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Best Car Cleaning Kits For 2023 – Forbes Home – Forbes

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Automobile manufacturers, professional detailers and that guy down the street with the metallic lime green 1971 Plymouth Barracuda agree that hand washing and waxing is the best way to keep any vehicle looking its best. However, choosing the ideal car wash soap, wax, sealants, towels and washing mitts can be tough even for seasoned detailers to navigate. One way to keep it simple and save money? Grab a car cleaning kit.
These package deals take the guesswork out of the car care equation with a manufacturer-selected group of products ranging from basic wash-and-wax bundles to complete interior and exterior detailing packages. Such bundles are typically less expensive than buying individual products. Sampler kits are a great way to try new things and see if they pass the sniff test. If something works well, then you can step up to larger quantities or refills without spending too much on something used only once.
There are different types of kits though, and some are more comprehensive than others. Most casual users and newbies should start off with a small kit and learn the basics of detailing before moving on to more expensive products. Also, not every kit offers products intended for the inside of the vehicle. Full professional detailing kits can run into pricey territory, so we’ve stuck to recommendations that skew towards amateur use. Once you’ve sampled some of these kits and found your favorite products, you can then invest in larger quantities.
The products, though, are better than ever. Newly engineered cleaners, sprays and tools make it easier to clean your vehicle than ever before. Car care companies offer everything from traditional “wax on, wax off” carnauba wax to modern hybrids that deliver one-and-done results. “Ceramic coating” is either a buzzword or the most important car cleaning invention since paint itself, depending on who you ask.
We won’t try to settle the ceramic coating debate here, since we offer a separate list of those products. Instead, here are the best car cleaning kits for 2023, focusing on non-ceramic products and the cleansers, waxes and sealants you need before you can even apply coating.

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Featured Products
1
Premier Car Care Kit by Armor All
Pieces
8
Type
Wax and Wash
Other Features
Includes glass cleaner, air freshener, tire & wheel cleaner
1
Premier Car Care Kit by Armor All
On Amazon
2
Chemical Guys HOL401
Pieces
8
Type
Waterless
Other Features
Wash, wax and protect in one step, 6 ounce bottle makes 2 gallons of ready to use waterless wash.
2
Chemical Guys HOL401
On Amazon
3
Armor All Car Wipes
Pieces
3
Type
Wipes
Other Features
30 x 3 wipes for cleaning, protecting and glass surfaces, interior and exterior use
3
Armor All Car Wipes
On Amazon
Best For Newbies And Experts Alike
Best For Newbies And Experts Alike
Meguiar’s Complete Car Care Kit

Meguair’s Complete Car Care Kit hits the trifecta of performance, value and versatility. These premium products clean and protect from the roof to the tires and the kit includes reusable microfiber towels, a washing mitt and foam applicator pads to get the big jobs done. Paint preparation is a snap with a boxed set of clay bars that extract embedded crud and ScratchX 2.0 that knocks out swirls left behind by the drive-through car wash. Gold Class Car Wash and Liquid Wax bring conditioners, carnauba and polymer waxes together for a car-show-worthy shine.
This kit also helps with interior detailing, which is sometimes a secondary matter with car cleaning kits. Quik Interior Detailer covers overall cabin cleanup, and teams up with one of our all-time favorite specialized Meguair’s products. PlastX is nothing short of miraculous for cleaning and polishing uncoated clear plastic surfaces like gauge covers. The Quik Detailer doubles as a clay bar lubricant or spot cleanups in between washes and Endurance tire gel leaves a deep gloss finishing touch where the rubber meets the road.
Best Pro-Quality Kit
Best Pro-Quality Kit
Griot’s Garage 11131 Starter Car Care Kit

The Griot’s Garage starter kit covers exterior and interior care with premium quality products made in-house under the watchful eyes of Richard Griot, a well-known automotive enthusiast who started his company in his home garage in 1988. This kit features larger than sampler quantities that add up to considerable savings over individual purchases. It also includes professional quality sprayers built to last through multiple refills. An innovative and reusable synthetic clay bar works with Speed Shine, Griot’s quick-cleaning product, to smooth out the vehicle finish.
Car Wash and Wheel Cleaner get things clean and ready for detailing and Best in Show wax delivers a deep shine that protects against the elements for months. Vinyl and Rubber Dressing is a versatile performer on everything from weatherstripping and tires to interior surfaces. The satin sheen cleaner and protectant delivers a showroom fresh look without over-the-top gloss. The dressing won’t work for cleaning leather or cloth interior surfaces, or carpet, but rest assured, Griot’s Garage offers several products that make interior cleaning a snap. Speed Shine is also great for spot cleanups on the go or after a drive.
Best Carnauba Wax Kit
Best Carnauba Wax Kit
Mothers Complete Ultimate Wax System

The warm glow of high-quality carnauba wax is famous among car enthusiasts, and properly prepared paint is the secret to the shine. Mothers California Gold Ultimate Wax System is a triumvirate of forgiving products that deliver professional results. Follow up a car wash and clay bar treatment with Pure Polish to flatten imperfections and remove minor scratches. Follow up with Micro-Polishing Glaze to polish the surface finer still and fill and conceal swirl marks.
Finish the job with top-quality carnauba, the hardest and most heat-resistant wax you can buy. Mothers only uses 100% pure yellow carnauba wax sourced from Brazil. The system can be worked on and off by hand or with a buffer so go with whichever feels most comfortable. If three steps of waxing on and off are two too many, then check out Mothers Speed or CMX lines for accelerated car care chemistry and cutting-edge ceramic technology.
Most inclusive Kit
Most inclusive Kit
Chemical Guys 20-Piece Arsenal Builder

The Chemical Guys 20-piece Arsenal Builder Wash Kit is the one kit to clean, condition, protect and shine every single surface, material and finish on every kind of vehicle. An innovative and high-quality product lineup has earned the California-based company a dedicated following and the comprehensive kit packs everything from heavy-duty cleaners to water-repellent fabric coatings.
The Arsenal Builder Wash Kit also includes several helpful accessories: The bucket and cyclone dirt filter helps keep soapy water clean and keeps grime off your microfiber towels and washing mitt. Applicators make waxing easy, and the short-handle brush has the right kind of bristles where other brushes don’t. This kit also comes with the garden hose-powered TORQ Blaster Foam Gun soap sprayer, which should be sufficient for most applications. If it isn’t, the Chemical Guys have another kit with a foam cannon for pressure washer owners.
Best For Gifting
Best For Gifting
Adam’s Polishes Towel Arsenal Builder

Like the Chemical Guys’ Arsenal Builder, this similarly named kit throws in just about everything you might need for interior and exterior detail work, although serious pros will still want to invest in their own brushes for small spaces inside. Adam’s Polishes Arsenal Builder puts equal emphasis on the exterior and interior products as well, so this is a very balanced set of tools and (depending on whether any specials are running) often quite a bit cheaper to buy than the Chemical Guys’ set.
It also offers a little bit more, bundling in a hose-fed foam gun and a pressure-washer-fed foam cannon just in case you needed more oomph for your sudsing. The kit contains 16-ounce bottles of soap, wax, glass cleaner, vinyl and rubber dressing, wheel cleaner, quick shine, paint sealant, fabric and upholstery cleaner, after-wash drying agents and interior protectant; as well as applicators, bucket, brushes and microfiber towels. This much gear will keep you well-stocked for an entire season of car shows and beyond, without really breaking the bank. The products are of decent quality too, though Adam’s is less well-known than the Chemical Guys.
Best Value Kit
Best Value Kit
Turtle Wax Ultimate Car Care Kit

Turtle Wax has come a long way since it introduced the first liquid car wax in 1944, and the current product lineup is well represented in this affordable, easy to use 10-piece kit. Tools and products for interior and exterior are included here, along with microfiber towels and foam applicators.
The included scratch and swirl remover preps the vehicle finish, and Wax & Dry Spray Wax leaves a durable shine in a single step. Dash & Glass cleaner and Inside & Out Protectant team up for a clean cabin and clear views, and Odor-X eliminates foul interior odors. A Wet’N Black tire dressing is a classic finishing touch to any detailing job.
We based our car cleaning kit list on real-world experiences with these detailing products. In nearly all cases these are products that Forbes Wheels staff have directly used on our own vehicles.
Each of the brands in this guide offer different arrays of products that range from specialized finish waxing and interior upholstery cleaning packages to do-it-all uber kits. Some, (such as the products from Adam’s, the Chemical Guys, Meguiar’s and Griot’s listed above) are very comprehensive, but many kits are geared only toward the interior or exterior, and many focus mainly on the products and applicators, not fancy extras like foam cannons. We evaluate each kit individually and rank them on their price and completeness, as well as the efficacy of the products within.
There’s a car cleaning kit for every type of vehicle and owner skill level, and there is no possible way to feature them all. If one company’s bundle looks like way too much or vice versa, there’s probably one out there that’s a better fit for you.
Through testing and research, we evaluate car cleaning kits based on these weighted metrics:
If you’re just doing a casual wash, there is a defined process that can help you make it easier. We won’t detail the extended process of clay bar use and paint correction here, but the basics of a simple wash are important.
Make sure you have two buckets, one for your soap and water mixture and another for rinsing dirty wash mitts or brushes. You’ll also want a hose with a nozzle or a pressure washer to blast off some of the most difficult dirt, although you can do part of this by visiting a self-service car wash if you don’t have access to these.
It’s a good idea to raise the vehicle hood and trunk or hatch and remove any accumulated leaves or debris before you start washing the exterior. Take a microfiber cloth and wipe the areas down, particularly around trunk or hatch weatherstripping, to help channel water away. Under the hood, be sure to clean around water drain holes at the base of the windshield to keep them clear.
For this step, you’ll want to use your hose or pressure washer to spray clean the wheels, tires and wheel wells, particularly if you’ve been driving in salty conditions. The wheels will always be the dirtiest part of your vehicle, and in addition to road gunk and salt, they’ll also have brake dust on them. Several of the kits listed in our rankings come with wheel cleaner spray. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual to see if your wheels require a specific type of cleaner. If you have aftermarket wheels, consult with your salesperson to make sure you are using the right formulation wheel cleaner. Some may be too harsh, and may damage the wheel finish. Always read the label carefully before you begin, and do not apply any wheel cleaner to a “hot” wheel. Braking really heats up the wheels, so give them a chance to cool before cleaning.
Fill your suds bucket with the recommended mixture of car washing solution (as included in nearly all of these kits) and water. Generally speaking, the solution is a concentrate. Use the soapy mixture in the first bucket to lather the entire vehicle top to bottom, creating as much of a soapy coating as possible. If you have access to a hose or pressure washer, you could also use a foam gun or foam cannon for this purpose.
Use a wash mitt or wash brush, and clean starting from top to bottom, using a vertical or horizontal wiping motion. Circular motions contribute to paint swirls, most notable on black paint finishes. Make clean swipes with one side of the mitt, then the other, then rinse, working from top to bottom. Rinse your mitt or brush often in case any debris gets into it—dragging this stuff over the vehicle’s surface will leave scratches or marks. If your mitt falls on the ground, wash it thoroughly before using it on the vehicle again.
Do not wash or rinse your vehicle in direct sunlight, as it will dry too rapidly and can leave water spots in the paint.
Take your hose or pressure washer and begin rinsing off the vehicle, again, work from top to bottom so any dirt and debris ends up on the ground. Don’t be afraid to spray hard, and to spray into panel gaps where you might not have gone with your mitt but where suds can gather. Leave no soap behind.
Once you’ve thoroughly rinsed the vehicle, use a (or more) microfiber towel to dry off the vehicle. Leaving beaded-up water to stand and air-dry will result in spots later on. Squeeze any water from the towel into your rinsing bucket and keep running over the paint until it’s streak-free and dry.
At this point, you’re ready to go further with detailing the exterior if you wish. If you want to seal in this clean look, a coat of wax beckons. We recommend a deeper cleaning before applying any ceramic coating, however, as it lasts longer and requires more careful surface preparation.
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but to serious detailers they mean different things.
Washing a car means simply cleaning dirt off of the surface in a casual way.
Detailing a car, however, is a more intensive process. First, the car is washed to get rid of the worst dirt and dust, then fine particulates are removed with clay bars and scratches polished out. Detailing can also include paint correction, which is a truly deep clean of the finish but best done by a professional. The clean results are then covered with sealants, polishes and waxes to restore a factory-fresh shine. Similarly, detailing implies a deep clean of the interior and its many hard-to-reach surfaces, including using fine brushes to clean the inside of air conditioning vents and the like.
Of course! It’s physical labor, but most car cleaning kits offer all of the tools you’ll need apart from very specialized items like clay bars, and even then some extensive kits include them. Doing a proper clean and detail job on the exterior of your vehicle is different from cleaning out the interior, and most car cleaning kits are aimed at stripping dirt off of your finish and then providing you with reparative products (clay bars, polish) and sealants that can keep future dirt off (wax, ceramic coating). Separate methods and products are required for your interior.
Hand washing and waxing with dedicated car care products is the best method. Touchless car washes are better than nothing, but most use powerful cleaning chemicals and waxes that can build up over time. Steer clear of automatic car washes with spinning brushes, and don’t use the crud-filled brush at a DIY car wash any more than you would ask for a stranger’s toothbrush to clean your teeth.
This question is a source of considerable debate even among detailers. Plant-based carnauba wax is a traditional favorite that can require more work than less arduous synthetic wax sealants. Ceramic or Si02 coating isn’t wax at all and can require exacting paint preparation for best results. Newer hybrid formulations bring the best together and may pave the way to an argument-free car care future.
Some automatic car washes are more destructive than others, but yes. Dragging anything over the surface, including heavy car wash brushes, will strip away wax. Rain, sun, winter road salt and even hand washing will remove car wax to varying degrees as well, but less quickly than regularly running your car through the automatic wash. Wax is the last protective step in the car cleaning and detailing process and the first to take the hit from the elements and time. Hand washing is the safest bet and some car wash soaps blend in conditioners and wax that extend time between detailing sessions.
No. Heavy-duty or abrasive cleaners, degreasers, laundry detergents, dish soap and even shampoo will strip off protective wax, sealants and damage your paint pretty quickly. Car care products and kits might seem pricey, but corrective paint detailing and auto bodywork are much more costly.
I am a freelance writer, photographer and champion of the automotive underdog. I live in New England with a multi-vehicle fleet that ranges from a contemporary front-wheel-drive turbo hatchback to vintage Japanese 4x4s, a turbo specialty sports coupe and a motorcycle. My hobbies include building, flying and crashing remote control scale model airplanes and more recently, adventures in home barbering.
Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio and television for over 46 years. He is president emeritus of the Washington Automotive Press Association, a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) juror and is a regular contributor to several automotive media broadcasts and websites. In his spare time, Brian enjoys tending to the care and feeding of his Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover vehicles.

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