How To Wash Your Car

How To Wash Your Car – Car Wash Detailing

Car wash detailing

You have spent a lot of money the purchase of your car, truck or SUV, now the question arises, “How do I properly take care of it?”. The answer is very important when it comes to retaining the value of your car which which can be drastically reduced by premature aging.

There are many opinions on how to properly maintain a vehicles appearance, and while most of the tips in this article are not new, they may still help you think about things in a differently.

Car enthusiasts range from those who religiously wash or quick detail their car daily, to those who like caring for their car but only get the chance to wash them weekly or bi-weekly. Both categories of enthusiasts cringe at the very thought of taking their car to an automatic car wash, also known as “automatic swirl factories.”! In this article I hope to give you some ideas and tips that will help you maintain your car’s appearance and teach you ways to avoid, or at least minimize creating swirl marks in your finish.

Microfiber Wash Mitt

Ask any group of car enthusiasts which company makes better car, truck or SUV? Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Honda, Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche or Audi? You get the idea, everyone has their opinion! To say that everyone has a favorite is an understatement, yet there are some basics that make an item one of the “best” for its intended use.

Wash mitts can be microfiber, synthetic and genuine wool. My favorite is the insanely plush genuine wool wash mitts like the Mr. Wash Mitts.   They are soft, hold lots of suds and they rinse clean. You will want to avoid shop rags, old t-shirts, and beach towels as the nap, or thickness of these items is so small that you can easily exert too much force onto the wash surface and inadvertently push surface dirt around instilling swirls in your paint. Also, these wash rags do not release trapped dirt as easily. The thicker mitts offer room for dirt to hide away from your car’s surface until your mitt is rinsed.


In choosing a bucket you usually have two choices, 5 gallon or 3.5 gallon. I find the smaller 3.5 are a little too small to get the job done with plenty of fresh car wash solution but with water weighing 8.35 pounds per gallon it is difficult to lug a big bucket around your car. The solution is to put your bucket on wheels! The car wash buckets with dollies, like the Sonus Professional Bucket with Grit Guard® Insert make it much easier to quickly wash your entire vehicle. Many come with lids so you can store your car wash shampoo, mitt and brushes right inside the bucket to keep them handy for the next wash.

One of the greatest ideas to come along is the “two bucket method” of car washing. As the name implies you use two separate buckets to wash your car. One bucket holds the soapy car wash water, the other holds clean, clear rinse water so you can rinse your mitt. After you wash down you car with car wash shampoo, just rinse your wash mitt in the clear water. This keeps those dirt particles you just picked up from the vehicle surface from going back into the clean car wash solution and being picked up again by the wash mitt. This brings me to my next topic….Grit Guard® Inserts!! If you aren’t using them…you need to be!!! The Grit Guard® Insert is a round plastic insert “grate” that sits on the bottom of your bucket suspended from the bottom by four lateral fins. Dirt from your wash mitt drops to the bottom of the bucket and kept below the mitt ensuring that your wash mitt doesn’t pick up the dirt you just took off of the car. When you finish washing your car and lift the Grit Guard® Insert up to see the dirt, you will know what I mean!


Yes, your hose nozzle is an important part of your car wash procedure too. There is noting like trying to wash your car with an inadequate or leaky hose nozzle. A good nozzle with a wide range of control and no leaks is a must! I use the Ultimate Stainless Steel Hose Nozzle and it offers a wide range of spray patterns as well as the very important open flow. This is especially important when rinsing your car to get the water to sheet off which will cut down on drying time and the possibility of water spots. It is also designed so you can set it down quickly without hitting a handle and giving yourself a shower.


Over the years, car wash shampoos have come a long way. There was a day when we all just grabbed dish soap out of the kitchen and went to wash the car but those days are over! Dish soap is designed to eat away grease and oils and they works great for washing dishes but we need to leave it in the kitchen! The harsh dish soaps wreak havoc on car wax, plastic moldings and can dry out your rubber seals!

Some of the formulations that make up a great car wash shampoo are foaming ability, lubricity or slickness, ph, concentration, gentleness and even gloss enhancers. All of these factors, and the care and skill of the manufacturer, contribute to why various car shampoos cost more than others. Modern high quality car wash shampoos, like the Sonus Gloss Shampoo should clean a car’s surface while enhancing the gloss as it leaves the underlying car wax, protectant or sealant intact. Cheap no name car wash soaps lack many of the refinements of the more higher end line of products. You will also find that the cost of the bottle of car wash shampoo does not necessarily mean it is less expensive. The high end car wash shampoos tend to cost more but they are also more concentrated for if you do the math, you may find that you are actually getting a better deal with the better car wash shampoo.


Drying Towels is another area where best is determined by the end user. Currently the two most popular options out there for drying your car are waffle weave microfiber towels and synthetic PVA towels. The PVA “synthetic chamois” or towels are the rubbery towels used by divers and swimmers at the Olympics. They are generally smaller and rubber-like in feel. They hold a large amount of water, wring out easily, and last a very long time.

Microfiber drying towels, like the Sonus Der Wunder Microfiber Drying Towels are my personal performance, come in various sizes but in my opinion the most effective. Their waffle weave acts like little pockets and trap tons of water and when used properly are extremely gentle on your vehicles surface. I use two to dry car to ensure a spot and streak free finish. The first towel picks up the majority of water and the second towel picks up any residual moisture ensuring a streak free finish. It is also nice to be able to wash them with my other microfiber detailing towels so I have a fresh clean towel each time I wash my car. Keep in mind that just like other products, there is a huge difference in quality when it comes to microfiber towels, they are not all the same so be sure to use only the highest quality towels.


Now that we’ve discussed the tools for the job, let me just give you a rundown of how to wash your car in a manner that gets it clean and reduces the chances of your putting swirls into the paint.

  • Always wash your car in the shade! Why? Well simple, you don’t want the water, be it the rinse water or the car wash solution, drying on the vehicle. Remember, we are trying to make your car look better than when you started! On that note, if at all possible, try to wash your car on a relatively calm day. You would be shocked at how even a slight breeze can put particulates and dirt into the air. These dust particles are attracted to the wash/rinse water on your vehicle and act like sandpaper when rubbed between the drying towel and vehicle surface. The breeze will also tend to dry your car for you and cause streaks and water spots.
  • Use two buckets with a Grit Guard® Insert in each bucket. One is for your car wash shampoo solution and the other is clean rinse water for your wash mitt.
  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket 2/3 full with cool water. Add recommended amount of car wash shampoo to the water. Using a stiff jet of water, fill bucket to fully activate suds. Fill the second bucket with clean, water for rinsing your mitt.
  • Thoroughly rinse the vehicle’s surface to remove the accumulated loose dirt and grime before you begin your car wash procedure.
  • Only use high quality car shampoos and wash mitts.
  • When washing your vehicle remember to always go from high to low, never the opposite. Generally the dirtiest parts of your vehicle are those parts closest to the ground. Wheel wells, rocker panels and bumpers tend to have the largest accumulation of grunge and you don’t want to bring that junk back onto the paint surface and risk scratching it. A trick that I use here is to load up a wash mitt with my car wash solution and wring it out over the wash surface. This acts like a “pre-soak” and helps loosen surface gunk It also adds more sudsy water to my surface.
  • Keep your wash areas small and rinse your mitt frequently. Don’t try to wash the car in one fell swoop. (Unless it’s a Smart car of course.)
  • Wash in straight, overlapping lines as opposed to circles and remember to be gentle with the wash mitt on the first pass.. This first pass picks up the initial junk, and loosens the remaining dirt and gunk for pick up on the second pass.
  • Rinse your vehicle by opening up your hose nozzle or removing the nozzle if you don’t have an open flow option and letting water run or sheet over the surface instead of spraying. This helps in two ways. First, generally when water has “sheeted” off of a surface it tends to leave less residual droplets behind. This means less to drying time. Second, since there is less water to pick up, there is less chance of your leaving water behind to “spot” the vehicle.
  • When you dry your car, use only high quality microfiber waffle weave drying towels and wring out often. Gently dry the surface without much pressure. You don’t need to rub the surface…you’re just picking up the bulk of the water! Once you have picked up the bulk of the water, and the first towel is saturated, use the second towel to lightly pick up any remaining streaks or droplets.
  • Lastly, if your wax is still in good shape, go over the vehicle with a quick detail spray and plush microfiber buffing towel to restore a radiance and slickness to the paint. This last step will give your vehicle that “just detailed” look by enhancing gloss will also remove any sneaky water spots or streaks that showed up when you weren’t looking.

Well as you can see we have come a long way from a metal pail and dish soap. Hopefully some of the tips here will help you improve your washing technique and help you see better results from your hard work.

Lynn Matthews

“The Car Girl”

Product Technical Support and Training Specialist

Premium Finish Care

Copyright 2010 by Lynn Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

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