Keeping your car in great shape both inside and out is good for resale purposes, but a clean car is also a more comfortable one. According to Chad Zani, auto-detailing expert of Detail Garage, giving your vehicle some TLC is vital year-round. However, he notes, "One time you should really clean your interior is before winter, as the dirt will be pushed further into surfaces when it is wet since most dirt is water-soluble."
We compiled expert recommendations from Zani and researched items for washing, waxing, polishing, vacuuming, deodorizing, and disinfecting your ride.
Here are the best car cleaning products you can buy.
Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Building Car Kit
Foam cannon included
Compatible with many surfaces
May not need all of the included products
Our favorite car cleaning kit is the Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Building Car Kit because it takes all the guesswork out of cleaning your car. Instead of spending time researching and buying a bunch of products individually, opt for this comprehensive kit from Chemical Guys if you really want your car to shine. It has all the essentials for removing stains from your interior and sprucing up your car, including a detailing bucket, a foam cannon, a flagged trip wheel, a rim brush, a cyclone dirt trap, an easy-grip applicator pad, an anti-scratch wash mitt, a glass-cleaning cloth, and three multi-use microfiber towels.
This kit works amazingly well on plastic, leather, dashboards, glass, and navigation screens, so the interior of your car will be ready to show off in no time. As for actual cleaning solutions, you'll get a medley of products. This bundle comes with the brand's signature Butter Wet Wax, Silk Shine Dressing, Diablo Wheel Cleaner, and Speed Wipe—to name just a few. This is great for someone who wants to order the best kit and move on, but it might not work well for someone who has a few of these products already, because then you're double-buying.
Price at time of publish: $140
Dimensions: 14.5 x 13.5 x 13 inches | Weight: 14 pounds | Material: Various | Color: Not applicable
Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Shampoo Superior Surface Cleaner
May leave slight residue
Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Shampoo is a pH-balanced foaming shampoo formulated to offer a deep clean on car exteriors without stripping the wax or sealant. It's also safe to use on vinyl, glass, rubber, and other trim pieces. This car soap does an excellent job of getting rid of dirt, dust, grime, residues, and stuck-on particles while also restoring your vehicle's shine.
It's a concentrated formula, so add 1 to 3 ounces to a 5-gallon bucket, and you'll be looking at a clean car in no time. We like that it can be used with a foam cannon, a pressure gun, or just an old-fashioned bucket of water. This cleaner is so sudsy that it could leave a slight residue behind, so make sure to thoroughly rinse when cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $40
Dimensions: 4 x 2.4 x 6 inches | Weight: 1.1 pounds | Material: Soap | Color: Pink
Black+Decker BDH2020FL Cordless Gen 2 Flex Vac
Easy-to-empty dust bin
Flexible hose for extra reach
Long charge time
If you're looking to banish crumbs, dirt, and even sand from your car's interior, you need a powerful vacuum with the right attachments, like the Black+Decker GEN 2 FLEX Vacuum. This vacuum not only impressed our testers with its compact design and powerful suction, but it's also cordless, so you can easily navigate tight cracks throughout your car. This vacuum weighs just 3.2 pounds and comes fully assembled out of the box. It promises fade-free suction from its 20-volt battery, and our tester can vouch for its strong suction on both soft and hard surfaces.
While the GEN 2 FLEX has a simple attachment package—a combination brush and crevice tool, plus a nozzle tool—it also comes with a rubber pet hair brush, which sets it apart from other car vacuums we tested. This pet hair brush helps to agitate embedded hairs from upholstery and carpet. Combined with the 4-foot hose, these simple attachments make this vacuum an unbeatable interior cleaning tool. Our tester did find that the hose nozzle was too narrow for larger debris like mulch, but overall it was incredibly effective at passing hair, dust, and Cheerios.
This vacuum does have a longer charge time (four hours to be exact), which can be a pain if you forget to charge it after each use. However, our tester was willing to overlook the large charge time and narrow hose diameter because of this vacuum's otherwise impressive performance and user-friendly design.
Price at time of publish: $125
Dimensions: 14.9 x 10.7 x 6.5 inches | Weight: 3.2 pounds | Material: Plastic | Color: Black, gray, and blue
Carrand Flow-Thru 10" Quad Wash Brush
Harder to control with hose connection
We're big fans of the Carrand 93072 Flow-Thru 10-foot Quad Wash Brush because it's long enough to reach the entire roof of a taller car but gentle enough as to not scratch it, plus it has a telescoping handle and all-sided head that locks into place.
The handle extends up to 71 inches, allowing you to reach all the way over the roof of your car. It also has a variable-slide water control valve that you can hook your hose to if you'd rather not use a bucket. Depending on the water pressure, this feature can make it harder to control. However, if you wear gloves while using this brush, it may take some of the discomfort out of holding such a long handle for a longer period of time.
Price at time of publish: $43
Dimensions: 45 x 10 x 4 inches | Weight: 1.6 ounces | Material: Aluminum, nylon | Color: Black, white
CarGuys Premium Series Hybrid Wax
Provides UV protection
Lasts 3 to 6 months
Should not be applied in direct sun
The Car Guys Hybrid Wax protects car paint and enhances overall shine, thanks to its streak-free formula. The carnauba wax combined with polymer additives results in a shiny finish that also provides long-lasting protection against UV rays. This wax is hydrophobic to repel moisture and rain, too.
This formula is supposed to last between three and six months, and its spray application makes it an easy addition to your at-home car maintenance routine. The packaging says that a little of this product goes a long way—you only need to spray once every 2-by- 2-foot section—so you can expect the 18-ounce bottle to provide up to six treatments, depending on the size of your vehicle.
To apply it best, spritz on the wax, wiping it with the microfiber cloth provided, then buff it with the cloth’s reverse side. Car Guys recommends applying this car wax only if the car’s exterior is cool enough to comfortably rest your hand on, and it's best to apply this wax when your vehicle is not sitting under direct sunlight.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 8.23 x 7.68 x 2.87 inches | Weight: 1.43 pounds | Material: Hybrid wax | Color: Clear
Chemical Guys Professional Grade Premium Microfiber Towel Set
These ultra-absorbent, dual-sided towels are designed to handle both interior and exterior detailing on cars. They measure 16 by 16 inches, which allows you to easily wipe down a large surface area with one towel. The two different sides offer versatility when cleaning for absorbing water (the high-pile side) and buffing away waxes and sealants (the low-pile side). The edge is finished with a silk band, which prevents scratches on your car and maintains the towel's shape.
These towels can go right in the washing machine, and you don't have to worry about their durability over time. They're only designed to be used for car detailing as they're not durable enough for household scrubbing. Katie Berry, a cleaning expert and member of The Spruce Cleaning and Organization Review Board, does stress that you don't want your microfiber cloths to be too soft. "When your microfiber cloths begin to feel super soft, they're no longer as effective. That softness is a sign that the microfibers have shed, so what you're working with is just plain old cloth." When you've run down one towel's effectiveness, there's no need to fret as they come in packs of 3, 12, 24, 36, and 60.
Price at time of publish: $14
Dimensions: 16 x 16 inches | Weight: 6.3 ounces (full set) | Material: Polyester, polyamide | Colors: Yellow or blue
Best for Leather Upholstery
Leather Honey Leather Cleaner
Works on all colors
May not spread easily
Need microfiber cloth to apply
This cleaning solution flaunts a non-toxic formula that works on any color of leather upholstery, whether in your car or on the leather furniture in your home. You will need a microfiber cloth, which is not provided with the cleaner, to apply this solution. Once you've tested a spot and are happy with the result, then you can gently rub the mixture into the leather, being sure to buff out any streaks.
Leather Honey's concentrate is premixed, so you can apply it directly to your seats using a clean, damp cloth. Work in circles until you've cleaned it to your liking. While it might be tricky to spread in colder environments, you can always mix the concentrate with a little water to create a thinner consistency.
Price at time of publish: $25
Dimensions: 7 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches | Weight: 9.5 ounces | Material: Concentrated solution | Color: All leather colors
Best for Cloth Upholstery
Armor All FreshFX Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner 3-in-1 Power Foam
Removable scrubber brush
Penetrates tough stains
Limited cleaning ability
If your car has cloth seats, your best bet is Armor All Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. It sprays a rich foam that penetrates deep into the fibers of your seats and floor mats, breaking up residues, stuck-on dirt, and tough stains. While this is an excellent cleaner, note that any set-in stains might require an upholstery cleaner machine.
This Armor All cleaner won't discolor your car's fabric and even restores the soft, plush look and feel of fabric materials. The bristled brush makes it easy to scrub away stains, and you can remove it if needed when cleaning more delicate surfaces. It is scented, so it may not be the best choice for your car if you're sensitive to smells.
Price at time of publish: $11
Dimensions: 2.8 x 3.9 x 11 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds | Material: Foaming solution | Color: Not applicable
If you're looking for a car cleaning kit that includes everything, choose the Chemical Guys 16-Piece Arsenal Building Car Kit. It comes with 16 top-quality products to make your car shine inside and out. If you're just looking to wash the exterior, your best bet is Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Shampoo. This foaming pink formula gently removes all kinds of grime and residue while restoring your car to its sparkly state.
What to Look for in a Car Cleaning Product
Some car cleaning products are designed to clean specific materials. If your car seats are leather, look for products designed to clean leather instead of cloth fabric cleaners. Using the wrong product on a sensitive material could ruin it.
Not all products are specifically designed for certain materials—there are plenty of multi-purpose cleaning products on the market. Those products are generally safe to use on a variety of material types. Just check the label before purchasing to make sure it’s compatible with the materials in your car.
Ease of Use
If you aren’t a professional car detailer, you’re likely looking for user-friendly cleaning products. There are certain tools and supplies that take a little extra elbow grease and finesse to get them to work properly. Others are designed for the everyday vehicle owner and are easier to use.
Consider where you’ll be cleaning your car when purchasing car cleaning supplies. Tools like vacuums use electricity for power. If there’s not an outlet near where you’ll be cleaning your car, consider getting a battery-operated one or one with a long power cord.
New car owners may be better off with a car cleaning kit rather than purchasing individual items. This will make the process of keeping your car clean easy because you’ll have everything you need right off the bat.
It’s no surprise that cost is a major factor when deciding which car cleaning supplies to purchase. Product prices vary widely, so you’re bound to find something within your budget. Before clicking the buy button, make sure you have a plan so you don’t spend too much money on a product that you will only need once a year.
How do you clean a car’s interior?
It’s as important to clean your car’s interior as the exterior. Remove the car mats to vacuum the carpets—and don’t forget to vacuum the area under the seats. Use vacuum attachments like crevice tools to clean your air vents and to reach all of the tight spaces in between the seats.
Depending on the material, use either leather or upholstery cleaner to keep your seats and other components in excellent condition. For hard surfaces, rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth can remove dirt and grime.
Don’t forget to clean the windows. Some people swear by a combination of vinegar and alcohol to leave a streak-free shine.
Do car cleaning products expire?
All products expire, and the expiration date can vary by manufacturer.
Expiration dates can also vary depending on the quality of the product, the type of product, and the storage temperature. As a general rule, if you notice a change in the product’s appearance or performance (or a rancid smell), throw it away.
How do you store car cleaning products?
Extreme heat and cold can negatively impact how long a product remains effective. It may be convenient to keep your cleaning products in the garage, but you might want to store them in another area of your home that has a more consistent temperature. The laundry room is one place to consider. A closet in your home with enough space might also be a better choice than the garage. Keeping all of your auto cleaning products in a plastic storage crate in a closet can make transportation much easier. If moving your products out of the garage isn’t an option, consider purchasing smaller quantities so you can use them up quickly.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in home improvement, recreation, and lifestyle content. For this article, she interviewed Chad Zani, auto-detailing expert of Detail Garage for his product suggestions and insight into the importance of regularly cleaning your car. After compiling expert recommendations, Holland considered a variety of cleaning solutions and tools, selecting those that stood out in terms of effectiveness, price, durability, versatility, and overall value. You can find more of her work on MyDomaine and Verywell Health. Katie Berry, a cleaning expert and member of The Spruce Cleaning and Organization Review Board, also provided her insight on the best cleaning cloths to use for detailing cars.
Emma Phelps, an updates writer for The Spruce, later updated this roundup to include new products based on our latest testing and product research. She has over two years of experience researching products and recommending the best designs to consumers.