Car Washing vs. Car Detailing

Car Washing vs. Car Detailing

Car washing and detailing are two important parts of regular vehicle upkeep. While both processes make a car look and feel better for the owner, they have different processes and unique purposes.

Some businesses offer car washing and detailing, while others specialize in one of these services. Whether your auto business is considering offering a new cleaning service or you are looking for some quick clarification about washing and detailing, we have you covered.

We are breaking down car washing vs. detailing and the benefits of both processes.

Car Washing

Car washing refers to cleaning the dirt and grime off the exterior of a vehicle. Some washing practices include vacuuming the car’s interior, but the process primarily treats the car’s exterior.

Washing typically involves the following steps:

  1. Rinse the vehicle with pressurized water.
  2. Apply a pre-soak to loosen grime and prep the car’s surface.
  3. Rinse the pre-soak.
  4. Apply detergent over the entire vehicle, including wheels and tires.
  5. Scrub the car’s surface with the detergent to loosen up and wipe away dirt.
  6. Rinse with pressurized water again.
  7. Dry the vehicle.

In some cases, businesses will also apply wax or polish to the vehicle after it completely dries.

The car washing process can take place in an automatic bay, or it can be done manually. Some key characteristics of washing a car that differs from detailing include:

  • Efficiency: A car wash, especially an automatic one, is designed to effectively clean a vehicle in a very short amount of time.
  • Expense: The cost of a car wash service is typically less expensive than detailing.
  • Convenience: Customers can enjoy increased convenience during a car wash. In many instances, they don’t have to get out of the vehicle during the process. Washing services are also more abundant and easier to find than detailing.

Benefits of Car Washing

Benefits of Car Washing

Regular car washing is a necessary part of vehicle ownership. Your customers can enjoy many advantages when they work washes into their busy schedules, including:

Protecting Paint

Washing away dirt and grime from a vehicle’s surface helps keep its paint in optimal condition. While driving, a car will develop buildup over time. The following can wreak havoc on a car’s paint:

  • Road salts
  • Acid rain
  • Grime
  • Pollen
  • Dirt
  • Bugs
  • Bird droppings

Grit from these deposits can cause abrasions on the car’s surface. Bird droppings can be especially damaging because their acidic nature can degrade a vehicle’s clear coat and paint.

If the car has any scratches in the paint job, leaving dirt and filth on the surface can cause rust.

Maintaining Resale Value

One of the best ways to maintain a vehicle’s value is to keep it clean and maintain its overall appearance.

A vehicle kept in pristine condition can be sold for more. Consumers should consider car washing an investment to boost their car’s resale value when they are ready to put it on the market.

Car owners can also help extend their car’s working life and keep its exterior looking new for longer. Regular clear coat and waxing applications can help mitigate sun fading, and keeping the undercarriage clean can help reduce rust and corrosion.

Improving Vehicle Appearance and Safety

Consider the stark visual difference between a clean, sparkling car versus a car covered in dirt and pollen. Cars tend to look their best after washing. With the layer of grime washed away, they are shinier, and their paint looks more vibrant.

Regularly washing a vehicle allows car owners to enjoy a great-looking vehicle for longer. Plus, clean windows make for safer driving. Buildup on your windshield can impair the driver’s vision, especially when headlights or direct sun rays hit it. Likewise, the car’s headlights need to be clean to deliver the brightest illumination.

Boosting Performance

A dirty vehicle will not perform as well as a clean one, especially if dirt and grime buildup is present on the following:

  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Undercarriage

Keeping the car clean will help reduce drag and enhance fuel economy. When a vehicle is clean, air can move over its surfaces with more ease, reducing wind resistance and the need for additional power.

A car’s engine should also be kept clean to maintain and boost performance.

How Often Do Cars Need Washing?

Regular washing is part of responsible car ownership. As a general rule of thumb, a vehicle should be washed at least once every two weeks to keep it in its best condition.

However, car owners should consider more frequent washes if they drive often. For example, someone who commutes one hour to and from work every day will likely benefit from weekly washes.

Car owners that live in certain environments should also consider washing their vehicles more frequently. High air pollution levels or dusty conditions can have a negative impact on cars, and frequent washes can help combat potential issues.

Road salts used to melt snow and ice can also wreak havoc on cars. Owners may want to visit the car wash more often during winter to wash away salt residue and buildup.

Individuals who do not drive often and keep their car protected in a garage can likely visit the car wash once a month.

Supplies Needed for a Car Wash

If you run a car wash business, there are a few types of supplies you need to deliver the best results for your customers.

Explore the following types of car wash chemicals and products:

  • Degreaser: This product is formulated to break up the tough grease and oils present on the vehicle’s wheels and tires. Without a degreaser, cleaning and removing these substances can be very challenging.
  • Pre-soaks: Car wash pre-soak is applied to the vehicle’s surface to loosen and help remove oils and buildup before the detergent for a more effective and deeper overall clean.
  • Detergents: Car wash soaps are the most important chemicals in the washing process. They lubricate the surface and use suds to lift dirt and debris. Most detergents are pH-balanced, which helps protect the paint.
  • Glass cleaner: Car windows and windshields can sometimes require additional washing, and glass cleaner is an effective way to remove any marks or buildup for the clearest view.
  • Clear coat protectants: Clear coat protectants, including waxes and paint sealants, offer a smooth, shiny layer that preserves the car’s surface.
  • Rain guard: Another product that effectively protects the car’s surface and windows is a rain guard. It repels rain and snow, increasing visibility even during inclement weather.
  • Aluminum brightener: As the name suggests, this product effectively cleans aluminum wheels for a brighter, shinier appearance. Brightener helps effectively lift road film and fuel stains, and it can be used for aluminum, chrome-plated or magnesium wheels.

Car Detailing

What is car detailing?Ā The detailing process consists of thoroughly reconditioning and cleaning a car’s interior and exterior. It takes the car washing process further with deep cleaning and restorative practices.

The primary aim of car detailing is to correct and preserve a car’s condition, inside and out. A dedicated detailing professional is often responsible for performing each task. In many cases, detailing will take place after washing. Exterior detailing includes the cleaning of various car parts, including the following:

  • Engine compartment
  • Undercarriage
  • Wheel wells
  • Trunk jambs
  • Door jambs

Detail technicians will inspect the car’s surface, looking for areas that could use paint correction and restoration. After addressing scratches or marks, they may apply a new protective coating over the vehicle.

On the inside of the car, the detail technician will vacuum and spot-treat the car’s carpets. They will sometimes shampoo and extract floors too. Likewise, they will tend to the car’s seats. They often do the following to tend to the upholstery:

  • Pretreat stains
  • Apply cleaner
  • Add a protective coating

Detailing also includes wiping all surfaces and vacuuming debris out of every nook and cranny of the interior. Technicians may also clean the car’s windows and remove cloudiness from headlights and taillights.

The detailing process is much more thorough and time-intensive than washing.

Benefits of Car Detailing

Benefits of Car Detailing

Car detailing is one of the best ways to maintain and keep a vehicle in its best condition. The following are the key advantages of having a car detailed regularly:

Preserve Paint and Upholstery

Car detailing is an effective way for car owners to protect their investments and preserve the condition of their vehicles. The paint and interior upholstery will last longer and look better with regular detailing services.

When the interior and exterior of a vehicle are well-kept and cared for, it also helps maintain the car’s resale value. Detailing should be a part of every car owner’s ongoing maintenance efforts.

Enjoy Better Engine Performance

In addition to making a car look its best, detailing also helps it perform better. Some services include thoroughly cleaning dirt and grime off the engine. This process helps the car run more efficiently and keeps operating temperatures low.

Regular engine cleaning can extend the equipment’s life span and enhance reliability. A traditional car wash does not access the engine, so it is essential to incorporate both processes into vehicle maintenance.

Enhance Overall Appearance

Professional car detailing delivers amazing results that enhance the vehicle’s appearance from top to bottom. From the cupholders to the air vents, every crevice of the car is tended to and made to look new.

Car owners can keep their vehicles in optimal condition with regular detailing services. It will help boost the resale value and help keep the car operating and looking its best.

Receive Thorough Attention and Care

In some cases, a full car detailing service can take hours to complete. Having a professional perform these duties is highly beneficial for car owners because professionals understand the best practices and products for each part of the car.

The detailing process offers car owners a deeper and more thorough clean than a typical wash and vacuum.

How Often Do Cars Need Detailing?

How Often Do Cars Need Detailing?

A car owner should have a professional perform detailing services on their vehicle two times per year at a minimum.

In some cases, a car may require more frequent attention. The following are telltale signs a vehicle could benefit from professional detailing:

  • Dull paint: A car’s exterior can become dull over time, thanks to various influences, including weather and driving conditions. Detailing can restore overly worn surfaces and give the vehicle a vibrant, shiny finish again.
  • Odor: Car odors can arise from different sources like spilled drinks or pet dander. Detailing services can often correct unpleasant and unwanted smells.
  • Cloudy headlights: Over time, UV rays can make a car’s exterior lights look hazy and interfere with their performance. A technician can remove the cloudiness.
  • Interior buildup: Detailing can take care of the dust and grime that builds up on a vehicle’s dashboard and other hard surfaces.
  • New stains: Whether a pet tracked mud or a passenger dropped food, the formation of a new stain is a great reason for car detailing services.
  • Dry leather seats: Cars with leather seats often require extra care. If the material dries out, it can lead to cracking and discoloration. Special conditioners can help preserve the leather.

Supplies Needed for Car Detailing

While there is some overlap between the products used in car washing and detailing, some types are unique to detail services.

Explore the following types of detailing products and supplies:


The detailing process can involve different tools for accessing those hard-to-reach areas and cleaning various surfaces. Some common tools include:

  • Vacuums.
  • Microfiber towels.
  • Buffers.
  • Brushes.

The tools required for a detailing job may differ depending on the vehicle’s unique needs. For example, a buffer will not be necessary for a new car with a pristine paint job.


Protectant care is a huge part of car detailing. In addition to correcting existing damage and wear, the process also involves preparing the car for future use. The following products help create a barrier around the vehicle to block out potential damage:

  • Water repellant
  • Gloss enhancer/polish
  • Waxes
  • Clear coats
  • Glazes
  • Tire dressing


The car detailing process often involves various types of cleaners for different parts of the vehicle’s interior and exterior. The following are common types of cleaning products:

  • Leather cleaners
  • Bug and tar removers
  • Surface cleaners
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Spot removers
  • Wheel and engine cleaners
  • Glass cleaners
  • Hull cleaners
  • Black streak removers
  • Shampoos and detergents


In addition to cleaning the vehicle inside and out, car detailing also involves applying conditioning products that help restore and protect various parts of the vehicle. The following are a few types of conditioners used in detailing services:

  • Leather lotions
  • Clay bars and fluids
  • Vinyl rubber and plastic conditioners

Browse Car Washing and Detailing Products From JBS Industries

Browse Car Washing and Detailing Products From JBS Industries

Whether you’re looking for car wash chemicals or detailing products, turn to the selection from JBS Industries. For more than four decades, JBS Industries has been a leading car wash supplies manufacturer. We believe in creating highly-concentrated, effective washing and detailing products that will impress your customers.

With more than a dozen products available for your car wash or detailing businesses’ needs, we have the chemicals you need for the toughest jobs.

Are you interested in learning more? Browse car wash and detailing products from JBS Industries, or contact us for more information today!


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