If you’re getting into car detailing, then you’ve probably heard quite a bit about quick detailer sprays. In this article, I’ll be going through a complete guide to quick detailers, including the different types, how and when to use them, plus some of the most frequently asked questions. So let’s get started.
What is a Quick Detailer?
Quick detailer sprays are designed to remove fingerprints and water spots to tidy up the finish after washing or waxing. They also add some gloss and protective properties. They can be applied using a microfiber towel to spread the product and then buffed to a shine using a fresh microfiber cloth.
Here is my video summary of the types and functions of quick detailer sprays on the Auto Care HQ YouTube Channel.
Looking for some more great detailing products? Make sure you check out my recommended products page for all my current top picks.
Functions of a Quick Detailer
Generally, there are several functions that a quick detailer spray may have. Some quick detailers have all of the functions, and others may just have one or two, this depends on the “type” of quick detailer you’re using, more about this in the next section.
Functions of a Quick Detailer
- Light cleaning capabilities
- Adding gloss and shine
- Adding protection like a wax or sealant
- Lubrication whilst claying (only certain products offer this)
Before we jump into the different types of quick detailer, let’s talk about each of these functions om a little more detail.
Some quick detailer sprays are formulated to remove light dust, finger prints and water spots to freshen up the appearance of the vehicle. Caution should be taken though, when using a quick detailer spray for cleaning as there is the potential to cause scratches in the clear coat if there isn’t enough lubrication.
Removing finger prints and water spots after washing is relatively safe, as long as you use a soft, clean microfiber towel. However, using quick detailer sprays to remove dust between washes is dangerous if you’re not using the correct type. Using a waterless wash type detailer is the safest option for light cleaning.
The vast majority of quick detailer sprays are able to add shine to the paintwork and are most commonly applied after washing to boost the level of gloss and give that wet-look to the finish.
Often, quick detailers have waxes or silicone in them to add this gloss effect. This makes the quick detailer and effective product to use to give that finishing touch at a car show.
Certain quick detailers are also designed to add protection to the finish, and “top up” the protection that the existing wax or sealant on the car is providing.
They do this by containing similar ingredients such as waxes or sealants in the formulation, but at a diluted concentration so they can be applied in a spray format very quickly.
The protection is often short-lived and will last anywhere from 1-4 weeks, depending on the product. However, it’s useful to add some level of protection if you don’t have time to re-wax or seal the vehicle.
Lubrication When Claying
There are only certain quick detailers that have this functionality, but some are formulated to work as clay lubricants to help the clay glide over the paintwork and reduce the risk of scratches and marring from occurring during the process.
It’s important to check that the quick detailer you’re using is suitable for use as a clay lubricant before trying it, because there is a high risk of inflicting clear coat damage if you use the wrong type.
The 4 Types of Quick Detailer Spray
Not all quick detailer sprays are created equally. Not only are there thousands of different brands and models, but there are also different types which can be used for different situations.
There are 4 main types of quick detailer sprays: traditional detailers (offer light cleaning, gloss-enhancing and protective properties), spray waxes and sealants (used to add a layer of protection and gloss), waterless washes (for cleaning), clay lubricant detailers.
There’s a bit of debate about what type of product falls into the quick detailer spray category, and some disagree that waterless washes, clay lubricants and spray waxes should be included.
However, a lot of brands will market their quick detailer sprays into one of the above “types”, so I think it’s a good idea to discuss them.
1. Traditional Quick Detailers
Most brands offer a traditional quick detailer, also known as a QD spray. The vast majority of quick detailers on the market will fall into this category.
These tend to offer very light cleaning capabilities, meaning they are safe to use for removing water spots and finger prints after washing, but usually they’re not safe enough to remove dust and dirt between washes or you risk causing scratches.
The main functions of a traditional quick detailer are to add gloss, and a superficial layer of protection to top up the existing sealant or wax you have on your vehicle.
- Gyeon Quick Detailer
- Meguiars Ultimate Quik Detailer
- Bilt Hamber QD
2. Spray Waxes and Sealants
Spray waxes and sealants are more about offering protection to the paint, and should not be used for cleaning as they often do not provide enough lubrication and risk inflicting clear coat damage.
Spray waxes and sealants can be applied immediately after the wash process to add some protection in the form of water-repellency and to prevent contaminants (bird mess, tree sap, iron fallout etc.) from bonding to the paintwork.
Some spray waxes and sealants can be used as stand-alone products, and others should only be used as “toppers” on existing sealants or waxes. They tend to last around 1-4 weeks depending on the product.
- Griot’s Garage Spray-on Wax
- Sonax Brilliant Shine Detailer
- Auto Finesse Glisten
3. Waterless Wash Sprays
Waterless wash sprays are designed to remove light dust between washes or when you don’t have access to running water. They provide a lot more lubrication that traditional QDs and spray waxes and sealants so the risk of causing clear coat scratches is much lower.
Caution should be taken when using waterless wash products as you need to make sure the paint is lubricated properly in order to avoid clear coat damage. Also, they can only be used on very light dust safely, or scratches and swirl marks will be incurred.
- Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash and Wax
- Optimum No-Rinse
- Chemical Guys Eco Smart
4. Clay Lubricant Detailer Sprays
The final type of quick detail spray, is the clay lubricant. This is a QD specifically designed to help during the claying process to allow the clay to glide over the paint smoothly, so that it doesn’t cause marring or scratches.
You should only ever use a QD for this purpose, if it has been designed for use as a clay lubricant. Most detailers are not suited to this purpose and will not provide adequate lubrication, so will cause scratches.
- Autoglym Rapid Detailer
- P&S Paint Gloss Showroom Spray N Shine
- Autobrite Berry Blast
Comparisons and Crossovers
Sometimes, brands may produce quick detailers that fall into a couple of these different “types” we just discussed. Also, some of the different types of similar functions. So I’ve put together this quick table to summarise the different types of QD and their function so you’re a bit clearer about which type is right for you.
Looking for a good quick detailer spray? Check out my comparison between 5 lead quick detailers.
How and When To Use a QD
Now we know all about the different types and functions of a quick detailer, this next section will be about the different situations you may require this type of product, and how to actually use it.
There are a few points to keep in mind when using a quick detailer:
- Only use QD sprays on clean cars, unless you’re using a waterless wash-type QD which can be used to remove light dust.
- Use the quick detailer as the final product in the process, so after applying a wax or sealant, never before.
- Most QD sprays can be applied on wet cars after washing, or vehicles that have already been dried.
It’s super important to use a quick detailer spray on a clean car, or you risk causing scratches (I’ll explain exactly how in the next section). The only exception, is when you’re using a waterless-wash type QD which can be used on cars with light dust.
Quick detailer sprays should never be applied before waxes or sealants because they will dramatically reduce the durability of the wax or sealant you’re planing to apply. Instead, applying them after allows them to finish the look by removing finger prints and adding extra gloss and protection.
It’s also true that you can use most quick detailers on freshly washed vehicles that haven’t yet been dried, instead of applying them after the drying process. However, the product will be diluted if you use this method so the protection and gloss-enhancing effects may be reduced.
Okay, so now let’s take a look at the different situations you may reach for a quick detailer spray, and how to actually use the products for the best results. However, you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions before applying any detailing product to your car, as they all work slightly differently.
As a Drying Aid
Using a quick detailer spray as a drying aid after washing your car can be useful to help reduce the risk of scratches inflicted when using a microfiber towel by lubricating the paintwork. Simply spray the QD onto the damp microfiber towel, or directly onto the panel, and gently wipe to remove any water.
Take a look at this article on how to dry your car without causing scratches to learn more.
After Waxing or Sealing
Quick detailer sprays can be useful to remove any finger prints, or high-spots of wax and sealant after application to reveal a perfect finish.
Simply spray the QD onto a dry microfiber towel, or directly onto the panel and spread the product evenly. Then wait for the specified curing time (usually a few minutes) and buff to a shine with a clean microfiber cloth.
You can also use a quick detailer spray to top up the protection and gloss after drying your car, and clean up any water spots or finger prints left behind.
You can of course, apply the quick detailer when the car is still wet, as described above. But if you want a less-diluted concentration of QD spray on the paint for maximum gloss and protection, then you can apply it on dry paint.
Simply spray the QD onto a clean, dry and plush microfiber towel or directly onto the panel and spread evenly using the cloth. Then wait for a few minutes (or a time specified by the manufacturer) and then buff to a shine using a separate clean microfiber towel, or flip the towel to expose a clean side.
As a Clay Lubricant
If you’re using the quick detailer spray as a quick lubricant, you need to take the following steps.
- Ensure the paint is clean and wet.
- Spray the QD onto the panel to ensure it’s fully covered.
- Spray the QD onto the clay bar.
- Glide the clay over the paint in straight-line motions gently, to lift any contaminants on the paintwork.
- Rinse the paint.
Remember, you should only ever use a QD specifically designed to work as a clay lubricant when claying your car, or you risk causing scratches and marring on the clear coat.
When To Avoid Using a Quick Detailer
There are several situations where you should avoid using a quick detailer spray on your car or you can cause clear coat damage. Here’s when you should never use a quick detailer, and instead should give the car a full wash.
- To remove bird poo
- After it’s been raining to help dry the car
- To remove light dust and dirt (unless using a waterless wash QD)
Drawbacks of Using a Quick Detailer
If you’re interested in purchasing a quick detailer, it’s important to be aware of the drawbacks and limitations of the product so you can understand what results you can expect to get.
There are three main drawbacks to using quick detailers that I’m going to discuss individually. They are:
- The potential to cause scratches
- Streaks and spots left by the product
- Surface properties left behind by the QD
The first two are usually caused by incorrect usage, but sometimes by using a poor quality product.
Potential to Cause Scratches
We’ve already talked about this a little, but it’s important to know that quick detailer sprays can easily cause scratches if used incorrectly. There are two potential ways this can occur:
- Using the QD on a dirty or dusty vehicle
- Applying the QD with a poor quality or dirty microfiber towel or other cloth type
Your car’s clear coat (the top layer of paint) is incredibly delicate and any type of friction can cause scratches and swirl marks. Whenever dust is rubbed over the paint without adequate lubrication, or you use anything other than clean, plush microfiber to buff the paint, you will cause scratches.
So be careful when using a QD, and only ever use it on a clean car and use a clean, plush microfiber towel to apply and buff it off and your vehicle’s paintwork will be scratch-free.
Streaks and Spots
Usually if you notice streaks and spots after apply a quick detailer spray, you’ve probably used the product incorrectly. Here are some of the most common mistakes.
- Leaving the product to dry for too long before buffing away
- Not using a clean microfiber cloth to buff the QD off the paint, and just using the same cloth used to apply it
- Using too much product
Sometimes, the streaks can be due to the product itself, so here are a couple of things to try if you’ve addressed the points above.
- Dilute the QD in water before applying
- Apply the QD to a wet car and use it as a drying aid
Properties of the Coating
Okay, so this is a potential drawback of using a quick detailer spray, depending on what you want the product to deliver.
Quick detailer sprays leave a coating on your car, similar to the way a wax or sealant does, it’s just a less durable version effectively. Certain QD sprays have different properties in terms of water-repellency, gloss-enhancement and protection.
This means that whenever you apply a quick detailer spray over a wax or sealant, the surface properties will reflect that of the quick detailer spray, and not of the wax and sealant underneath, because it has been covered up.
This is helpful if you’re using the QD to “top up” the existing wax or sealant, and it has the same surface properties.
However, if you’re using a very hydrophobic coating with amazing water beading properties, and you apply a quick detailer with little water-repellency over the top, then you’ll lose the effect of the sealant underneath.
It’s not a huge issue, if you’re using compatible products with similar characteristics, but it’s definitely something to be aware of when selecting your quick detailer spray.
Frequently Asked Questions
Okay so now we’ve been through the functions, types and ways to apply a quick detailer, I thought it’d be a good idea to round up this article with some answers to the rest of the most commonly asked questions about QD’s.
Can you use a quick detailer on glass?
Most quick detailers are formulated to be safe to use on glass, however they may leave behind some residue that can leave streaking as they are intended to enhance the level of gloss on the paint. It’s better to use a glass cleaner and glass sealant to treat your glass, instead of a quick detailer spray.
Can you use a quick detailer on wheels?
Quick detailers can be used on clean alloy wheels to add some protection and shine to the finish. They should be applied directly after washing to dry or wet alloys using a microfiber cloth to spread the product evenly. Then use a fresh microfiber cloth to buff away any excess.
The durability of a quick detailer on wheels is often low and most QD sprays will only last around 1 week on alloys. Using a wheel sealant or coating will offer a more durable solution. Take a look at my recommended products page to learn more about how I protect my car’s alloys.
Can you use quick detailers on interiors?
Some quick detailers can be used to remove light dust and dirt on the interior of a car, it depends on the formulation used. Quick detailers designed to enhance gloss will likely leave a greasy and shiny finish on the interior so should be avoided.
Do quick detailer sprays remove wax?
Quick detailer sprays will not remove wax, and instead work to top up the wax by applying an extra layer of protection. However, if you apply a quick detailer over a wax, you will lose the properties of the wax underneath as it will be covered by the quick detailer.
Can you use a quick detailer spray on a ceramic coating?
Traditional quick detailer sprays are not designed to be applied over ceramic coatings. Instead, a ceramic coating should be maintained using a ceramic detailer spray which is compatible with the coating and will help boost the protection, gloss and hydrophobic properties.
Can you use a quick detailer after it rains?
A quick detailer should not be used after it rains as it may cause scratches as the vehicle will be dirty. Instead, the car should be washed to remove any dirt and water spots remaining. The only exception, is when the quick detailer is designed to work as a waterless wash product, and if the car is only very lightly dirty.
Do quick detailers remove water spots?
Some quick detailers are formulated to remove water spots, however, they only tend to work when used immediately on very new water spots that may be left after the wash process. Most water spots will need to be removed using a water spot remover spray.
If you want some more advice on removing water spots, then check out this article I’ve written on the 6 most effective ways to remove water spots.
Can you use a quick detailer on vinyl wrap?
Most quick detailer sprays are fine to use on vinyl wrapped cars. However you should avoid using traditional quick detailers on matte or satin finish vinyl wraps as they can add a shiny finish.
Can you use a quick detailer on a matte car?
Traditional quick detailer sprays should not be used on matte cars as they will add a glossier appearance. Instead, use a quick detailer spray specifically formulated for use on matte paint to maintain the finish.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the website to learn loads more about car detailing.