Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the products outlined below were sent to us by Mothers at no charge. Automoblog earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate, including the cleaning products featured here. These commissions come to us at no additional cost to you.
The team at Mothers sent us a care package to put through the paces. Longtime car enthusiasts may recognize Mothers from the 1970s when mag wheels were hot. If you were around Southern California at the time, you might even recall the orange Mothers van that would frequent area car shows and swap meets.
The Polishing Cloth is “edgeless” and best suited to remove leftover glazes and waxes. The microfiber cloth is light, lint-free, and glides nicely across the paint, especially over larger areas like the hood. I use the Polishing Cloth for one final wipe down after applying any products I may be using, including detailer’s mist and glass cleaner.
The Premium Gold Microfiber Towel is more robust and acts as a vacuum with its “dual-nap” design. I found the long nap is best for wiping down your vehicle immediately after washing, making it ready for waxing and polishing. The longer nap is also good for wiping away interior cleaners. The shorter nap will help with that final buff, and it’s especially useful when removing heavy waxes and polishes from your paint.
When done, toss them in the washing machine, and they will be ready for next time.
This was my favorite in the Mothers care package because my wash jobs are not complete until I apply something like this. It comes from my early years in the automotive business when I sold cars at Sioux Falls Ford. Under each of our desks was a bottle of this bright pink stuff called “showroom shine.” It had the nastiest smell, but it worked wonders.
The California Gold Instant Detailer gave me the shine without the awful smell. Spray it on, spread evenly with a soft cloth, then wipe away the excess with the longer nap of the Premium Gold Microfiber Towel. As of this writing, a spray bottle of California Gold Instant Detailer goes for about $7 on Amazon.
A bottle of this will usually do the trick when you are pressed for time. It took me about 10 minutes to get a nice shine on my 500X (although it will be slightly longer if you have a larger vehicle). If you want more “Spray and Walk Away” options, browse the Mothers Speed lineup.
Carnauba Wash & Wax
This was perfect for my lower quarter panels where road grime builds up. Hitting it with a high-pressure hose is not enough to remove it either. You can opt for the scrub brush at the car wash, but I understand if you are hesitant – they are often dirty from frequent prior use, and I’ve known them to cause a scratch or two.
The Mothers Carnauba Wash & Wax can be a good substitute. Add a little to a bucket of water and “shampoo” accordingly with a thick sponge or lambswool mitt. Although you can use it on your entire vehicle, it’s excellent for those isolated places that collect dirt, grime, and grease.
The photos below are of the three biggest problem areas on my 500X. They include the rear window, lower quarter panels, and the section behind my rear wheels. A standard spray gun at the car wash will never get these areas clean, nor will an automatic wash (depending on where I go, the automatic wash will do a worse job).
These areas on my 500X always need some extra love, and the Mothers Carnauba Wash & Wax was a huge help. As of this writing, a 64-ounce bottle of the stuff is available on Amazon for about $13.
Bug & Tar Remover
Nothing is nastier than when the front end of your vehicle looks like a scene from Starship Troopers. I grew up in rural Iowa, and as a young adult about 20 years ago, I worked for a midsize farming operation. After work at night, I drove the “back roads” home. Sometimes, the number of bugs hitting the windshield made it sound like it was raining (and Iowa has some scary bugs, including one that resembles a flying scorpion).
Mothers Bug & Tar Remover will make quick work of bug guts, bird droppings, and tar (as the name implies). The formula will neutralize the acidity of bug goo and bird poo, which is more effective than trying to just hose it off. It’s safe to use on nearly every surface, including glass, chrome, vinyl, and paint protection film.
Many of the roads I drive here in the Detroit metro – Woodward Avenue, Southfield Freeway, Interstate 94, M10, and Fort Street – are some of the busiest in the area. Heavy traffic and unpredictable Michigan weather are a recipe for an extra dirty vehicle. Even after a proper wash, I still need to hit a few areas, including my wheels.
The solution? A Powerball from Mothers!
Use the PowerBall on the end of any variable speed drill, and you suddenly have a built-in polisher. The fluffy ball attaches to an included 10-inch extension bit, great for cleaning wheels with deeper pockets. The PowerBall goes for about $25 on Amazon as of this writing.
Mothers also sells a mini PowerBall and a PowerCone polisher as well, both of which are compatible with a standard drill.
Back-to-Black Tire Cleaner
A bottle of Back-to-Black tire cleaner from the Mothers Classic line will make your tires shine just like your paint after a good coat of wax. It’s excellent for dissolving brake dust, and it’s safe for any tire, including whitewalls and low-profile tires. Amazon carries a 24-ounce spray bottle of the stuff for about $8.
A 12-ounce bottle of Mothers Leather Cleaner will go a long way, especially if you have an older luxury or sports car with a leather interior. The balanced pH formula breaks up dirt, stains, and smells that have “settled in” or permeated the leather. Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is essentially the same, just for cloth seats.
Mothers is a brand we use, recommend, and trust, but not exclusively. We have had good luck with Armor All, Meguiars, and Turtle Wax in the past. Ultimately, we recommend trying a few different brands and seeing which one you like best. If you need to further protect your vehicle after a DIY wash, consider looking into a high-quality car cover.
Keeping your vehicle clean is an essential part of regular maintenance, just like oil changes and tire rotations. Consider washing your car as often as possible, especially after a blizzard or rainstorm (even a quick spay-off with a portable pressure washer will go a long way). It’s a good strategy for keeping your car’s body and chassis in good shape as the miles pile up. When you finally get something new, you will be glad you invested in the elbow grease. Washing (or not washing) your vehicle can affect its resale value in the long run.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.