Position The Car
Before you even begin to get all of your cleaning products out, you’ll want to appropriately position the car. Ideally, a shaded area is best as it prevents the car from drying too quickly before you’ve even finished washing the car.
You will also want to be able to reach all four corners of your car with your hose or car pressure washer. Having to drag the hose can be really frustrating and you also run the risk of hitting the car with the hose pipe. Therefore, before you begin to wash the car, test that you can walk around it.
Car Wash Equipment
To wash a car properly, you will need some equipment which will allow you to safely clean your car as shown below:
1. Pressure Washer or Garden Hose
To rinse away all the dirt, grime and other contaminants, a garden hose will be required at a bare minimum. Although it’s possible to use a waterless car wash product, it isn’t the best way to wash a car regularly.
If you are willing to take your car cleaning to the next level, a pressure washer is a great investment. It allows you to attach various attachments, blast away stubborn dirt and it’s also great for using elsewhere for other household tasks.
2. Car Shampoo
Another essential product needed for washing a car is the shampoo you use. Many of the best-rated car shampoos are available in bulk buy options, which makes the cost of each wash much cheaper than you would expect.
3. Wash Buckets and Grit Guard
The best way to wash a car properly is to have two buckets, which allow you to use one as a dirty bucket and the other as a clean bucket. This method of cleaning your car is often referred to as the “Two Bucket Method” and it helps to prevent transferring dirt from one panel to another. Investing in a wash bucket that also features a grit guard is highly recommended as it traps the dirt lower down in the bucket where the wash mitt isn’t able to reach.
4. Wash Mitts
To avoid scratches and swirl marks on your car, you will want to use an appropriate wash mitt. You shouldn’t use a sponge because they simply don’t allow anywhere for the trapped dirt to go as you are washing your car. This has the effect of simply rubbing the dirt all over your car and is something you want to avoid. Wash mitts that are either made from a sheepskin or microfibre “noodle” design are the best.
5. Drying Towel
To finish washing your car, you will need to dry it to avoid water spots forming as its dries naturally. The safest method of drying your car is to use a dedicated car drying towel that’s highly absorbent.
If you really want to invest in your cleaning equipment, you could even opt for a car air dryer, which is similar to a leaf blower as it simply blows away any water droplets.
6. Other Optional Products
The above are all the basics required to wash a car but there are plenty more products that you may wish to purchase. For example, if you are cleaning a convertible car, a high-quality soft top cleaner is great for removing stubborn dirt.
When it comes to cleaning the wheels, depending on the severity of the dirt, the shampoo may not be enough. Therefore, you may want to opt for a pH-neutral wheel cleaner and a brush to agitate the dirt away.
Another great product is a tar remover, which is perfect for tackling tar that simply won’t budge upon the lower panels of your car. If you live near roadworks or travel a lot on the motorway, this will be something you are familiar with.
When it comes to actually washing your car, you don’t want to just begin wiping your mitt onto a dry surface. You should always blast away any loose dirt with your hose or pressure washer beforehand to avoid swirl marks or scratches.
However, the best way to wash a car properly would be to pre-wash the car using snow foam. It requires a snow foam lance and pressure washer and you simply spray the solution all over the car, wait a few minutes then rinse clear. The purpose of snow foam is to remove as much dirt as possible before you actually begin touching the car with the mitt.
Cleaning The Wheels and Tyres
Your wheels will be the dirtiest part of your car and it’s always advised to wash them before the bodywork. Depending upon your wheels, you may wish to use a high-quality alloy wheel cleaner to remove any stubborn dirt. However, if your wheels feature sensitive areas such as chrome or exposed polished metal, you may want to stick to car shampoo. To reach all of hard to reach areas of your wheels, a wheel brush can make the job much easier. Whilst you are cleaning the wheels, don’t forget about the tyres as they are often covered in thick layers of dirt. Simply washing it with a soapy mitt should clear the dirt but if not, blast it with the pressure washer until it’s removed.
If you struggle to clean the wheels or simply want more details on how to clean them, we wrote an in-depth guide on how to clean alloy wheels.
Once you have finished cleaning the wheels, you will want to thoroughly wash the buckets ready for the shampoo used for the rest of the car. It’s always advised to have separate wash mitts when washing the wheels because you don’t want to risk any harmful brake dust or other contaminants transferring over to your paintwork.
Washing The Bodywork
After making two buckets of fresh car shampoo solutions, you can then proceed to wash the bodywork. You will always want to begin with the roof because all of the dirt will fall downwards once mixed with the shampoo.
Whilst abiding by the “Two Bucket Method”, you can make your way around the car and wash all of the panels. It’s advised that you work at the top of the panel and wipe your wash mitt downwards. This prevents the movement of dirt overlapping onto cleaned body panels and doubling your work effort.
Depending on the weather, you may be able to move around the entire car without needing to rinse off the shampoo. However, if you are washing your car on a hot day, you will want to avoid shampoo drying on the paintwork.
Drying The Car
The drying stage of washing your car is often the most important because it has the potential to cause marks to appear on the paintwork. You will want to use a completely clean microfibre towel and work your way around the car. To work efficiently, you will want to shake and turn the towel regularly and start at the top and work downwards.
Hopefully the above tips to wash your car encourage you to keep it clean and avoid inflicting any new scratches or swirl marks onto the paintwork. There is so much questionable advice online but the above methods are the recommendations that we use and most professional detailers would also advise.
If you notice there are scratches or swirl marks on the paintwork, you may want to read our guide on how to polish a car. This walks you through the stages after washing your car following the above tips.