Valeting. Just a fancy word for washing your car, isn’t it? Used by car wash services so they can bump up their prices?
Well there’s washing your car and there’s washing your car. If you see professional car wash services offering things like ‘mini-valets’ at what seem like inflated prices, then yes, you’d have every right to be a little sceptical.
But as far as a ‘full’ valet goes, well that really is the ultimate in car washing. A full valet goes above and beyond the standard services you get at your average local car wash. It’s a specialist service that has the aim of returning your vehicle to something like showroom condition, inside and out.
What valeting doesn’t include is tackling physical damage and deterioration to your bodywork, such as scratches, swirl marks and other defects. That is known as detailing, and is a more technically challenging job that involves polishing.
But what that means is that car valeting is easier to do yourself at home. Think of it as giving your car a good spring clean. As with your house, if you’re prepared to put the time and effort in – and buy a few special products to help you along the way – you can get your vehicle looking in pristine condition without having to fork out premium prices.
Here’s a checklist of things to include to give your car a full valet at home.
It’s amazing how much dirt and debris the inside of your car can collect. Start with the basics – clear out all the clutter from your car, take out the foot mats and give them a good shake, and then thoroughly vacuum the entire inside of your car. You’ll need all your attachments to get into the various nooks and crannies under and between seats. And don’t forget to lift the back seats to vacuum under the cushions.
A full valet includes washing the seats and carpet inside your car. For this, you should buy a special fabric or carpet shampoo. If you have leather seats, you will need a leather upholstery cleaner as well as a carpet shampoo for the floors. If you want to make your life easier and really go to town, you could hire a carpet cleaner for this job (maybe kill two birds with one stone and do the carpets in your home, too?)
Much of your car interior – the dash, the steering wheel, the door trims, the backs of seats – is likely made of plastic. But you may find other materials like rubber and leather, too. It’s important to use cleaners appropriate to each type of material. Or opt for a solid multipurpose cleaner suitable for them all (this is useful if you have leather seats, too).
After you have cleaned your interior surfaces, you may want to dress them. Dressings have a dual purpose – they protect materials, especially from fading caused by UV light, but they also provide an attractive glossy sheen. Again, if you want to dress your interior surfaces, you will need to pick products that match the materials.
This is the part of valeting that you’re probably already familiar with. Good tips for giving the outside of your car as thorough a clean as possible are to rinse down the body work with water before as well as after the main wash. Rinsing first helps to get rid of any loose dirt that you could end up smearing around. Always use car shampoo as it is formulated to remove dirt without risking chemical damage to the paintwork. You could choose a ceramic car shampoo, which also adds a protective layer.
Wash the wheels and arches first with a brush. These are always the dirtiest parts of your car, so you don’t want to be spreading debris from them over the rest of your car.
We recommend using a microfibre wash mitt as the safest way to clean your bodywork without scratching the paintwork. Similarly, use a dry microfibre cloth or mitt to dry your car after rinsing. This will remove the last traces of soap and stop watermarks forming.
Once your car is cleaned, rinsed and dried, a full valet should include applying wax to the paintwork. Wax makes your bodywork shine to give it that straight-from-the-showroom look, but it also adds a protective layer that will keep your car looking great for longer. Which is what you want after all that hard work.
As with interior dressings, you can also use similar products for your alloys, tyres and any other type of trim you have on your car’s exterior. Again, you need to pick products that match the materials.
As with your home, your car windows will need thoroughly cleaning both inside and out. Cleaning just one side of the glass will only show up the dust and smear marks on the other side! It’s best to leave this to the very end, after you’ve washed the outside of your windows with the rest of the car. Use an anti-smear glass cleaner and dry thoroughly afterwards with a clean microfibre cloth.