How To Wash Your Car The Proper Way

Everyone thinks they know how to wash a car. It’s easy, right? Bucket, sponge, job done. Wrong.

If you want to maintain that ‘new car’, glossy shine or have been using one bucket all along…you need to read on.


Firstly you need to get the right gear, a little bit of investing at this stage will set you up for a good year or more.

  • Buckets x 2 – One for hot water, one for cold/dirty water & rinsing
  • Wash Mitt x 2 – Buy a synthetic wool wash mitt, not a sponge
  • Shampoo – A decent one that doesn’t have wax built in, Meguairs Gold Class for example
  • Drying Towel – Get a deep pile, double sided drying towel
  • Hose – Duh! Oh, with a shower head attachment

That’s all you need for a basic wash.
People will try and sell you grit guards for your buckets, wheel brushes, different fancy cleaners, polish…ignore them. The kit above will see you right for your weekend wash.

But what’s wrong with a sponge i hear you cry?

Well…a sponge is a flat surface, so any small bits of dirt and debris just sit on its face. This face gets wiped across your whole car, making tiny little scratches which turn into swirls.

They just damage your paint no end. I’ve seen a brand new car religiously hand washed by its owner, only for it to look like its had a run in with a disc sander four years down the line.

Lob The Sponge

Wash Mitt



Here’s the method, the recipe for the perfect car wash if you will. It’s not difficult, just common sense.


Take the hose and put the shower head on a medium pressure setting.

Start with the roof and work your way over every panel, slowly.

Pay particular attention to around the wheel arches, make sure any dirt, mud, clumps of crap are gone.

Spray up underneath the wheel arches. Slowly. Again you’re making sure any filth is removed from the arch liners and suspension.

Finally, hose down those alloys. The brake dust probably won’t budge much, but it all helps.

Wash Mitts


For this bit you need both your buckets. One is filled with a cap full of car shampoo and hot water, the other is filled a quarter full with cold water.

Place the wash mitt in the hot bucket, soak it a little and pull it out, straight onto your car.

Again, start with the roof and move across it in horizontal motions. DO NOT WASH IN CIRCLES.

Now place the mitt into the cold bucket, rinse it and wring it out before dunking it again in the warm soapy bucket.

Move on to the windows, pull up the wiper blades and clean beneath the wipe line. Front and back.

Wash and rinse in the cold bucket.

And move on to the bonnet. Again wash in horizontal lines from top to bottom.

Wash and rinse.

You want to clean the doors and sides from top to bottom, only wash a single door or panel at a time. You don’t want to drag any of the rough dirt from the bottom back up your paintwork, potentially scratching it and causing swirling over time.

You know the drill…wash, rinse and wring.

Open the doors and clean down the shuts, the same goes for the boot/trunk.


Run the mitt along the bottom sections of the car, front/rear bumpers and the sides.


Next, you need to wash around the lip of the wheel arch, you know, that ‘lil bit of bodywork that faces the tyre all the way round.


Nearly there! It’s time to tackle those alloys.

Grab the second, amazingly clean wash mitt you purchased and dunk it in the hot bucket.
Now clean the face of the first alloy, then around the edge, then finally every spoke by wrapping your handed mitt around them. You will miss a bit…guaranteed.
And yup, you’ve just ruined a brand new mitt…but that shall now be your alloy wheel mitt.

Alloy Wheel Mitt

Second Rinse

Hose in hand, you now need to wash off all those suds. From top to bottom soak the car as you did to start with, make sure its completely clear of shampoo.

Then wait a few minutes for as much of it to drain off as possible.


It’s time for the grand finale; you can’t just let the water dry on your hard work.

Some will say use one of those plastic squeegee blades (a big no-no, you’ll scratch your paintwork to shit if even the smallest amount of dirt gets caught in it) others will say use a chamois (you’ll be there all day, and then end up with a stinking rotting piece of sheep in your garage).

Take your lovely new drying towel and wipe it across the roof to start with…you should know the drill by now – always start with the roof.

Drying Towel

Then move to the windows. Make sure you don’t catch any of the black rubber bits around the glass, as that can often leave a nice black sludgy mark on the towel.

Finally dry the rest of the car, moving from top to bottom, so you don’t drag any potential dirt back up your car.

That was easy

See, there’s nothing to it. Follow those simple steps, and you’ll help retain your vehicles value while keeping it sparkling, no matter what time of year it is.

Clean Car

About ATL

I'm a freelance automotive writer. Nuff said.

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