How to Wash A Car

0. Car Detailing Tips
1. Recommended Car Detailing Products
2. Recommendations for time versus cost trade offs
3. How to wash a car
4. How to get an great shine
5. How to clean the interior of the car
6. How to maintain the shine

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I thought washing a car meant putting some soap in a bucket, throwing in an oversized sponge and then rinsing. Oooh no! There are much better ways, some are faster, some slower, all better at retaining a good shine.

Remember whenever working on the car, and this includes washing, work in the shade. It's easier on you and the paint needs it!

Single Bucket Car Washing Method

The method I prefer is a little sneaky, and not widely known, but it uses very little water, takes around 20 minutes and works even in the winter. This process works even on the dirtiest cars, but follow the instructions. You will need to buy some "Quick and Easy Wash" from Protect All, a bucket, two lamb's wool or microfiber mitts, a waffle weave microfiber towel, and a finishing microfiber towel.

Start by adding 2 oz of Quick and Easy Wash from Protect All to a bucket and then adding water. Put two of the mitts in the bucket. Be sure to follow the instructions to avoid scratches and swirls. Take the first mitt out and let it drain until it is just damp. It's ok if it has more water than just damp. Carefully and lightly swipe the first car panel in the direction of the wind, thereby transferring the dirt from the car to the mitt. When you've finished half the panel or even less, flip the mitt and continue very gentle wiping. Replace the mitt into the bucket. Dry that panel with the waffle weave towel and then the finishing towel. Do the same process with the other mitt on the next panel. Continue to alternate mitts until the car is clean. This process takes around 20 minutes and 1 bucket of water. At the end use one mitt, or alternate between two mitts to clean the tires. Be careful not to splash the dirty water on the clean car! An alternative is to have a third mitt and to wash the tires first with that mitt. Don't use the tire mitt on the car as it's way too dirty. Apply a quick layer of spray wax, buff off with a microfiber towel and you're done. This is a popular way to wash cars in the winter. I'll be trying it since it fits my time budget, seems easy and should maintain the paint to the highest standards.

Traditional Scratch Minimization Car Washing Method

The standard way that hobbyists wash the car takes time and effort, but it's the standard, so I'm telling you how to do it. You'll need 3 buckets, 3 mitts, car wash soap, and microfiber towels.

Fill bucket 1 with plain water so that you can rinse off the dirty mitt. Fill bucket 2 with soapy water so you can clean the dirty mitt. Fill bucket 3 with soapy water so you can have a clean soapy mitt for washing. If you intend to do this regularly consider getting buckets with wheels, or otherwise putting the buckets on wheeled platforms.

You will be using each mitt exclusively on different parts of the car. The process for rinsing any mitt is to put the dirty mitt in the dirty soapy bucket, then rinse it in the rinse bucket, and then putting the mitt in the clean soap bucket. Some people rinse the mitt using a hose instead of a rinse bucket. Those people often prefer to put the hose inside the mitt so the dirt is forced out from deep in the nap of the mitt. After the mitt comes out of the clean soap bucket, it's ready for the next cleaning action.

The mitts are used as follows:
  • Mitt 1 cleans the tires. Do this first, although some people argue it should be last. Definitely do this last if the brakes are hot. If you do this last be careful not to get the clean paint dirty. Rinse each tire after cleaning it.
  • Mitt 2 cleans the roof and the top half of the panels do this second. Always wash from the top to the bottom of car starting with the roof. Remember to flip the mitt over after you have cleaned the panel. Rinse each panel after cleaning it. Always move the mitts over the car in the direction that the wind would go over the car. Never re-wipe the surface with that dirty mitt, it's full of grit! Never scrub with a mitt. Never press down firmly with a mitt. If a spot doesn't come off, remove it after washing and drying the car using spray wash and a microfiber towel.
  • Mitt 3 cleans the really filthy lower and underside. Do this last. Remember to clean the Mitt between swipes and uses by first cleaning, then rinsing, and then adding clean soapy water again.

Use a low pressure hose to carefully rinse your car from top to bottom chasing the giant bead of water off the car. This works even better on a hill! Then there's just a little moisture left for your microfiber towel. Blot, don't wipe the panels clean with your microfiber towels.

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