Here’s your definitive hand car wash guide in 17 small steps. Follow these simple rules and in no time at all—your car will be sparkling like new.
Washing your car is the best way to maintain the longevity of its body. Road salt, dirt and other debris can build up and do serious damage to your car over time.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to wash your car. You can wash your car by hand, right at home and probably already own most of the equipment. If your kids are around, get them to help. Make washing your car less of a chore and more of a fun activity for the whole family.
Follow these simple steps to restore your car’s sparkle
Step 1: Wait for a nice but not-too-hot day. If it’s too hot or the car has been parked in direct sunlight, the water will evaporate quickly, leaving you with a splotchy finish. If it’s wintertime, try to wash your car on a day it is above zero. Most car wash formulas aren’t designed for sub-zero temperatures.
Step 2: Park the car in the shade. By parking in non-direct sunlight, you will be able to keep your car wet with less water, and be able to prevent it from evaporating prematurely.
Step 3: Make sure all your windows are closed and the antenna retracted. Then pull the windshield wipers up and away from the windshield.
Step 4: Gather everything you will need and set them near the car so they’re easily accessible. Here are the basic items you’ll need:
- Garden hose
- Two buckets
- Delicate car wash formula
- Lamb’s wool mitt or a natural sponge designed specifically to wash a car (don’t use a brush as it will scratch your paint)
- Wheel brush to clean your wheels
- Soft, terry cloth towels or a chamois (natural or synthetic)
- A soft squeegee
- Car wax
- Water-repelling glass treatment
- Rubber gloves to protect your hands from any chemicals or dirt
Step 5: Fill a bucket with water and add the car wash formula. Follow the directions on the bottle for the appropriate water to formula ratio.
Step 6: Fill a second bucket with plain water. You’ll use this water to rinse your car.
Step 7: Pre-treat any stains (like bird droppings, dead bugs or sap) by applying the car wash formula directly to the spot(s). Let this sit for a few minutes before rinsing off the car.
Step 8: Use a garden hose to rinse off the car. Don’t use a strong jet as this can damage your paint and scratch it. Just give it a quick rinse to loosen the dirt and soften any debris stuck to the car.
Step 9: Work the car wash solution in your first bucket into a lather and then soak your wash mitt or sponge. Apply the suds evenly to a section of the car, starting at the top and slowly working your way down.
Step 10: Rinse the dirt out of the mitt or sponge in your rinse bucket frequently.
Step 11: Once you’ve washed one section, rinse it off with your hose before moving on. This will prevent soapsuds from drying on the paint and staining it.
Step 12: Then, move onto the next section and repeat steps 7 through 10. Scrub the lower body and wheels last.
Step 13: Throughout the entire car wash, keep your car wet. This will prevent water-spots from drying on the paint.
Step 14: Clean your wheels with a wheel-brush.
Step 15: Spray the bottom of the car with your hose. This is particularly important if your car has been exposed to salt.
Step 16: Thoroughly dry your car with soft terry-cloth towels. Don’t let the car air dry or try to drive it around the block to let the wind do the work for you. Both will leave you with a streaky dry job. A squeegee can speed up the process by first removing most of the water from the body of the car.
Step 17: Wax the body of the car to keep the paint protected and then apply a water-repellent treatment to the glass to improve visibility.