What’s in Your Wash Caddy?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

The options are limitless when it comes to washing, cleaning, polishing, and shining up your ride. To help cut through the noise, we asked three professional detailers to tell us their top picks for products, accessories and tips; where to spend and where to scrimp; and what they use when it’s time to put some shine on their own cars.

We’ll hear from Chris Minor, a car fanatic who owns and operates Refined Shine Auto Detailing in Lively, Ontario, and drives a VW Golf R and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

We pitched the same questions to Yvan Lacroix, President of Repare-Brise Inc., an automotive appearance care franchise based in Granby, Quebec. Lacroix is also the global director of training for Optimum Polymer Technologies, and he counts a Mustang Convertible, Volvo P1800ES and Kia Soul amongst his personal vehicles.

Finally, we’ll hear from Bhu Kapur, a long-time detailer, and manager at BHG Media Fleet, a detail and fleet operation in Mississauga, Ontario. Bhu currently drives (and obsessively details) a Mercedes S550 and a BMW 328i convertible.

Different opinions, different preferences, and a wealth of advice follow. Notably, a few products and brands pop up frequently as professional favourites. Buckle up for the shine of your life.

What’s your favourite wash soap?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

Chris Minor

If I am doing a maintenance wash, I use Optimum No Rinse, which technically isn’t really a soap at all. If I’m doing a more involved exterior detail, I will pre-soak the vehicle with thick suds from my foam cannon. The soap I use in the foam cannon varies from car to car – sometimes I’ll use special mixtures that aid in stripping old wax, or just regular car soap. Most frequently, I’m using Chemical Guys Clean Slate or Optimum Car Wash.

Yvan Lacroix

I haven’t used soap in 10 years. Instead, I use Optimum No Rinse, a polymer that makes soap obsolete. ONR leaves a cleaner surface, takes less effort, is safer for the paint, and uses less water since you don’t have to rinse it off.

Bhu Kapur

I usually buy whatever car soap is on sale – provided it doesn’t have a built-in wax component. You just want to use straight soap, with no wax additives. And never, ever use dish soap – it’s too harsh.

Do you use a foam cannon?

EQP_310 TORQ Professional Foam Cannon

Chris Minor

I use an MTM Hydro foam cannon from Auto Obsessed, but only when I want to remove or strip any existing wax or sealants during the wash process, or if the car is very dirty and really needs a pre-soak.

Yvan Lacroix

Foam looks cool, but in reality does nothing to clean or protect the paint. The best test you can do is to foam one door of a car, allow the foam to work for five minutes, then rinse off the foam, and at the same time, rinse the adjacent panels. Allow the panels to dry, and when dry, you will see no difference between the foamed and non-foamed sections.

Bhu Kapur

Foam cannons can get expensive, and require a little more maintenance to clean and prep before you use them, so sometimes, they’re inconvenient. They work best with a pressure washer, so you’ll need one of those, too. I find they do work well and give a nice coating to help lift the dirt. For a good cleaning, they’re an asset, but not necessary for a quick wash. Just use lots of suds.

What’s your go-to wax or polish for an awesome shine?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

Chris Minor

Both of my personal vehicles are protected with Opti-Coat Pro Plus, and once this is applied, you never need to wax again. If this coating is not an option, my go-to wax/sealant would be Optimum Opti-Seal, or Collinite 845. Also, remember that you can never have too many high-quality microfibre towels.

Yvan Lacroix

My cars are first protected with Opti-Coat Pro Plus, a high-performance silicon carbide ceramic coating. With Opti-Coat there is no need to wax or seal your car from then on. For customer cars that don’t have a coating, I use Opti-Seal, a polymer sealant that is very simple to use, gives great shine, and good protection.

Bhu Kapur

I have a black car, so it requires more attention. Twice a year I will give it the full treatment, which takes the full day. I start with a good wash and a clay bar treatment. Product-wise, I like the Chemical Guys Optical Grade Final Polish, but Meguiar’s Black works well on black cars also. I like to wax with a quality carnauba wax too, like Meguiar’s Pure Carnauba Wax. It works great, and is reasonably priced.

What’s your go-to tire shine?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

Chris Minor

I like the Optimum products. Can you tell? I need to give credit where it’s due. My two go-to tire dressings are Optimum Opti-Bond and Swissvax Pneu. Opti-Bond is a thick goo-like substance and Pneu is a spray. The shine from each is great, and both last a long time.

Yvan Lacroix

Opti-Bond Tire Gel is my go-to. Being silicone-free and water-based means it does not attract dirt or sling all over your paint.

Bhu Kapur

I use a tire shine goo, not a spray. Not too fussy on the brand. The goo applies better, and tends to last longer. Sprays can get on the rims, and then you have to clean it. The goo or lotion on a small sponge works well. If you’re using a tire shine spray, put it on the sponge first, rather than directly on the tire, for less clean up.

What’s your go-to wheel cleaner?

Spring Cleaning Hacks

Chris Minor

I use generic car soap to clean rims, followed by an iron-removing chemical such as Carpro Iron-X, Optimum Ferrex, or Chemical Guys Decon Pro.

Yvan Lacroix

For really neglected rims, Ferrex is my cleaner of choice. Ferrex converts brake dust and iron particles to a red liquid, it’s a neat effect, and totally safe on all surfaces, unlike acid-based cleaners.

Bhu Kapur

For rim cleaner, make sure you’re using a quality alloy wheel cleaner. I don’t have a brand preference here, I use whatever is on sale because I go through it quickly. The finish on rims can be delicate, so make sure the cleaner works for your rim type. To polish wheels, I like Meguiar’s and Chemical Guys products. I save money on the cleaner, but I don’t scrimp on the polish, because a cheap or old polish can show poor results.

What car care products or brands have impressed you lately?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

Chris Minor

Most of my detailing products either come from Optimum or Carpro, and both of their product lines fill my needs as a professional detailer. Two products that I am the most impressed with are Optimum No Rinse, since it can be used for numerous purposes, and CarPro fast glass towels, since I despise cleaning glass, and these make it a breeze.

Yvan Lacroix

I have been using Optimum Polymer Technologies products in our franchises since 2003. The company and its products impressed me so much that I became a consultant for them. Optimum thinks outside the box, making real solutions to real world issues.

Bhu Kapur

I really like the Chemical Guys products. They’re expensive, but very good, and they offer a full array of products, too.

Can you share any professional time-saving tips with readers, to help them achieve a quick and easy shine?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

Chris Minor

Take your time, use proper tools and quality products. Try to wash out of direct sunlight, starting with the wheels, then wash the car or truck from top to bottom.

Yvan Lacroix

Eliminate soap from your washing, and replace it with Optimim No Rinse, which can be used as a rinse-free car-wash soap, clay-bar lube, instant detailer, and even an interior detailing and glass cleaning solution. You save time and water, since you don’t have to rinse it off. Just wash and dry, that’s all there is to it. Also, for regular detailing, a lift is a great tool to have, and helps increase the quality and efficiency of your work. If a lift is not in your budget, then a Racatac is the best roller-stool money can buy for your posture. You’ll do a better and more thorough job if you’re comfortable, after all.

Bhu Kapur

Wash the car regularly and avoid the wax/polish combo at the automated car wash, because it can build up a hazy film over time. Go for the basic wash if you must use a car wash, and put on a coat of the new polymer polishes that will give you a great shine and some protection. The best way is to do the full gamut (wash/polish/wax) individually at least twice a year, and your car will look great!

Any professional money-saving tips to share?

Favourite Cleaning and Detailing Products

Chris Minor

Only buy the essentials. You wash caddy could have as little as five products for a full detail. In my experience with chemicals, you do not get what you pay for – and it took me years of trial and error and thousands of dollars in supplies before finding a system that works for me. Having your car professionally detailed once or twice a year and maintaining it at that level with routine washes and interior cleanings every few weeks will keep your vehicle looking its best, and yield a higher resale value when it comes time to sell.

Yvan Lacroix

If you plan on keeping your car for more than a year, invest in a ceramic coating. Coatings eliminate the need for waxing, keep your car looking like new for higher resale value, and protect against environmental damages such as bird droppings, insects, and tree sap. Be sure to go with a coating that doesn’t require a yearly re-application or rejuvenation to maintain the warranty. Remember that if you neglect the look of your car, its value drops considerably when it comes time to sell.

Bhu Kapur

Generally you get what you pay for – however as far as soap and cleansers, you don’t need anything too harsh, so the basic ones are great, and are the cheapest. That’s why, for cleaners, I tend to buy whatever is on sale. For polish or wax, spend your money there. Buy a decent one, as cheaper waxes can cause issues with residue or poor protection. The biggest key is to keep the car clean, and it will look great and cost less over time.

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Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard is a native of Windsor, Ontario – though he’s called Sudbury his home for the past 20 years. Justin is a full-time auto writer, consultant and presenter of EastLink TV’s AutoPilot. His work can be seen weekly in numerous outlets across the country. When not writing about the latest new models and industry trends, you’ll probably find him fixing his 1993 Toyota MR2 GTS.
Justin Pritchard

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