Under The Hood

How To Wash Your Car Like A Pro

Going to a car wash is fast and cheap. Unfortunately, sometimes you get what you pay for. Instead of subjecting your ride's paint job to the abrasive materials and chemicals used in a commercial car wash, why not opt to do things the right way?

That's right, it's time to wash your car by hand. 

before you start, you'll first need to evaluate the condition of your car. If it's fairly newer, you may be able to get away with just a wash and dry. However, if years of dirt, grime, and neglect have weathered your car's paint job, it's probably worth considering adding a wax to that list. 

Regardless, here's how to get started. 

1) Park your car in a shady flat place. 

You don't want it in direct sunlight, as the sun will dry the water before you wipe it off, leaving splotches on the surface. Make sure your windshield wipers are pressed flat down away from the glass, and that all of the windows in your car are closed. 

2) Gather the tools for the job 

  • Hose 
  • Two Large Sponges or Wash Mitts  
  • A Few Large Microfiber Towels 
  • 3 Buckets ( two for washing, one for rinsing) 
  • A Long Skinny Scrubbing Brush 
  • A Plastic Brush With Stiff Bristles 
  • A Squeegee 
  • Auto Glass Cleaner 
  • Tire and Wheel Cleaner 
  • Car Washing Soap 
  • A Clay Bar 
  • Regular or Polymer Wax 

3) Double Check The Tools Are Right For Your Vehicle...

Always read the label on whatever cleaning solutions you are considering using on your vehicle. Waxes, soaps, and detailers are not one-size-fits all products, and are meant to be applied to certain types of vehicles. Better safe than sorry right? 

4) Prepare To Start Washing 

Washing your car will remove loose dirt, grime, dust and mud from the exterior surface. Begin by filling two of your buckets with water, and adding the car soap solution to them. It's advised to use one bucket to wash the wheels, and another to wash the body of the car. Your remaining bucket will be used for rinsing, and will be where you transfer the dirty water from your sponge. Start the process by hosing off your car with a soft stream of water. A harsh stream can press hard dirt particles further into the surface of the paint and potentially scratch it. 

5) Clean The Wheels First 

The reason for this is that the wheels are generally the dirtiest part of your car, and you don't want the grime from them splashing onto parts of your vehicle that aren't already dirty. 

After you have hosed off the wheels, use a long skinny scrubbing brush to clean in-between the openings of the wheels. brush the surface to remove dirt. If your wheels are fairly clean, you can also opt to use your wash mitt instead. To make your scrubbing efforts easier, you can consider purchasing a tire and wheel cleaner as well. 

If there are bits of dirt and gravel stuck in between your tire sidewalls, use a plastic brush with stiff bristles to remove them. 

6) Move To The Body 

Dip your wash mitt or sponge into the soapy water and wash the body of your car. The best practice is to start at the top of the car, and work your way down. The soapy water will drip down to the lower body of the car, and this will prevent you from washing to same sections twice. While you are washing you'll want to make sure you are wringing out your sponge or wash mitt frequently in your rinse bucket. You don't want tar, bugs, bird droppings, or similarly tough particles to get caught in your mitt and scratch the surface of your car as your scrub. If the water in your rinse bucket gets very dirty, dark and gritty, replace it with fresh water. 

If there are bugs and tar on your car, you can use a bug and tar remover to help remove them. To make things easier, you can soften them up with warm water before you start scrubbing. 

For the windows and windshield, use an auto glass cleaner. Don't use Windex or any products with ammonia as they can damage the the tint. For drying ( later) the best tool you can use is a squeegee. 

7) Keep The Hose Going 

As you wash each section of your car, you'll want to hose it off immediately after. You don't want the soap to dry on your paint and stain it. While hosing off the car, use the same top to bottom technique that you used while washing the car.

The other purpose of this is to make sure that the entire body of your car stays wet during the washing process. You don't want it prematurely drying and leaving water spots on your paint job. 

Before you finish hosing off the car, don't forget to do the underside of your vehicle. Spray at different angles so that the entirety of the vehicle's undercarriage is covered. This is especially important if you live in a state that has a lot of salt on the roads due to heavy winters. If left on your car, the salt will create rust, and wreak havoc on your vehicle. 

8) Dry Off The Car 

Use your microfiber towels or a high quality chamois to dry off your car. If you decide to wash the towels after, make sure not to use fabric softener, as it can become trapped in the pours of the towel, and harm your paint job the next time you dry it. For drying technique, you'll want to go top to bottom, just like washing. For the flat surfaces, drape the towel over, and slowly pull it towards yourself. 

For the rest of the car's body, fold your towel in a square when you do your wiping so you prevent streaks. For the wheels, you'll want to use a different towel than you do for the body, as the towel will become dirty rather fast. 

9) Prepare for Waxing 

After washing your car, you may notice that there is oxidation, swirls, small scratches, and bonded contaminants left on the car like overspray or tree sap. These are tougher to get out, and often simply washing and drying isn't enough to remove them. This is where the clay bar comes in handy. First knead the clay into a flat bar, and use some car detailer as a lubricant. This will help remove any contaminates on the surface, and make your paint job as smooth as possible. For scratches slightly below the surface, you can use a compound to remove them. For deep scratches, touch up paint may be required. 

10) Waxing 

The purpose of applying a wax to your car is to protect the finish from sun fading, as well as dirt and gravel that flies up on the surface as you drive. You can choose to use either a carnauba or polymer wax. Ideally, try to wax your car in weather conditions between 55 and 85 degrees. If it's too hot out, the wax will dry too quickly, and cold weather will make it so that the wax is difficult to apply.

For application, there should be an application sponge that comes with your wax. If there isn't, a wet sponge should work as well. When applying, remember that less is more. A small, silver dollar sized amount will do the trick. Divide up the car into sections, and use smooth overlapping circular motions to apply the wax.

As an optional step, you can also choose to use a buffer to smooth out any imperfections that occurred when you were applying the wax. 

Once the wax has set, you'll need to remove it with a microfiber cloth. You'll know it's ready when you wipe your finger across the surface of the car and it does not streak. 


As you can see, there's quite a bit that goes into maintaining the quality of your car's exterior. But it's worth it. Once you've washed, dried, and even waxed your car, there's one more step left.

Create a seller account with Swap Motors and let us give you the money you deserve for your vehicle. It's way easier than washing your car, we promise. We create the listings , perform vehicle evaluations, and include vehicle history reports for every car on our marketplace.

All for free.

Meanwhile, you sit back and relax ( washing a car is hard work!) 

Get started here