DETAILING MY CAR > How to Wash Your Car like a Pro in 6 Easy Steps

How to Wash Your Car like a Pro in 6 Easy Steps

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Keeping the paint on your car clean will make it last a very long time. The build- up of dirt and grime can cause some serious surface damage to the paint. Clean cars are happy cars.


Washing your car is the first line of defense in car care

Keeping the paint on your car clean is one of the best ways to keep it looking new. Not everyone knows the techniques, tools and supplies needed to maintain a car’s paint job. That’s just the first step, once you have created the ultimate car washing kit the next step is learning the things you can do to prevent causing any surface scuffing and dulling to your car’s delicate paint job. Who has more tips and tricks for washing a car than someone who has extensive years of experience as an automotive detailer?  Let’s face it: There is not better feeling than having a clean car!

Want that Car to Look New…Wash it

A lot of people have asked me over the year about the best way to keep a car looking new. Washing your car is the first line of defense in caring for your car’s paint job. It is pretty obvious that we all like a bright and shiny car on a sunny day. Those of us that are car fanatics wouldn’t have it any other way. However, let’s consider how important it is to wash your car when the weather turns ugly. Keeping your car clean in the winter is more important than a lot of people think because that’s when accumulations of road grime and dirt can cause serious scuffing damage to your car’s paint.

If you let this layer of gritty filth build up too long you will do some serious damage to your finish when you finally get around to washing the vehicle; you will be rubbing all of that mess back into the paint. In the winter it’s likely been raining or snowing for days and days. So, when do you wash the car? I have found that to reduce the dulling and scratching from grit and grime build up it is necessary to wash the car at a minimum of every two to three weeks no matter what the weather is doing. I know that might sound like a lot, but it will really make a difference in how well your cars’ paint job holds up over its lifetime. When I owned my auto detailing business I would wash my car once a week year round. It always looked fantastic.

My Favorite Way to Wash Cars

As a professional, I always prefer the hand wash method (it is the most gentle on the paint), using an automatic car wash is just fine. The trick with an automatic car wash is to do it often – do it every one to two weeks minimum. Remember the statement I made about the build-up of dirt and grime? Well, this really becomes something to consider at a car wash. The best car washes use soft foam brushes and pads combined with high pressure soap and rinse water. This loosens the grit and allows it to be removed fairly gently. There is a little more potential here for scuffing, but it is a whole lot better than not keeping the car clean. With that said, lets’ talk about my favorite way to keep a car clean – hand washing.

Here are the car washing supplies you will need before you get started:Two or three soft wash mitts. These are the kind you can wear on your hands. You won’t accidently drop it on the ground and get it covered in dirt and rocks that will then scratch your paint.


  1. A five gallon bucket. A bucket this big is useful when you dunk and rinse out your hand wash mitts in the top third of the soapy water. That way the grime that comes off of it falls harmlessly to the bottom.
  2.  Two or three car wash mitts. They fit over your hand and won’t fall on the dirty ground.


  1. One soft bristled tire and wheel brush. It can be pretty hard to get that brown grime off of the wheels that forms from brake dust. These will help get the job done.


  1. Real car wash soap. Don’t use dishwashing soap on the cars paint – it is too harsh (it will also remove any protective wax you have applied). Use whatever brand you want, so long as it is specifically car wash soap.


  1. Synthetic chamois. Drying your car with a chamois is gentle and will prevent water spots from forming. Depending on what part of the country where you live, the amount of hard minerals in the water can be intense.


  1. Water spray nozzle. Pick a quality nozzle that has a “jet” option. This blasts off grit.


Tips for Safe Car Washing


Ok, now we can get started on the wash job. Follow these easy steps regularly and your car will look amazing…even in bad weather.


1. Grab your bucket and add a few ounces of soap. Read the mixing directions on the bottle because amounts vary depending on the brand. Fill the bucket with clean water. You can use warm water if it is cold out. Note: Using very hot water will break down any wax that you have on your car.


  1. Wet the whole car down from top to bottom. Use the nozzles jet spray setting – you want to blast off as much surface grit as possible.


  1. Put on one of your clean wash mitts (by the way, throw these in the clothes washer after each use to keep them clean) and dunk it in your soapy water. Always wash from the top of the car down. If you start washing from the bottom, you are apt to collect quite a bit of grit and grime that could be carried to the rest of the car. When you wash the car use side to side hand motions. Never wash in a circle. No matter how gently you wash a car you will leave some minute scuffing – it always happens. Using the side to side motion will keep the minute scuffs parallel and keep them from standing out as swirl marks on a sunny day.


Wash your way down the car switching to a clean mitt about half way through. Dunk your mitt into the soapy water often. Rinse as you go. Do not let the soap dry on the car as you wash. It will leave marks and water spots.



  1.  Once the car has been gently washed give it a final through rinse down.


  1. Clean the wheels and tires. Use your soft bristled wheel brush and soapy water. If it has been a while since your last wash you will have to use a bit of elbow grease to scrub the wheels and tires clean. There are special wheel cleaning chemicals you can use, but if you are washing regularly you will only need soap and water.


  1. Time to dry the car. Using the synthetic chamois. Wet the chamois down first and wring out all of the excess water. This goes pretty quickly. Simply letting the car sit and air dry can cause water spots. If you’re in a hurry, you can do a speed dry by jumping on the freeway for a short drive – it’s like blow-drying!


There you have it: Washing your car regularly will make a huge difference in preserving your car’s paint job. What are you waiting for? Don’t let the weather stop you, if you don’t want to wash your car by hand in the rain supplement your car washing routine with occasional visits to the automatic car wash. It will help you maintain a clean and happy car and just think how good you will look driving it. If you are ready to take things a step further check out my post on the best way to wax a car.


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