How to Wash a Car at Home

Washing and caring for your car at home is simple, as long as you follow some easy steps and keep these tips in mind.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
In addition to protecting your vehicle with
car insurance
, you also need to protect its exterior by washing it regularly. For many vehicle owners, keeping their ride clean is extremely important.
If left to sit on the surface of your car and on your car's paint, irritants such as dirt, pollen, and tree sap can damage its finish and paint job, lessening its value. Many experts recommend that you wash your car at least once a week, though this can get expensive if you take your vehicle to a
car wash
or detailer.
Fortunately, most vehicle owners have the option of washing their vehicle at home. By following the steps below, you can easily keep your car clean and looking great.
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What you need to wash your car at home

Before you wash your car, you’ll need to gather some materials. The items you need to wash your car at home include:
  • Water: The best source for this is the water from your water hose.
  • Soap: A soap designed for use with vehicles is best.
  • Buckets: You’ll need at least two.
  • Cleaning mitts
    /sponges/towels: Cleaning mitts/towels to apply the soap and scrub your vehicle clean.
  • Scrubbing brush
    : Useful for tougher dirt and debris, including bird droppings and bug splatters.
  • Pro Tip! Don’t use dish detergent or another household cleaner, as these can strip the protective wax off of your vehicle and
    its surface. Use products specifically designed for washing your car because they tend to be milder.

Preparing your car to wash at home

Once you’ve gathered all of your materials, you next need to prepare the car for washing. Here is a three-step process to prepare to handwash your car at home.
Step 1: Start by finding a nice, shady spot to wash your car. Alternatively, you can park it in the garage if you have the room and don’t mind getting soap, water, dirt, and grime on the floor.
Step 2: Next, get your materials set up so that they are easily accessible. This will allow you to move through the car-cleaning process quickly and easily.
Step 3: Fill your buckets with water. Make sure to add the soap to one of the buckets.
Tip Avoid washing your car on a hot day. The best weather and temperature to wash your car is on a cloudy day when the temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees.

How to wash your car at home

Once you’re set up, the car-washing process can begin. When washing your car, you need to follow a specific order to ensure that you get it as clean as possible.

Pre-rinse your car

Start by pre-rinsing your car. Beginning at the roof of your car, apply water to the exterior using a strong jet of water from your hose. Work your way down to the bottom of the body of the car as you do so. Point the hose downward so that any dirt and debris is washed downward toward the ground.
You should also scrub the wheels at this point using a long-handled wheel brush to help loosen up the dirt and debris gathered on them. While you’re down there, give the undercarriage a good rinse as well. This is especially important in colder climates during the winter months, as the salt used on the roadways can build up there, causing rust and corrosion.

Apply the soap

Once you’re done pre-rinsing your car, it’s time to apply the soap. Start by dividing the body of your car into sections, and then, beginning at the top, start applying the soapy water to the exterior of your car.
Using a fully saturated mitt, sponge, or towel, work slowly to remove the dirt, rinsing the mitt/sponge/towel in the bucket of clean water before re-soaking the sponge with soapy water as needed. As you finish with each section, make sure to rinse it off to keep the soap from drying.
Tip When applying the soap, use two buckets, one with soapy water and one with clean water. Use the soapy water first to apply the soap to a section, followed by rinsing your cleaning mitt/towel before moving onto the next section.

Remove bird droppings and bug splatters

You should also remove any bird dropping,
bug splatter
, or hard-to-remove stains at this time. You might need cleaner designed specifically for this. Just make sure not to use a scrubber, as this can damage the paint of your car. Rinse off when completed.

Dry your car

Once the dirt and debris has been removed from your vehicle and it has been thoroughly rinsed, it’s time to dry the surface of your car. Working in sections as in the previous step, use a clean microfiber towel to remove any excess moisture and soap from the vehicle’s exterior.
As a final step of the drying process, run a towel around the bottom edge of the vehicle to remove any run-off. Finally, if needed, you can apply
or wax to the vehicle’s surface to really make it shine.

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