12 Step Car Wash Guide

You’ve invested in a car that you want to take care of, you want to keep it looking its best, so how do you clean your car properly? Head straight for the local machine car wash? Break out the mop bucket and sponge? Absolutely not!

How to clean your car is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood areas of car care. Every time you use the machine wash or even wash by hand but with the wrong equipment and techniques, chances are you’re actually scratching your paint surface in the process.

Dust and dirt particles that cling to your car essentially act like fine sandpaper on the surface of your paint the instant you go to wipe them away. If you look closely at most cars you’ll see scratches that appear to radiate outward in a “cob-web” effect from a central light source like the reflection of the sun. These are known as swirl marks and are the result of improper washing and drying techniques. They’re caused when grit is abraded against the paint’s surface. Swirl marks on cars are extremely common, but thankfully removing them is something you can do yourself.


In this blog we’ll give you some techniques to help maintain your car’s appearance and show you how to avoid creating swirl marks on your car.

Snow Foam & Car Pre Wash

The detailing concept when it comes to washing your car is simple: You need to remove as much dirt and grit from the painted surface as possible before you physically touch it with anything because as soon as you do, you risk adding scratches. So, before you make contact with the car you should use a car Pre Wash or Snow Foam product – You can read the full article on Pre Wash and Snow Foam here

What both of these products do is soften, loosen and lift dirt and grit away from the paint. The Snow Foam / Pre Wash is applied and left to dwell and then washed off with a pressure washer.


How to Wash Your Car

When it comes to washing your car, the first thing you want to do is throw out that bright yellow synthetic sponge – Grit gets trapped in the bubbles and essentially acts as a scouring pad on your paint! The best tool for the job is a specialist wash mitt, you want something with long microfiber ‘fingers’ that will lift and trap the dirt and grit away from the paint. The Poorboys Microfiber Chenille Wash Mitt is our best seller and a personal favorite.

Your first pass with the wash mitt should be light, applying as little pressure as possible. The first pass will remove the majority of the remaining dirt, so regular rinsing is advisable. Wash in straight lines that overlap rather than in a circular motion.

Use the two bucket system:

Put the household mop bucket to one side and invest in a 2 bucket system with Grit Guards. Grit Guards slip into the bottom of your bucket and allow the grit to settle at the bottom of your bucket away from your wash-mitt. One bucket holds the soapy car wash solution and the other holds clean, water to rinse your mitt after each pass over the car. This keeps the dirt particles you just picked up from going back into the clean car wash solution and being picked up again by the wash mitt.


Car Wash Shampoo

Traits of a high quality car wash are foaming ability, pH balance, concentration, lubricity, gentleness and gloss enhancing ability. The best car wash shampoos will clean your car’s surface, enhance the gloss and leave the car wax, paint protectant or paint sealant intact. Cheaper, high street brands, while seemingly good value generally don’t do all of the above.

If you’re not sure which shampoo is best for you, it’s often a good idea to use the same brand as you use for your car wax or sealant as you can be sure that they will work together well. Some of our personal favorites are  Autoglym Polar Wash and Power Maxed Car Shampoo and Ultra Wax


For the best results, be sure to follow the dilution guidelines on whichever car shampoo you decide on. Use a strong jet of water to ensure the shampoo is thoroughly mixed.

Load up your wash mitt with your car wash solution and wring it out over the surface you’re about to wash. This acts like another pre-wash and can help lift the remaining surface dirt. It also adds more sudsy water to the surface and more lubricity helps safely wash the dirt away without scratching.

Drying your Car

When it comes to drying the car you want to use a towel that will absorb as much water as possible as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of any water spots.

The most popular option for drying is the Dodo Juice Basics of Bling Drying Towel and the Mammoth Microfiber Uber Guzzler Waffle Weave Drying Towel are very soft, safe and effective.

Generally, it only takes two towels to dry an average size car. Use the first towel absorb most of the water and then follow up with the second towel to ensure a spot and streak free finish.

Chamois Leathers or their synthetic alternatives are an option but aren’t as gentle, they also tend to be more expensive so we don’t generally recommend them.

So that covers all the principals of a safe car washing technique. Here’s all the info above in a more concise format for you to take away or print out:


12 Step Car Wash Guide

  1. Do it in the shade! – despite many manufacturers claiming their products are safe to use in direct sunlight it’s always best practice to work in the shade on cool body panels where possible
  2. Do the alloy wheels first. This will prevent splashback to clean paintwork later on.
  3. Snow Foam or Prewash to loosen surface dirt before you go anywhere near the car! Allow to dwell for 5 minutes but without allowing it to dry.
  4. Use the 2 bucket method with Grit Guard Inserts:  One bucket  for your shampoo solution and the other bucket for clean water to rinse your wash mitt.
  5. ¾ Fill bucket 1 with cool water. Add your preferred car shampoo in the correct dilution and use a strong jet of water to mix the solution and fully activate suds. Fill bucket 2 with clean water for rinsing your wash mitt.
  6. Thoroughly Power wash the Pre Wash solution or Snow Foam off and rinse the car to remove the loose dirt that has been lifted away from the surface.
  7. Wash in small sections in straight, overlapping lines, not in a circular motion. Apply as little pressure as possible and rinse out your wash mitt regularly.
  8. Wash from from top to bottom, Generally the highest concentration of dirt is on the bottom of the car, around the sills and bumpers, you don’t want to drag that dirt back up to the rest of the car and risk scratching
  9. Load up your wash mitt with your 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 the surface and more lubricity helps safely wash the grime away without scratching.
  10. Rinse your car by opening up the flow setting on your hose pipe nozzle. You want the water to run or sheet over the surface. This helps leave fewer residual droplets behind which means less drying time.
  11. Dry the car quickly but carefully to avoid water spots developing, the severity of water spotting will depend on the hardness of the water in your area. Use high quality microfiber waffle weave drying towels. Again, use as little pressure as possible and use the first towel to soak up the bulk of the water and then follow up with a second towel to dry out any streaks.
  12. To finish the job off,  if your wax or sealant is still in good condition, go over the car with a quick detailer spray like Poorboys World QD+  and a quality microfiber like the race Glaze Peach Skin Finishing Cloth to restore a radiance and slickness to the paint. This enhances gloss and makes the most of all the hard work you’ve just put in!
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