Jordan Yalcin Dirsek washes the back window of his vehicle for his business, Grime to Shine, in Lewiston recently. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Joe Kutzko once had an opportunity to make some quick cash by cleaning up a buddy’s Toyota. 

Why not, right? I mean, how hard can it be?

“This thing was full of black mold,” Kutzko recalls, “and a second of putting my head in there made me feel like I had to throw up. But he loved this car, and he always kept it, and he goes, ‘You’ll have to remove and replace the seats and any porous fabric, and you’ll have to use bleach.’ And I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do this.'”

My point? There’s a reason why there are so many professional car detailers out there these days. You may think that spiffing up a filthy car is easy work, but have you given it a try lately?

Me, neither. On my last attempt, I spent an hour with a rag, a toothbrush and a can of cheap car cleaner and by the end of that hour, my truck looked worse than it had when I got started. Ugly circles of dirt on the now-soaked seats, grime in the cracks where the toothbrush wouldn’t reach and windows that utterly defied all attempts to clean them through traditional methods.

No more. If I need a car cleaned again any time soon, it’s professionals for me. Fortunately, there are plenty of them out there, and when it comes to deep cleaning even the nastiest of rides, they know all the tricks.

‘THE HARDEST PART IS KNOWING WHEN TO STOP.’ 

Jordan Yalcin Dirsek, of Auburn, is the owner and sole employee of Grime to Shine Mobil Detail. Rather than operating out of a fixed location, Dirsek, 28, has a mobile cleaning kit that allows him to go wherever the grime is.

He’s been detailing professionally for about eight years now, but the former bartender vividly remembers the very first car he got paid to clean

“It was a Porsche,” Dirsek says, wincing a bit even now at the memory of that challenge.

He had been summoned to work for a Volvo place in Portland, a business that catered to high-end cars. By then Dirsek had been working on his detailing skills, but when they rolled in that dirty, but still very valuable Porsche, he was filled with self-doubts.

“I mean, I’m shaking inside,” Dirsek says. “They want me practicing on this? I’m thinking, if I make just one mistake…”

But Dirsek, self-taught through YouTube videos and other sources, bent to his work, using all the ointments, pads, vacuum cleaners and brushes, scrubbing that silver 2010 Porsche Cayenne inside and out.

For two days he scrubbed, waxed and vacuumed that car.

In the end, it was one very clean sports car, indeed, and Dirsek learned a little something about himself and about the art of detailing.

“It’s fun,” he says. “I enjoy seeing something go from super dirty to really, really clean. It’s satisfying and very rewarding.”

Dirsek has cleaned everything from the tiniest car to the mightiest 18-wheeler, dedicating hours to making them shine again. And he encounters new obstacles everyday — filthy situations he hasn’t seen before and he commits himself to figuring out the best way to overcome it.

“For me,” he says, “the hardest part is knowing when to stop. For example, there’s the two-hour detail that I offer. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so when those two hours are up I feel like I could keep going for several more hours because I want everything to come out perfect. Making sure my customers are happy is something that is very important to me.”

The grossest thing he has ever encountered, Dirsek says, was what he described as “multi-colored vomit.” But you know what? He took on that vomit and in the end, won the battle because he knew what it took to make it disappear.

Jordan Yalcin Dirsek starts the process of shampooing the interior of his vehicle for his business, Grime to Shine, in Lewiston recently. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“I learn something new every day. You try something and it will be like, OK, this general purpose cleaner didn’t work. I’ve got to make a stronger dose of it or I’ve got to try something else. You are always learning something new, even with shampooing.”

It doesn’t hurt that Dirsek appears to have one of everything in his cleaning kit, which takes up a full section of his porch when he brings it out to show me. Real car detailing, to an outsider, looks like pure alchemy. Deep and ugly stains disappear as if by magic through the targeted use of solvents, brushes, extractors and a whole bunch of other things I can’t identify.

Dirsek’s kit includes brushes for cleaning cup holders and getting into crevices. Shampoos and stain extractors to deep clean carpets and upholstery. He’s got a powerful vacuum, of course, and a buffer used for paint corrections on the vehicle exterior. A pressure washer, razor blades, clay bars and a couple bottles, jars and cans full of cleaning magic.

Also an important part of his kit is a heaping helping of patience, the kind required to dedicate a full hour to one tiny crevice with crud stuck in it.

“I’d say the hardest thing to clean is old stains,” he says. “Sometimes you look at a stain and think it will be easy pulling it out and then it ends up taking a half-hour on a single stain because you want it to be as new looking as possible.

“Some things are easy,” Dirsek says. “And then there’s other stuff where you’re like, OK, I’m going to be here a while.”

He’s got some cool and powerful machinery in his arsenal, for sure, but Dirsek prefers to do as much as he can by hand rather than resort to gadgets.

“I feel like when you do something by hand,” he says, “there’s more love behind it.”

Dirsek has had plenty of business in the Lewiston-Auburn area, although he’s able to travel all over the place on cleaning jobs.

“The best part of it all,” he says, “is the customers. Honestly. You clean up a mess for them and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, it looks amazing! My car is brand new again!’ And that for me is very rewarding. It’s awesome.”

He charges roughly $80 for two hours of cleaning for a standard car, although he does offer a $50 deal for less intensive scrubbing. His prices also depend on how much traveling he has to do to get to a job.

Chatting with Dirsek about his work, I learned a lot of cool information about what detailers run across when they’re cleaning up the cars and trucks for ordinary people. My favorite little tidbit?

“I’ve found some weird and disturbing things for sure,” Dirsek tells me, “but I can tell you 9 times out of 10, a woman’s vehicle will have a French fry under her seat.”

I’m not exactly sure why, but I really like knowing that.

Unfortunately for those of us with grimy cars and trucks, Dirsek is in the process of selling Grime to Shine as he prepares to move to Tennessee.

TOENAILS UNDER THE SEAT  

Jason Fournier, of F6 Detailing, in his shop in Lewiston. Submitted photo

Jason Fournier, who runs F6 Detailing in Lewiston, is among the more popular car detailers out there. When you need your car clean and you start asking around for recommendations, Fournier’s is often among the first names mentioned.

You can thank the virus for his presence — Fournier had gotten out of the car detailing game a short while ago, but wouldn’t you know it? When COVID-19 came along, he lost his regular job in April and decided to pick up the sponges and brushes again.

As it turns out, even with everybody more or less locked down since spring, there were a lot of people out there with grimy cars, which was good news for F6.

“It took off this summer and has grown quite quickly,” Fournier says.

Fournier himself has always liked driving a clean car. His kit reflects that:

Exterior: Electric buffer, micro fiber wash mitts and towels, buckets and assorted brushes, hose, soap foamer and drying cloths.

Interior: A good shop vacuum, extraction machine for seats and floors, electric drill with different

Above, a messy car whose owner hired Jason Fournier, of F6 Detailing, to make spic and span. Below, the results of Fournier’s efforts. Submitted photos

brushes, micro fiber cloths and detail brushes.

Chemicals: A good quality car soap, clay bar, wax (a couple of different types depending on the job), rubbing compound, sealers, topcoats, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, a bunch of different interior cleaners “depending on what I’m doing,” carpet extraction cleaner, degreasers, adhesive removers . . .

“The list can go on forever depending on the condition of the vehicle,” Fournier says.

The hardest part of detailing? For Fournier, it’s the weather. He does most of his work outside, although he expects to have an indoor space by the end of October.

Toughest detailing job?

“Sand,” says Fournier. “It gets into carpets and can really be time consuming.”

And of course, we all want to know about the grossest thing he encounters when shining up cars and trucks.

“Cleaning up after animals can be pretty gross,” Fournier says. “The smells are tough to get out, sometimes the hair can be time consuming. Also any food-related issues.  They can be pretty gross.”

Stuff found under seats?

“Weirdest thing I’ve found is toenails,” Fournier says. “Hopefully they weren’t clipping while driving.”

Fournier’s prices range from about $30 for an exterior car wash to $145 for a deep clean both inside and out. He offers a premium clean, with specialty cleaning, for $225. His prices go up slightly for trucks and SUVs.

DETAILING DEDICATED TO A RELATIVE

Holly McCaslin, car detailer, taking the pressure washer to some grimy mats. Submitted photo

Holly McCaslin runs MKs Auto Detailing out of her home in Oakland, but don’t go thinking she’s so far away from Lewiston-Auburn she shouldn’t be included. McCaslin keeps her cleaning kit super mobile, so she can travel where she’s needed.

McCaslin also has a personal connection to the craft of auto detailing.

“I started the business for my cousin Michael (Klaiber) who passed away in a motorcycle accident,” she explains. “We had a two-hour lunch two days before his passing and he told me he was going to be starting a detailing business and he wanted me to be a partner. So, after he passed away I did it for him.”

McCaslin, mother of five, admits that she didn’t know much about the art of detailing when she decided to take it on. She learned as she went and garnered a reputation good enough to get her a look from some of the professionals.

“I was in my second summer of detailing and a friend told me that Corvette’s North in Waterville was in need of a detailer,” she says. “I went in immediately and was completely honest about my experience and Chad Violet took me on subcontracting the following week. I have been there ever since. There is where I have gained the bulk of my knowledge and experience. For that, I am eternally grateful.”

Like the others, McCaslin has a detailing kit that would be the envy of us amateurs who have ever tried to detail our own cars. It includes a 6.5 horsepower compact vacuum, a $700 heat extractor that McCaslin says is her most prized possession, an air compressor, wheel buckets, wash buckets and the usual array of chemicals, microfiber cloths, spray bottles and all that good stuff.

Now McCaslin has been at it long enough to have the kind of experience we just love to probe. What’s the nastiest stuff found in cars? What’s the weirdest and what’s the toughest job?

“The hardest part to detailing is probably older or very dirty cars with caked-on dirt in cracks and dirt ground into the carpets,” McCaslin says. “Milk spills can be pretty raunchy. Coffee would be the most common. One car had what seemed to be glue all over the seats. It took hours and tons of hot water to get it off.

Holly McCaslin’s MK’s Auto Detailing logo. Submitted photo

“Windows are the biggest pain!” she says. “It can be so hard to get glass clean. You can’t have any type of grease or oil on the cloths. Chad at Corvettes North says the one thing all of us have in common is we all suck at windows.”

And stuff found under seats, let’s not forget about that. Who among us doesn’t have potentially embarrassing items rolling around down there in the dusty dark?

“I know that people would love to know what is found under seats and thought to be lost forever,” says McCaslin. “I have found out so much about people that I never would have known otherwise. A lot of folks drink and drive. Lots of bottle caps. I’ve found marijuana edibles wrappers in elderly folks’ cars. I find makeup a lot, too. Charging cords, money. . . . I always return all found items that are not trash. I found a Kylie lip gloss that retails for about $60 that the owner never would have found. I have found condoms, tools. . . . I found a little mirror on a stick, CDs, an iPod, a Sephora blush. Let’s add fingernails to one of the most random, common items found in vehicles — fake nails and real nails.”

McCaslin’s prices are on par with the others, although she tends to make adjustments as she goes, depending on the difficulty of the job.

“Just a vacuum and wipe down would be $60-$80 depending on how dirty and if it had pet hair,” she explains. “Max price would be a third-row vehicle with cloth interior wanting the works on interior and exterior, which would top off at $250. There are always so many variables to the price of a job.”

McCaslin has a special fondness for veterans and so provides a price discount for them.

DOWN TO THE LAST DETAIL

When we put out a query for auto detailers, we got a lot of recommendations, including the businesses profiled above, but also good words for several others. The list is too long to post here, but a general search on Google or Facebook should pop up plenty, if your wheels are in need of a good scrubbing.

In addition to those suggestions, we also heard from people who recommended men and women who are out there detailing cars on a freelance basis. No less than a dozen names were sent our way, leading us to believe that more and more people are getting into the detailing game.

If you look up auto detailing on YouTube, you’ll also find a near endless list of people revealing the tricks and trade secrets for getting filthy cars super clean. Apparently anyone can learn how to deep clean a car or truck. The question is how many of us have the patience and drive to do the work.

As for Kutzko, who balked at detailing a friend’s car way back when, nothing he has heard about the hard work and deep strategy involved in cleaning up an automobile has made him rethink that decision. Kutzko has no plans to get into the detailing game.

“Nope,” he said. “Not for me.”

Dirsek, Fournier and McCaslin don’t need to worry about me horning in on the business, either. When it comes to that level of cleaning, I’ve got way more dirt than I have patience to clean it.

But I console myself with the fact that no matter how thoroughly somebody tries to clean my truck, they’re probably not going to find any toenails down there.

No french fries, either.

So there’s that.


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