DIY Car Detailing Checklist

gloved hand cleaning car grille with brush

There are rooms in your home that you spend less time in than your car. Many people spend a great deal of time in their cars because this is really your personal space. It gets you where you want to go, and it’s your private area. But over time, that private space becomes….well, disgusting. When your car needs a cleaning, and it seriously needs cleaning, it’s time to do some detailing.


You can begin with the outside or the inside, depending on your preference. When you do get to work on the exterior, start with a good rinse. Plain water can remove a lot of dirt and debris and give you a good head start.

Start at the top of the car and work your way down, washing one section of the car with soap as you go. Once everything is soaped up, rinse the car thoroughly again.

Open the car doors and clean the jambs and the cracks both on the door and on the car. Lots of gunk tends to collect here, and you won't even notice how dirty it is until you clean it.

Wipe down the tires and the rims with soap and water, rinsing thoroughly again. Then, go back and clean the tires with a special rubber cleaner. Polish chrome rims with chrome cleaner. Always use a clean, dry cloth with any new type of cleaner you use. Work in controlled, small circles as you clean, buff, and polish.

Clean the wipers as well, because a lot of crap can build up here. Lift the wipers and clean them gently with soap and water. Don't neglect the area underneath the wipers.

hand cleaning wiper blades with rag


If you're like most people, the interior of your car tends to collect a lot of junk. Follow a checklist to get it gleaming with cleanliness.

Remove All Trash

Clear out random stuff that doesn't belong. If you can, get a small box or basket to hold all those little items you've got to keep in the car. This may include items like cleaning wipes, an ice scraper, extra motor oil, and so on.

Wipe Down All Surfaces

Clean the dashboard, steering wheel, console, doors, and non-fabric pieces inside the car, including seatbelts. Don't forget your dials and knobs.

gloved hand cleaning interior car surface with sponge

Clean the Floor Mats

Take out the floor mats and shake them out to remove dirt and dush. Individually vacuum and shampoo these mats. Clean the underside of the mats, too. This par is usually rubbery so that it will grip the carpet inside the car.

Clean the Windows

Wipe down all glass, including the rearview mirror. Don't forget the vanity mirrors! If you have tinted windows, use cleaning wipes that are specifically designed for tinted glass.

Shampoo All Fabrics

Shampoo all fabrics, including the floor mats, outside the car if this hasn't already been done.

The Little Details

Detailing is all about details! So you can whip out a few extra tricks to really get your car clean.

hand cleaning car window buttons with brush

Clean the Vents

Use a paintbrush or makeup brush to clean out the vents. With a small brush, you can get right into the slats and really clean those vents.

Wipe the Cupholders

The cupholders are one of the easiest places to miss on a car. They're also super hard to clean. Wipe out your cupholders by placing an old sock with cleaning solution on it over your hand. Your fingers and hand can move and twist and flex to get all around the inside of the cupholder and clean all those crevices.

Clean the Rear Light

The brake light at the rear windshield can accumulate a lot of gunk, and it can be difficult to clean. Go after it with an old toothbrush to scrub away all the grim around the light.