How to wash your car

Car Care

Washing your car regularly will keep it looking sparkling clean while also keeping its exterior paint from damage, which ensures your car maintains its value.

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Best ways to wash your car

Washing your car is necessary and often neglected. That’s right, although most of us enjoy the sight and scent of a sparkling vehicle in our garages or driveways, it’s only a little higher on the chore list than doing laundry. 

While hand-wash or drive-through car washes are ubiquitous in most cities, they can get pricey and not always do a satisfactory job. If you’re detail-oriented and don’t mind rolling up your sleeves, washing your car yourself is practical and can even be lots of fun (it could be something for the family to do on Sundays).

As long as you have the items needed to wash, dry and detail your car, following along the guide below will serve as your roadmap to getting behind the wheel of your sparkling clean car as quickly as possible. 

Step-by-step guide for a seamless car wash

Have your cleaning supplies ready 

Make sure you have what you need to get the job done. At least one large bucket, a sponge, clean microfiber towels and specialized soap cleanser should be on your checklist. It’s easier to make sure you have everything by your side than have to scramble for these items after you start the wash.  

Find the right place

Park your car in a driveway, the street or a parking lot or garage where the ground can get wet. Make sure you are near a facility where you can flush the dirty water once you’re done. Avoid parking directly in the sun, as the car will heat up. It’s optimal to find a place with shade. 

Damp and soap 

Fill both buckets with water to about the halfway mark. Dampen one, then touch up the car’s surface by removing any debris, dirt or bird droppings. Add the soap cleanser to the water, stir it and soak the sponge or towel in the soapy water. Once soaked, soap your car quickly, starting with the roof and working your way down. If the wheels are dirty, apply the soapy water to them as well.

Rinse and dry

After applying soap on the car’s surface, rinse it off using a water hose or a sponge in your bucket with clean water. Once all the soap is removed, use old towels or microfiber towels to dry your car. Move along quickly, and don’t apply too much pressure. Open the car’s doors and wipe away the water in the door sides. 

Post-wash detailing

Once you have removed excess water from the car’s surface, turn your attention to the interior. Pull out the floor mats and vacuum the floors. Then, detail the wheels and windows and apply wax, which comes in either liquid or paste. For the windows, use Windex and a clean cloth. 

Car washing tips

Two buckets are better than one

Since you’ll be using soapy water to wash your car, you’ll need to flush and refill it with clean water for an effective rinse. Enter the two bucket system. As it implies, one bucket will be filled with soapy water to scrub, while the other bucket will have clean water to rinse the towel or the sponges.  

Microfiber towels are a must 

Drying your car with regular towels can work, but you’re also liable to scrape or scratch the paint. For this reason, it’s advisable to buy microfiber towels that will absorb moisture faster and also avoid causing damage to your car. See below for some recommended microfiber towels that will have your car look pristine.

Window cleaning alternatives

Windex is an excellent product for streak-free windows, but diluted household vinegar can be a worthy substitute. While a clean, soft cloth or wipes are suggested, they’re also practical to clean windows if you keep old newspapers. 

All-in-one cleaning kits

To eliminate the need for folks like yourself to buy car wash necessities separately, companies offer the popular all-in-one option. Available at different price levels, from around $20-$100, many of these kits come with buckets, sponges, specialty towels, soaps and just about all you need. Among the proven and popular are the Armor All or Meguiar’s kits.

What you need to wash your car

Armor All Car Tire and Wheel Shine Gel

Armor All Car Tire and Wheel Shine Gel

Featuring an advanced formula, this wheel shine gel applies neatly and coats smoothly, providing long-lasting shine while protecting the wheels from cracking and other damage.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Chemical Guys HOL121 Best Car Wash Bucket Kit

Chemical Guys HOL121 Best Car Wash Bucket Kit

With a heavy-duty bucket, specialty wash soap and a soft wash mitt, you can choose Mr. Pink for lighter cleaning or Citrus Wash & Gloss for heavy-duty washing.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam Car Wash Soap and Cleanser

Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam Car Wash Soap and Cleanser

Refreshingly smelling snow foam produces the suds necessary to remove all dirt, dust and debris from your car, and it’s safe on all vehicle surfaces. Its concentrated cleaning power means one cap dilutes to five gallons of water. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Chemical Guys Professional Grade Premium Microfiber Towels

Chemical Guys Professional Grade Premium Microfiber Towels

Microscopic fibers absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid and are great for quick drying and detailing after car washes. With 360,000 strands per square inch, these towels deliver a streak- and lint-free experience.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Shine Armor Fortify Quick Coat Car Wax Polish Spray

Shine Armor Fortify Quick Coat Car Wax Polish Spray

The ceramic car wax can be applied after a car wash or in a waterless wash, producing a flawless shiny touch on your car’s paint. This car wax spray is safe for use on cars, boats, motorcycles and RVs. 

Where to buy: Amazon

ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner 

ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner 

Getting dirt, dust and crumbs out of the car’s floors and upholstery is seamless with this portable car vacuum. It weighs 2 pounds and features a 16-foot power cord connected to the car’s 12V lighter port, enabling you to pick up unwanted elements throughout the interior, especially hard-to-reach parts. 

Where to buy: Amazon


Slav Kandyba is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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