Steps in a Complete Detail, Part 3

By Prentice St. Clair, CD-SV, RIT

Prentice St. Clair, CD-SV, RIT has been providing training and consulting for the professional automotive detailing industry since 1999, as well as providing detailing services to the motoring public many more years than that.  Prentice holds many certifications within the detailing industry, and is a Recognized Industry Trainer through the International Detailing Association.  Considered one of the industry’s leading experts, Prentice has been inducted to the IDA Detailer’s Hall of Fame.

In the previous blog entry, I began to outline an efficient process for a complete interior-exterior detail.  I began the discussion by explaining the reason for following a specific process for a complete detail, which briefly is to maximize efficiency—a measure of the speed at which the job is completed—while balancing effectiveness—a measure of the quality of the outcome of the process.

The process being described is for the do-it-yourselfer and the professional detailing technician alike, and will help you complete the job in one day or less.

You will find that each step in the process is placed so that it does not create extra work for the following steps, and that there is a reason for each step’s placement.  Those “reasons” are italicized for emphasis. The specifics on techniques for each step can be found in earlier blog entries.

Interior Detail

In the previous blog entry, we got through the prep wash and into the first couple of steps of the interior detail, including removal of personal belongings and trash, vacuuming, and cleaning the floor mats.

Clean the vinyl, plastic and leather panels.  For this, use Proje’ Alpha Interior Cleaner, scrubbing with a Proje’ Interior Detailing Brush and Easy Reach Crevice Brush, then wiping away residue with a clean PolishPRO microfiber towel.  Work “top-to-bottom” during this step, starting with the highest vinyl pieces (e.g., overhead grab handles, vinyl visors, rear-view mirror housing, etc.), then cleaning the dashboard and steering wheel, then the center console, the seat, and finally the door panel.  As you clean the higher surfaces, drips of cleaner and dirt will fall on the lower panels and floor, which is inconsequential, as these are cleaned later.

Clean fabric or sport-cloth seats as necessary.  These can be cleaned using Proje’ Upholstery and Fabric Cleaner and a Proje’ Carpet and Upholstery Brush, followed by a towel dry with PolishPRO Towel.

Clean interior glass.  Use Proje’ Genesis Glass Cleaner and a pair of Proje’ DiamondPRO towels.  One towel is the “wet” towel, dampened with cleaner, and the other is the dry towel for final streak-free wiping.  We will only clean the interior side of the glass—the exterior glass is cleaned as the very last step in the complete detail.  Further, the glass is cleaned before applying interior conditioners, because applying conditioner before window-cleaning could result in the window towels picking up conditioner and streaking the windows during cleaning.

Start with the windshield, while the towels are fresh and less likely to leave streaks.  Clean the vanity mirrors, rear-view mirror, and instrument cluster while in this area to save time.  Next do the side windows.  Lower them and clean the top of the glass, both the inside AND outside edge.  This way, we don’t have to lower the windows again while cleaning the exterior side later.  After cleaning the window tops, close them completely and clean the rest of the inside windowpane.  The rear glass is last.

Condition interior surfaces.  Apply Proje’ Interior Protectant to all the freshly cleaned vinyl and plastic surfaces (e.g., dash, center console, door panels, etc.) using a Proje’ Large Applicator Pad.  Similarly, apply Proje’ Plush Leather Conditioner to any leather seating using a separate, dedicated Large Applicator Pad.  Apply the conditioners liberally.  (Important note:  DO NOT dress the steering wheel, parking brake handle, or pedals.)

When the interior is completely dressed, use a clean PolishPRO Microfiber Towel to buff off the excess vinyl dressing and leather conditioner.  While you are doing this, you can buff off the conditioner that may have accidentally been smudged on shiny trimThe act of buffing off the excess dressing also leaves a natural-looking satin finish while touching up any missed spots.

Put the interior back together again.  Place any removed belongings back in the car and reinstall the floor mats, making sure they are secured properly.

Now you can close the doors and focus on the outside of the car, because the interior detail is completely done!  Further, if the carpets are still damp from cleaning, they’ll have time to dry while detailing the exterior.

Exterior Detail

The car has already been fully washed and clayed.  Now, it’s time for polishing and protecting the exterior.

Dress the tires and wheel wells.  Lightly mist Proje’ Interior Protectant on the visible parts of the wheel wells that have plastic covers.  This will enhance their appearance, even if they are gray and dingy.  It’s okay if a bit of dressing spray gets on the paint, as this will be taken up during polishing or applying protectant.  Next, coat the tires with Proje’ Fusion Tire Dressing, applying it with a Proje’ Tire Dressing Brush.

Dress or mask exterior trim.  To avoid staining porous bare plastic trim, it should be masked or dressed before polishing or waxing. If dressing, use a Proje’ Large Applicator Pad to apply Proje’ Fusion Tire Dressing.  The dressing will act as a barrier to wax or polish.  It’s okay if some of the dressing gets on the paint, as it will be taken up during the polishing or waxingLater, as you wipe off the polish or wax, you can use the same towel to buff off excess dressing, leaving a satin finish.

Polish the car as necessary.  (If you are not polishing the paint, you can skip this step.)  If you see the need for paint correction or enhancement, this is the time to do it.  You can use the appropriate Proje’ polish along with the new Proje’ 21PRO random orbit polisher and the appropriate Proje’ polishing pad.  Remove residue with a ProjePRO or PolishPRO microfiber towel.

Apply protection.  Use your favorite Proje’ spray-and-wipe protectant (SiO2 Quick Coat, Surge Quick Detailer, Express Spray Wax), Hybrid Wax Sealant, or Old School Paste Wax.  Remove the residue with a ProjePRO Plush Microfiber towel.

Conduct final detailing.  Polish chrome pieces with Proje’ Metal Polish.  Conduct a final wipe-down of  wheels, door jambs, and shiny exterior trim with your favorite Proje’ spray-and-wipe protectant product.  We do all this spraying before cleaning the exterior glass in case some of the spray gets on the glass.

Clean exterior glass.  This is the LAST STEP of a complete detail!  Use Proje’ Genesis Glass Cleaner and two DiamondPRO microfibers.  Always start at the windshield when the towels are their cleanest.


Congratulations!  You have just fully detailed your car just like a pro, using a proven process that maximizes efficiency while delivering great results!