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Which is better for you car, washing it by hand or taking it to a car wash?

Updated on March 3, 2012


In this hub I will talk about the difference of cleaning your car by hand, and taking your car to a car wash. I will also show photos of my car after each of these processes were done, and you can see the clear difference in results. I will also talk about the products that I used when cleaning my car by hand.

A little about my car. I drive a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon. I keep very good care of my car, and clean it weekly. I will talk down below my reasons for which one is better, cleaning by hand, or by car wash, and why as well.

My car after car wash
My car after car wash

The Car Wash

First I will talk about the car wash. The photo of the results from the car wash are to the right. Now when I went to the car wash I was still careful which one I chose, and still used the power nozzle, and did not ride through the automated car wash. Keep in mind that automated car washes can scratch your paint, and cause many scratches across your surface. While some paints are okay to do this to, if you have a paint like mine you want to protect it as best as you can.

With that being said, let me talk about the car wash. So the steps I had taken are as follows. First was the pre-soak. Next was the tire and rim cleaner phase. Following the tire cleaner came the high pressure soap. After thoroughly cleaning my car with the high pressure soap came the foaming brush. I tend to be careful of the foaming brush as sometimes I am afraid of the past person, or that it could scratch the paint. Following the foaming brush came the high pressure rinse. After rinsing the car completely off, then I applies the high pressure wax. And to finish the car off I do a drip free rinse, and then chamois towel the car until dry.

Keep in mind I am very careful, and the photo for the car wash does not show any personal cleaners being added to my car. All this shows is the effects of taking my car to the car wash.

My car after hand wash
My car after hand wash

The cleaning by hand.

I usually do a thorough cleaning by hand once a month. I do not have the time to clean my car by hand more often than that ( or I would ), and find that using the car wash on weekends is significantly quicker. When I wash my car by hand it can take me upwards of 4-8 hours to follow all of the steps ( including the sit period for things to set in). So here are my steps for cleaning my car.The picture to the right is my car after cleaning by hand.

First I thoroughly wash the entire car with warm to hot water mixed with Zaino Car Wash Formula. Zaino is a leading brand of car wash and I suggest it for anyone who wants to clean their car to the fullest potential. After washing the car, I fully dry the car using a chamois towel.

The next step is to get impurities out of the paint. My method for impurities is to clay bar the car. I use the Zaino Clay Bar, and as a liquid lubricant, i mix one cap full of Zaino Car Wash with about 8 ounces of water, and spray that on the car while rubbing the clay bar. Personally I think the Clay Bar truly works wonders on the paint, and if my car is not dirty, sometimes i will run a clay bar over the car, and it comes out the same as if I had given a full wash.

The third step involves polish. Now keep in mind i prefer polish 100% over wax. I think that wax overall just covers the paint, and does not really protect it. What polish is made for is to take a very thin layer of paint off (the layer with scratches) and leaves a freshly painted look over your car. This is the longest step, since you have to put the polish on, rub it in, then rub it off. The polish I use is also made by Zaino.

Now that my car has been washed, clay barred, and polished, the exterior is finished. Now to the other parts of the car.

For my windows, and windshield. When cleaning the windshield, I use Invisible Glass. This is something I saw on QVC, tried it, and loved it. I feel that this product is far beyond any of the other window cleaning products. You can now buy Invisible Glass in any car care section of any store. Following the Invisible Glass i use RainX. RainX for me works wonders as I do not have to use my windshield wipers. Not that I don't use them, but using RainX increases visibility in stormy situations drastically, and in my opinion is truly something that is beneficial to ANYONE driving.

Now the tires. As far as my tires go, I rely on a few products. As far as the cleaning process goes, I have used Armor All's Extreme Tire Cleaner, and that is my favorite. I also use their Extreme Tire Shine Foam on the tires of my car. One trick i have picked up, is do not spray the tire cleaner on the rims, but instead spraying on a towel, and then clean the rims with that towel.

Another note, I tend to use shop towels over paper towels. The shop towels are a lot thicker, and can handle a tough mess, and do not leave any residue behind that i ave seen left behind from paper towels. So i strongly suggest using those over paper towels.


So overall I strongly suggest cleaning by hand over the use of a car wash. As you can see from my pictures, there is a true and clear difference in the outcomes from cleaning by hand instead of the car wash.While there may be times when you cannot dedicate the time to cleaning by hand, I suggest this at least one out of every 5 car washes.

I hope this hub helps you, and if you have any questions, or better products, or suggestions for the hub, please comment. Thanks.


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    • Johnrr631992 profile image

      John Reid-Roberts 5 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

      Yes doing the washing yourself will REALLY change the outcome of your vehicle. Also allows you to feel more proud of how you vehicle looks, and will make you happier. Thank you for commenting.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an issue I have wondered about. I suppose the saying 'do it yourself' really is the best!