How to Wash Your Car By Hand

Steps for your home car wash

Nothing makes your car look better than a good wash. It’s a critical step if you’re selling your used car, but even if you're not, it's important for good maintenance and to help you enjoy your ride. The best car wash can happen in your driveway with a hose, some soap, cleaning mitts and a few buckets of water. Pick a good location. You don’t want to clean the car in direct sunlight or direct heat as the soap will dry onto the car before you can rinse it off. Aim to wash the car in the early morning or late evening and don’t wash it near a dusty road or under a tree where buds, bugs and leaves can fall and stick to the car. Make sure your hose has a nozzle with enough pressure to spray the car and one that allows you to stop the water flow when you want. This way you’re not running water throughout the entire process.

  1. Focus on the wheels

    • Use a hose with a nozzle that provides good water pressure to spray the wheels of the car. The wheels contain the most dirt and debris so you want to clean them first.
    • Spray around the wheel wells, as well as the undercarriage to get rid of brake dust, dirt and to clear out any road salt left behind from winter.
    • Clean the wheels with a cleaner that’s made for tires – some cleaners work best with certain paints or types of aluminum and you can typically find this information in your owner’s manual. You don’t want to damage your wheels by using the wrong product.
    • Once you’ve finished with each of your wheels, put that mitt or chamois aside – you don’t want to use this on the rest of the car or you’ll risk transferring all that tire dirt and debris to your car and scratching the paint.
  2. Prep and lather

    • Spray the entire vehicle with water to rinse away surface dirt and to give your vehicle a good coating of water. Pay attention to all the cracks and crevices and make sure you cover the entire vehicle.
    • Prepare two buckets of water – one without soap and one with soap. Use a cleaning solution that’s specific to cars as a household cleaner could strip wax off the paint or damage the finish. A professional car cleaning solution will also allow the water to sheet and bead off, making the drying process quicker and reducing the likelihood of water spots.
    • When you’re filling the buckets, follow the instructions on the cleaner so you use the right amount of solution. You’ll use the soapy bucket to lather up your mitt or chamois with soap for the car and the bucket of water will be used to rinse dirt and debris from the mitt after you’re done cleaning each area. It’s important that the cleaning mitt is free of dirt or else it can scratch the paint as you clean.
    • You want to work your way down as you wash the car and clean it in sections. Start with the roof. Use the mitt to make one swipe, flip it over to swipe again and then rinse it. Don’t try to scrub or rub off the dirt. As you finish each section, give that area a rinse so soap doesn’t just sit there. Clean the back of the car last, as this is an area with a lot of dirt.
    • If during the cleaning process the mitt falls on the ground, rinse it very thoroughly before even considering using it on the car. Dirt and gravel could have gotten lodged into the mitt in the fall and you don’t want to be rubbing that into the car’s surface.
  3. Rinse and dry
    • Once you’ve washed up each section of the car, remove the nozzle from the hose and use the free-flowing water to rinse the vehicle. Start with the top and again, work your way down, making sure you don’t leave any soap behind.
    • The final step is to use a dry chamois or a microfibre cloth to gently and thoroughly dry the vehicle. Avoid household towels and instead use the cloth to drape the vehicle, with little rubbing or pressure. Squeeze water from the cloth as you continue to dry until you’ve reached every spot and you’ve got a streak-free finish that shines!
    • It’s inevitable – as soon as you’ve taken the time to clean your car, a flock of birds fly over and leave their mark. While it’s hard to prevent, it is important to clean up after. Wipe off bird poop as soon as possible as the highly-acidic droppings can damage your car’s finish.