Auto detailing

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A man vacuuming the interior of an automobile in the Netherlands, 1916

Auto detailing is an activity that keeps the vehicle in its best possible condition, especially cosmetic, as opposed to mechanical. This is achieved by removing both visible and invisible contaminants from the vehicle's interior as well as polishing the exterior to its original blemish-free finish. The most basic detail options include an exterior wash and wax, interior vacuuming, window cleaning, and surface polishing.


Professional detailing services and the sale of products to both professionals and enthusiasts represent a large commercial presence in places where automobiles are a primary mode of transport. In the United States alone, the professional and home detailing industry was over $17.3 billion in revenue, as of October 2023.[1]

Components of detailing[edit]

Detailing is more than a cleaning process to make a vehicle look good, but a systematic approach to help extend its life with methods and products that reduce damaging environmental elements such as dirt, sun, harsh winters, etc.[2] Appropriate maintenance or restoration of vehicles to keep them looking outside and inside as if they came from an auto dealer's showroom increase their resale value.[3] Auto detailing requires knowledge of proper techniques and use of tools and products.[2]

Detailing is generally broken down into two categories: exterior and interior (or cabin). Some products and services focus on these two areas specifically.

Exterior detailing involves cleaning, and either restoring or exceeding the original condition of the surface of the car's finish (usually a paint with a glossy finish), chrome trim, windows, wheels, and tires, as well as other visible components on a vehicle's exterior. A wide array of detailing products and techniques are used, based on the vehicle's surface type and condition, or the detailers' or customers' preference. Products include, but are not limited to detergents, surfactants, acid-free degreasers (to break down dirt and soil), detail clay (to remove invisible micro embedded surface contaminates), waxes, and silicone- and non-silicone-based dressings for plastic trim and tires. Buffing compounds and polishes to resurface and improve the reflectivity of the paint finish, as well as a variety of applicators, brushes, and drying towels.[4]

Interior detailing involves a deep cleaning of the whole interior cabin. Vehicle interiors of the last 50 years comprise a variety of materials, such as synthetic carpet upholstery, vinyl, leather, various natural fibers, carbon fiber composites, plastics, and others, which necessitates the use of a variety of cleaning techniques and products. Vacuuming is standard, and upholstery stains may be removed using steam cleaning, liquid and foam chemicals, as well as brushes. Additionally, some nonporous surfaces may be polished.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Car Wash & Auto Detailing in the US: Market Research Report". Ibisworld. October 2023. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  2. ^ a b Taylor, Don (1998). Automotive detailing: a complete car care guide for auto enthusiasts and detailing professionals. HP Books. ISBN 9781557882882.
  3. ^ Joseph, James (1992). Auto detailing: the professional way. Chilton Books. ISBN 9780801981968.
  4. ^ Micahel, Roy. "108 DIY Car Washing & Detailing Tips: Fail-Safe Methods for a Cleaner Car". Autofella. Retrieved 24 November 2022.