Must-Have Car Care Supplies You Need to Wash and Detail Your Own Car

Must-Have Car Care Supplies You Need to Wash and Detail Your Own Car

The warmer the weather gets, the more time we all want to spend outside. Sports, lounging, you name it—you can find us out during the summertime enjoying it!

Something we often don’t think about, especially as warmer weather hits, is how we can tweak our habits to save us money. It makes sense, though, because the more we can save now, the longer and better our summer vacation can be.

One easy way to cut back on costs this summer is to start washing your car the old-fashioned way: by yourself, by hand. Although it may seem daunting to those who have never tried it, the process can be hassle-free and rewarding if you have the right supplies on hand.

From old pros who want to make sure they cover every base to newbies who want to be prepared for anything, here are the 12 most important, must-have car care supplies you need to wash and detail your car.

Washing Supplies

In the first step of the two-step car cleaning process, you’ll need tools that help cut grime and dirt. With the right supplies, you can work smarter and not harder and get your car shining in no time.

Two Buckets

Many people will already have buckets on hand, making them perfect for starting this list. Although car washes use mostly free-flowing water to clean your car, the good, old-fashioned way necessitates the use of buckets.

The first bucket is the perfect place to mix up your sudsy water for washing, while the second is there to hold clean water for rinsing your washing tool. Distinguishing between the two with a noticeable sticker or another identifier will help save you some time and frustration!

Moreover, if you decide to use stackable buckets, they also become the perfect way to store the supplies you compile as your car care kit. It’s so much easier to grab a ready-to-go kit than it is to have to round up all your supplies every time you go out to wash.

Hose Nozzle

Most people looking to wash their own car will use a hose for the rinsing process. While most any old hose will do, adding a special nozzle to customize the spray will help make rinsing the suds from your car much easier.

Without that extra spraying accessory, it can be difficult to get the natural water flow of your hose at the right water pressure and angle to rinse your car thoroughly. If you’ve ever tried to wash in a shower with poor water pressure, then you get why this is such an important tool to have!

Look for a nozzle that has many adjustable settings. Jet spray settings can help with a first rinse to rid your car of spent suds, while a flat spray setting can be efficient for rinsing windshields and hard-to-reach roofs.

Wash Mitt

Even though your first inclination is probably to use old rags or your second-best towels, it’s a much better idea to invest in a good washing mitt (or two) for your car care kit.

The reason for this is two-fold: efficiency and delicacy. While towels, other home fabrics, or even sponges might get the job done, they’re not specially designed for car washing, meaning that they won’t get the job done as quickly or as well.

The best wash mitts are made of microfiber or even sheepskin, which are materials chosen especially for their enhanced ability to lift dirt and absorb water. These materials are also gentle on your car’s paint job, whereas a sponge or towel is harsher.

Wash mitts also, given their name, have a greater surface area in the form of fingers. This makes it easier for you to keep hold of the washing implement and get through soaping up your whole car without aching wrists or fingers.

Car Shampoo

While we’re on the topic of sudsing up your car, let’s talk about good car shampoos. Although soap cleans dirt and does a great job with dishes, don’t cave to the temptation to use it to wash your car. Because it’s not formulated for this purpose, it can be harsh on your car’s paint job and dull the shine you work so hard for.

Select a car shampoo formulated to help boost the shine of your car’s exterior and gently cut grime and grease. As long as you choose a product created specifically for cars, you should be good to go.

Wheel Brush

If you’ve ever tried to wash your car yourself before, you’ll know what a pain it is to try and get every last trace of dirt out from your tires and rims. This area of your car is full of small nooks and crannies that can be hard to reach and can translate quickly to sore fingers and strained backs.

A wheel brush is a great way to do this job quickly and more efficiently. They come in all shapes and sizes to best fit each person and car. There are even sets available to give you options no matter what crevice you’re trying to reach.

A wheel brush might seem like an optional part of your car care kit, but it’s really one of the most important components of a thorough, professional-looking home car wash. For those who are invested in the details and want their car’s wheels to shine as much as the rest of it, a good wheel brush is non-negotiable.

Grit Guard

While washing with your wash mitt, depending on how dirty your car is, you might need to stop and wash your mitt! Nobody wants to simply be smearing dirt and debris around on their car’s finish, risking scratches to the paint job.

This is where a grit guard comes in. It’s a small grate of sorts made to fit inside your rinsing bucket to help remove large bits of dirt or grime from your wash mitt to keep your washing tool clean. This way, you don’t risk scratching your car or over-scrubbing with no results.

When shopping for a bucket, many car-wash-specific buckets will likely come standard with a grit guard included. If not, it’s an easy and inexpensive item to purchase and add to your car care collection yourself.

While a grit guard is just a tiny tool, it makes a big difference in cutting down the time it will take to really clean your car well from bumper to bumper.

Drying Cloth

If you’re thinking about recycling the towels or old cloths that you tossed out in favor of the washing mitt, then think again! When drying your car after the washing process, you want to be as gentle as possible while absorbing as much water in one pass as you can.

For this, microfiber towels or waffle-weave towels are the best options. Both of these fabrics are highly absorbent and gentle, making them a safe option for your car’s finish. When shopping for microfiber towels, don’t forget to grab a few extra to be used later in the process for detailing.


After you finish washing and drying your car, the next step is detailing. Although not everyone always wants to put in the time or effort to detail their car, it makes all the difference in how clean your car looks and how long it looks that way.

Here are the essentials for elevating your everyday car wash with good, quality detailing.

Tire Coating

If you get frustrated that your tires don’t always look as clean as the rest of your car when you’re done washing, then tire shine coating is for you. This product, applied to your tires, will help them not only look like new again but will help maintain them over time.

With just a little bit of this product, your tires will lose that dull, dusty look and will benefit from some much-needed wear and tear protection at the same time.

Some tire shine spray products are even formulated for multiple surface use. With these products, you can not only shine your tires but also clean your car’s trim and any visible vinyl or plastic.

When it comes to car washing and detailing, we think that a product that can kill two birds with one stone is always the way to go!

Car Wax

When you think of car detailing, wax is likely the first car care product that pops into your mind. Without it, it’s difficult to get that tell-tale, fresh-from-the-carwash shine. Wax is also a helpful addition to your detailing because it can keep your car cleaner longer by repelling dirt.

This extra layer of protection, when maintained, can help protect the clear coating on your car from harsh weather, bird droppings, tree sap, and other harsh substances that can work to break down your car’s paint job over time.

While waxing may seem daunting at first, it’s pretty straightforward and easy to do. Depending on what your budget is, you have lots of options for finding a wax to fit your needs.

Some have scratch-repairing properties, some come as a liquid, and some come as sprays. You can even find kinds that come as a combination of car shampoo and wax for those who like to keep it as efficient as possible.

Glass Cleaner and WD-40

Like the tire shine spray, these two car care supplies are like the cherry on top of your cleaning and detailing kit.

Glass cleaner will help get your windows and windshields cleaner than you ever could with your car shampoo and wash mitt alone, as it’s a specially formulated product to give you streak-free, clear, long-lasting shine.

Likewise, WD-40 helps put the finishing touches on all your hard work. While it’s commonly used to help keep the metal trim on your car looking new and shiny, car detailing experts also use this product to reduce the appearance of scratches, clean car dashboards and remove any hints of rust.

Final Thoughts

If you keep a car care supply kit stocked with all these items and ready to go, you’ll never be scrambling for what you need when it comes time to wash and detail your car. Not only is washing your car at home a great way to make use of nice weather, but it’s less expensive and more rewarding than taking your car to the cleaners.

With all the products on our list, your car will be looking shiny and new again in no time at all!

Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.