Giving Your Car a Thorough Wash: A Step-by-Step Guide From blog: Giving Your Car a Thorough Wash: A Step-by-Step Guide From

The best way to maintain a new-car finish is to wash the vehicle frequently, but improper washing techniques can dull or even damage a car’s paint job over time. The car care experts at suggest washing your car once a week, using the following steps for giving your car a thorough, yet gentle, wash.

Set the Scene

Gather a bucket, car washing detergent, wheel cleaning solution, bug and tar remover, a large sponge, a soft cloth, a nylon brush, towels or a chamois cloth, and a squeegee. If the car’s body is hot from being parked in direct sunlight or from being recently driven, allow the metal to cool down before you begin to wash it. The team reminds drivers that excessive heat shortens drying time, which can leave spots and unsightly dried soap deposits behind.


Hose down the entire vehicle to rinse off surface dirt and debris. If your garden hose has a nozzle attachment, focus the stream on heavily soiled areas to loosen dried mud, dead bugs or other matter stuck to the car. Pre-washing your car with plain water helps reduce the amount of time you’ll spend scrubbing later on. Don’t forget to spray the wheels.

Lather and Rinse

Using the wheel cleaner and your brush and sponge, clean the wheels first. Doing them first helps keep wheel grime from splattering all over your freshly cleaned vehicle. Clean and rinse each wheel one at a time.

Next, clean the rest of the car, using a cleanser created specifically for washing cars. Floor cleaners, dishwashing soap and hand soap are not compatible with painted surfaces and may strip protective wax off the paint job. Prepare the soap according to the package directions, then apply suds using a big, soft sponge or lamb’s wool mitt. The experts at recommend starting with the roof, and cleaning and rinsing the car in small sections. Focus on one area at a time, such as one fender, one door or the hood. Cleaning and rinsing small sections ensures that the soap doesn’t have time to dry before you rinse it off.

Use long strokes instead of a circular motion when cleaning with your hand. Using a circular motion can eventually leave swirl marks in the paint. To avoid scratching the surface, make sure to rinse the sponge or mitt frequently to remove sand and other buildup that can potentially scratch the paint.

Use the nylon brush and a bug and tar remover to clean the lower edges of the body and other areas where road tar and grease deposits tend to collect.

When rinsing, remove any nozzle attachments from the hose and let the water gently cascade down the surface. If you notice any lingering dirt after the suds are gone, go over those spots again before moving on to another section of the car.

Drying Tips

Don’t let the car air-dry by leaving it to sit or driving it around the block. This uneven drying will leave unsightly spots behind on paint, glass and chrome. Instead, use a squeegee to remove excess water and then blot up remaining moisture with a chamois cloth or soft cotton towel.

Preventive Maintenance

The team advises you to always clean off bird droppings, dead bugs, tree sap and other residue as soon as possible instead of waiting for your next big car wash. These substances can release acids that dissolve protective car wax and permanently mar the paint.