By on October 4, 2019

best car cleaning products

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


There are several unassailable truths ingrained in the minds of most gearheads: the check engine light will illuminate as you’re driving to the smog station, fuel prices will rise before a long weekend, and a clean car runs better.

Ok, maybe the last one is anecdotal, but the Placebo Effect can certainly work wonders in the life of a car nut. If you don’t accept the preceding, please at least permit us the following: a clean car is a happy car.

With that in mind, we have selected eight different car cleaning products fit for various scrubbing duties on your chariot. Soap, water, and a better-running car await.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)


1. Editor’s Choice: 12 Pack Microfiber Cloths

icooker microfiber towel cloths

This is certainly not the most expensive item on this list and, by themselves, they have limited value. Nevertheless, no self-respecting gearhead should be without a gross of these colorful microfiber towels. It’s true they’ll tackle any cleaning task with gusto, usually accompanied by some sort of spray product. After they get dirty, simply pop ‘em in the washer.

Even by themselves, however, these towels are worth their weight in Armor All. Quickly brushing them over a carpeted floor mat loosens and removes minor dirt and small stones, perfect for those fast fixes when you’re picking up the significant other but didn’t have time to break out the vacuum before leaving the house. They’re also ideal for a quick flick over the dashboard to scoot away all that dust. How can we confidently assert these claims? Because your author has this exact set in his car cleaning arsenal. Pro tip: keep 10 at home and toss two in the glovebox.

Pros: Inexpensive, infinitely useful, tremendous value

Cons: You’ll want to buy more

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2. Detailshark Auto Detailing Brush Set

detailshark auto detailing brush set

From the James May collection comes this quintet of detail brushes, great for getting dust out of the dashboard vents or crumbs carelessly dropped in and around the shifter boot. Each of these five are of a different size, meaning the user can clean varying nooks and crannies in the car to their OCD-afflicted heart’s content.

The bristles are said to be soft and synthetic, meaning they should not scratch the bejeepers out of the Genuine Simu-Wood dash trim on your 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis. Satisfying your author’s crippling need for order, these brushes arrive in a plastic case into which they must — must — be fastidiously returned after each use lest one evoke the refined rage of Captain Slow.

Pros: Cleans in and around tight spots, carrying case, nifty green trim

Cons: Bouts of OCD may occur

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3. Sudz Budz Premium Microfiber Car Cleaning Kit

sudz budz premium microfiber car wash kit

Getting all one’s kit and kaboodle in an easy-to-carry plastic case is never a bad thing, which is what this product from the hilariously-named Sudz Budz attempts to provide. Included in the kit are a couple of microfiber towels, a couple of different wash mitts, and a hard-handled brush that looks like the one on your girlfriend’s nightstand. This one’s for the car, though.

The brush is said to be tough on wheel grime but gentle enough on its finish so as not to give them a bad case of curb rash. Keep it below the belt to avoid any accidental Arizona pinstriping. For those duties, pick up one of the cloths or the soft mitts. The mitt that looks like Sideshow Bob on a bad day is actually called a Coral Fleece Mitt, taking its name from the sea creature with which it kinda-sorta shares an appearance.

Pros: Includes six useful tools, soft plastic carrying case will be handy

Cons: No cleaners on board at all

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4. Carrand Deluxe Car Wash Dip Brush with Extension Pole

carrand deluxe car wash dip brush

We’ll concede not everyone has the vertical blessings of your author, who stands a solid 6’6” tall in his size 13 stocking feet. Some folks — most folks, actually — need a hand washing the roof or other hard to reach places on their cars. Even people of similar height to your NBA-sized scribe can benefit from this type of brush, as it puts them further away from the car, lessening the chance of accidental paint scratches from a zipper or Sammy Kershaw belt buckle.

This brush has a 10-inch brush head comprised of soft bristles that shouldn’t scratch the car. From experience, we will say that if you drop this thing on the ground, wash it thoroughly. Rocks and crud can easily hide in all those bristles, wreaking havoc when they work their way back to the surface.

Pros: Provides extra reach, comfort grips

Cons: Doesn’t connect to a water hose

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5. Chemical Guys HOL148 16-Piece Arsenal Builder Wash Kit

chemical guys 16-piece arsenal builder wash kit

We almost didn’t include this product because of the moronic decision by the manufacturer to include the word arsenal in its name. Yeah, it has most of the car washing kit you need to fight dirt and kill grime. We get it. Hey, at least they didn’t call it artisanal. There is one of those foam guns on board the kit (we’ve profiled these before in a separate post), so go ahead and hook it to a garden hose to create the type of suds usually only found at professional lots.

Also included in the kit is a wax, foam for the blaster, wheel gel, shiny tire dressing, and a quick wipe detailer. Microfiber cloths allow gearheads to get using this assemblage the instant they tear the wrapping off it on Christmas morning, while the variety of brushes permit the scrubbing of various and sundry tough grime jobs. There’s a bucket included, too.

Pros: Provides all the good stuff, including a soap blaster foam gun

Cons: Expensive

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6. Viking Car Care Bucket Insert Grit Trap

viking car care bucket insert grit trap

You’re familiar with the two-bucket wash method, right? That’s the one where the detailer uses one bucket in which to dip a soapy wash mitt and another for rinsing purposes. This, in theory, prevents dirt and crud you’ve just cleaned off your vehicle from returning to the very mitt you’re about to apply onto your car’s paintwork.

But what if you only have one bucket? Then picking up this gadget is a good idea. A dirt trap like the one shown here goes inserted into one’s car wash bucket, a few inches from its bottom. The reasoning is, logically, that dirt is heavier than water, so any grime entering the soapy wash water from rinsing a mitt will sink to the bottom and get trapped by this insert.

Pros: Not expensive, takes up a lot less space than two buckets

Cons: The dirt is technically still in the wash bucket

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7. PowerBrush Drill Attachment Set

powerbrush drill brush attachment set

These are definitely reserved for your car’s wheels, and your car’s wheels only, unless you like introducing a maze of swirl marks on to a vehicle’s formerly pristine paint. These stiff-bristled power scrubbers are designed to clean wheels and rims only. OK — you can press them into service for cleaning the sidewalls of the aggressive KO2 tires on your brodozer if you must.

This product comes with four different brush heads of varying size and function, ranging from an enormous 5-inch diameter donut intended for lifting off hardened deposits such as the crud left over after a day wheeling in the desert. A cone-shaped brush gets into wheel spokes while a tiny 2-inch brush takes care of detail work

Pros: Will clean wheels and tires faster than any human, includes four different brush heads

Cons: Drill not included you dingus

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8. Turtle Wax Ultimate Car Care Kit

turtle wax ultimate car care kit

Few car-care brands are older or more well known than Turtle Wax (yes, it is okay to be a brand snob for some items — including car-care products). This group of product includes a gaggle of kit, such as car wash, tire shine, odor-x spray, scratch & swirl remover, plus some wax & dry spray wax.

This assemblage makes for convenient detailing and easy application, including everything you need from wash and protectants to interior cleaners and odor eliminators. If you’re looking for an all-in-one idea for the gearhead on your list, you could do a lot worse than this option. A couple of cloths and a foam pad round out the package.

Pros: Has all the gear, great brand name

Cons: Including a wash mitt would be nice

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[Images provided by the manufacturer. Lead image: Bhakpong/Shutterstock.com]

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18 Comments on “Spic n’ Span: Best Car Cleaning Products...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    The drill brushes are also good for agitating carpet and floor mats after a good carpet cleaner has been applied.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    No matter how good a new car looks at the dealership, I have to get it home and wash it by hand to decide if I really like the styling.

    Because real world.

  • avatar
    OldWingGuy

    One of the best car cleaning things I’ve ever purchased is a water deionizer from CR Spotless. By using deionized water you do not get water spots and do not need to dry the vehicle off. Just wash and go.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      I use to love using the Mr. Clean wash system with the deionizer filter, spot free and cheap unfortunately they quit making it, now I use Rain X spot free wash even cheaper, using 2 soft brushes 2 buckets, one for wash, one for rinse, spot free even on glass using hard water also and no hose or machine to drag out!

  • avatar
    brn

    Think I paid $18 for a 24 pack of those blue microfiber cloths from Home Depot. Even an Amazon drone is slower than picking them up on my way home. Certainly more expensive.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Is it moronic to use the word “arsenal” or to object to it?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I didn’t see Spic’N’Span anywhere except the title. My aunt swore by it, claiming it made her 1956 Ford’s enamel paint shiny enough to skip the polish and wax. She said it worked great on the chrome bumpers and brightwork too. It might not work so well on clearcoat and plastic bumpers, and if you’re under 40 you might want to google brightwork for cars. Google chrome bumpers too.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    “Turtle Wax Car Kit”! I remember several years ago I went to look at a 98 Saturn , it was a local one owner sale and the guy was only asking $1600, manual shift, clean but had a right rear door side panel issue, seemed it was lightly hit when turning at a light, it had black tire marks on it but no real damage, thanks to Saturn’s polymer side panels ( jump on it all ya want! ), I asked the guy if he had tried to remove the marks, he said ” well , I tried some Turtle wax on it ” ( not rubbing compound)! Turtle wax, really.I took it home and wheeled it out with Turtle Wax white rubbing compound, when I was done looked like it never took a hit! Sold it 2 weeks later for $2600, didn’t like shifting with a hurting left knee!

  • avatar
    Ben T Spanner

    Why would I approach a car with a drill mounted brush?

    My Father put hot running water and drains in his garage in NE Ohio, so that I could wash his cars daily at the age of 11. Dupont 33 powdered car wash, Wesley’s Bleche Wite, Dupont # 7 polish, and Blue Coral.

    Now 63 years later, I live in SW Florida and seldom wash. New car is clayed and sealed, then wiped down frequently with synthetic spray wax.


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