Automotive Detailing - How to Clean Your Car Without Harming the Environment

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How to Detail a Car - A Step-by-Step Guide

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the basics of both interior and exterior automotive detailing, from cleaning stained seats, to dressing tires, to polishing windows and mirrors.

The first step is selecting the products for the job. Keep in mind that most automotive detailing products on the market today contain harsh chemicals and toxic fumes that may not only adversely affect your health, but the environment as well. For this tutorial, I have selected the Eco Touch line of auto detailing supplies. Eco Touch manufactures high-performance car care products that are 100% biodegradable, non-toxic, and just as powerful and effective as traditional cleaning and detailing supplies.

Part 1: Exterior Detailing

1. Spot Cleaning

Before washing the exterior of your vehicle, begin by spot cleaning of any particularly greasy, sticky, or dirty areas. Eco Touch's All Purpose cleaner and degreaser is a great choice for tackling bird droppings, grease spots, or tree sap if it hasn't yet hardened onto the surface of the vehicle.

1. Apply your All Purpose cleaner to the affected area and gently dab off using a microfiber towel. Do not apply too much pressure to tough spots, or you could damage or scratch the paint.

2. For tree sap that has hardened to the surface of the vehicle, we recommend using mineral spirits to dissolve the sap. Gently dab the spots off using a microfiber towel. Again, take care not to apply too much pressure.

2. Brake Dust Removal

Now that you've taken care of any trouble spots on the car's paint or windows, inspect the wheels. Brake dust is the result of your brake pads wearing down during normal driving. Small flakes of material will begin to slough off onto your wheels and the surrounding brake system. Brake dust can be very difficult to remove, and is extremely hazardous to aquatic life, so it is important to take care when removing it.

1. Move your car into a shaded location out of the direct sun.

2. Spread some microfiber towels underneath the car's wheels and tires where you will be cleaning. This is to catch any run-off.

3. Select an All Purpose degreaser that does not contain acids or other petrochemical solvents.

4. Spray wheels and allow the degreaser to penetrate for about 2 minutes.

5. Gently scrub wheels with a microfiber cloth on soft brush.

6. Dry wheels with a quality microfiber towel.

7. Apply Eco Touch Metal Polish or Quick Wax to help seal the wheels from future brake dust accumulation.

3. Polish Wheels, Chrome and Other Metals

For polishing chrome, stainless and aluminum, Eco Touch's Metal Polish will eliminate streaks, smudges and greasy residue.

1. Shake bottle well.

2. Spray onto a clean microfiber towel and wipe the surface.

3. To polish, buff with a dry microfiber towel.

4. Condition and Protect Tires

Eco Touch Tire Shine penetrates deeply beneath the rubber surface to give tires a non-greasy, sling-resistant coating that both conditions and protects. Be sure to avoid applying any tire conditioning product to the tire treads or other areas where grip is important.

1. Shake bottle well. Squeeze Tire Shine onto a tire applicator pad.

2. Spread evenly around the tires, avoiding the treads.

3. Let set for 10 minutes before driving.

5. Wash Your Car - Waterless Car Wash

Now you're ready to wash your car's exterior. Eco Touch's Waterless Car Wash is a practical alternative to traditional bucket and hose or commercial car washing. Not only will you save time and water, but you will also help reduce the discharge of soapy suds, brake dust and car oils in the environment by minimizing run-off. A waterless car wash uses only 4-6 ounces of water compared to 45 gallons at an average commercial car wash, or 80-140 gallons used in an average bucket and hose car wash.

1. Find a shaded location, out of direct sunlight.

2. Shake bottle well.

3. Spray onto the car's surface, one panel at a time.

4. Use a clean microfiber towel to gently wipe and lift to pick up grime and remove surface contaminants.

5. Quickly use a second dry microfiber towel and buff to shine.

6. Repeat, working your way from the top of the car down.

Common sense caution: For excessively soiled surfaces (mud or sand), pre-rinse first with water.

Waterless Car Wash FAQ

Q: Will Waterless Car Wash scratch my car's paint?

A: No, it is possible to avoid scratching and marring your car's paint.

First, make sure you are using quality microfiber towels. My personal preference is to use towels with a minimum weight of 300 GSM (grams per square meter).

Next, when wiping the Waterless Car Wash formula from the surface of the vehicle, use light strokes to pick up dirt. There is no need to aggressively rub the formula on the car's surface. I typically take the approach of "wipe and lift" so that the contaminants are not dragging on the surface of the vehicle.

Lastly, use common sense. If you are dealing with a surface that is muddy or sandy, you will obviously need a pre-rinse. Many people will argue that a pre-rinse defeats the purpose of a "waterless" car wash. Not in my opinion. With any method of washing your vehicle, whether it's waterless, rinse-less or a hose and'll need to somehow remove those heavy contaminants before cleaning the car. Otherwise you will definitely run into problems.

Q: Why should I not use Waterless Car Wash in direct sunlight?

A: Eco Touch Waterless Car Wash contains plant-derived surfactants (soaps) that help lift dirt away from the surface of the vehicle. In order for the formula to perform properly you need to ensure the car panel is cool so that these surfactants can get to work loosening up the dirt. Otherwise, the formula will evaporate quickly which can leave behind white residue or streaking. This will make your job tougher as you'll need to re-spray the surface and buff away any of these spots. Unfortunately this problem occurs with any washing method available today: hose and bucket, rinse-less or waterless. If the car is hot and you apply a liquid it will evaporate leaving residues behind. If you must work in direct sunlight, read Steps for Using Waterless Car Wash in Direct Sunlight, found here.

6. Wax Your Car - Quick Wax

After your car's exterior has been washed, you're ready to protect its paint using wax. Eco Touch Quick Wax is a spray wax that offers a simple spray, wipe, buff application and will provide a protective barrier and a glossy, streak-free finish. Eco Touch Quick Wax can safely be applied once a month without causing buildup on the clearcoat surface.

1. Make sure the surface you are about to wax is clean and free or contaminants.

2. Shake bottle well.

3. Spray wax onto a cool vehicle surface.

4. Quickly spread product with a microfiber towel.

5. Turn to a dry section of the microfiber towel and buff to a shine.

6. Repeat until your car is sparkling clean!

7. Wash Your Exterior Windows and Mirrors

Easily dissolve and remove bugs, fingerprints, dirt and debris with Eco Touch Window Clear. Formulated without ammonia or alcohol, it is safe for use on tinted windows, glass, and mirrors, with no streaking. Eco Touch Glass Cleaning Towels are a great microfiber towel for use on glass and mirrors because they have been woven specifically for this purpose, and will not leave lint behind.

1. Spray Window Clear directly onto surface.

2. Quickly buff off the formula with a Glass Cleaning Towel to reveal an amazing shine.

3. Repeat until your entire windshield/mirror/window is sparkling clean!

4. (Optional) For your windshield and the outside of your windows, repeat steps 1-3 using Waterless Car Wash. The polymers it contains help to repel rain, dust, and grime, keeping your windows cleaner longer.

Part 2: Interior Detailing

Begin cleaning the interior by removing any trash or debris, shaking out floor mats. Next, thoroughly vacuum the vehicle's interior.

8. All Purpose Wipe Down

Using Eco Touch All Purpose cleaner, remove grime from the dashboard, consoles, car interior doors, trim, vinyl, and most hard surfaces. Our All Purpose cleaner removes stubborn stains, grease and oil with ease, leaving behind only a fresh, naturally derived lemon scent.

1. Shake bottle well.

2. Spray directly onto the surface.

3. Wipe with a dry microfiber towel.

9. Clean Carpets and Upholstery

Eco Touch Carpet + Upholstery is perfect for spot cleaning seats, carpets or other upholstered areas on the inside of your vehicle. Using a standard upholstery cleaning spray containing nonylphenol ethoxylates will fill your car's interior with toxic fumes that you'll end up breathing in while driving. Safe for you and your family, Carpet + Upholstery can tackle tough stains, even greases and oils without the use of rubber gloves.

1. Shake bottle well.

2. Spray directly onto stain until completely covered.

3. Let set for 1-2 minutes to allow product to penetrate.

4. Blot with a clean microfiber towel. Repeat if stains persist.

Test first in an inconspicuous area to ensure colorfastness.

10. Safely Clean and Condition Leather

For leather interiors, use Eco Touch Leather Care to safely wipe away dirt and grime while replacing lost oils and leaving leather soft and supple. Be sure to first test leather care products on an inconspicuous area for surface compatibility.

1. Remove loose dirt from leather upholstery.

2. Shake bottle well.

3. Squeeze Leather Care onto a soft towel (cotton or terry).

4. Gently rub towel in a circular motion to clean and condition.

5. Buff immediately with a second cloth.

Eco Touch Leather Care should not be used on suede.

11. Condition Dashboard and Vinyl Trim

Once the dashboard and vinyl trim have been thoroughly cleaned using an All Purpose cleaner, you can condition them to restore their original luster. The natural oils in Eco Touch's Dashboard Protect will penetrate deep to help bring out a natural shine, while leaving your car smelling fresh with its light lavender fragrance.

1. Shake bottle well.

2. Spray onto a clean microfiber towel and apply to dashboard and vinyl.

3. Buff with a dry microfiber towel.

12. Clean Interior Windows and Mirror

Eco Touch Window Clear will allow you to wipe away fingerprints, dirt and debris from interior glass, just as you did to clean the exterior. Formulated without ammonia or alcohol, it is safe for use on tinted windows, glass, and mirrors, with no streaking. Eco Touch Glass Cleaning Towels are a great microfiber towel for use on glass and mirrors because they have been woven specifically for this purpose, and will not leave lint behind.

1. Spray Window Clear directly onto surface.

2. Quickly buff off the formula with a Glass Cleaning Towel to reveal an amazing shine.

3. Repeat until your interior glass is sparkling clean!

Now your vehicle is clean, conditioned, protected, and ready for the open road!

For more information about eco-friendly car care, or to learn more about the products used in this guide, visit

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