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Washing your car using the 2-bucket method

Updated on November 12, 2014

A true car enthusiast will take cautious steps to wash his or her car the right way. The procedure that I use will minimize swirling of your paint and will minimize marring. Everyone has their own technique, but this is what I use and recommend to others. I'll detail this in steps and the equipment you'll need to accomplish each step.

Here you can see really bad swirls, marring and buffer halo marks (holograms) on this beautiful BMW's black paint.  This is what you do not want to do when washing your car!
Here you can see really bad swirls, marring and buffer halo marks (holograms) on this beautiful BMW's black paint. This is what you do not want to do when washing your car!

Before you begin washing the car

The majority of swirls and spider-web marks on your paint are caused by washing. Each time something touches your paint or glides across the paint, you run the risk of creating a swirl, scratching the surface, or marring the paint. See the picture to the right. This hood is littered with swirl marks that will take some tiime to buff out. My steps below will help you minimize this risk to giving you a great swirl free and clean vehicle. I recommend to wash your car at least once a week. Who wants to drive around in a dirty car?

Washing your car

No one likes to wash their car, but it is necessary to keep your car clean. Don't get lazy and go to an automatic car wash! This will no doubt scratch and damage your paint. There's nothing like washing your own vehicle and feeling proud with the results.

Start off with the obvious - a bucket. I prefer the 2-bucket method that I'll detail in a minute. The two bucket method will provide you with the least amount of contamination possible when doing the wash.

Another tool that you'll need is either a natural sea sponge, sheepskin wash mitt or cloth, or a cotton chenille cloth or mitt.

Car Wash Buckets

The wash buckets are very important. One bucket is for your car wash product (the shampoo and the suds), the second is for clean water. You'll need to dip your washing media in the clean bucket every time before dipping it back in to the wash bucket. This will minimize cross contamination of debris on the washing material. I personally like my wash bucket to have wheels. It's easier to just roll instead of picking it up.

Car Wash Bucket Grit Guards

In the wash and rinse bucket, you'll want to put in a Grit Guard. The Grit Guard goes on the bottom of your bucket. The guard will act like a filtration system that works in two ways. The first is to clean off any particles like dirt off of your washing media of choice. It also segregates the removed particles and contaminants to the bottom of the bucket so you won't pick it back up with your washing material.

Wash Media for Car Washing

Choosing the appropriate wash media is equally important. You definitely want to choose something that will not scratch or marr the paint. and for this step, I recommend either a chenille mitt, lambswool mitt or a sea sponge. I personally use the lambswool wash mit. It's soft, comfortable and absorbent.

Car Wash Shampoo

Use any of these shampoo products and combine with water. Use 1 bucket for the shampoo/water combination (hence the 2-bucket method). Whatever you do, do not use dish detergent for the wash. The detergent will strip the wax that is left on the paint. And you don't want to strip the wax off of the paint. Dish detergent can also harm your paint by eating away at the finish. It's not meant to wash your car with since it's harsh. So, forget what other people have said, dish detergent is bad news for your paint.


And that's it! It's not very hard at all to use the 2-bucket method, yet, the majority of enthusiasts don't use it. They get sloppy and lazy and just use 1-bucket. If you care about your vehicle, which you should, use the 2-bucket method.

Do you use the 2-bucket method when washing your car?

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