Last Wednesday I had my first detailing job. The client asked me to do an interior and exterior detail on his wife's Lexus SUV. The car was overdue a cleaning which was originally to have been done for $150 by a local wash & shine/pet grooming parlor! As usual I did lots of research and prepared an action plan to clean this SUV as well and as quickly as I could using the same products and tools that I use on my own car.
I met the client in front of his house at the scheduled time of 9AM. The Lexus was parked in front of the house so I asked the owner to move it inside the garage. I did not need to be outdoors for this job; there was rain in the forecast and the eco-friendly no-rinse wash does not require running water. I also wanted to be close to the indoor electrical outlet so I could use the vacuum cleaner on the interior of the car. After he moved the car inside we walked around and performed a pre-detail inspection of the interior and the exterior of the car. It is vital before starting to have a clear understanding of what the client wants to have done, listen to their concerns and answer any questions they might have. I showed the client some scratches and other defects in the paintwork. Before commencing work I took some photographs of the car.
The plan was to complete a full detail of the interior, perform an eco-friendly rinseless wash on the exterior, clean and dress the wheels and tire walls and finish up with a coat of wax. I did not how long this detail would take, but knew from detailing my own car that it would not be fast. I noted the times for different components of the process:
9:00am Arrived. Initial inspection and photographs.
9:10am Began work on the interior.
11:14am Interior finished. Prepared for external wash.
12:24pm External wash completed.
12:49pm Final wipe down completed.
12:55pm Finished final inspection and photographs.
Because it was raining heavily, we decided to leave the wheel wash and the final waxing until the next time the car is washed, which should be in about a fortnight. The process excluding wheels and wax took about four hours. The goal is to complete a large car like this in under three hours while delivering the same, and preferably better, quality.
I started at the rear of the car. When I opened the tailgate I saw that the trunk liner was dirty and covered in green plastic needles that had been shed by a fake Christmas tree. There were traces of glitter and there were dark scuff marks on the sill and around the door frame.
I took out the trunk liner, shook off the loose debris, placed it on the ground, gave it a quick wipe with a towel and sprayed it with a 50:50 solution of LA's Totally Awesome All Purpose Cleaner. I let the liner soak for a couple of minutes while I inspected the condition of the rest of the hatchback. There was some dirt and a few smudges on the soft carpet-like floor which I sprayed with APC and agitated with a boar's hair detail brush. The dirt was lifted from the carpet by blotting the excess liquid with a damp terry towel cloth which was also used to scrub the dirt from off the trunk liner.
The driver's seat and door panel were grimy from regular use but the rest of the interior was in pretty good condition. I removed the black floor mats from the front and rear footwells and inspected them in the daylight. Removal of the rear mats revealed a large stain on the light-colored carpet, to which I directed the attention of my client. Both rear mats had dark stains which were not easily visible on the black mats; the client was probably not even aware they were there. After shaking off all the loose dust and dirt the mats were vacuumed with a hand-held Dirt Devil, then spritzed with APC which was left to sit while I vacuumed the carpets in the floor wells in the car. The Dirt Devil struggled to pick anything up and only by attaching an extension tool was I able to remove the dirt and hair from the floor wells. One day I will get myself something like the Ridgid 2-in-1 portable Compact Vacuum Cleaner, a 4-gallon, 6 HP vacuum that also has a blower attachment which comes in handy for blowing water off the car and for blowing out dust and dirt from hard to reach places, like under the seats. I scrubbed the mats with a Colourlock cleaning brush, blotted off the excess liquid with a terry towel and brushed off all dirt and hairs that could not be vacuumed out and then left the mats to dry.
Here are some photographs of the driver side footwell and door sill before cleaning:
Before – driver footrest
For comparison here are some shots taken after these same areas were cleaned with APC:
After – Driver sill and foot rest
Next I turned my attention to the seats. The driver's seat was more heavily soiled than the others. The rear seats looked like they were barely used. I sprayed the front seats with APC and agitated the liquid and dirt with a small scrubbing brush. The excess was lifted by blotting with a 12 x 12 orange microfiber towel. The rear seats were wiped down with a solution of Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine (ONR) and an orange MF towel.
Before – Driver seat
Before – Driver seat
Dirt coming off driver seat
After – Driver seat
After the seats were finished the interior glass including windshield, side windows, sun roof and vanity mirrors were cleaned with ONR and a green microfiber towel. ONR was sprayed onto a yellow microfiber towel to wipe down the dashboard, the console, the navigation screen and the surrounding area. I used a boar's hair detailing brush to clean around the knobs and handles and radio controls before wiping down with a MF towel. The steering wheel and instrument column were cleaned with ONR and a yellow MF. My standard procedure is to use the different colors of microfiber towels for specific jobes: the smaller 12" x 12" orange towels for upholstery, green for glass, yellow for everything else. Larger 16" x 16" towels, blue and orange for the external body, black for wheels and large waffle weave MFs for drying and blue plush MFs for the final pass.
The driver door panel and arm rest cleaned up well after some work with ONR and APC:
Before – Driver arm-rest
After – driver arm-rest
The seat belts were very dirty. I tried to remove the grime using a 50:50 solution of APC, but a tougher cleaner will be needed to restore the seat belts to be almost as good as new. I replaced the mats and conditioned the leather seats and door panels with Lexol leather conditioner buffed off with an orange microfiber towel. Finally, I replaced the hatch back liner and cleaned the glass on the inside of the rear window. The rear door was closed and the interior was finished in a little over two hours.
How can this be accomplished quicker? A more powerful vacuum cleaner will cut at least 15 minutes. A stronger solution of All Purpose Cleaner will quickly remove the tougher stains and scuff marks from the sills and door panels, will clean the seat belts and easily remove the grime and body oils from the seats. A lot of time went into cleaning the driver's seat; this will be much easier in future if interior cleaning becomes part of the regular maintenance schedule of this vehicle.
I use the eco-friendly one-bucket method to wash a car's exterior. After rinsing a bucket to remove any grit or dirt, I put a grit guard in the bottom followed by about two gallons of water. I stirred in four capfuls, or 2 ounces, of Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine (ONR) and dumped six blue 16 x 16 MF towels into the solution to soak. I had previously made a stronger solution of ONR to use as a pre-wash in a hand-held pump sprayer. I turned another bucket upside-down to use as a step so that I could access the roof of the Lexus SUV. I sprayed the passenger side first, waited for about a minute then took a blue MF towel from the wash bucket. I squeezed out most of the water and folded the towel into four. I lightly wiped the roof of the SUV, doing just one pass with each quadrant of the towel. I turned the towel over and repeated the process, essentially wiping down the same panel twice, checking to see how much dirt was being lifted onto the towel after each pass. When each quarter of the towel had been used for one wipe the excess liquid was wrung out and the soiled towel put into a clean black trash bag. I lightly spritzed ONR onto a clean waffle weave MF towel and used it to remove excess liquid and gently wipe down the roof, applying very little pressure, just using the weight of the towel in light movements, with no back and forth rubbing. The wash procedure was repeated on the other side of the roof and I continued to work my way around the car, using a new MF towel soaked in ONR on each panel. Soiled towels went straight into the trash bag, never back into the wash bucket. Where appropriate I used a detailing brush to clean around trim, emblems, handles, etc. I left the rear of the car, the side rocker panels and front splitter 'til last. The wash phase went smoothly except for a bird dropping on the front hood which had probably been there for a long time and needed work with a clay bar to fully remove. It is essential to remove bird droppings, tree sap and pollen as soon as possible, preferably within 5 hours, before it eats through the clear coat and etches the car's paint.
Before – bird dropping visible in hood after first pass with ONR and before clay bar
After the main wash was finished I opened all the doors and cleaned around the door jambs and around the edges of the doors with a microfiber towel soaked in ONR.
ONR from a spray bottle was misted onto the car as a final detailer and buffed to a clean dry shine with a plush microfiber towel. The rinseless eco-friendly wash took just over an hour to complete. Some time can be saved by having a step positioned on each side of the SUV eliminating the need to keep dragging the spare bucket around so I could reach the roof. More time can be saved by having a wash bucket positioned on either side of the car to cut down on time spent walking around the car to get a fresh MF towel.
By the time the external cleaning was finished it was raining very heavily outside the garage and the air was very damp. I decided to hold off waxing the car until the next visit. After a short discussion with the owner we agreed to postpone cleaning the wheels as they would get dirty again after a couple of days driving in the rain. We did a final inspection of the car and I took a few photographs of the finished product – taking care to not include the dirty wheels! Notice how little water is on the floor of the garage.