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The Beginner’s Buying Guide

It is constantly asked “what should I buy first” or “just tell me the main things to buy, I don’t want to get too crazy into detailing.” This article is to help you begin with a jumping point for doing the normal basics for a home detailer. How you take it from here is up to you.

NOTE

You do not need to buy everything on this list nor by it from where we have linked to. It is intended to help out the new people who are interested in getting into detailing and are (understandably) massively confused by the heaps and heaps of product choices. There is an initial sticker shock. However, these products will last you months, if not years depending on how often you decide to detail your vehicle.

To simplify this article, it is suggested that you purchase the following:

  • The Basics;
  • 1 or 2 Soaps;
  • An APC (All Purpose Cleaner);
  • ONR (Optimum No Rinse) or Ultima WW;
  • A Spray Wax/Detailer;
  • A clay bar OR Nanoskin product;
  • Iron X;
  • Collinite 845; and
  • Griot’s Garage Polisher with the Appropriate Pads.

Pricing Disclaimer

Prices on this page are not exact. Prices recorded were accurate at the time of posting and may have gone slightly up or down, so be sure to check your total before hitting the checkout.

The Basics:

  • 2x 5 gallon buckets – $3/4 each on Home Depot. The orange ones.
  • 2x grit guards – $10 each on Amazon. One for each bucket.
  • 2x Wash mitt – Chenille microfiber $5.35 @ TRC. By having two, you can dedicate one for the top half of your car, saving one for the dirtier lower portion of your vehicle.
  • Wheel Woolies – $38 @ Amazon. It’s a good idea to have various brush sizes for the wheels and wheel barrels. These also rinse and clean up easily, and don’t spray product back in your face like some longer brushes (looking at you, EZ Detail Brush).
  • Mother’s Tire Brush – $6 @ Amazon. Simple, stiff brush for tires.
  • Mother’s Wheel Brush – $8 @ Amazon. A soft brush for the wheel face.
  • Meguiar’s Glass Cleaner Concentrate – $19 @ Amazon. This dilutes 10:1 so you get 11 gallons out of this one gallon. Safe on tinted windows, great for around the home too. Easy to use, non-streak, smells like grape drank.

All Purpose Cleaners

  • Meguiar’s D101 APC – $17 @ Amazon. This can be diluted 4:1 or 10:1 depending on level of cleaning needed. Great for all parts of the car including sensitive interior parts (vinyl, leather, rubber, upholstery) at the appropriate dilution.

Soaps:

  • Meguiar’s Gold Class Shampoo – $8.99 OTC. Rinses ok, cleans ok, best bang for your buck going OTC. I always have some on hand.
  • Duragloss 901- $8 @ Amazon. Better cleaning power then Gold Class, smells like cherries, can be found OTC. Under the name ‘902’ in a gallon size.
  • Optimum Car Wash – $12.56 @ Amazon. High lubricity, cleans and rinses well. A little pricier, but from a reputable manufacturer. Smells like blueberries.
  • Carpro Reset – $33 @ Amazon. Currently my favorite soap. No gloss enhancers, no wax, no fillers. Rinses and cleans very well to show the true status of your paint. Really designed for coatings like CQuartz or Opti Coat, but won’t do anything to other sealants or waxes.

Rinseless/QD/SW/WW:

  • Optimum No Rinse – $18.37 @ Amazon. Everyone should have a bottle of this. Can be diluted to clay lube, quick detailer, and rinseless wash. Add it to your soap bucket while performing a regular 2 bucket wash for added lubricity.
  • Ultima Waterless Wash + – $20.99 @ Autopia. Another great, versatile product that can be diluted to serve as a clay lube, quick detailer, rinseless or waterless wash(ONR isn’t recommended for waterless). This product has a slight amount of protection that it leaves when used as a waterless or rinseless wash, and is very slick.
  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer – $7-9 OTC – Great OTC product. Smells nice, the bottle will last you.
  • Meguiar’s 34 – $20-25 OTC. A somewhat overlooked choice in the quick detailer department. Can be used for clay lube, QD, or after polishing to remove oils.
  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Wax – $7-9 OTC. Similar to Quik Detailer, just with wax added. This is available in gallon sized, called D156 Express Spray wax. Great as a drying aid or last step product booster.

Decontamination:

  • Iron X – $20-32 @ Autopia. Pricey, but worth it. Paint safe as well as wheel safe. Paste version also available for better cling.
  • Sonax Wheel Cleaner – $15 @ Amazon. Designed for any type of wheel. NOT to be used on paint.
  • Meguiar’s / Mother’s Clay Bar Kit – $15-20 OTC. A great way to start really detailing your car. These kits come with a clay bar, a microfiber towel, and a bottle of QD.
  • Nanoskin Fine Mitt – $45 @ Amazon. Better then clay since it lasts longer and you don’t have to throw it out if you drop it, just rinse it off. The price may scare you, but you’ll buying 2+ clay kits to equal the lifetime of this. Large though, cannot reach smaller areas.
  • Nanoskin Fine Sponge – $12 @ Amazon. Same as above, just in a smaller version. I prefer this to the mitt.
  • Meguiar’s DUB Wheel Cleaner – $9 OTC. OTC version of Sonax. For wheels only. Not as strong though. A good choice to keep as a backup.

Compound & Polish:

  • Meguiar’s 105 and Meguiar’s 205
    • $26 for M105 on Amazon.
    • $20 for M205 on Amazon.
    • These are pretty much the standard in first time recommended products. They are tired, true, and proven to work in a variety of settings. M105 has extreme cut and M205 can actually get pretty aggressive if used with an appropriate pad. There is a slight learning curve to M105.
  • HD Cut and HD Polish
    • $38 for HD Cut on Amazon.
    • $38 for HD Polish on Amazon.
    • These products are the bees knees. They work slightly different from most conventional polishes and compounds in that you do not need to “prime” your pad the same way, so most people opt for more familiar technology in M105/205, but these are both very good and produce less dust than their counterparts.

Pads:

  • Meguiar’s Microfiber Cutting Pads – $10-20 @ Amazon. Cuts quicker then foam, and better to use on tougher clear coats (VW, Audi). Heats up quickly though.
  • Lake Country Pads – Polishing, finishing polish, & LSP – prices vary. I like the CSS pads. You need at least 3 of each step – polishing, finishing polish, and LSP (last step product).

Waxes and Sealants:

  • Collinite 845 – $18.99 @ Autopia. The ‘winter wax’ for most of the members here. Very tough, very durable, great price point. 4-6+ month durability.
  • Menzerna Powerlock – $29.99 (16oz) @ Autopia. A little pricey, but worth it. Incredible slickness and some added gloss. 4-6+ month durability.
  • Blackfire Wet Diamond – $39.99 @ Autopia. This was the go-to sealant for a long time for many people. It’s price point is a little much with all the other available products out there now, but there is no better looking sealant on the market in my opinion, especially on dark colors. 4-6 month durability depending on prepwork and conditions.

Microfiber:

  • 300 Edgeless All Purpose Towel – $1.99 each @ TRC – get as many as you can, at least 10. These will be for your dirty jobs – under the hood, exhaust pipes, door jambs, etc. That way you don’t have to feel bad about tossing them after a particularly dirty job.
  • Spectrum 420 Plush Dual Pile – $2.70 each @ TRC – at least 5. Very plush, great for wax removal, drying, QD application/removal.
  • Standard Green Glass & Window Towel – $2.35 each @ TRC – at least 3. Low nap, great for cleaning windows.
  • Eagle Edgeless – $4.85 each @ TRC – at least 5. Similar to the spectrum above, though not as ‘bulky’. Great for delicate jobs, like wax and sealant removal on softer paints.
  • Dry Me a River! Jr – $8.45 each @ TRC – 1 or 2 is fine. Good for sucking up lots of water.

Machines:

  • Harbor Freight – $60 with coupons @ Harbor Freight. Good entry level DA. Not expensive, but still can produce impressive results. You get what you pay for though. Garry Dean gets great results with this and says it’s the best available DA in the price range by a landslide. There are some mods you can do to it to quiet it down if you’re handy.
  • Porter Cable 7424XP – $120 @ Amazon. A bump up from the HF. More power, a little loud, but still cuts great. Usually the first choice when getting into DA polishing.
  • Griot’s Garage – $140 @ Amazon. Probably the best entry level machine you can get. More powerful than the two above, lifetime warranty. If you can afford it, get this one.
Updated on 30 September 2018

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