5 Must-Have Tools For Car Interior Detailing

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Car interior detailing is typically much harder when compared to exterior detailing, and the reason is a lot of inaccessible areas, as well as stuck on dirt, dust, sand, and other contaminants.

It’s hard to do a proper cleaning of a car’s interior if you don’t have the right tools.

And that’s why I decided to share my top five favorite tools I always use when cleaning car interiors.

1. Powerful Vacuum Cleaner

bosch vacuum cleaner

I couldn’t imagine doing a car interior cleanup without a powerful auto detailing vacuum. Let me be honest: I’ve tried a bunch of options, and every time I was using some less powerful vacuum, it would take forever to clean the car.

From my experience, any vacuum above 3 HP is enough. But if you can, aim to buy a 4 or even 5-horsepower vacuum. With it, you’ll vacuum the car with ease.

And besides the motor, do keep in mind that you’ll need plenty of vacuum accessories, especially longer and narrower nozzles, so you can vacuum hard to reach areas.

If I had to pick one favorite vacuum, that would be the Ridgid 1200 NXT, which has 5 horsepower, and you get most of the important accessories (Except the long and narrow attachment, unfortunately, so make sure to buy it). You can check it below:

RIDGID 62703 RT1200 NXT 12-Gal. Wet Dry Shop Vacuum with Casters, 5.0 Peak HP Motor, and Pro Locking...

If you’re on a tight budget, I recommend checking vacuums from Stanley, Black+Decker, or some similar brand.

2. Air Compressor

air compressor

I didn’t think that I’d put an air compressor in 2nd place.

But then I remembered how angry I was every time when I couldn’t clean something properly (especially vents and door crannies) while I still didn’t have an air compressor.

While the initial setup of all the equipment takes a bit more time, when you have an air compressor near your hands, cleaning the car interior becomes 10x easier.

Here are a few situations where I always use an air compressor:

  • Quickly dusting off the car prior to vacuuming.
  • For cleaning air vents.
  • When cleaning doors, I always use an air compressor to dry them with cleaning solutions.
  • I use the tornador attachment on it.
  • I even use a compressor to remove some stickers from the inside.

Typically, the bigger the compressor the better. But I don’t have too much space in my garage, and that’s why I always vote for small but powerful compressors.

One of my favorites is Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor. It’s a 6-gallon compressor only, but so far, it has been enough for all my auto detailing needs.

And more importantly, it doesn’t take lots of space, even if you’re a mobile detailer.

3. Steam Cleaner

steam cleaning air vents

While you can do car interior detail without steam cleaners, if you want to speed up your game, steam cleaner is a tool you need.

Literally, every single time I clean some dirty car, a steam cleaner is my go-to tool, and I can’t imagine working without it.

It took me some time to learn how to properly use steam cleaners in cars without damaging something, but it’s totally worth it.

I always use steam cleaners for:

  • Cleaning tough stains on carpets, upholstery, the dashboard, plastics, and sometimes even leather (with caution, of course).
  • Removing gums and other sticky things from all over the car.
  • Cleaning vents – I never do it without a steam cleaner.
  • When removing stains from the ceiling.
  • Removing stickers.
  • etc…

Choosing a steam cleaner is simple. Just pick something not too big so you can work all over the car, and something with plenty of attachments.

I don’t even need to recommend you a specific product, just don’t buy the cheapest one out there. From my experience, you’ll have to spend at least $50 to $100 for a worthy steam cleaner.

4. Tiny Brushes and Cleaning Tools

cleaning air vents with a brush

If you’re just a valeter and not a detailer, you probably won’t bother with this.

But if you’re trying to really do high-quality automotive details, then you’ll need tiny brushes or similar cleaning tools. Let me quote two sentences from a reputable detailer from UK:

Detailing, on the other hand, is all about the little, minor details of your vehicle. A detailer aims to enhance the overall look of your car, by taking meticulous care of all the finer details.


Here’s where you’ll need those tiny brushes or even toothpicks:

  • Cleaning buttons on the steering wheel.
  • Cleaning air vents, as well as nooks and crannies.
  • A/C and other buttons on the dashboard, especially those “wheel” controls.
  • Cleaning rails beneath the car seats.

And no, I don’t mean on typical soft car detailing brushes, you should already have them in your arsenal. I mean on something like below:

Chemical Guys ACC_S02 Dual Purpose Toothbrush Style Detailing Brush
Amazon Prime

And, besides that, I always prefer having a few ear picks for specific areas such as vents.

5. Drill Brushes

drill with a drill brush attachment

Last but not least, drill brush attachments.

When I just started cleaning cars, I tried to do everything with as little tools as possible (I didn’t have enough money to purchase everything).

But drill and drill brush attachments were one of the first investments I’ve made. It was extremely exhausting to deep clean a car all by using a handheld brush from the dollar store.

But when I finally bought the drill and brushes, doing interior cleaner was not only quicker, but I was getting better results.

You just can’t replicate the movement of the drill brush with your hands (both speed and rotation), and that’s why every detailer should have it in my opinion.

I mentioned drill brush attachments and recommended a product in my guide on brush sets every detailer needs, so make sure to check it out.

Of course, I didn’t mention some tools such as carpet cleaner, but it’s obvious that you need it to clean a car interior.

I hope that these tools will help you in a more efficient car interior cleaning. They helped me, and will surely help every auto detailer out there.

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