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How to Clean Your Car Like A Pro and Keep It Looking New

How to Clean Your Car Like A Pro and Keep It Looking New

If you are like me, then washing your car by hand is not only therapeutic, but it also gives you a good chance to walk around the vehicle and identify any minor scratches and dents that need attention, which another person might otherwise miss. In addition, this is also a great way to keep the car looking new for the longest time possible.

This process may sound simple or obvious to someone who has been doing it all their life, but if you just bought your first car and have no idea where to begin, then this guide is for you.  You will also want to avoid washing the car in direct sunlight, always look for a shady spot to eliminate the potential of water marks build-up.

When Is the Best Time to Wash My Car?

This is a question often asked by new car owners, but contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to wash your car too frequently unless you are driving on dirt roads most of the time. In addition, the season and weather conditions will determine how frequently you should wash the car.

During winter there is a lot more grime and salt on the roads and this makes people feel that they should wash their cars more frequently. But on the contrary, the increased dirt and salt increases the chances of damaging the car paintwork when washing.

For this reason, you are better off leaving off cleaning for about a month as long as the paintwork is protected with a good wax and or sealant to keep off grime, and the car is not too dirty. 

Come spring, most car owners invest a little more time in quick maintenance washes and detailing and this helps see the car though the worst season, and that is winter. You can give the car another full detailing session in autumn just before the big freeze kicks in.

while knowing what to do in what season is critical, you also need to use the right products for best results. That said, a weekly wash is optimum during warmer weather.

Tools and Products That You Need

To get the best results and not damage your car, you need the right tools and equipment for the job. The tools that you choose need to be gentle on the paint, but effective enough to remove grime and dirt.

Wherever you can, always get mitts and sponges that have a deep nap as opposed to dense sponges or flat weave towels that tend to scratch the paint. In addition, always rinse new sponges to remove any dirt residue before using.

You might also want to consider the Sheepskin Wash Mitt, which is very soft and plush. Its fibers are gentle on the paint, while its nap crevasses are deep enough to accommodate loose sand and dirt ensuring paint protection. Wool is a natural product, but its downside is that it does not last very long compared to a microfiber mitt, but for that luxe feel, you can never go wrong with wool.

The other paint safe option is Micro-chenille wash mitts. The microfiber combination of polyamide and polyester make it possible to wash the car without swirling or scratching the paint.

Instead, the cloth traps grit and grime within the fibers as opposed to leaving them on the vehicles surface, which could potentially cause scratches. Once you are done washing the vehicle, be sure to rinse off the mitt to release the dirt particles and keep it ready for the next wash.

Here is a list of tools and equipment that you need to wash your car:

  • Pressure Washer
  • Snow foam lance/garden weed sprayer
  • Two buckets (at the minimum)
  • Wash mitt plus a good quality detailing sponge
  • Plenty of clean microfiber cloths
  • Wheel brush
  • Car washing wax
  • Super absorbent drying towel

The washing process – bucket option

 The first thing that you need to do is wet the entire car to loosen off dirt and grim and make it easier to wash it off. A hose with pressure washer will come in handy for this step, and if neither is available, then you can splash on a few buckets of water all over the car.

Wheels and tires

Then need to wash is the wheels and tires before the body. The reason why you need to wash them first is that in case you splash wheel cleaner onto the body then you can simply rinse it off. Ensure that the cleaner you are using is safe for the wheels, it is water based and does not contain corrosive chemicals to avoid damage on the wheels and rubber.

Wash each wheel at a time using a wheel brush to clean the wheels without scratching before you move on to the next one. When you have finished cleaning the wheels, rinse off the bucket before you begin the next step.

Car body

After washing the wheels, now it is time to clean the body. Begin by filling one bucket with clean water and a lubricant rich car washing liquid. Remember that the main goal of washing the car is to remove dirt and grime, and at the same time lubricate the paint to protect it from dirt and weather elements.

You might be asking, so why can’t I use dish washing liquid to wash the car? It’s because such a detergent removes the paint’s protective coating exposing it harsh abrasive elements.

Preventing swirl marks

It is imperative that you prevent swirl marks if you actually want to keep your car looking newer for longer. The first thing that you can do is use two buckets; fill one bucket with soapy water and the other one clean water. Every time you use the wash clothe and need to reload with more soapy water, rinse it in the clean water first to remove any dirt grit particles, then dip in the soapy water and continue washing the car. 

Better still, you could invest in a grit guard, which is a perforated piece of plastic that sits at the bottom of your wash bucket and helps stabilize the waste. Dirt and grit settle at the bottom of the bucket and when you stir the water it does not come up, which means that each time you get grit free soapy water.


Once you are done rubbing soapy water all over the vehicle, you need to rinse the car thoroughly to remove all debris and soap residue. Begin from the top going down, not forgetting that the lower parts of the car are usually the dirtiest.

The best and easiest way to rinse if by using a hose and just spray water on the car’s body. You can also use a bucket with clean water and using a smaller container splash on water, and this is especially helpful where a hose is not available of you have low water pressure.

Foam gun option

If you do not fancy using a hose and bucket, then you can use the foam gun option. Ideally, this pre-soaks the vehicle in soapy suds that help lubricate and loosen grime. The gun works with your water hose to deliver soapy water all over the vehicle, and ensures soap reaches every crevasse for optimum cleaning.

This method is best used when the car is less dirty, so if you fancy washing the car more frequently, this method may be ideal for you.

Once you finish applying soapy water, you change the nozzle and rinse the car with the pressure washer. This method ensures that you do not touch the car, helping you reduce swirl marks and keep the paintwork looking newer for longer.


When you have finished rinsing the car, then you need to dry out the water to prevent water spots from building up. When you allow the car to dry on its own, then mineral deposits found in water create an outline for every drop and this over time causes unsightly water marks that you definitely want to avoid.

When it comes to drying the car, you want to do it as fast as possible especially in warmer weather when water tends to dry up pretty quickly. Get a highly absorbent lint free cloth such as chamois to dry out the water on the car body, windows and windshield. Here are some helpful drying tips:

  • Begin by drying the mirrors, windows and windshield first
  • Use a large towel to remove most of the water on the rest of the body, the larger the piece of cloth, the more water it absorbs at a time.
  • After you have dried the outer body, open the doors and wipe down the door jambs, open the trunk and wipe the jambs and the hood as well if you find it necessary.
  • Lastly, dry the wheel using a towel or chamois cloth that specifically designated for the wheels. Using this cloth on the rest of the body will cause contamination, and don’t forget to rinse all the cloths used after drying.

Finishing touches

To finish off the job, use a spray sealant or wax to rejuvenate the shine, but if you plan of applying a coat of wax, you can skip this step.

Key Things to Remember When Washing Your Car

  • Avoid washing your car in direct sunlight.
  • Wet the car before you begin contact washing.
  • Use two buckets, with one containing soapy water and the other clean water to rinse off the washing sponge or cloth.
  • Choose the detergent or shampoo depending on the paintwork, and only use detergents designated for washing cars.
  • Always dry the car after washing using a highly absorbent drying towel.

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