How to Wash a Car at Home

Red car covered in soap

Aside from the top 1.1% of millionaires in the world population, a car is pretty much a utility tool for most people. Families hop in their vehicles for work, school, vacations, etc. As a result of constant usage, these cars accumulate dirt and become unsightly, needing a wash.

Granted, there are professional car washing companies, but you could save some bucks by doing the job yourself. Not to mention that automatic car washes can be hard on your paint. This article will show you how to wash a car for blindingly clean results.

What Do You Need to Wash a Car?

Car cleaning products are meant to be gentle, so they don’t end up removing the layers of your car paint. Here are standard cleaning tools you would need to wash your car:

  • Mitt or microfiber cloth
  • Car soap
  • Three buckets of water or two buckets and a hose
  • One (or more) large microfiber towels for drying

Other materials you could also get to facilitate your washing include:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Window cleaner
  • Vacuum cleaner for the interior compartments

Do not apply anything to your car until you have made sure of its content. This is because not all car cleaning products are multi-purpose, and negligence may damage your car’s paint, coat, or otherwise.

How to Wash Your Car: A Step-By-Step Procedure

Follow these steps to wash your car like a pro:

1. Park Your Car Properly

You should park your vehicle under a shade, as washing in direct sunlight will cause the soap to dry, leaving spots.


A common mistake many people make is to wash their cars on a warm, sunny day. This will dry up the water, soap, and other cleaning products rapidly, not giving you sufficient time to rinse them off. It also leaves spots on your paintwork and windows.

2. Rinse the Car to Remove Loose Dirt

To make your washing easier, hose down the entire car to eliminate any loose dirt that may have settled down on the surface. This should prevent scratches when you wash.

Hosing down a black car

3. Prepare Your Buckets

If you don’t have a grit guard to separate clean water from dirt, It’s best to have three separate buckets: one for the wash soap and two containing clean water. Of the two water buckets, one will be used to rinse the wash mitt or towel often (you’ll see why) and the other for rinsing. But if you’ve got a hose, you can use that to rinse instead.


Do not use household cleaning agents such as dish soap, detergent, or glass cleaner when washing your car, as they can strip away your car’s protective top coat.

4. Wash the Exterior of Your Car

Start washing your car from the top and work your way downwards, using soapy water from the clean wash. The lower half of the car is usually dirtier than the upper part. So, make a division with a body contour or the level of the door handles and wash the upper half first for the best results.

In addition, the bottom of the car tends to accumulate a lot more grit. So, dip the microfiber tower or wash mitt in the second bucket of water often to prevent scratching. Wash in horizontal or vertical motions and not circular, rinse off the soap with clean water, and dry with a large microfiber towel or a chamois.

Hand washing a burgundy-colored car

5. Dry with a Towel

You could allow the sun or ambient temperature to dry up the car when you’re done washing. But if you want absolutely sparkling results with no spots whatsoever, dry the car yourself using a large, lint-free microfibre cloth.

Drying and shining a black car

5. Give the Windows a Streakless Clean

The windows and windshields are usually washed alongside the car’s exterior, which should be sufficient for the most part. However, if you want to make them appear even cleaner and streakless, you’ll need to clean them in a special way using an auto glass cleaner. See our guide on washing car windows without streaks for a detailed explanation.

6. Move to the Wheels

Once you’re done with the rest of the body, the wheels should be next—they’re the dirtiest part of the car, after all. To begin, get a fresh bucket of soapy water. Start with the rims using a mitt or towel. Then move to the tires, scrubbing them with a tire brush. Finally, rinse everything with clean water. If the tires look dull, you can apply a tire cleaner and shiner to restore that glistening black appearance.

Washing a car tire

7. Clean the Interior

The interior is probably the dirtiest part of your car, especially if family, pets, and other passengers ride in it often. While we’ve covered the procedure for washing it in more depth in this article, here’s what you can do:

Vacuuming car interior
  • Remove litter from the car. Check under the mats and seats to avoid leaving anything behind.
  • Gently remove the floor mats and shake them to get rid of any dirt or dust. If they’re filthy, scrub them with a brush and soapy water and dry them completely before putting them back in.
  • Use a brush to sweep any dirt on the carpet. If you have a vacuum, use that instead.
  • Vacuum cup holders, AC vents, and other tight spaces.
  • Wipe away dirt, dust, or filth from the dashboard, infotainment and instrument cluster displays, doors, etc., with a microfiber cloth or cleaning wipe.

What to Do After Washing

Washing elevates the look of your car by a lot. But you can take it a step further and bring it closer to its brand new appearance by doing these after washing:

  • Clay bar the car to remove stubborn spots on its surface.
  • Wax the car to block out ultraviolet rays and protects the paintwork from corrosion.
  • Fill any scruffs or scratches with a small overlay of wax. If the scratch is deep, get a scratch repair product for effective results.
  • Polish the car to give it a high-gloss sheen.

Wash Your Car Like a Pro

That’s how to wash a car right in your garage. Easy as one, two, three. While this should work for most of the year, check out our specific guide on washing cars in the winter.


Can I Just Wash My Car With Water?

Absolutely. However, simply hosing down or pouring water on your car will only remove the loose dirt. Anything that’s more baked on will remain. Using a sponge will do a better job removing grit, but it’ll leave scratches and swirl marks in the long run without the smoothness of soap. On the flip side, you could use a waterless car wash soap that only requires a small amount of water.

Can I Use a Pressure Washer to Wash My Car?

According to Consumer Reports, it’s better not to pressure wash your car as the high PSI can strip off the paint, leading to rust. However, if you’ve got one, turning down the pressure should do the trick. Otherwise, a bucket of soapy water and a hose is sufficient.

How Often Should a Car Be Washed?

As a conventional rule, you should wash your car at least every two weeks. But feel free to make it more frequent if you drive a lot on dirt roads or areas where highways are usually salted, as salt can corrode the metal and cause rust.

Is It Better to Hand Wash Your Car?

As long as you know what to do and are willing to spend quality time, doing the washing yourself is better than an automatic wash.

What’s the Best Time of the Day to Wash My Car? 

The ideal times to wash your car are early mornings, before 10 am, or in the evenings, after 4 pm. But you can wash at other times, provided the sun is down, or your car is parked in the shade.

Haroun Adamu
Haroun Adamu is the founder of TorqueDial. He followed the automobile industry for several years before covering it officially for HotCars and Vehicle History. This experience would spark a chain of reactions, eventually leading him to create this site. However, the final push to launch TorqueDial was his first car purchase, and he’s not looked back since.

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