Between the Details: Vacuuming

Between the Details: Vacuuming

by: Patrick Horrigan

Owner and Lead Tech at We Care Car Care

Between the Details is a multi-part series on how to maintain your vehicle properly between details. This Chapter is on washing your vehicle without water.

Vacuuming, sounds pretty simple right? The simple answer is that it is easy, unless you want it done right. When a new detailing assistant or tech starts working for me I always start them off learning the art of vacuuming first. There are several reasons for that. First and foremost everyone thinks they know how to vacuum. You get a vacuum cleaner, a long enough hose and special nozzle or two and go to town.  Secondly, it’s a good chance for me to show them the difference between what their idea of clean is and what I call clean.

Why bother to vacuum in between details anyway? Is it just to make your car look cleaner, longer? While it does make your car look clean this isn’t the only reason you want to regularly vacuum. Think of all that stuff you drag into the car, like sand, salt, dirt, grass; all as mini pieces of sandpaper. As your feet (or butt) press down and move around on all that stuff you are 20160319_112241speeding up the wear on your carpets and other fabrics in your car.  Just a few grains of sand in the cracks of your car seats can destroy that nice soft leather surface in no time. Have nice all weather rubber or plastic car mats? While they are great at preventing crud from getting to your carpets and help provide protection even the best mats can’t keep everything from reaching your carpets. Once sand and dirt gets under those mats the sandpaper effect on your carpets is magnified even more with contact between the dirt,
carpet and mats. Now are you ready to go vacuum your car?

Here is what you will need

Vacuum Cleaner:  Almost any vacuum would be better than nothing. While your average413RwtrTesL._SX425_
home upright vac and a few attachments will get the job done I recommend a wet/dry shop type vacuum with at least 3hp rating. The vacuums I use in my business are all Husky 5hp, 4 gallon wet/ dry vacuum available from Home Depot as well as HERE. This vacuum is small enough for our mobile operation and fit inside larger vehicles if we need it but still has 130 inches of waterlift making it one of the most powerful single stage vacuum running on regular household power. We also use the optional HEPA filter to help keep the dust and stuff out of the air in the area we are working.

41DOq5IPb1L._SX425_Attachments: You will need at minimum a crevice tool attachment to get into all the little nooks and crannies.  Most car vacuuming kits also include both a stiff carpet brush attachment and softer brush for seats and dash as well as a longer, more flexible hose that can help with larger vehicles. We use this Ridgid Auto Detailing Kit and it contains everything you need.


Not all carpets are created equal

In today’s modern cars you will find a variety of different carpet types and quite often several styles in the same car. The carpet type in the passenger area is normally different then the carpeting using in the cargo and trunk area, even on the most expensive cars. Most high end cars such as Audi and Mercedes use a wool or synthetic wool loop pyle style carpet in the passenger area and a cut pile in the trunk. Less expensive cars have carpet that is so lightweight and loosely woven it can hardly called carpet.  Extra care must be taken when using more powerful vacuum cleaners with these because under full suction you can actually start unraveling the carpet!

Closed loop and open loop tight woven carpets are the easiest to vacuum since most of the debris does not get trapped in the actual carpet itself as bad. Other vehicles, such as a Toyota Prius, Honda Fit or Mitsubishi Lancer, carpets are so difficult to clean you may not get everything out without damaging the carpet. The loose carpeting can start to unravel if you apply the full suction of the vacuum trying to get stuck in dirt.

The vacuuming process is basically the same with all types of carpets and pretty straightforward.  First step is to remove all the loose trash that should not be sucked up by the vacuum. Also keep an eye open for ‘lost treasures’. Seats love to hide pens, change and other small items lost from view. On to the vacuuming.

I always work top to bottom inside the vehicle vacuuming and cleaning. It keeps you from knocking back into the carpet dirt and debris from the seats and dash. Start with a soft brush attachment and vacuum the dash, trim and vents. The vacuum will pick most of the junk without having to use a wet and wipe method first. The next step, move onto the seats. Seats love to hide crud between the seams and where the side bolsters meet the bottom cushion and where the seatback meets the bottom cushion. Start with a crevice tool and with vacuum out the cracks and where the seatback meets the cushion. I always tells my guys to “spread the cheeks” to stretch the gaps and get down deep. Next, switch to either the soft dash brush for leather seating surfaces or stiffer carpet brush for cloth seats and vacuum the rest of the seat. If you still have debris in the crevices of the seats the brush will help to loosen it up. When you vacuum the rear seats make sure lift the seatbelts as some of them sit in molded pockets and love to collect stuff.

Once you have vacuumed all other surfaces its onto the floor. Remove the mats from the vehicle and shake out any loose stuff. If you have carpeted or foam backed mats, take care as to where you put them down since they can pick up more stuff off the ground that wasn’t there when you removed them.

When its time to vacuum the actual floors it doesn’t matter if you start in the back and work forward or the other way around. Start by making a first pass with a wide mouth attachment or no attachment at all and get all the loose easy stuff first. This should only take a few minutes, not worrying about the stuck in dirt. Once you have completed a quick vac, move onto working around and under the seats with your crevice tool.  I would not recommend blindly fishing your vacuum hose with no attachment under and around the seats because the vacuum WILL stuck up at least one large item you didn’t see.  A crevice tool will keep the large items from getting in the vacuum and can actually help you retrieve items you couldn’t reach.

Once you have completed vacuuming around and under the seats the only thing left on your carpets will be either stuck/ ground in dirt and stains. The best way to get most of the stuck in dirt is with a brush. Using your brush attachment or a separate stiff bristle brush lightly scrub the brush over the dirt while under vacuum. This will loosen up and suck away most of what is left.  Make sure to take care again vacuuming the carpet found in inexpensive imports. Heavy brushing will loosen up and separate the fibers of the carpet in the same way too much suction will. You will not be able to get everything out of these carpets no matter how much you brush or vacuum. If you have stuck items that are bothersome I have had some success using tweezers, although it can be quite a tedious process!

The last step of vacuuming is taking care of your mats. After banging out all the loose debris, take a brush attachment or standard brush and loosen up the remaining stuck in debris. Before putting mats into your vehicle make sure you also look for dirt on the backside. Cloth and foam back mats pick up stuff much easier then the front/ top side of the mat. Even hard plastic mats can pick up larger items in the barbs used to keep mats from slipping around.


Between the Details: Waterless Washing

by: Patrick Horrigan

Owner and Lead Tech at We Care Car Care

Between the Details is a multi-part series on how to maintain your vehicle properly between details. This Chapter is on washing your vehicle without water.

In a previous post we discussed the importance of washing your vehicle regularly in between professional details and the problems with commercial car wash locations. If you have not had a chance to read it click here.

So now you know the best way to keep a clean car between detailing is to wash your own car at home. But what if you live in a condo or apartment building and have no access to outdoor running water? Or your city or town has a water ban or waste water restrictions in place? Or you just want to do your part to save water? The solution is doing a Waterless or Rinseless wash.

We Care Car Care has been using several different waterless system for years to detail about 95% of the vehicles we take care of. Last year alone, we saved over 60,000 gallons of water from being turned into waste water. At-home car wash consumes, on average, 110 gallons of water just to wash one vehicle! Other then the savings, waterless washing has other advantages. When you wash your car using one of these waterless methods no water hits the ground so you can wash your car right in the garage and not make a mess!  Ever wanted to wash your car in the dead of winter? Add one ingredient into your washing solution and you can wash your car in sub-freezing temps.

Steam Cleaning Vehicle Exterior

When We Care Car Care details a vehicle we use one of three diffrent wash methods to clean a car and varies based on the condition of the vehicle. Waterless/ Rinseless washes do have some limitations. When a vehicle is excessively dirty, such as someone who just went off-roading, waterless washes do not work. We use a commercial dry-vapor steamer to clean off those vehicles. Not a procedure we would recommend to the average weekend warrior/ driveway detailer invest in only due to the high cost of the equipment needed. If you are on a unlimited budget and want to explore that route here are a few machines we use in our own detailing business and highly recommend. These machines are workhorses when it comes to cleaning the inside of your vehicle too!
US Steam ES1900 Dry Vapor Steamer     Vapamore MR-1000 Dry Vapor Steamer
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For all other vehicles we use either a Rinseless wash or a Waterless wash. The ‘soap’ we use is the same for both methods.One question we get asked all the time from our detailing customers is “Will your waterless cleaning scratch my car?” The simple answer to that is yes, if it is not done properly. Just like the two bucket method, you need to make sure you are using a dirt free tool such as a microfiber cloth or wash mitt and secondly the proper solution to clean the car. The wash solution is an emulsifier so it lifts and encapsulates dirt off your car. If you use a clean microfiber towel or mitt, it picks up that dirt and keeps it from scratching your car. In the propper hands it is a safe, scratch free way of cleaning your car. Now lets explore the Rinseless wash first.

Rinseless Wash

What will you need:

Microfiber wash mitt such as Meguiar’s X3002

1 3-5 Gallon Bucket

Grit Guard

1 or 2 Microfiber Towels

Waterless Wash Concentrate such as Mequiar’s Rinse Free Express Wash

Distilled or Filtered Water

Performing a rinseless wash is best for any vehicle that is dirty to mildly dirty and can be completed in direct sunlight unlike a conventional wash.  There are a lot of waterless wash solutions now on the market and they are starting to find their way into local auto parts stores in  diluted, ready to use form or as a concentrate.  Some solutions also come in a wash and wax formula eliminating the need to wax when you are done. We Care Car Care uses Meguairs Express wash exclusively. It is a concentrated formula that only is available in gallon sizes part of their Professional Line and is not carried in standard retailers. To clean using the Rinseless method you will need an undiluted concentrate. The ready to use solutions are perfect for Waterless wash we will cover next.

To start you need to make up your wash solution. Using a single 3 to 5 gallon bucket, drop in a grit guard and add one gallon of water. Most vehicles can be cleaned using less but 1 gallon makes mixing easy. Following the dilution instructions on your product, add the correct amount to your bucket and mix the solution.  You may use tap water but I have found using distilled water produces better results and have not had any issues with mineral deposits if a panel starts to dry before you can wipe it. If you are a fan of the Two Bucket standard cleaning method you can use a separate rinse for your mitt if you are worried about scratching your car from a dirty mitt. It is not as critial as a standard wash but does help if you are new to waterless washing. The next, soak your microfiber wash mitt or towel into the solution.

Time to start washing! Start by ringing out your wash mitt into the bucket until it is almost dry. Start with the roof of the vehicle, clean one small section at a time cleaning down to the bottom. Don’t forget the windows!  The size of the section or panel depends on how dirty the car is. Once you have washed one section or panel, dry immediately with an absorbent microfiber drying towel. Continue on until you have washed the entire vehicle. If the microfiber towel starts to get dirty rotate it to a new side or replace with a clean towel.  Once you have completed your wash you can use a light maintenance spray wax such as WAXWAXWax to add extra shine!

If your vehicle is only mildly dirty to just dusty you can use a Waterless wash.

Waterless Wash

What you will need:

4 Microfiber Towels

Ready to Use Wash   Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax Anywhere


Waterless Wash Concentrate Mequiar’s Rinse Free Express Wash

Sprayer or Pressure Sprayer Autogeek Chemical Resistant Pressure Sprayer


Waterless wash comes in two different forms, ready to use or concentrate. If you are using a concentrate formula you will need to mix it according to instructions and add that to either a clean spray bottle or pressurized pump sprayer.  We Care Car Care uses a simple 64oz pump sprayer to apply the solution with since it saves your hands from having to constantly pump a trigger sprayer. The size of the bottle allows us to wash several cars with having to refill.  Any spray bottle will work just fine.   Take one of your microfiber towels and fold twice. This creates 8 different cleaning surfaces to the towel. Take your sprayer and lightly spray one panel. You want to get it wet but not to the point where it is dripping. Now with your cloth in hand, wipe slowly in one direction down the length of the panel making one pass. If your towel is dirty flip to a clean side and repeat wiping the panel the next section down. The towel will clean and dry at the same time so it’s a single wipe and your done procedure. Repeat the procedure until you have cleaned your entire car. You should need 3 to 4 towels to clean the entire vehicle.  Once cleaned if you used a wash only solution you can apply spray maintenance wax to add extra shine between waxing.

Lastly, Step back and Enjoy!

Pro Tip: When rain water dries on a clean car it can leave waterspots and deposits from environmental fall-out. Next time if rains and you have some free time, why not take advantage of the rain giving your car a free rinse. Just use the Waterless wash method and spray the cleaner on the already wet car. Then simply dry the entire car with a microfiber towel and your done!



Between The Details: Wash

by: Patrick Horrigan

Owner and Lead Tech at We Care Car Care

Between the Details is a multi-part series on how to maintain your vehicle properly between details. This Chapter is on washing your vehicle.

Ask yourself, what do bird dropping, tree sap, mold spores, bug guts, Iron particles and environmental fall-out have in common? Chances are they are all sitting on the surface of your car right now. Unless it’s been only a few hours since your last professional detailing, it’s more than likely your paint is already getting damaged.

Washing your car is important to not only keeping it look nice but help extend the life of the vehicle.

There are several ways to clean your car between details, some better than others. Drive through car washes (even touch-less ones) may take away some of the dirt and grime but not without leaving its own type of damage.  Even the softest washes can leave light scratches in your vehicles clear coat. Commonly called spider webbing or halo scratching, under the correct light the scratches look just like spider webs.

Spider Web Scratching in Clear Coat

Your clear coat can be scratched just by dry and clean towel on the paint. Another drawback of mechanical washes is the poor cleaning ability. Some off the tough, stuck on contaminants such as tree sap and iron contamination will be left behind after your wash. Drive thru washes normally do not use any of the advanced cleaning products needed to chemically remove items such as tree sap and tar or lack the proper safe scrubbing power.

Washing your car at home is a much better solution and with the proper tools and techniques you can can do it safety and quickly. The ‘old’ method DIYers have used since the invention of the automobile has been the Bucket and Hose method. You drag out the hose, find a bucket and put in a little dish soap and fill the bucket with water then dig under the sink for a sponge.   While this method is far better than the drive-thru wash as far as removing surface containments, you can still easily create undesirable scratches in your paint. So how do you clean while reducing the chance of scratching?

The Two Bucket Method

We Care Car Care uses several waterless washing methods to clean 95% of the vehicles we detail. There are some circumstances where we cannot use a waterless wash such as cleaning modern RVs with a textured rubber roof. Our next posting will cover a how-to on waterless wash systems.

Today we will introduce you to a modified version of a more traditional cleaning method.  The two bucket method is the way professional detailers who use water, clean a vehicle. The secret behind the two bucket method is rinsing of your wash cloth after every panel to cut down on scratching.

To start you will need:

A parking spot out direct sunlight

Hose and spray nozzle

Two – 3 to 5 Gallon Buckets

The Grit Guard Insert

Meguiar’s Microfiber Wash Mitt

Car Wash Soap: Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner

A Drying Towel or Chamois such as Meguiar’s Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels


            The first step is the prep phase. Start by putting your grit guards in the bottom of the buckets and fill them with fresh water.  The grit guard is a plastic tray that keeps your wash mitt out of the solid debris that settles in the bottom of the bucket. By keeping the mitt out of the dirt you greatly reduce the chance of a stray piece of dirt being carried back to the paint in your mitt.   Next add your car wash soap to only one bucket by following the mixing directions on the bottle. I recommend Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash soap since it cleans all the mess without stripping away any wax. Now you have a wash bucket and a rinse bucket.

Next, try to park your vehicle out of the direct sunlight. Unless the water you are using to wash and rinse is heavily filtered, you will have water spots (mineral deposits) left behind if the water dries on the car. Next, rinse the entire vehicle top to bottom to remove and loose dirt or debris. Take your microfiber wash mitt and soak it in the wash solution then wring out almost all the way and then begin to wash the car one panel or section at a time. The dirtier the car the smaller you section should be. Once you have cleaned one panel/ section drop the wash mitt into the clean water bucket while you spray off the panel you just cleaned. You want to make sure you are cleaning the car top to bottom to avoid having to re-clean a section.  Rinse the wash mitt in the fresh water to make sure to get off all the dirt that was just collected. Re-soap the mitt in the wash solution and then continue on and wash another section. Continue until you have cleaned the entire body of the car.

Now, that the car is cleaned, dry the car right away to avoid water staining issues. At this point your car should be nice and clean. Depending on the length of time since your last wax you may want to finish the car with a maintenance or spray wax.

The final step….take a few steps back and enjoy!