One of the iconic images of Americana is that of the open highway. We’re a car culture, a country of people who prefer to drive themselves than to be driven. Sure, lots of people these days are turning to Uber and away from car ownership, but there will always be the diehard car enthusiasts.
Indeed, Uber drivers themselves need to take pride in their ride. But even if you don’t have strangers judging the condition of your car up close on a regular basis, taking excellent care of it is the key to maintaining value and a sense of pride in your purchase. Regular maintenance comes first, of course, but second to oil changes and tire pressure checks are frequent car washes to keep the surfaces in good shape.
The presence of a car wash on every other street corner doesn’t cut it for some discerning car owners. Touchless car washes tend not to do a very good job of getting the car clean, but conversely, traditional car washes can be hard on the finish. No matter how they try, the grit from the last car may be embedded in the brushes and sponges that rake over your car when you go through. No, if you want to keep your car in perfect condition, you have to wash it yourself.
To that end, there are no shortage of excellent car washing and detailing kits on the market. These are usually one-purchase buys that contain everything you need to wash and protect your car. Excellent for car collectors maintaining their classics as well as Uber drivers keeping their money-making machines mint.
If you’re in the market for car-related gifts, check out our top ten best gifts for car guys post for even more ideas.
Here’s our list of the top 30 best car cleaning kits, broken into categories to help you choose what you need to keep your ride gleaming.
Best Starter Car Cleaning Kits
If you have none of the various cleaners and polishes and are just starting out on your quest to have the shiniest automobile on the block, starting with a basic kit is a good idea. These are usually great for getting the car clean and applying a light protective coating. Nothing too high-end here, so prices are generally lower, too.
- Contains the basics for cleaning your car
- Cheaper than larger kits
- Good for more regular washes
- Straight-forward to use
- May be lacking one or two necessary items
- Many don’t include cleaning implements like sponges and cloths
- Interior cleaners often not included
- Not always useful for restoration
1. Griot’s Garage Starter Wash and Dry Kit
While somewhat expensive on the face of it, this very basic kit is made up of high-quality materials. The detailing mitt is deep microfiber that is safe for any surface. The six-gallon bucket comes with a lid, casters, measuring cup, and a grate at the bottom that sifts out dirt and debris. The drying towel has enough capacity for a whole car and can dry in a single pass. You also get 64 ounces of car wash soap, which will last a good long while and would be $12.99 alone.
Brilliant Finish car wash – 64 ounces
Microfiber detailing mitt
Six-gallon bucket with casters
One-pass drying towel
2. Meguiar’s 7-Piece Ultimate Car Care Set
Everyone knows Meguiar’s. I would wager that you’ve already even used the Gold Class car wash that comes in this very kit. They make excellent products that are widely available. Even better, their kit is a bit cheaper than the Griot’s Garage kit, even though it lacks a bucket. Still, with the included sponge, once you grab a drying towel and bucket, you’re good to go. This one includes cleaners for the interior, too, so you’ll be able to tackle the entire car with the items in this box.
Gold Class car wash shampoo & conditioner – 16 ounces
Whole Car Air Re-Fresher – 2.4 ounces
Perfect Clarity glass cleaner – 16 ounces
Quik Interior Detailer – 16 ounces
Ultimate Quik Wax – 15.2 ounces
Hot Shine tire foam – 19 ounces
3. Soap Box Your All In One Car Wash Kit
They call this kit “all in one,” but it isn’t, really. We’ve filed it here under basic kits since it provides all you need to wash the car and a somewhat reasonable price. Even better, most of what’s included is the components you only need to buy once, so if you combine it with one of the other basic kits (and a bucket), you should have everything you need. If all you need is to clean and dry your car, though, this is the kit for you.
Microfiber detailing towel – 16 inches square
Waffle weave towel – 16 inches by 24 inches
Knobby chenille mitt
Gold Class car wash shampoo & conditioner – 48 ounces
4. Auto-Chem Professional Complete Car Care Detailing Bucket Kit
While this kit does contain nearly everything you need to clean you car, compared to the kits we have in the complete section — and considering the price point — this is still a pretty basic kit. Also, it does’t include any interior cleaning solutions. Still, for an exterior-only package, you get a few things in this that you don’t get in the others, including a wax foam applicator and scratch remover. It also comes with the bucket, so you can get started as soon as you receive it.
Wax foam applicator
Poly Max 2 in 1 sealant – 250mL
Scratch Off scratch remover – 150g
Eco Wet Shine – 500mL
Wash & Shine car wash and wax – 500mL
5. Armor All National Car Care Kit
We’ve certainly all used Armor All in some capacity before, even if it was just the wipes to clean up the dashboard. This is certainly a basic kit, including just one bottle for each of the surfaces of your car. The key advantage to this one is the price. Even if you pair it with a separate kit of cleaning implements, you’d still be at or below the price of other basic kits. If you happen to already have the mitt and towel you need, this could could save you a lot of money.
Original Protectant interior cleaner – 10 ounces
Glass Wipes – 25 count
Tire foam protectant – 20 ounces
Ultra Shine Wash and Wax – 16 ounces