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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some regular guy's favorite detailing products for your Volvo

I'm not a professional detailer. I'm just some regular guy. I detail my cars as a hobby. I have no affiliation with any products or services in this regard.

There are literally hundreds of products out there, and it can be pretty overwhelming to decide on products. If you don't guess right, it can be a very expensive trial and error process too. So I thought it might be helpful to start a thread where I tell you what I have found over time to work well for me and why. Others can then chime in with their personal favorites that I may not have had experience with.

A lot of products are very subjective, and each person's priorities and situation vary greatly. Generally the products listed below are a cut above those commonly available, and are usually used by professional detailers. I source these products from on-line retailers, including Auto Geek, Autopia, and Amazon. (Some of the commonly available products, though, can have a very favorable price point, are easy to use and readily available, including Mequiars, Mothers, Lucas, Eagle1, etc.).

In all cases, read the instructions, and test on surfaces first. Take responsibility for your own car and your own actions.

To give you context of my persoective, these are some of my preferences and priorities:
  • I have minimal time for washing vehicles, so I prefer things that are long-lasting, quick and easy to use.
  • I prefer as fool-proof products as possible.
  • I like to do a major detail about once a year.
  • How much I wash is mainly dependent mainly on how often it rains here.
  • I like products that allow me to easily renew the finish, beading, and slickness in between major details as needed.
  • I like to wash the car, dry it, and usually finish with a quick-detailer type product wipe-down due to tendency for water spots here.
  • I like to keep it as simple as possible.
  • I try to use products that are compatible with each other, usually committing mainly to a product line as much as possible.

I have used many detail products over the years, and enjoy detailing my cars. I have learned a lot at Autopia and AutoGeek forums, and bought a Porter Cable orbital buffer several years ago. I believe in using brands from the same manufacturer for the sake of compatibility and there is a certain synergy in doing so. (In fact, Optimum uses synergy as a marketing slogan now).

I just finished major details for my S80, XC60, and XC90 which took about two days each.

Based on research and reviews on detailers sites, this time around I chose CarPro CQuartz professional grade products. I had no trouble using them; I just followed the directions and recommendations exactly. I used the following CarPro products, with the caveat that you should watch the available and excellent videos on use of the coatings. It's too soon for me to address longevity of the products, but I am confident based on the professional reviews. This time around I used these products:

Reset Intensive shampoo. This is the best car shampoo I have used. It has great and lasting sudsing, but rinses easily. It has very effective surfactants; I found that I was able to get light tar and bugs off easily using just a car wash brush or microfiber mitt. It also has great lubricity; I mixed some in a spray bottle about 10:1 and used it to lubricate a Nanoskin Clay mitt. I washed the car with a car wash brush first, then followed with a microfiber mitt, then used the Reset and water to lubricate the Nanoskin mitt, rinsing in between each step. This is the fastest way I have found to clay the car and remove contaminants.

Next I polished each car to restore the finish.
  • I used Menzerna polishing compound on the S80. This is an excellent polish, with little or no dusting, and wipes off easily.
  • After doing that car, I discovered CarPro Essence which I used on the XC60. This is a combination product that can be used to prep for the CQuartz coatings. It does a great job of repairing the finish from most scratches and swirls, except in severe cases, in which case it should be preceded by single purpose polishes. It can also be used as an all-in-one product, and many are using it that way. It leaves a coating similar to the dedicated coating products, but not quite as durable. I found it easy to use on wheels. A wonderful and versatile product.
  • On the XC90, I used Optimum polish, which is also excellent, with little dusting, and is easy to use. I had some OptiCoat 2.0 I planned to use next, but it turned out I had exceeded the shelf life of the product (I'd had it about three years). So, I followed up the Optimum Polish with CQuartz.
  • I think it is ideal is to use the Essence first, then follow with a coating for durability, as I did with XC60.

Next I used CarPro Eraser Intense Oil and Polish Cleanser. This assures that the surface is clean and free of oil before installing the coatings. The instructions said that they also recommend it as an excellent window cleaner. I think this is probably the best window cleaner I have ever used. It cuts right through the film on windows and does not streak.

  • On the S80 I used CQuartz coating. I found it pretty easy to use. You just wipe it on, wait a few minutes for it to flash (that is, a majority of the carrier vehicle evaporates off and it turns a little hazy), then buff with a microfiber. I did about a 2 by 2 foot section at a time, then another, then buffed out the first, then applied the third, then buffed out the second, etc., leap frogging panel by panel around the car. This seemed to give about the right amount of time for the product to flash (it was about 70 degrees).
  • On the XC60 I used the CQuartz UK Edition which is similar but has even more silica in it. I found it a little easier to use and be able to tell where I was with it, but not a marked difference. Its a bit thicker than the original.
  • On the XC90, since I couldn't use the OptiCoat as planned, I used the remainder of the CQuartz on the top of the car, and the remainder of the CQuartz UK edition on the bottom. I guess I'll be able to see if one holds up better than the other with them on the same car.

On all three vehicles, I used CarPro DLux on all the plastic trim (both hard plastic and porous), rubber around the windows, and on the wheels. You use it the same as the other coatings, that is, wipe on, let it flash, then buff out with a microfiber. This product has gotten good reviews on the detailers forums, a pretty critical bunch; one detailer did a very long-term and detailed comparison of many trim products. I have long looked for a product that protects these surfaces, doesn't wash off, and lasts. But I need one that is easy to use, and this seems to fit the bill. I guess I'll see if this is as good as the reviews indicate.

I'm also trying So2Pure, a air freshener product. You just spray it on the cars surfaces, and the sunlight activates it.

CarPro Reload Spray Sealant. This product is very versatile and can be used in a number of ways. CarPro recommends you follow up application of their coatings with a wipe down with Reload. It can also be used as a quick detailer, can be used after a wash to rejuvenate the silica coatings and adds slickness and shine. It can be used to wipe down water spots, while drying after a wash. It can be used on pretty much all the exterior surfaces, which makes it fast and easy to use. Good stuff.

Caution CarPro CQuartz Leather Coating - Not Recommended for light colored leather When researching these products I noticed that the CQuartz product information states "Avoid use on white/light colored interiors. Confirm any leather is standard finished leather only and if unsure perform 2 week visual test on inconspicuous surface."
Since I had the two-tone leather in the XC60RD and beige on the XC90, I avoided this product. I later discovered that there are some threads here on Swedespeed where people have used this product on lighter leathers and they discolored, very difficult to correct.

Other products I've had great experience with and can recommend:

Amazing Rolloff This is a surfactant product originally developed to clean sails on sailboats. You spray it on, hose it off. Many like it for convertible tops. Of course you can also agitate it with a brush, sponge, etc. Excellent for cleaning wheel wells and undercarriage. Spray it in and around wheels, calipers, and suspension, and when you rinse you'll see dirt and brake dust running down the driveway. Useful around the house too. I also like to spray it on the car before a wash to help dissolve the brine and salt film from winter.

Menzerna Polishing compounds. These come in various degrees of abrasiveness, wipe off easily, leave little dusting, and clean easily from your foam pads. great for finish correction, elimination of surface scratches and defects, and to get rid of the haze and spider-webbing of scratches that accumulate over time from washing and normal wear and exposure.

Miracle II Soap. Totally organic and natural ingredients, I've used it for years to bathe in, as a shampoo, to shave with, and you can even brush your teeth with it. A great natural surfactant, it helps break down surface tension in water. I found you can use it to clean wheels, or as a car shampoo, and I have found it to be very good for cleaning interiors and leather. Very gentle on you and your car. Works well as a carpet shampoo. Since its gentle on you body, I have found it to be a very gentle but effective cleaner for leather seats.

SprayMaster Spray bottles. Available at Home Depot or Lowes, these spray bottles hold up better than most spray bottles and are pretty inexpensive. they have measuring marks on the side that help you with mix ratios.

Optimum Products This company has a comprehensive line of high quality and highly regarded products popular among professional detailers. They sell not only a variety of excellent long-term coatings, customized for the substrate they are placed on, but also sell more conventional detailing products. Some of my favorites are:

  • Optimum Power Clean an excellent all purpose cleaner. It can be diluted in various strengths. One of the safer all purpose cleaners, but yet a good cleaner and degreaser.
  • Optimum Tire Gel Doesn't run like some of the dressings. But being water soluble you can dilute it to the consistency you want. Leaves a slightly glossy, but not shiny finish, and lasts a few washes. Use multiple coats if you want it shinier.
  • Optimum Leather Protectant. Protects the leather, but unlike many leather products also protects from UV. Can also be used on any vinyl surfaces as well. Leaves a nice matte finish.
  • Optimum Car Wash has great sudsing and lubricity.
  • Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine. One of the first and best "waterless" or low-water products for washing your car with only about two to five gallons of water. Extreme lubricity and excellent surfactants allow you to wash your car with a mitt, then dry with with a microfiber. Just the thing for winter garage washes, or for those in California and other places with water restrictions. I also found out that this is great for cleaning rubber mats; just wipe down the mat with this solution, and dry with cotton towel. I find it makes the mats look new without making them slick.
  • Optimum Spray Wax is easy to use, durable, offers excellent depth of gloss.
  • Optimum Optiseal is a wipe on, walk away (WOWA) sealant. It is very durable and easy to use. You can apply it in about as long as it takes to wipe down your car. If you like a lot of beading and slick finish, you can easily and quickly apply this after a wash.

Einsett Interior Protectant. An excellent protectant for interiors, this is the stuff to use if you want a very matte, non-glossy finish, but need the protection. Matte finish is what most european cars come new with.

Grit Guard a screen that fits in the bottom of a five gallon bucket. It allows grit and particles to settle out to the bottom of your bucket so that your sponge, brush, or mitt is not recontaminated with debris as you wash.

P21S Polishing Soap Many detailers prefer this to polish Chrome Exhaust tips. Useful around the house as well. Many P21 products are highly regarded.

Nanoskin Autoscrub Wash Mitt I previously used clay to decontaminate paint from particles imbedded in the surface of the paint. It works great. Just two problems though. First of all it only cleans about 4 square inches at a time. Second, if you drop it, you have to discard it because it picks up sand and grit, and will scratch your surface if you continue to use it. The AutoScrub mitts, towels or sponges allow you to cover much more surface area at a time, and can be rinsed off if dropped. Just wet and spray the surface with a lubricant (most car wash soaps about 10:1 with water work well) and rub gently. At first it will feel rough, but as contaminants are removed the surface will feel slicker and slicker. Essential to a good detail, it should precede use of a polish. Be sure to store it so that the tacky surface doesn't stick to itself. Optimum and others make similar products.

The trio of Lucas products provide a quick, easy, simple, and very inexpensive way (about $6-9 a bottle for each) to protect your car. Though it falls short of a full detail, for many it approaches that level with minimal effort, and these products are respected and sometimes preferred by pro detailers. They are readily available at most any auto parts stores, Amazon, and WalMart:

Lucas Interior Detailer
This is one of the best interior detailers I have found. Surprisingly it cleans pretty well, and leaves only a very slight sheen, about one click off of matte, surface looks new, not shiny. Can be used on most any vinyl or leather interior (not fabric) surface. I apply and follow with a dry microfiber. Some pro detailers say this is their favorite.

Lucas Oil Slick Mist Speed Wax This can be used as a great Quick Detailer, and many pro detailer say this is a favorite QD. For the really lazy or time challenged, you could do a thorough wash and decontamination once or twice a year and then follow each wash with a wipe down with this product to enjoy much better protection than a majority of people on their cars with a minimal time investment. One thing that makes this a quick and easy product is that you can use it on all exterior surfaces, except tires, which are better served by....

Lucas Tire Detailer. Available over-the-counter (OTC), easy to use, leaves glossy finish, lasts a few washes. It has a consistency in between liquid and gel.

Upholstery vacuum brush. These round brushes with bristles around the outside are great for vacuuming the interior. The bristles loosen dust and particles in cracks, and make it easy to clean air vents. Also good for getting debris out of leather seat seams, and for vacuuming irregular surfaces such as seat tracks.

Car wash brush. I have found a brush to be best for washing a car, with a few caveats. Spray loose dirt off, wet the surface first, use plenty of water and suds and dip in your bucket often. I also keep a spray bottle of car wash and water, and as I hose the car down, I spray into the stream of water, so that the shampoo is spread across the surface and begins to loosen the dirt before I brush it. The brush gets in all the cracks an crevices, and when used with an extension, minimizes bending over, and increases your reach especially across roofs. If there is a stubborn film, I follow with a microfiber mitt. Boars hair brushes are best, but some plastic brushes can be soft, have split ends like a paint brush which work well also. If its rough to your hand it will be rough to the finish. Lots of variation in quality its best to buy where you can actually touch the product, or from pro detail retailers.

Costco Microfiber Towels: Costco sells a pack of 24 of these for about $10 bucks. Good quality, soft and effective. Be aware that the tags on them can potentially scratch though. I accumulate the dirty towels, and occasionally soak them in a 5 gallon bucket of water with a good degreasing cleaner, then wash them in the machine. Avoid washing microfiber towels with cotton, because the microfiber will pick out lint and threads from the cotton towels. These towels are cheap enough that if you need to you can just discard contaminated towels.

Cotton towels: If you prefer cotton, buy 100 percent cotton for its softness and absorbency. I find the best approach is to get your wife to go buy some new towels for your home, then get her to give you the older broken-in towels.

I hope these recommendations are helpful to you. I'll try to come back and post any observations on the CQuartz products longevity.

Please post your favorites as well!
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