The Ultimate Guide – How to Wash a Car

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How to Wash a Car – Everything You Need to Know about Car Wash 101


Hi there! Vince with ScannerAnswers and today we’re taking a break from talking about bluetooth OBDII adapters and talking about something just as important as a good running car…. How to wash your car!

That’s right, and my intention is to not only teach you how to wash a car, but how to do it perfectly each and every time.

The purpose of washing your car is not only to keep it clean so friends and strangers will have a reason to crane their necks to give your vehicle a second look; no, it goes much deeper than that (although don’t you love the illicit stares you get from a freshly detailed car? I know I do.)

A clean car is an extension of your personality. If you’re a top ranking executive at your local bank, you can’t expect to arrive at work in a car riddled with mud, insects, and loose vegetation. That would be ridiculous.

Do you know the secret to a beautiful car, even though you are driving the cheapest car that you can buy in 2017 like the Hyundai Accent SE or the Mitsubishi Mirage ES? Wash frequently to keep them clean. Put on some tire dressing to add shine and presto!

Check out our guide to choosing the best tire shine and make sure to grab some good old carnuba wax to really make your sweet ride stand out.

Why wash my car?

The same principle applies to your old clunker. When was the last time you washed your old car? You won’t believe what a thorough car wash, polish, and wax will do a used car. It will not only look pristine, but it will make the car look more ‘expensive’ once it’s time to sell it.

You can’t drive around in a filthy Bugatti Chiron or Porsche 918, right? It would be heretical to drive a dirty supercar or humble sports cars like the Mazda MX-5 or Toyota 86.

The point here is this: a clean car is a symbol of independence, success, and thumbs-up responsibility.

Driving a clean car will give the perception that your life is in order, even though it might not be.

No harm in that, right? Besides, who here wants to spend 2 hours a day in traffic while trapped inside a filthy trash box? Just thinking about the thick dust on the dash and air con vents and the soiled carpeting is enough to make me gasp in horror.

My plan here is to teach everything you need to know on how to wash a car so you can do it perfectly each time.

This is the lazy person way to wash a car
This is the lazy person way to wash a car

Car Wash 101: Choosing the Right Tools

Unless you’re suicidal, you can’t go to war with anything but a pencil and some loose change. The first step in learning the ropes on how to wash a car is to choose the right tools for the job.

Washing a car need not be tedious and complicated. I understand that not everyone has an access to a covered garage. While it’s true that it is not advisable to wash a car under the blaring heat of the sun, it would be great if you have a small shaded area to begin with. It’s not the car, but it’s your skin that I’m worried about.

Here are the things that you will need to effectively clean your dirty car.

  1. Two Buckets. It doesn’t get as simple as this. You need two plain, plastic buckets with a 3.5-gallon or 5-gallon capacity. The first bucket is for the soapy water, and the second bucket is for clean water only. The 2 bucket method of washing a car is not a myth. The purpose here is to constantly rinse the wash mitt or sponge after cleaning a certain section of the car.
    When you are washing your car, the purpose is to not only remove loose dirt and grime. You need to tread carefully in order to avoid inflicting scratches and swirl marks in the finish. Rinsing the wash mitts after washing each section is cheap insurance against scratches and ugly swirl marks.
    Since the act of wiping the paint with a sponge is enough to push dust and grit on the surface, careful washing will necessitate the need to constantly polish and wax your car.
  1. Car shampoo. You can use any type of car shampoo as long as it is specifically designed for cars. Don’t use dish soap (try our DIY vehicle soap instead) unless you’re planning to partake a full-on detailing job. Dish soap is harsh enough to strip off the existing wax in the paint. When there’s no wax, there will be no water beads on the paint, and this means the clear coat is vulnerable to dirt, stains, and oxidation.
  2. Microfiber wash mitt. Yes, you can use a plain old terry cloth towel or sponge to wash your car. But that would be like wearing formal shoes to a triathlon. Microfiber wash mitts will do a better job of absorbing dirt, dust, and harmful surface contaminants from the paint surface, hence preventing scratches and swirl marks. Buy them basic and buy them cheap. You can thank yourself later.
  3. Chamois or micro fiber drying cloth. I personally prefer using a chamois to dry my car, but I also like using thick microfiber towels. The choice is up to you. The important thing to remember here is to always keep your drying cloth clean. When drying the car, you will again cause friction in the paint by wiping the surface with a towel. A clean and smooth towel will also prevent scratches and swirls on the finish. It is also a good idea to use a separate pair of towels to clean the wheels/tires and the mirrors or glass of your vehicle.
  1. Tire dressing or tire gel. This product alone will make your car stand out. Contrary to popular belief, tire dressing is not only used to beautify and add a layer of shine to the tires. Tire dressing will also prevent tire blooming (those ugly brown stains on the tire sidewall).

    If you don’t know the right tire gel to get, check out our guide to choosing the best tire gel and dressing.

The Simple Steps on How to Wash a Car

Now that you got the right equipment for the job, it is time to discuss the battle plan.

Step 1

Rinse the vehicle thoroughly. Use a garden hose and spray a strong gush of water on every inch of the car. If the surface is extremely dirty, or if there are a couple of inches of mud on the paint, it would be best to grab a towel and remove the loose dirt while rinsing the car.

Simply point the house on the surface and wipe thoroughly. This will make it easier for the shampoo to remove any traces of dirt and mud.

Start spraying water on the hood, roof, and trunk of the car. This will allow the dirt from the top portion to slide down towards the ground and away from the paint.

Now is also a good time to spray the wheels with water since this will help loosen the brake dust on your magnificent alloy wheels.

Step 2

Prepare the washing solution. Take a capful or two of car shampoo and mix it with water in the first bucket. Follow the directions on the bottle. The washing solution should be foamy.

Fill the second bucket with clean water. You are now ready to wash your car.

Step 3

Dip the microfiber wash mitt in the foamy water and proceed to clean the upper part of the car. Start by shampooing the hood, the roof, and the trunk. Remember to rinse the wash mitt in the second bucket before proceeding to wash the next section. The step should be like hood, rinse, roof, rinse, trunk, rinse, front doors, rinse, etc.

The lower valance or the lower portion of the doors should be washed last. This is one of the dirtiest parts of your car, so you will need to wash them last.

Step 4

Rinse. Grab the hose and proceed to remove the soap and the suds from the surface.

Step 5

Clean the wheels and tires. After rinsing the body now is a good time to clean the wheels and tires. Grab a separate wash mitt or towel for this activity. Do not use the wash mitts of the wheels on any painted surface. You should allocate a wash mitt for wheels and tires alone.

Simply dip the wash mitt into the soapy mixture and gently clean the wheels. Next, clean the tires. Do this on all fours.

Step 6

Rinse the wheels and tires. Grab the garden hose and spray water on the wheels and tires, Make sure to remove all traces of soap to avoid water spots or water marks on the wheels.

Step 7

Wipe the exterior dry. Use a clean microfiber towel or chamois to remove excess water on the surface of the vehicle. Start by removing water on the front and rear windshield and side windows. Next, remove water from the hood, roof, and the trunk.

Do you see a pattern here? The trick is to dry the upper portions of the car first. This is the same technique in washing the car. Washing and drying the vehicle from the top to the bottom will significantly reduce the occurrence of scratches and swirl marks on the paint.

The reason why I told you to dry the glass first is to prevent scratching the surface of the glass. If your car has no window tint, then you will need to heed this advice seriously.

Step 8

 Apply tire dressing. Remove excess water from the wheels and tires by using a dry cloth. Grab the tire dressing and apply the solution using a foam applicator pad. You don’t need to put a lot to make an impact. Besides, you don’t want to make a mess of yourself since tire dressing has the consistency of diluted molasses.

Tire dressing will make your tires look new since the rubber will have a ‘blacker’ appearance. This will also protect your tires from mud and UV rays.

Interior Cleaning

After washing the exterior now is the right time to clean the interior as well.

You Will Need:

  • Vacuum cleaner (any kind will do as long as it sucks dirt)
  • Terry cloth or microfiber towels
  • Armor All spray protectant
  • Small interior brush (optional)

Step 1: If you have rubber matting protecting the carpets, take them out and rinse them clean using a garden hose. Let them dry while you proceed to vacuum the interior.

If you have cloth floor mats, simply grab the vacuum cleaner to suck in loose dirt and sand. Don’t forget to vacuum the front and rear seats, the spaces between the seats and door panels, and the entire floor pan.

Step 2: Wipe the interior clean. Use a moist microfiber or terry cloth towel to wipe the dashboard, the center console, and the door panels. These surfaces might look clean, but a simple wipe will reveal the honest truth.

Step 3: Wipe the interior glass surfaces. This might seem like a case of OCD, but wiping the glass clean will make a world of difference. You can take my word for it. Use a separate moist towel to clean the inner portion of the windshield and the windows. You can also use glass cleaner if you like.

Step 4: Apply protectant on plastic surfaces. Armor All is cheap, economical to use, and protects the interior from fading, cracking, and peeling. Simply spray a small amount of this stuff on a clean applicator and wipe freely on the dash, center console, and door panels. Do not apply protectant on the steering wheel, shift knob, and pedals.

You’re done! Now is the right time to step back and admire your work. Now you know how to wash a car without making a mess of yourself.


Washing a car is therapeutic. Yes, it takes a bit of work. But considering the benefits that you get, spending a couple of hours on a Sunday washing and cleaning your car is time well spent.


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