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You may be surprised by some of the essential on the list. But you may also noticed some supposedly essential bits of cleaning equipment missing. The most obvious being a pressure cleaner. While they are great for blasting mud from the arches, they are mostly useless for actually cleaning a vehicles paint surface.
The same goes for snow foaming a vehicle or using the latest super polish you’ve seen on TV. These might be fun to have and some actually do a great job, but they aren’t essentials. But having the right basic equipment and products can make the job a lot easier. We buy almost all our cleaning products from Amazon and we have included links to the products we use.
The top 28 essential van valeting products.
- Bucket, sponge/mitt and shampoo
- Chamois and microfibre towels
- Wheel cleaner and brush
- Tyre shine
- Car polish
- Wax and sealant and applicators
- Exterior plastics spray
- Machine polisher
- Compound and machine polishing pads
- Masking tape
- General purpose spray bottles
- Multi purpose microfibre clothes
- Window cleaner
- Interior brush
- Car vacuum cleaner
- Carpet and seat cleaner
- Leather cleaner and conditioner
- Spray foam carpet and upholstery cleaner
- Interior spray cleaner
- Interior pastic trim dressing
- Electric fan heater
- Work lights
1. Bucket, sponge/mitt and shampoo
Starting at the very beginning. Buy a good quality bucket and sponge/mitt will do most of the exterior work for you. You will also need a grit guard, that’s the little round divide that sits at the bottom of a bucket and stops you picking up dirt in your sponge.
Lots of detailers suggest the two bucket setup. Where you use one bucket for soapy water and another with fresh waters to clean and rinse your sponge in. Keeping the soapy bucket as clean as possible. Either approach works just fine.
A quality car shampoo will provide maximum cleaning power but without stripping away any existing waxes or polish. There are many good quality shampoos available. But look for a high foam example and never ever use dish washing fluid!
2. Chamois and microfibre towels
For years I used a chamois as my only item for drying a vehicles paintwork, but in recent years microfibre cloths have largely replaced the chamois. A chamois can look expensive but always buy the best you can afford it will save you time and money in the long run. It’s a similar story with microfibre towels and always buy towels that are ”lint free”.
3. Wheel cleaner and brush
The wheels on your vehicles are will need to be cleaned with a quality wheel cleaner to remove baked-on brake dust and road grime. You will need a wheel brush to get the wheels super clean. A brush needs to be tough enough to shift the grime, but not so hard that they damage the wheel. They also need to reach the inner rim and between spokes.
4. Tyre shine
Another essential for a valuators kit is tyre shine. This product making tyres look brand new. It should be applied liberally and any excess wiped away. Find our favourite one here
A good quality polish is easy to use and allows you to improve a vehicles paintwork easily and efficiently. Polishing the paintwork can remove small scratches and swirl marks caused by dirt and debris. I have tried so many products over the years but the only one you need is Autoglym’s super resin polish. It’s easy to apply and remove, even if left on for hours. Temperature doesn’t seen to alter its effectiveness and it leaves little dust or residue.
6. Wax and sealant and applicators
While polishing the paintwork removes small scratches and swirl marks. It’s waxing or sealing the paintwork the provides a layer of protection and real shine.
My go to waxes are the Zymöl products and for dark colours Pete’s 53 paste wax by the Chemical Guys. With are superb and super easy to apply. If you are appealing wax you need and applicator pad, they are cheap, machine washable and essential!
These products aren’t available on Amazon and we get our supplies from – https://www.cleanyourcar.co.uk.
7. Exterior plastics
All exterior plastics should be treated with a quality trim restorer. There are lots of products to choose from. But I recommend Meguiars ultimate black restorer, and for more a permanent restoration Gtechniq C4 permanent trim restorer is the best.
8. Machine polisher
A good duel action machine polisher can make you a small fortune. It can transform the value of a vehicle like no other bit of equipment you can buy. A good machine isn’t cheap but it will pay for itself on the first vehicle you polish. Modern duel action machines almost eliminate the risk for damaging the vehicles paint and are super easy and efficient to use. The RUPES Bigfoot and the DAS-6 PRO are the best. I own both and they achieve amazing results.
9. Compound and machine polishing pads
Again lots of great compounds about. These can either be applied by hand or by machine. My normal go to product is the 3M Perfect-it products. 3M offer true trade compounds as used by most bodyshops. But I have also had great results using the Menzerna product line.
I pretty much always use the green 3M Perfect-it compound pad. It’s just amazing for cutting paint.
10. Masking tape
You will need masking tape whenever you machine polish a vehicle. Use it to protect plastic trims and rubbers from being damaged.
11. General purpose spray bottles
Moving from the outside to the inside. You can never have to many spray bottles, they are cheap and super useful. Wether applying tyre slick or interior cleaner a truly essential car cleaning item. Autoglym make the best and you can find a link to them here.
12. Multi purpose microfibre clothes.
Smaller than a towel and used for anything from dusting the dash to applying polish. Best bought in bulk and easy to wash and reuse. But never wash with softener. Here is a link to the ones we use – microfibre cloths.
13. Window cleaner
Cleaning the windows on a car makes a huge difference to how a vehicle looks. There are lots of products available. It the glass isn’t very dirty I normally use a liquid spray cleaner. You simply spray a mist across the window and remove it with a clean paper towel. But for dirty glass and particular for the front screen I prefer a window polish. This is simply applied with a micro fibre cloth and removed with a separate clean cloth.
14. Interior brush
You will need a small 2” paintbrush or detailing brush set to clean and remove any dirt in any hard to reach areas. Great for working into the air vents and tight gaps between trim. This simple tool can save you a huge amount of time. But again don’t but a cheap brush, you don’t want the brush leaving hairs everywhere.
15. Car vacuum cleaner
This is the hardest working bit of a car valuators kit. But the good news is you don’t have to spend fortune to have the best. For years I have used either a Henry or George vacuum cleaner. I really couldn’t recommend them highly enough.
16. Carpet and seat cleaner
Another essential car cleaning machine is a vax. Most vehicles will benefit from the interior seats cleaned with a Vax or similar. I currently use a Vax 3 in 1. You could also use it as your primary vacuum cleaner. But the benefits of having it ready to go as a wet cleaner means I have both.
17. Leather cleaner and conditioner
Lots of great leather cleaning products available. Most are simple to use and give great results. You can’t go wrong with Autoglym’s leather cleaner. You will also need an aggravating brush to scrub all the dirt out. Soft cloths give the best results when conditioning after the shampoo phase.
18. Spray foam carpet and upholstery cleaner
Used on seats, upholstery, roof-linings, carpets, seat covers and even Alcantara. A can of spray foam cleaner is a quick and easy way to remove stains when you don’t need to breakout the Vax. An essential product you always need on your valeting kit. Find a link here.
19. Interior cleaners
A good quality interior spray cleaner can make cleaning a the dash and door cards a doddle. I have used lot of different cleaners of the years. But I normally buy a high foam cleaner to help lift the dirt. My current go to is Meguiars all purpose. It can also be used on the exterior for cleaning up hoods and removing mould.
20. Interior pastic trim dressing
The final touch to a cars interior and again I use Meguiars. This time I favour their Hyper dressing, its easy to apply and water based.
21.Electric fan heater
Cheap and essential for drying out a freshly vaxed interior. Here’s the one we use – Warmlite heater.
22. Work lights
If you are working in a dark environment good lighting is essential when valeting a vehicle. I use a simple standing lamp.
23. Tar and glue remover
Since the very first vehicle I valeted I have been using Autoglym’s intensive tar remover. Wonderful product which I’ve never needed to look to replace.
24. Metal polish
Autosol is perfect for cleaning up all polished metal surfaces. Use sparingly as its strong stuff.
25. Vinyl top cleaner
303 Fabric and vinyl cleaner is the only product you need when it comes to cleaning a convertible roof. This stuff is the best.
Black Nitrille powder-less gloves are essential for keeping unwanted chemicals off your hands. I where these whenever I valet.
27. Stanley blades
These blades come in handy when cleaning overspray from glass to removing old stickers from rear screens. An absolute must have item.
28. Heat gun
Great for removing old stickers. But you can also use it to restore faded plastics. Gently heating hard plastics with a heat gun can restore them to almost new condition. We recommend this one on Amazon.
I hope you enjoyed reading the list and found it helpful. If you want to lean about my simple and effective cleaning routine, take a look at my step by step valeting guide – Van and commercial vehicle valeting a step by step guide.