M Roadster detailing taxonomy
Last Modified May 17, 2012
My main detailing page.
Detailing products I use.
My detailing wish list.
Detailing pictures.
This page attempts to list detailing tools and products I use or previously used), organized by task. It's never completely up-to-date, but I try to keep it reasonably current as I try new products.

The primary categorization used here is frequency of use. Clearly there are many products that are not used on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. There are also products that are used freqeuntly. I like to think of consumable products and tools in these terms for frequency of restocking and product/tool storage.

Note that I am not a professional detailer. I've become fairly adept at it over the years, but in terms of product use and experience on a variety of paints, I can't come anywhere near a professional that's detailing many cars and using product at a much higher rate.

In the car

To minimize the amount of damage from bird droppings and bug splatters, and to keep my glass clean without dribbling on the paint with a squeegee, I like to carry a small set of products all of the time. However, space is at a premium, especially for bottles of product. The good news is that there's no good reason to carry 32 oz. of product if you're never going to need that much in a week. In most cases, 8 oz. of product is plenty. 16 oz. is definitely sufficient for any product that can be refilled weekly.
  • 8 ounce spray bottles
    • I will soon order the BSP-6 8 oz. Spray Bottle 6 Pack. Even if I want to carry 16 ounces of product, a pair of 8 ounce bottles are easier to stash in the car than a single 16 ounce bottle.
  • glass cleaner
  • microfiber for glass cleaner
  • detailing spray
  • microfiber for detailing spray
  • spritz sealant (optional)
    • I'm currently using Wolfgang Deep Gloss Spritz Sealant, and carry 8 ounces of it. A little goes a long way. While detailing spray is sufficient for keeping the paint clean, I like having the spritz sealant to extend the life of the underyling sealant I've applied and to restore the slickness. However, many of the spritz sealants (including the one I use) don't cure properly if they get wet. Hence I only use the sealant when the weather forecast doesn't show rain or I can leave the car in the garage for at least 12 hours.
  • microfiber for spritz sealant (optional)
  • microfiber for wheels
  • general purpose microfiber for cleaning
    • Continuing my color coordination, I like orange here. In particular, the Chemical Guys El Gordo Orange Bangers. This is the towel I use for cleaning, soaking up spills, whatever. In a pinch it can be used for any detailing task. I typically carry 6 of these.

Day to day in the garage

Probably the most important thing here: lots of clean microfiber towels. There are many different microfiber towels listed here, because it's best to avoid cross-contamination. If you're applying spritz sealant, you don't want to use a towel previously used to clean a wheel that was laden with brake dust.

Towel storage is fairly important. You don't want them collecting dust. I keep mine in plastic bins with latching lids that fit on my carts. If you want fancy storage, Festool Systainers work well but are expensive.

  • detailing cart
    • I find one or more daily use carts to be indispensable. I'm not always motivated to clean up the cars, so anything that makes it significantly easier is a good thing. Running back and forth to fetch things I need is a downer, as is leaving things on the ground or floor. I like the Luxor STC211 carts. They have two tub shelves and a flat top shelf, they are constructed of plastic except for the casters, and are priced right.
  • spray-on car wash
  • microfiber for spray-on car wash
  • glass cleaner
  • microfiber for glass cleaner
    • Take your pick. I prefer a workhorse type of towel here, since my windshield seems to be a magnet for nasties and the wiper blades and windshield trim can leave black marks in the towel. I'm a fan of disposables here too.
  • Bug/tar remover
    • Years ago, I was a big fan of 3M Adhesive, Tar and Wax Remover for dealing with road tar. But locally, I can now only find the low-VOC stuff which isn't as effective. I still have some of the old 3M stuff, but when it comes time to replace it, I'll likely use Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect, Car Pro Tar X and Car Pro Iron X. They're all good products.
    • For bugs, the real key is dwell time. Since my front bumper, headlights and front of the hood take the brunt of bug splatters, I soak microfiber towels and spread them on these areas if the bug splatters are severe. Then follow up with detailing spray, maybe a bug splatter sponge, and wiping with clean microfiber towels.
    • For road tar, there is no substitute for a product that will dissolve it. Road tar isn't something you want to rub across your paint; it's gritty on its own, and dirt sticks to it.
  • mild wheel cleaner
  • lug nut cleaning brush
    • For hand use, it's hard to beat the Griot's lug nut cleaning brush. While I'd love to be able to skip lug nut cleaning for week-to-week detailing, the reality is that my wheels have deep lug holes that collect brake dust.
  • microfiber for wheel cleaner
    • There's little sense in spending much money here; these towels are going to be loaded with brake dust. I'm not averse to disposables here either, as long as they don't fall apart when wet.
  • detailing spray / clay lube
    • There are so many choices here, and I like too many to list. I always have some Meguiar's because it's easy to find locally. I like the Chemical Guys Speed Wipe for its versatility and value. I even use it under the hood.
  • microfiber for detailing spray
  • spritz sealant
  • microfiber for spritz sealant
  • leather cleaner/protectant
    • I prefer Leatherique Prestine Clean over any other product I've used. It's a good cleaning and protective product for the unfinished leather in the M roadster. I also like its natural scent.

A few times a season

  • 6" random orbital
  • 3" random orbital
  • car wash soap
    • Take your pick; there are many good options. For local availability here, the Meguiar's Gold Class is a good option, and the Meguiar's NXT is a better option in my experience.

      There are many better options online.
  • convertible top brush
  • boar's hair brush
  • wash mitts
    • I like lambswool wash mitts, as well as good quality microfiber wash mitts.
  • buckets
    • At a minimum, I need 5 buckets. Two are for body washing: one for soapy water and one for brush/mitt/sponge/towel rinse water. Two more serve a similar role for wheels and undercarriage. The fifth holds water with microfiber and foam pad cleaner mixed in, and I toss my polish and sealant pads and towels in it when I'm done with them.

      I like buckets with gamma seal lids. This lets me use them to store cleaning tools and consumables. The last time I looked (March 21, 2012), bayteccontainers.com was a good place to buy quality 5-gallon buckets and gamma seal lids in various colors.
  • bucket caddies/dollies
    • Bucket dollies are handy for making it a bit easier to roll buckets full of water around. Since my buckets have gamma seal lids, a bucket on a dolly makes a decent rolling stool when working on the sides of a vehicle.

      I currently have the Grit Guard dual bucket wash system, but I'm not thrilled with the way the connector plate is attached to the dollies; it's held only by the casters, which are inserted into the plastic caddy. It is not a rigid connection. I'd also prefer to have a small amount of tool storage. Say two of the Pail Pal single dollies or a Pail Pal double dolly.
  • microfiber and pad cleaner
  • paint drying towels
  • wheel drying towels
    • I prefer a workhorse towel here; they get brake dust on them no matter how well I've cleaned the wheels. I'm not opposed to disposables here.
  • strong wheel cleaner
  • wheel wash brushes
  • wheel wash mitts
  • glass polishes
  • 6" glass polishing pads
  • 3" glass polishing pads
  • paint polishes
    • I'm using Menzerna paint polishes almost exclusively. Excellent products and a wide range of cut.
  • 6" paint polishing pads
    • there are so many options here, with many levels of cut. I like Clear Lake pads, but my go-to are the Griot's orange polishing pads. With a pneumatic random orbital like mine, I prefer a flat pad. Heat is a non-issue with a pneumatic random orbital, and a flat pad mazimizes product utilization for my use.
  • 3" paint polishing pads
    • I've yet to need a 3" polishing pad with an aggressive cut, since I only use the 3" random orbital for pait polishing in a few areas. Hence I've only used the Griot's orange polishing pads. Like my go-to for 6" pads, I like a flat pad when using a pneumatic random orbital.
  • microfiber for polish removal
    • Today I use the Chemical Guys Microfiber Super Towels. Note that I distinguish polish remove from sealant preparation, else I'd probably want towels with a deeper pile. A deeper pile helps remove polish dust.
  • Pre-sealing paint prep
    • After polishing, I like to wipe the car down to remove polish dust and anything else still remaining. I'm currently using the Griot's Paint Prep.
  • microfiber for paint prep
    • I like a deep pile towel here. This is an important step for me, since it's the last thing I do before applying sealant. I like the Chemical Guys Shaggy Fur-Ball for this task since it's essentially a dusting job (picking up polish dust).
  • paint sealant
  • 6" sealant application pads
  • 3" sealant application pads
  • microfiber for sealant buffing
  • wheel sealant
    • There are many effective products here, but if you own a car that generates loads of brake dust, regular application is critical. I've used Wheel Wax for many years, and I am currently using Detailer's Pro Series Wheel Glaze.
  • wheel sealant applicator pads
    • It's difficult to apply sealant to many wheels. I like foam finger pads, and use microfiber applicator pads where I can. I resort to wearing nitrile gloves and just using my fingers when nothing else will reach where I need to apply sealant.
  • microfiber for wheel sealant buffing
    • I prefer a workhorse microfiber towel here. No matter how hard I try to clean and polish wheels, invariably I'm going to hit my rotors, calipers and pads with these towels, and there's little sense in knowingly getting a lot of brake dust on pricey towels.

      I'm also not averse to using disposables here. For example, the Tork Premium Specialist Cloth Polishing Folded is quite good for buffing sealant from wheels.
  • interior cleaning brushes
  • vacuum
    • Take your pick. I have a Metro Vac, a small Shop-Vac and a large Shop-Vac.
  • carpet cleaner
    • I use my old Hoover 5853-900 SteamVac. You can of course use spray cleaner, water and a Shop-Vac. I find the Hoover SteamVac easier to use since it puts spraying, scrubbing and vacuuming in one hand. If I were buying a new carpet cleaner today, I'd likely buy the Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine with additional accessories.
  • interior cleaner
  • interior protectant
  • interior microfiber towels

Once a season

  • Leatherique Rejuvenator
    • This is easily the best product I've used for cleaning and conditioning unfinished leather.
  • 303 Fabric Guard
    • This is my preferred product for ragtop protection. I prefer its application over RaggTopp, it works just as well, and as a bonus it's less expensive.

Issue specific

  • engine cleaner/degreaser