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How to Properly Clean a Car

Updated on April 5, 2020

Essential Equipment

When it comes to cleaning a car, there are a lot of necessary components. These are:

  1. A hose or pressure washer. Either of these are needed in order to blast off debris and shampoo from the car. A garden hose will do the job just fine, but a pressure washer will remove it in a quicker time frame.
  2. Three buckets The three buckets are used to make sure that the car is cleaned properly and to help ensure that it does not get scratched during the process. The first bucket is dedicated solely for cleaning the wheels. Due to the wheels being the dirtiest part of the car, the same bucket should never be used on the wheels that is used for the body. The second bucket is for shampoo to clean the car. The third bucket is for rinse water to help remove dirt and debris collected in the wash mitt when cleaning the car.
  3. A high quality wash mitt. Sponges should never be used on a car. They are abrasive and cause damage to the paint work. Instead, a microfibre wash mitt should be used on the car. These are soft and are a great way to wash the car safely.
  4. Shampoo. A high quality shampoo will ensure that the dirt is safely encapsulated within and and removed from the paint. Special care should be given to make sure that the shampoo used will not remove any protective products on the paint work.
  5. A selection of brushes. Detailing brushes are great for cleaning the wheels. Likewise, they can also be used for cleaning intricate areas on the bodywork, including badges and emblems.

Cleaning The Wheels

Before the car is washed, it's important to clean the wheels. The reason for this is that the wheels are generally the dirtiest parts of the car. When cleaning these, dirt can land on other parts of the car, so it's always best to clean them first.

Using a dedicated wheel bucket and wash mitt, fill up a bucket with wheel shampoo and carefully clean the wheels.

A selection of wheel brushes should be used to clean intricate alloy wheel, as well as the tire wall. It is also important to clean the wheel arches as well since these will get extremely dirty.


A lot of wheel cleaners now have an iron fall out remover component to them. These fallout removers will turn the wheel purple when there is iron present. This is the iron that has came off of the brake pads. It is extremely important to clean the wheels properly. If not, then the iron and brake dust can eat into the finish of the wheel and can cause irreversible corrosion.

Carrying out a Pre Wash

Before a car is washed with a mitt, it's important to make sure as much dirt and debris is removed. The reason for this is that having an excessive amount of this can cause scratches and swirls on the paint when a wash mitt comes into contact with the paint.

There are a few ways to do this, dependent on the setup available. The first is to thoroughly rinse the car off. This can be done by using a garden hose, or if possible, a pressure washer. This will help to get off the loose debris that is present on the surface of the car.

If a pressure washer is available, then a snow foam should also be used. There are a lot of these available, and they all by and large work the same way. When using a snow foam, the dilution ratios on the bottle should be adhered to. A set amount of water should be added to the snowfoam lance, topped up with water and then attached to the pressure washer.

The snowfoam should be allowed to dwell and it will break down the dirt and safely remove it off of the bodywork. After this, the bodywork can be rinsed off.

The Main Wash

Now that the wheels have been cleaned and the pre wash has been finished, the main wash can begin.

To do this, take one bucket and fill it to the brim with fresh, clean water. This will be the rinse bucket. Take the other bucket and with your shampoo of choice, follow the instructions on the bottle on how much to add to the bucket. Then, with the hose or pressure washer, fill up the bucket to the required amount with water.

After this, it's as simple as taking the wash mitt, dunking it in the shampoo bucket and then cleaning the paintwork. When washing the car, this should be started at the roof, and then working down the car. This is due to the fact that it is generally cleaner on the roof since it is further away from the ground.

The mitt should only be used in straight lines. A buffing motion should never be used since any dirt present on the paint can cause scratches and swirls in the paintwork.

After a few passes, submerge the mitt in the rinse bucket and agitate it against the dirt trap. This will remove the maximum amount of dirt from your mitt, meaning that you won't then put dirt back onto the car again.

After the whole car has been cleaned, it must be thoroughly rinsed off. This will prevent any soap residue leaving an unsightly appearance on the car.

In terms of drying the car, there are a few options. The first is to use a drying towel to carefully remove the surface water from the car. However, if the car is well protected with a wax or sealant, a quick dry will remove water from it. Lastly, using an air blower will quickly remove water from the paint.

Finishing Touches

Now that the car is looking fantastic, there are a few finishing touches.

The first is to clean the glass. Whilst a lot of car shampoos can do a great job, I prefer to use a dedicated glass cleaner to make it crystal clear.

In addition to this, it's also important to dress the tires. This will make them look like new as well as keep them moisturised. This will prevent premature cracking of the tires.

Lastly, some form of protection should be added to the paint work. The quickest way to do this is to add a layer of wax to the paint. For a more long term finish, a sealant should be applied, or even a ceramic coating. Generally speaking though, a high quality wax will last two to three months. Not only will it make the car look great, it'll also protect it from bird droppings and also UV rays. In addition to this, any dirt will stick to the wax and not the paint. Therefore, it will make it easier to clean in subsequent washes.

Which Brand Of Products Is The Best?

This is a rather subjective question. I have been detailing for nearly ten years now, and over that time I have spent a lot of time (and money) trying a lot of different car care brands.

One car care company that has stood the test of time is Chemical Guys. I have used a lot of their products, and the results I have had from them have been excellent. There's never been a time that I've been unhappy with their line up, and I've really been happy with the results I've got when using their line up.


The kit includes all of the chemicals needed in order to clean the car properly. I also like that in this bundle it has a foam gun. I personally use my foam gun to pre-wash the car when I don't want to haul my pressure washer out of the garage to clean the car.

The microfibre cloths in the kit are exceptionally high quality and will make taking care of your car a real breeze.


© 2020 SolveMyMaze

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