- All Purpose Cleaner (buy from your local store - you will also need a spray bottle)
- Long handled soft brush
- Wheel cleaner ("Ferrous Metal Fallout Remover" recommended)
- Power washer
- Snow foam solution (can be applied via a lance or via a spray bottle)
- Tax / glue remover (may also need to buy a spray bottle)
- Clay lubricant (water with a dash of shampoo) in a spray bottle
- Polish (your choice ranging from pre-wax cleanser through to cutting compounds)
- Wax (again your choice)
- Two plastic buckets
- Cleaning mitt
- Large micro fibre towel (for drying)
- Selection of cheap micro fibre cloths
- Gloves (I use a pair of yellow kitchen ones)
- Wheel cleaner brush
Step 1: The Wheels and arches
(These should be cleaned first as you will certainly make a mess of any clean paintwork while you do it.)
Start with the All Purpose Cleaner (unless you bought a pre-mix you will have needed to dilute some in a spray bottle full of water) and spray it under the wheel arches and on the tyres then use the long handled brush to scrub the arches and tyres. Making sure you have your gloves on run your fingers inside the arches (especially at the rear) to dig out any accumulations of dirt that might cause dampness and so eventually rust. (If you want to be really serious about this take the wheels off at the back so you can get in and give the arches a proper clean.) You can also use the cleaner and the brush to clean the tyres. Once you are happy rinse off arches and wheels with the power washer.
Next spray the wheel cleaner onto the wheels and agitate with the wheel cleaner brush. If you have got a good quality one it should change colour when it hits baked on brake dust etc. Work this in then rinse off with the power washer (repeat if needed). If you have tar spots on your wheels use tar remover next to melt them off. Always rinse tar remover off thoroughly as it can damage paint or lacquer if left on for too long. Keep a dedicated cloth for use with the tar remover as it stinks and will ruin the cloth!
Make sure everything is thoroughly rinsed off and then you are done with the wheels and arches.
Step 2: Wash the car
Start off with the power washer and give the car a good overall clean. The objective here is to wash off as much loose dirt as you can. Once you have power washed the whole car you need to cover it in detergent to loosen any stuck on dirt. The detailer used a snow foam solution in a spray bottle which he applied to the whole car by hand. I use a snow foam lance to do the same job. It doesn't need to be a thick white covering, you are just getting detergent all over the car. Leave for a short while - don't let it dry - then power wash off. Again you are trying to ensure that you wash off the remaining dirt that the detergent has loosened up.
Fill your two cleaning buckets with water and add shampoo to one of them. Now carefully wash the car with your cleaning mitt - no need to apply pressure, just wipe the mitt over the surface of the car. Always go from the shampoo bucket to the car then back to the rinse bucket before loading up with more shampoo for the next go. This should keep your shampoo water clean - you can change the rinse water when it gets too dirty. When you are done washing rinse with the power washer - it's important not to let the shampoo dry on so if necessary clean and rinse the car in sections.
Now that the car is clean go round with the All Purpose Cleaner and a cloth and clean all door shuts, inside the petrol cap, and the boot and bonnet shuts. You can also use All Purpose Cleaner and a toothbrush to tackle small detail areas such as badges, the raised text on lighting units (which like to trap dirt or old wax residue), or basically anywhere else that needs a bit more cleaning.
When you are done check if you have any tar spots on the bodywork and if so apply some tar remover (remember to use the cloth you dedicated to this earlier if you used tar remover on the wheels). Rinse off thoroughly to ensure you do not damage your paintwork.
Your car should now be clean.
Step 3: Preparation
The next step is to clay the car. You will need some sort of lubricant in a spray bottle - water with a small amount of shampoo works fine and is nice and cheap. Keep the surface lubricated and work over all the painted panels with your clay, folding as it gets dirty. If at any point you drop a piece of clay throw it immediately in the bin! (For this reason don't work with the entire clay block but rather about 20% of it.) What you are looking for is your fingers to glide across the paintwork without any sensation of roughness. Now power wash the car and then dry it off with a large micro fibre tower. Leave it for as long as possible to drip to get rid of as much water as possible before you move on to polishing and finishing.
After claying the car you need to polish it. Now for this you can use anything from a pre-wax cleanser - which will not actually polish the car but will just make sure the surface is completely free of contaminants - up to a fairly tough cutting compound. It's your choice depending on what you want to do to your car. You can even machine polish at this stage if you really want to (although you'll need to talk to someone else about that).
When you have finished you should have a nice shiny looking car. But remember, it has no wax on it and therefore no protection.
Step 4: Apply wax
The recommendation here is to apply the wax and then buff it off one panel at a time. This should stop the wax drying out and becoming much harder to buff. When you are done with this you should have a really shiny car.
And that's it. I tried it on my Toyota Avensis and I was really impressed with the results (see attached pictures). For maintenance it's a case of repeating the process but without the claying or polishing - and you can decide how frequently you want to top up the wax.
I hope this helps!