Top 8 Best Car Cleaning Products
By | Last updated: June 23, 2021
best car cleaning products

There are some unassailable truths ingrained in the minds of most gearheads: the check engine light will illuminate just after you catch up on all your bills, 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 this argument, then please at least permit us the following: a clean car is a happy car. Because cars all have personalities, right? Well, except for a beige Corolla.

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.

1. Editor’s Choice: 12 Pack Microfiber 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
Bottom Line/Keep 'em handy and keep 'em clean

2. Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Foaming Car Wash Soap

This product ranks highly on our list because it’s the same soap your author uses on his mirror-finish Dodge Challenger. Yes, I know there’s a good bit of marketing push put into the Mr. Pink soap – its catchy name sounds a lot better than Max Suds II. But this stuff creates lots of foam, sticks to the car during a wash, and rinses cleanly.

Start with the 16oz size if you’re skeptical. Even that amount will last a decent length of time, thanks to instructions that direct a single capful of the stuff per gallon of water. This product is good for use in either those fancy foam cannons or using the simple two-bucket method of hand-washing.

Pros/Leaves a very clean car, smells great
Cons/You'll want to buy more
Bottom Line/They get me with marketing every time

3. Sudz Budz Premium Microfiber Car Cleaning 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
Bottom Line/Get yer scrub on

4. Carrand Deluxe Car Wash Dip Brush with Extension Pole

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
Bottom Line/Keep those bristles off the floor!

5. Adam's Arsenal Builder Car Detailing Kit

If you’re looking for a kit that covers the vast majority of bases to get you started, this is the unit for you. It contains all manner of cleaners for specific jobs, plus a few mitts and cloths. 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. There’s a bucket included in the deal, too.

Pros/Provides all the good stuff, including a soap blaster foam gun
Cons/A full range of product is going to be expensive
Bottom Line/We wish Adam's had more interesting branding

6. 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
Bottom Line/Don't wash your car without one

7. PowerBrush Drill 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
Bottom Line/Useful in the right hands

8. Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze

This brand is familiar to anyone who’s ever been near a collector car show or the old Spike TV Powerblock of weekend programming. Its intent is to simply restore a deep shine to the car’s paint; think the ‘wet’ look that’s prized by some gearheads.

At just 16 fluid ounces, this isn’t the biggest bottle of polish in the world but should be more than enough to get you and your car through the summer. The label says it’s safe on all painted surfaces and, most importantly, does not dry white – a common carp about other wax and polish products.

Pros/Solid name, great reviews from 1500+ buyers
Cons/Small(ish) bottle
Bottom Line/Take one to the next car show

Car Cleaning FAQs

What’s the best approach to car cleaning?

Start with the basics: get a good set of cleaning products, the right tools, and follow their instructions. Whatever level of zeal you deploy for cleaning the car, don’t use the same wash mitt for washing wheels as washing the paint, and if you accidentally drop a mitt or cloth on the ground – pitch it into the laundry and don’t let it touch your car until it’s clean again.

Is it ok to use general-purpose car cleaners?

There are specialized cleaners for every job, particularly for exterior work. Your car’s paintwork is surprisingly delicate, given the amount of abuse it accepts from road debris and the like during its lifetime. Using cheap soap or – gasp! – dish liquid is a surefire way to ruin your vehicle’s finish.

Does a clean car actually run better?

Science might not back up that claim – but the gearheads at TTAC know the truth.

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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.

(Editor’s note: 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.)

[Main photo credit: Bhakpong / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

One Comment on “Best Car Cleaning Products: Spic n’ Span...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Funny you should use the name Spic’N’Span. My aunt swore by it on her 1957 Ford Fsirlane. She’d hose off the grime, Dissolve Spic’N’Span in hot water in a bucket, add a stream of hose water to make suds, and clean her car with it.

    She’d use a big sponge to rub the suds in, hose it off and then dry it with a clean towel. She claimed she got the best shine on the chrome and the paint sparkled. She never used wax, just gave it the S&S weekly, and kept it garaged.

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