3 tools to make detailing easier

3 tools to make detailing easier

A review of some important cleaning technologies.

Whether you operate a humble carwash with a single-vehicle bay, a chain of such locations or a full-blown auto detailing operation, the tools of the trade can make or break your business. Not only do you need the right cleaning equipment for each particular job, but it needs to be durable and highly performant, providing years of optimal results for employees and clients alike.

There are three such technologies that many consider absolute essentials in an auto detailing business of any form or complexity. These include: vapor steam cleaners, carpet and upholstery extractors, and wet steam pressure washers. 

Let’s get to know each of them in a little more detail. 

Vapor steam cleaners

How they work

Commercial-grade dry vapor steamers are designed to deliver exceptional surface-level cleaning without leaving any excess moisture. What’s more, they offer some of the fastest drying times around — perfect for those busy days where a deep cleaning isn’t required on a particular vehicle.

These systems are generally comprised of several core components. A crucial one, the boiler, superheats the onboard water supply while also subjecting it to a high rate of pressure. Thanks to the dedicated heating element — sometimes paired with a low-cost heating rod that negates any need to replace the entire boiler — the pressurized steam is capable of literally melting away dirt, grease, grime and unwanted bacteria.

Depending on the specific model you have, it may or may not come with dedicated vacuuming capabilities—which are a tremendous time-saver—while also protecting surfaces from unwanted moisture buildup. Some may also disperse cleaning solutions during operation or even tap into your property’s water supply.

Suitable applications

For carwash operators and auto detailers, vapor steam cleaners are best suited for interior and exterior hard surface treatments. That said, softer surfaces, such as carpeting and fabric on interior door panels, will also benefit from their use. You can use them to spot clean or pass over an entire surface without worrying about excess moisture buildup, especially with one of those aforementioned models featuring built-in vacuuming capabilities.

Related: Carpet extractors vs. vapor steam cleaners

Carpet and upholstery extractors

How they work

Need a deeper cleaning without soaking a vehicle’s interior or risking the condition of select materials? Carpet and/or upholstery extractors designed for auto detailing work live up to their name in spades, misting deep beneath the surface with a pressurized, high-temperature mist to lift stubborn residue. At the same time, as the term implies, they siphon that broken-up dirt and grime in addition to the excess moisture applied to the surface.

While these do have slightly longer drying times due to the deeper moisture penetration, the results are more than worth the brief wait. Everything from mud-covered floormats to soiled seating is no match for these machines. 

Suitable applications

Not just any old extractor is going to cut it. Since auto detailing can be delicate work, requiring navigation in tight spaces while also protecting interior materials and components, a dedicated automotive carpet and/or upholstery extractor is your best bet. These are even more efficient in terms of water consumption, meaning there is less left behind and shorter drying times. They generally are high-powered, compact units, so hard-to-reach places in need of a deeper clean won’t be as difficult to tackle.

Wet steam pressure washers

How they work

Wet steam pressure washers are optimized for power. Available in a variety of form factors, there’s bound to be one suited for your auto detailing needs without sacrificing the performance you’d expect. They’re best suited for hard surfaces that can take some serious punishment—usually those that often bear the brunt of dirt and grime, especially during messy winter conditions with dirty snow, slush and mud. 

While a vapor steam cleaner is ideal for surface treatments, this particular system is essentially a cross between it and a carpet extractor. Superheated water is dispersed onto the surface area at a high rate of pressure, so much so that it essentially blasts away dirt, grease and even stubborn oil residue. 

Related: How to treat automotive tannin stains

Suitable applications

Vehicle exteriors are where wet steam pressure washers really shine, and we don’t just mean in terms of the sparkling final results of a job well done. Take a good look at the gallons per minute on the specific equipment you’re interested in, and don’t forget to check the pressure per square inch (PSI) it is capable of. This will help you determine whether it is best suited to the exterior auto detailing application in question.

Key takeaways

Carwash and auto detailing shop owners — and their employees — have many options to choose from when it comes to mission-critical technologies. With the right combination of speed, performance efficiency, durability and application suitability, you can potentially make your services even more effective and timely. That said, here are a few key takeaways to bear in mind.

Vapor steam cleaners are your go-to option for hard surfaces in vehicle interiors as well as spot-cleaning jobs on the exterior. The only exception is if a higher level of pressure is required to lift more stubborn dirt or stains, or if you’re working with fabrics that are highly sensitive to steam. Leather, for instance, is extremely particular about temperature and steam exposure, and only a trained professional with the right equipment (and settings) can surface clean it without damaging it.

Carpet and/or upholstery extractors are perfect for caked-in mud, heavy dirt, grime and the most challenging of stains on materials, including vehicle carpeting, floor mats and otherwise.

Wet steam pressure washers are most appropriate for vehicle finishes. However, be mindful of the heat and pressure they are capable of in order to preserve decals and paint, all while ensuring you have a unit that is well-suited for the task.

In closing, you can’t go wrong with either of these three cleaning technologies — it’s all about understanding how they function, when to use them and how to use them. Stick to commercial-grade systems for the best durability and performance for your investment, train your team on best practices, and then let the results speak for themselves. 


Daimer Industries is a private company headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. It is a globally recognized leader in innovative, technologically-advanced commercial and industrial cleaning equipment for virtually all major commercial and industrial cleaning applications. It exports its products to over 240 countries worldwide and is the cleaning equipment provider of choice for the White House, government agencies and such companies as Dole, Hershey’s, Wrigley, General Electric and many more.

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