Hey guys... i'm a soon to be new owner of a 2012 blue WRX that I am ordering. I LOVE detailing though... it's just something that is really a hobby for me, as well as work that I do on the side. I have come from 2 Evos (the worst paint possible) a 2010 MS3 and a 370z.
On the 370z I was actually banned from the detailing section because I showed how to detail a car without using products that were WAYYYYY overpriced.
I just thought I would add a few points to maybe help people out.
First off... detailing is an art and i'm not a pro, but I feel I do it well. However, think of more ways NOT to marr your paint instead of ways to clean it up.
What to wash with? Well there are mitts that range from 3.00 all the way to 50.00 or more. The funny part is (and feel free to visit autopia.net) using a grout sponge is what MANY top detailers are using now. Yep, a 1.30 or whatever they cost grout sponge and they work very well! The sponge that is preferred is the Prominent grout sponge.
What kind of soap to use? That is a matter of personal preference, but the slicker the soap, the better it is for washing since it lets your sponge just glide right across your paint. I have never used it, but i've got a friend who is a pro detailer and ONLY using Griots garage car wash. Use 1oz. per gallon of water.
2 bucket method: This is a very good idea for obvious reasons, but if you are all new to this... you can wash an old car or one that's dirty that you don't care much about and then let the water settle overnight.. you will be surprised by how much sand, grit and other things will have settled to the bottom... all of that goes into your sponge and then your paint is essentially sanded when you use the sponge on your car in the next area. I myself like to duck the sponge in the clean water (second bucket) ring it out on the ground... not back in the bucket and even then I use the hose to rinse the sponge off more before I put it back into my wash bucket.
Power washers: Is there anything wrong with them? Not at all, but you don't need a lot of power because if you have bad paint some of them will actually peel it off the car. However, is it a good idea to pre-rinse a car with one? Well, that goes back to the whole thing about the grit on your paint... do you really want to be blasting that grit over your paint? It just causes more and more marring and will make the paint require polishing more often. I would save the power washing for the wheel wells, and the car after it's been cleaned for a final rinsing if you want.
Pre-rinsing the car: just use a mild shower spray or something to get the car wet gently and hopefully keep dirt slowly coming down and off the paint. A foam gun isn't a bad idea, though expensive.
Wheels: Some of the best stuff out for wheels is Sonax... it's a gentle cleaner that takes it's time... it starts out green and turns into a dark purple as it works and breaks brake dust down. Some scrubbing might be needed, so use a soft microfiber towel or something along that line with your fingers to get into the small spaces. There are boars hair brushes that are very soft and work well for wheels.
Wheel wells: You can take your basic degreaser and use this for your wheel wells. You don't want something that will dry out the plastic though. Pretty much every company makes something for this... i'm not a big fan of using dish soap or anything, but simple green and that sort of thing diluted will help with a good undercarriage brush. Also, when they are dry, I take just regular armorall and spray all under the wheel wells, let it sit and then spray a microfiber towel down with it and wipe it off.
Drying: It used to be the normal chamios... then microfiber, and now it's waffle weave towels or just special drying towels. The idea here is the same that no matter what you do, if you wipe the paint with anything it will SLIGHTLY marr the paint, so expect this. I have seen one question asked abou using the blower. I think it is an EXCELLENT idea and use one myself. It gets the water out of those very small stubborn areas so you can then either wipe them drying or blow them dry. Obviously a good coat of wax will make it come off easier the next time, but no matter what you use, keep it clean. If it's a chamios... get a clean bucket of clean water, dry an area, dip it and ring it out really well. You might be surprised how dirty even that water is after finishing. Make sure it's an electric blower!
That's all for now... i'll add more as I go. Hope this helped someone out.