Cars get mucky, it’s a fact of life.
A crazy amount of people would never even consider cleaning their car themselves, but it’s easy to clean like a pro – just as long as you have the right equipment.
It could also save you some money too – but only if you get the steps right. Here we consulted an expert car detailer to help create this step-by-step guide to getting your car clean, in the safest and best way possible.
1. Get it wet
Never, and we mean never, start washing a dry car. It must be wet for optimum results. Ideally use a pressure washer, but not everyone has the access to one, so at the very least use a hosepipe with a nozzle attachment to wet the car first.
2. Pre-cleaning is the way forward
A pre-cleaner can come in the form of a snowfoam – used with a pressure washer – or as a diluted all-purpose cleaner. These can be sprayed on, left for several minutes, and then washed off. The idea is to remove as much dirt as possible before you even touch the car.
3. Bin that old sponge
You probably have an old sponge lurking at the back of your shed, but for the sake of your paint, bin it. In short, sponges mean swirls – unsightly wash marks that detract from the look of your paint – so never use them. Instead use a wash mitt, made from either lamb’s wool or microfibre.
4. Two buckets
Yes, you probably only own just one bucket, but they’re cheap so you might as well buy another. The idea is you have one filled with clean water and one with shampoo, and don’t mix them. Dunk the mitt in the shampoo, clean the car, rinse it in the clean water, and repeat.
Washing-up liquid is for dishes, not cars, so don’t use it. It contains bleach and ammonia that break down the wax on the paint, leading to dull paint, and in extreme cases, can even lead to the paint cracking. Dedicated car shampoos should always be used instead.
5. Use grit guards
Grit guards are effectively small plastic guards that sit at the bottom of the bucket. They trap the dirt, meaning you can’t reach it with your mitt, meaning less paint marring. They are a worthy investment.
6. Wash top to bottom and in straight lines
It goes without saying that the most dirt lies near the bottom of the car. To avoid rubbing it around, clean the top areas first. This means roof and windows first, sills and mud flaps last. Cleaning in straight lines will mean less swirls in the paint.
7. Don’t forget your wheels
Clean wheels make or break the cleanliness of a car, so don’t overlook them. Specialist cleaners and brushes can both be used, but providing your wheels aren’t too filthy, they aren’t always needed.
8. Suds away
Never let suds dry on the car, so rinse them off straight away. Cleaning and rinsing section by section tends to work best.
The sun is a pain when it comes to car cleaning, so be very careful about not letting water dry on the car and be quite picky about when you choose to wash your car.
9. Throw the chamois away
It’s probably ingrained in your memory that a chamois is a good way to dry a car, but this is no longer the case. A chamois can trap dust or grit left on the car, leading to light scratches. Plush microfibre towels are what you should be using, because of their deep pile.
Don’t ever let a car dry on its own, instead use a microfibre towel to dry every surface, being careful to wipe up any drips coming from panel gaps and from wing mirrors.
10. Add protection
There’s nothing quite like giving a clean car a once-over with some spray wax. It will remove any leftover water marks, add a layer of protection – allowing for an easier clean next time – and make the car look extra glossy.
11. Don’t forget the tyres and glass
Finishing touches are important, and while there are too many to name, the glass and tyres are the basics. Clean the glass using a good quality glass cleaner, and not one you use for your house windows. Applying tyre shine also makes a huge difference, and is quick to do.
And there you have it, one extremely clean car. If you are wanting to take it a step further, we strongly recommend polishing your car. Look out for a future guide we will be doing about how to polish a car properly, helping you to have your car to look its absolute best.
by Ted Welford