DetailingProduct Reviews

My Favorite Audi Detailing & Car Cleaning Products

One of my high school jobs growing up was working at a car detailing shop – it was the toughest job I ever had, but it was awesome to see just how much of a difference the right products & 5-8 hours of your time can make on even the most neglected cars. Ever since my job detailing cars, I’ve been more and more of a “neat freak” when it came to cleaning my own car, but recently I’ve stepped up my detailing game to the next level by purchasing a number of high-end detailing products to use on my car.

Fast forward 20+ years and I’ve picked up a lot of tips on how to detail including the best products to use. I’m fortunate as a result of this blog that many companies will send me products to demo, and I’ve also taken my cars to Elite Finish San Diego to see what the best in the business do. 

Here are the products I’ve been using, and highly recommend so far. I’ve updated this post in September 2022 since originally writing this over 11 years ago (wow!) in July 2011 as I’ve both tested new products and the industry itself has improved a lot.

Waterless Wash / Quick Detailer

By far, hands down, the best Waterless Wash / Quick Detailer I’ve used is WashMist by Elite Finish. It doesn’t streak nearly as much as other products I’ve tested (and I’ve probably tested well over a dozen at this point) and it does a great job at both cleaning and adding shine. It also has some ceramic coating properties to it so it will help maintain an existing ceramic coating or provide some additional protection if you don’t have it already. The key to using this product well is having the right kind of towels, and swapping out fresh towels whenever it gets dirty – when washing a car I typically go through about 4-5 towels depending on how dirty it is and how big the car is (e.g. R8 requires less towels than an SUV). I love these “Crazy Pile” towels as they are super thick and the long length of the fibers (known as the pile) allows dirt to get trapped deep down without risk of scratching the paint. Regardless, don’t use Costco towels – the quality of your microfiber makes a HUGE difference when using waterless wash / quick detailer. The WashMist also works well as a drying agent after a “bucket and soap” wash where you spray some on while drying to help lubricate the surface and eliminate any additional water spots. I also love using this as a glass cleaner!

Best used for: in-between deep cleans, while drying your car from a traditional wash, or when washing with water is not feasible/practical

Exterior Washing

When a quick detailer won’t cut it (see above), then I go straight to the pressure washer. There are a few reasons for this but in a nutshell, why I love using a pressure washer is that:

  1. It uses less water
  2. The water pressure knocks off a ton of dirt, reducing the need to scrub (saving both effort and minimizing the chance of swirls)
  3. The foam cannon creates a nice thick coating of soap that dwells on the paint that you simply cannot replicate otherwise
  4. Often if the car isn’t that dirty you can skip using a sponge all together, so it is often quicker
  5. It works WONDERS on wheels, removing stubborn brake dust from cracks, crevices and spokes that you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise

My current setup is an electric pressure washer from Amazon (gas works better, but way more noise & hassle – IMO electric gets you 80% of the results for 20% of the effort). You’ll want something as close to 2 GPM as possible and the higher the PSI the better. I like this one currently on sale. Combine this with a nice foam lance like the Torq Lance by Chemical Guys and any high suds soap like CarPro Reset or Adams Car Shampoo. Make sure to grab a few nice microfiber wash mitts (note: a standard microfiber towel like those above work just fine too) and wheel woolies while you’re in there, and you’re good to go – alternatively, this all in one kit from Chemical Guys is a pretty good value if you need all of the above.

When washing the car, use different towels/brushes depending on the surface to avoid cross contamination – e.g. don’t use the same towel on your wheels as your paint, or you’ll end up getting brake dust in your paint and scratching everything up over time.

Interior Cleaning

For the interior, you’ll want a general interior cleaner and then something specific to your seats. I’ve found a lot of products work really well here, and none are particularly that different or more effective than each other – so feel free to search around on Amazon or Detailed Image. Recently I’ve been testing some Proje Car Cleaner products and their Interior Alpha cleaner works great, but also had really good luck with 303 Aerospace Protectant.

For leather seats – I really like Gyeon Strong Leather cleaner for deep cleans, Leatherique Rejuvinator Oil for moisturizing / restoring old leather, and then just about an interior “quick detailer” works fine for the rest of the surfaces like the dashboard or regular cleaning of the seats. It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to use a cleaner every time – often after drying the car I’ll use a damp microfiber to wipe down the dash and use nothing but water…this is the safest way to clean, and doesn’t leave any residue. Avoid anything that leaves a greasy or shiny finish as those tend to eat away at the finish of the buttons over time – so if a damp towel is enough to do the trick, then follow the “do no harm” principle and keep it simple.

Wheel Cleaning

For wheels, I typically use the pressure washer method above. It’s best to do the wheels first, then the rest of the car. Start with a thorough rinsing to kick off all of the brake dust, then use a Wheel Cleaner to help remove any iron deposits. I like Sonax Wheel Cleaner or Iron-X – they are really cool as they change color as the chemicals work. Let the chemicals sit on the wheel long enough to do their thing and change color, but do not let them dry on the wheel and do not apply to hot wheels as it can etch the paint. I also like to spray generously on the brake calipers and inside wheel barrels where I can to get more dirt & debris and make the wheel really clean. The wheel brushes are great for getting deeper into the wheel barrels as well as around the lug nuts. After the wheel cleaner has done its magic, pressure wash it off with water, then proceed to giving the entire car (including the wheels again) a foam bath and/or sponge cleaning. Lastly when drying if you use a ceramic or silicon coating (like WashMist above) it helps remove any remaining debris as well as adds a little protection.

Finally, if you get the chance to deep clean – the do the above but remove the wheels from the vehicle. Once fully dry and all debris removed, apply a ceramic coating to protect the wheels and have brake dust literally roll off – see below for more on ceramic coatings.

For tire shine, I really like Proje’s Tire Fusion the best of anything I’ve tried – and if you want to go for an all-in-one kit this is a great setup. Overall I’ve found all of Proje’s products to be great, but the tire shine is quite remarkable. It doesn’t sling, it has the right amount of shine, it lasts a while, and it’s easy to apply. Finally, someone figured out how to do this!

Ceramic Coatings

Ceramic coatings are an absolute GAME CHANGER as I’ve written before. The water beads off to the point where you barely need to dry the car, and it also repels dirt, mud, and anything else that typically sticks to the paint. You can apply this almost anywhere including glass, plastic trim, wheels, and of course the paint.

I like CarPro DLUX wheel coating for wheels, brake calipers, and other high traffic/heat areas, combined with CarPro UK Edition for the rest of the car. Before applying a ceramic coating it’s important to make sure the wheels and/or paint is as perfect as you can get it, as a ceramic coating will last 3-5 years and basically locks in anything underneath – think of it like a screen protector for your phone, where there is an extra layer of glass protecting what’s underneath – so any imperfections are stuck in place (and if the wheel or paint looks perfect, that will stay the case too!).

I’ve also tested GTechniq and Avalon King and they were great too – ceramic coating is really easy to DIY (it’s all of the prep work and polishing that is hard) and most reputable products will do well at this point. Avoid any no-name brands that are significantly cheaper, and you’ll be fine.

Polishing

Elite Finish Detailing

If you really want to go big, invest in a good dual action orbital polisher like a Rupes Big Foot. You’ll also need a ton of pads, polishing solutions, and more – so frankly you’re better off outsourcing this to a professional unless you either (1) really like doing this yourself or (2) plan to do this often enough to have this be a good value. You can easily spend $500-1000 in supplies, and the learning curve to truly get good at polishing can be dozens of cars (and during that learning curve, you may make mistakes that damages or burns through the paint). IMO most people are best off finding a good detailer, having them polish the paint, and then apply a ceramic coating afterwards to lock it in. That should last the lifetime of the vehicle in most cases, and you can maintain the coating with CarPro Reload or similar sprays every 6-12 months. If you do DIY this, I recommend investing in a clay bar mitt as that saves a ton of time, then I like to use the Meguiars Ultra-Cut to remove deep swirls and scratches, then Meguiars Ultra-Finish for the second pass to remove any smaller swirls and holograms.

When considering DIY versus professional detailing, be sure to factor in the value of your time – polishing your car correctly can take 8 hours (easily) and give you a pretty sore back, so if the cost is about the same to buy all of the supplies versus hire a professional – then the professional is not only cost effective but saves you a ton of time, body aches, and you’ll get a better result.

Miscellaneous

There is a ton more you could write, and recommend, as detailing is really an art form. I have amassed an entire cabinet of detailing supplies, and each tool has a different use for specific situations or needs.

A few products that I’ll lean on more often include:

  • Vinegar – great for removing water spots, especially on glass
  • Bissell Little Green – great for deep cleaning of carpets, seats, and removing stains
  • Leaf Blower – especially if your car is ceramic coating, using a leaf blower to help dry the car and blow out water from hard to reach places like the grille or wheel spokes is great
  • Degreaser – great for engine bays, really stubborn spots, door jams, or other places that have been neglected or been covered with oil & grime.
  • Steam Cleaners – great for headliners (be careful with heat) or stubborn spots on the interior.
  • Glass Cleaner – I prefer to use WashMist noted above, but Stoners or any other car-specific glass cleaner can be helpful to make the glass really pop.

Hope this helps, and I’ll continue to update this post as I try new things!

Nick Roshon

Nick has been an Audi owner and fanatic for the last 10 years, and started Nick's Car Blog in 2009 to share DIYs and pictures of his A4. Currently he drives a 2012 Audi TT-RS, and has previously owned a B7 S4, B7 A4, and an 82 Audi Coupe (GT) LeMons race car. In his day job, Nick is a digital marketer and lives in San Diego, CA, USA.

46 Comments

  1. I used to really be into detailing the mustangs I used to own and used a various amount of cleaning supplies but found that I always trended toward Meguiars products. They were defiantly more on the pricey side but I could pick them up at any local store and did a good job that lasted.

    Thanks for sharing what you use though since I know your car is always in tip-top-shape. Do you use anything to protect your headlights from getting hazy looking?

  2. Nick, thanks for the great tips. I didn’t see you say what you like for regular exterior wash. Any thoughts?

  3. Hi Nick, I just bought a new audi A4 and would like to keep it looking good. Since all the products you mentioned can be costly, what specific products should I buy now to protect my investment? Perhaps there are some items you can recommend so I can get a car care kit together. Thanks!

  4. Lynn – the best thing you can do is just to wash your car regularly – so car wash soap, a sponge/mitt, and microfiber cloths to dry. I try to wash once every two weeks or more. I’d recommend the Leatherique products for your seats, as neglecting those can cause cracking and staining. And once every 6-12 months I’d recommend a good wax or polish to keep the paint protected. Cheers!

  5. Thanks Nick for letting me know I don’t have to spend a fortune to keep my new Audi clean and in good shape. As far as the wheels, do I just wash and hose them off. How do I get inside the wheel well to clean out grit? Thanks for you speedy reply. Lynn

  6. Lynn – if you stay on top of the wheels, you should be fine with cleaning them with regular car wash soap. Use a seperate sponge/mit for those though so you don’t get wheel grime on your paint. If you have trouble getting the dirt loose then pick up some wheel cleaner like SONAX…

  7. Thanks again Nick! I never knew there was so much involved in keeping a car in showroom shape! I was wondering if I wash the dirty cloths I use for each particular part of the car in the washer together or separately? Also, can I use regular clothes detergent or do I need to purchase another type of detergent to wash the cloths?

  8. Thanks again Nick! I never knew there was so much involved in keeping a car in showroom shape! I was wondering if I wash the dirty cloths I use for each particular part of the car in the washer together or separately? Also, can I use regular clothes detergent or do I need to purchase another type of detergent to wash the cloths?

  9. Hi Nick, Well I am back again for some more of your valuable information which I appreciate so much!\
    What is the best glass cleaner for the side windows, windshielf inside and out? Thanks!

  10. Lynn I would just go with whatever you have around the house, I’ve tried fancy glass cleaner and I didn’t really notice a difference over Windex…

  11. Hi Nick. What do you use to clean the interior, like the deck, anywhere besides the leather seat. We bought an Audi X5 when our baby arrived. Sometimes we gets stains or milk here and there .. What do you suggest to clean it? I bought the Armorall cleaning wipes to wipe the deck and by the door. Do you have any recommendation? Thanks

  12. Best. Audi. Thread. Ever. Just bought a B7 titanium, but holy.. Nice ride and advice! If you ever need an Audi rider, let me know 😉

  13. Great explain the Audi detailing..I’m a little obsessive about keeping my car clean, I have some experience detailing cars as a job but I’m by no means a professional, yet. I absolutely love Meguiar’s, it’s pretty much all I use, but I’ll post on this anyway. My paint was in rough shape when I bought the car, it would barely even shine. Now, my car is glossy even when it’s covered in dirt. So I’d say, I’m doing okay in the detailing department and I am only mentioning products that worked for me and I think would be safe for ANYONE to use, even if your paint sucks like mine did. I’m also picking products that don’t cost an arm and a leg. They’re not the cheapest, but in my experience, you get what you pay for with detailing products.

  14. Nick – do you have any suggestions for regular cleaning of the dashboard and entertainment area? I got the leatherique for my seats, but it seems a little expensive to use weekly on my dashboard which gets fuzzy quite often.

  15. I just purchased a used 2012 Audi A4 wagon. I need interior cleaning advice and product name regarding the “walls” and “ceiling”, which is a very light grey, tight weave material of some kind, not plastic as it does absorb liquid and can fray. The fabric has taken on normal use and dirt, and I’d like to clean and restore it back to new if possible. What product would you recommend and what cleaning tool should be used with this product, something that won’t destroy,fray the fabric or leave “water marks.” If there is a protectant product that can be used afterwards, let me know – or is there an “all in one” product? I honestly did try to get my questions answered by perusing your website as well as “Detailed Image” (where I purchased just about every product you recommended), but I am still unclear on a good cleaner, tool, and protectant for this particular interior material. Thank you for your advice and time. Vic

  16. What you’re referring to is the headliner, and it’s really tough to clean for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The dealership cleans it using a steam cleaner using just water, you have to be really careful as any harsh chemicals could seep through and damage the glue holding the headliner in place. A lot of places just recommend a damp towel for spot cleaning, and some woolite for areas that really need it.

  17. Hi. Stumbled across your site as I was researching how to care for my S5.

    What would you recommend to scrub off bugs and other hard debris without scratching the paint? Tree sap is another one that I need to understand how best to remove from the finish.

    How do you best protect the finish from parking in the sun all day? Is wax enough?

    What do you do with rock chips and scratches?

    Thanks for the advice?
    Matt

  18. Great questions, answers/ideas below:

    What would you recommend to scrub off bugs and other hard debris without scratching the paint? Tree sap is another one that I need to understand how best to remove from the finish.

    First of all, don’t scrub! Let the chemical soak in and do the hard work. Usually spray detailer can remove these if you let it sit for a little bit (but don’t let it dry). If the sap or tar is too stubborn for normal cleaning products, try a product made for bugs & tar like this one: http://www.detailedimage.com/wax.php?id=19305&url=detailedimage.com/Chemical-Guys-M31/Bug-Bugger-Tar-Remover-P277/16-oz-S1/ – again, let the chemicals do the work, if you scrub hard you will etch it into the paint.

    How do you best protect the finish from parking in the sun all day? Is wax enough?

    If you can’t find covered parking, then yes that’s your best bet, along with regular washing. The damage to your paint is actually from fallout (small deposits of iron/rust) that bake in the sun, so washing your car weekly (or close to it) and clay bar + polish/wax will keep too much fallout from building up. When you see cars where the clear coat has burnt off, this is from fallout basically rusting through it, so the trick is to keep the car clean so contaminants can’t eat through your clear coat.

    What do you do with rock chips and scratches?

    Cry a little. Sometimes you can get them to go away or look less worse with a good polishing compound, but ultimately it’s an envitable part of driving. If your car is still pretty new you can get a clear bra done to protect against damages.

    Thanks for the advice?

    You’re welcome!

  19. Thanks. What clay bar product do you recommend? Do you have some good guidelines for a clay bar application and a hand wax? For example Do’s and Dont’s, special techniques etc?

    Thanks again,
    Matt

  20. Hi Nick! Your forum is AMAZING. I want to know what do you think is the best type of car wash soap I can use for my Audi S5? Also do you have a suggestion in the best product to detail chrome mufflers? Or whatever type of metal the mufflers are?

  21. Hey Ryan,
    Thanks for the kind words! I use a Gilmour Foam Gun and Chemical Guys Maxi Suds for washing, links below:
    Foam Gun: http://www.detailedimage.com/wax.php?id=19305&url=detailedimage.com/Chemical-Guys-M31/Maxi-Suds-P224/16-oz-S1/
    Maxi Suds: http://www.detailedimage.com/wax.php?id=19305&url=detailedimage.com/Chemical-Guys-M31/Maxi-Suds-P224/16-oz-S1/

    For the exhaust tips, I’ve been using a metal polish. The trick is hitting the tips with a degreaser while you’re washing them, so when I spray my wheels with Sonax Wheel Cleaner I hit the tips of the exhaust too so it can start to break up the build up and thus there is less to polish off. Staying on top of the tips very wash really helps. If they’re already really bad, you may need to use something like steel wool to get them in a better shape if chemicals won’t do the trick, just go light so you don’t take off the clear coat. Here is the polish I use once you’ve got all of the debris removed: http://www.detailedimage.com/wax.php?id=19305&url=detailedimage.com/Optimum-OPT-M36/Metal-Polish-P291/8-oz-S1/

  22. Nick, I really like the information you are making available to everyone here via your blog. Many thanks for the share! I recently purchased a 2015 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro, and I would like know what you have used for wood inserts as well as rubber/metal black trim. Any thoughts are welcomed.

  23. I tend to use the 303 Aerospace cleaner for anything interior including trim pieces, and it also works great on rubber trim (or even tires). It’s a great all-purpose cleaner that doesn’t leave a residue. Check it out!

  24. Nick. If i could. I have a 2014 s5 Presitge, with the alcantara platinum seats. What would you recommend for keeping them looking clean and white.

  25. THANK YOU NIck for the prompt reply! work like a charm, warm soapy water. just a little bit a time, got it right out.

  26. Hey Nick, You gave a great information about interior car cleaning and exterior car cleaning with detailed products. I really love it.

  27. Hey nick I detail cars every summer as a side job bringing around 10 grand a summer, my question for you is do you any good touch up paint to use for a Audi S4? It’s a 2005 and silver. Pep Boys just your basic silver but it’s also crap. Thanks –

    -rob

  28. Check out PaintScratch.com and you can get touch up paint exactly to the OEM paint code, or if you are in a pinch you can get it from the local Audi dealership for a little more money too.

  29. Quick question in regards to rim cleaning. I recently got into a B8 A4 and have noticed that the rims are accumulating dirt and brake dust rather quickly, especially on the inside of the rim. Do you have a favourite or recommendation for a wheel brush that would be easy on the rims be able to fit through the rim pattern (10 spoke pattern), and go well with the recommended Sonax cleaner? Looking on Amazon and detailedimage there are a lot of options. Not sure which would be the best to go with. Cheers!

  30. This is great info Nick! I just traded in my 2003 A6 3.0 Quattro Premium Plus for a 2013 A6 2.0T Quattro Premium Plus and I was trying to decide if I should detail it myself or take it to a detailer. The cost of the products and the Bissell cost the same as one detailing, so I opted for the products and do it myself. I hope you get an affiliate commission from that product store!

    My car is Midnight Blue Metallic and I am noticing it is a dust magnet. Do you rinse or wash the exterior with anything before applying the Paintwork Cleanser, or is that how you wash the exterior before applying the wax?

    Also, my interior is Titanium Grey and has the brushed aluminum trim. I read it dings and scratches easily. Does the Aerospace cleaner give any protection or can you recommend a way to prevent or reduce that?

    I bought A6 rubber floor mats to protect the light grey carpeting even though I got the Bissell. I love this new car!

  31. Congrats on the purchase! Definitely wash your car before doing the paintwork cleanser. It might be worth doing a claybar too, depending on the condition of the paint and how much build up…but definitely at least wash before. In terms of protecting the interior I’m not sure on protecting from scratches, I don’t think any products will provide substantial protection but maybe some kind of wax.

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