine. For best results let product dry a few minutes before moving vehicle because they can be messy.

Water based silicone exterior dressings are the alternative to messy solvent-based dressings, and can be either sprayed or wiped on. Choose a dressing that self-levels as it dries to produce an even satin shine. For best results let product dry a few minutes before moving vehicle.

For interior surfaces such as interior vinyl and leather surfaces choose a water-based silicone dressing for interior surfaces. A good formula cleans light soils as it conditions, leaving behind a natural looking satin finish. Simply apply a thin even coat with a sponge, pad, cloth or trigger sprayer and allow to dry.

Paint Polishes and Waxes

For express exterior wax services choose an "Express Wax" that goes on extremely quickly, even by hand, cleans away light road film and tar, and dries almost immediately. Look for a product that quickly and easily buffs off without dusting or streaking, and produces a high gloss. You can also apply express waxes with an orbital or DA polisher.

"Spray and Wipe Gloss Enhancers" are the detailer's versatile best friend. They quickly clean away dust, light soil and fingerprints to maintain the high gloss of painted surfaces. They also are perfect for finishing off a detail job by quickly wiping away dust or polish residue and enhance the gloss of the vehicle's finish.

With a little product knowledge and training, express detailing services can be an excellent source of additional profit for car wash operators.

Auto Detailing at Car Washes

More and more car wash operators are discovering the added profit potential of offering detailing services to their customers. After all, car wash customers care about the appearance of their vehicles to begin with and increasingly understand the importance of maintaining the paint and interior of their cars. Car wash operators are in the perfect position to promote "express" paint care and interior services that are quick to perform, provide great value for the car owner and are profitable for the car wash operator.

The challenge for operators is to deliver quality results that satisfy their customers and keep them coming back. Getting a good result requires properly trained staff, necessary equipment and quality detailing chemicals and polishes. The good news is that express detailing services can be quickly learned and require very little equipment, as opposed to more sophisticated full-service detailing.

Most operators are able to convert an existing wash bay or set up a portable awning for performing the services and employees can easily learn the basic procedures to get started in express detailing. Just like in the tunnel or car wash bay, however, the right choice in chemicals plays a key role in getting excellent results while minimizing labor. This article explains the important considerations to keep in mind when selecting the proper detailing chemicals and polishes for express detailing.

Car wash operators need to understand the chemical and performance characteristics of detail products being offered to them by suppliers to make sure they select products that work quickly, safely and effectively. High-quality, cost-effective formulations are available from reputable suppliers that deliver superior results faster, without time-wasting or harmful residues. Selecting the right detailing products will boost your detailing business by helping you create satisfied repeat customers at a higher profit!