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Building Your Car Detailing Kit

Many who express an interest in getting started in the world of professional detailing may first wonder about what equipment they need to purchase to get the job done right. If you watch professional detailing content on YouTube or other platforms, you might notice that there’s not a lot of detail regarding the exact equipment used.

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Here at Wings Mobile Detailing, we like to keep things simple. The list of items you need to do the job well isn’t as exhaustive or as costly as you might think.

Please note we’re talking hardware here, and not things like shampoos/waxes. Here are some steps to get you started:

Step 1: Vacuum

The vacuum is the bread and butter for interior detailing. The best detailing vacuum cleaner we recommend is the very affordable 4-gallon Rigid vacuum, which you can purchase for about $80-90 from Home Depot. You might wonder why we recommend the 4-gallon unit as opposed to the 6- or 9-gallon units which wouldn’t need emptying as much, right?

Actually, the 4-gallon is the most powerful Rigid vacuum at 5-hp. The 6-gallon unit only runs at 3-hp, and the 9-gallon at 4.2-hp. Detailing vacuums need power, and you get that from the 4-gallon unit.

On top of the vacuum, we recommend that you invest in a Mr. Nozzle brand vacuum tool kit (approx $70), available on Amazon. A thicker and more durable vacuum hose is a good idea because it will be more durable than the factory-issued one.

Step 2: Steamer

A steam cleaner needn’t cost hundreds of dollars or be the most powerful model. We recommend the McCulloch brand cleaners for the price. It is priced at around $170 on Amazon.

Use distilled water in your steamer to help prevent corrosion on the internal components. The fact is that the same damage will happen to any steamer regardless of price, so as long as you use distilled water, even these smaller units are more than sufficient for detailing.

When shampooing the interior, you could use microfiber bonnets (4-5 inches in size) on the triangle head of the steamer, which is a much better solution than attaching a microfiber towel with an elastic band.

Step 3: Pressure Washer

The important thing to remember with pressure washers --- none of them last particularly well, so don’t overspend. We recommend the Ryobi brand electric pressure washer, which delivers around 2000 psi of pressure, and is incredibly compact and portable. As with the vacuum, you might want to invest in a more durable hose. If you get the right hose attachment, it will likely outlast the pressure washer.

The key to pressure washer care is not letting water inside freeze. If it does, it expands and damages the internal components and that’s the beginning of the end. Even if you let it freeze once, the damage is likely done and it won’t be the same again. Keep that in mind when storing your pressure washer overnight in winter.

Step 4: Buckets

Another critical piece of equipment is a 5-gallon bucket. The most important feature in your bucket is a grit guard. A properly installed grit guard will prevent dirt taken off the car from floating in the water where you dip your wash mitt.

If you’re working in a place with cold winters, then investing in a bucket heater is also a great idea. It will warm the water to a very pleasing temperature (without boiling it) and help keep your hands warm while you work.

Step 5: The Rest

There are some other items you can add to your equipment list that will help make your job effective without overcomplicating (and without breaking the bank):

  • Water Extractor - You can use the same $90 Ridgid vacuum cleaner with a wet filter to get moisture out of carpets will work very well and be sufficiently powerful. Perhaps even more powerful than that $600 extractors, although it won't come with the Hot water dispenser.

  • Extension Cords - we recommend the Quick Winder RAP ($50 on Amazon) that can accommodate different cord lengths all in one in a portable and secure way

  • Electric Generator - if you need a generator, Honda ones are the best but they are costly, so Wen units are an affordable alternative and very highly rated ($365 on Amazon)

  • D.A. Buffer - many detailers like the Rupes models ($300-435), but Griot’s Garage also makes a very good unit for about $150-200

  • Drill - the Neiko drill set is a nice piece of kit, which if you attach brushes can be a great way to shampoo the car’s interior

We hope our list gives you some insight into what kinds of equipment/hardware you’ll need for your detailing journey. Remember the message from us here at Wings Mobile Detailing is to keep it simple, always. Don’t be taken in by fancy gimmicks. Simple tools get the job done well.


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