how to wash your car graphic of person with hose washing their red car with soapy suds on it

The average cost of a car wash at your local car wash or gas station can cost around $8 for a basic wash, but if you want “the works” expect to pay as much as $28. And let’s get real, you want all the extras to keep your ride looking great and sparkling clean. Whether you wash your car every month or every few months, it can start to add up. Especially if you’re a weekly washer! That’s why washing your car at home is usually the better deal. Not only does it cost less, but you can also pay extra attention to cleaning the tires, removing bug splatter, wiping the windows, and any other details.

With that said, you may think there’s not much that goes into washing a car. It’s just a bucket of soapy water, a sponge, and a hose, right? Well, there’s actually quite a bit of technique that goes into it! Ready to wash your car like a pro? Press play on the 1970s disco song “Car Wash” and follow these steps below!

And when it’s clean and ready to go for a spin, make sure you’re covered with car insurance. Call, click, or come in for a quote or to review your existing Direct policy.

How to wash your car infographic step by stepOK

Wash Materials:

  • Garden hose with nozzle

Connect to a water line.

  • Car-wash detergent

Don’t use abrasive household detergents like dish soap or laundry detergent on the body of the car.

  • 2 medium-sized buckets

Use one bucket for washing, the other for rinsing.

  • Natural sea sponge and/or microfiber, sheepskin, or lamb’s wool wash mitt

Avoid regular washcloths, dishcloths, and rags which can cause light scratches and swirl marks on your car’s finish.
Microfiber drying towels

Dry your car spot free.

  • Soft-bristle wheel and tire brush

Scrub the rims and rubber tires with a scratch-free brush.

  • Grit guard

Place in the bucket to separate grit in the water from your natural sponge or wash mitt.

  • Bug-and-tar remover

Loosen hard to remove insects, bird droppings, tar, and sap.

  • Wheel and tire cleaner

Remove brake dust, grease, road grime, and dirt easier with a specialized cleaner.

  • Glass cleaner

Make your windows sparkle.

Step 1: Prep your car.

  • Park your car in the shade to prevent soap suds from drying in the sunlight and forming spots on the paint and glass.
  • Lift the windshield wiper arms off the windshield.
  • Rinse the car and wheels with a garden hose to loosen any dirt.
  • Spray a specialized bug and tar remover on the front and let sit.

Step 2: Start with the tires.

  • Apply a specialized wheel and tire cleaner to your wheels to remove baked-in brake dust, salt, grease, and road grime.
  • Clean the tires and rims with a soft-bristle brush, or wipe the rims separately with a natural sea sponge for extra-gentle cleaning.
  • Rinse off with the garden hose.
  • Finish one wheel before moving on to the next one.
  • When finished, empty the bucket of dirty water, and thoroughly rinse all cleaning materials.

Step 3: Wash the car.

  • Add car-wash detergent to a clean bucket and fill it with water. Fill the other bucket with plain water.
  • Place a grit guard at the bottom of your wash and rinse buckets.
  • Dunk a clean microfiber, sheepskin, or lamb’s wool wash mitt into the soapy bucket of water.
  • Start soaping your car from the top and wash down to the bottom, including the front of the car where you sprayed the specialized bug and tar remover.
  • Rinse your cleaning mitt in the fresh water before dunking it back into the soapy bucket. This is called the two-bucket wash method.
  • Hose the car down with fresh water after washing each section.

Step 4: Dry the car.

To dry your car without swirls and scratches, swipe and drag a microfiber drying towel across the car’s roof, flat surfaces, and crevices, working your way down to the wheels.  Spray each window inside and out with a glass cleaner and wipe with a fresh microfiber towel. Use a fresh towel for the rims and tires, windows, and body of the car.

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