How to Wash a Car

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It is a good idea to take your car through the car wash and spray it off regularly, but it is also good to give it a thorough hand-washing from time to time. Hand-washing a car lets you see every inch of the surface in a way you might not normally see it, which can tip you off to things, such as stone chips in the paint, that you might need to repair.

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Before You Begin

Find a shady spot to park your car, but not a spot under a tree. If you park under a tree to wash your car, you might end up with leaves, tree sap or bird droppings on your freshly washed car. This is also a good time to put the windows up if they aren't already.

Warning

  • Do not use household or personal cleaning products, such as dish detergent or hand soap, on your car, because they can strip the protective wax coating off of your car.

Gather Car-Washing Supplies

Even in the shade, heat quickly dries water and soap on a car's surface, so gather your car-washing supplies before you begin washing. This will allow you to work quickly so that you can avoid soap and water spots becoming crusted on your paint and windows.

Things You'll Need

  • Car wash soap
  • Bucket
  • Tap water
  • Garden hose 
  • 2 car-washing sponges
  • Rags (optional)
  • Chamois or soft terry cloth towels
  • Wheel cleaner 
  • Soft bristled brush (optional)

Step 1: Prepare the Cleaner

Pour a capful of car wash cleaner into a bucket and fill it a little over halfway with tap water. Car wash soap is specially designed to clean a car's exterior surfaces without stripping off wax, and it is typically sold alongside wax and car-detailing products in stores. Toss the first sponge in the bucket to let it soak up water and cleaner.

Step 2: Use the Garden Hose First

Spray water all over the car, starting at the top and working down the body of the car.

Step 3: Wash the Roof

Wash the top of the car first by squishing most of the excess water out of the sponge, then begin washing. Rinse the top as soon as you finish to ensure that the cleaning product does not dry on your car's paint. Blot the excess water off with your chamois or a terry cloth towel.

Tip

    • Run the sponge lengthwise along your car's body panels rather than in circles to avoid creating small, swirled scratches in the paint. 
    • If you drop the sponge while working, rinse it thoroughly before touching it against your paint, because it might pick up stones or debris that might scratch your paint. 

Step 4: Wash the Car's Body

  • Wash the car's body in sections, one panel at a time. 
  • Spray each panel with the garden hose again before washing with the sponge and cleaner. Rinse immediately after washing. 
  • If the water is not drying too fast, complete one whole side of the car before drying. 
  • If the water is drying quickly, dry each panel as soon as you finish washing. 

Step 5: Wash the Wheel and Tires

  • Spray wheel and tire cleaner on the wheels and tires. 
  • Using the second sponge, a brush or a rag, rub the cleaner into the tires to remove any remaining road dirt. 
  • Check your product's label to see if it needs to be washed off with water or buffed with a clean rag to complete the project.
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