How to Wash a Car: The Basics

Washing cars sounds simple at first, but there are some better ways to do it. Check out the information below if you want to know how to wash a car and the correct order to wash a car, truck, or sport utility vehicle. Take a trip to your nearest Walmart, Target, or even Home Depot if you don’t have all your supplies to start washing cars.

What is the correct order to wash a car?

How to wash a car and dry a car like this one
A Volkswagen sedan being washed by hand | Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The correct order to wash a car goes: soap, scrub, rinse, according to U.S. News. If you want to hand wash it, you’ll want soap specifically made for vehicles. Something like dish soap isn’t a great idea because it is made to work on grease and wax, which you want to leave on the car. You should be able to locate car wash soap at places like Walmart, Amazon, Target, Lowes, and automotive stores like AutoZone or Pep Boys. This Armor All Automotive Car Wash is only $4.69 at Target.

While shopping, you’ll want to get some type of wash rag or scrub sponge. Turtle Wax makes a good 2-in-1 Microfiber Car Wash/Scrub Sponge that’s only $5.99 at Target. Grab a few microfiber towels while you are there for backup. It is a good idea to keep these clean and wash them separately from your regular laundry. Don’t forget a bucket if you don’t have one.

How do you wash a car for beginners?

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Find a shady spot to wash in so you aren’t washing a hot vehicle. Before using the soap, you’ll need water and a hose to get the car wet. This also helps eliminate any dirt that might be sitting on the surface. Add your soap to the bucket with water, and you can start washing your car.

“To reduce the chance of missed spots or dried soap, work in sections, rinsing as you go. A circular motion is not necessary for cleaning.”

U.S. News

If your wheels are dirty, try using a brush to get it clean. Or at least use a different towel/mitt because wheels have brake dust and other things you don’t need on your paint. Once your vehicle is sufficiently soapy, you can rinse it off. If you missed any spots, go over it again and give it another rinse. You will probably have to rinse it a few times and from a few angles to get all of the soap out. Pay special attention to the roof to ensure nothing is baking on the car’s top. The trunk also needs an extra rinse sometimes.

How do I dry my vehicle after washing it?

Use a chamois, microfiber towels, or just a clean towel from your house to dry it (but please don’t use your mom’s good guest towels!). Give it a quick dry if you have time. You don’t have to, but it looks better without water spots. Dry your windows, and don’t put them down for an hour or two to give your car a chance to dry. You can use some ammonia-free window cleaner and a microfiber towel.

You can also wax your vehicle if you are comfortable doing that. There are a lot of car waxes on the market to choose from, but you don’t have to do this step if you aren’t comfortable. You will want to do it eventually because the wax helps protect your car’s paint in the long run.

That’s basically it! You can probably get the basic car washing supplies for $20 from the store of your choice. As you get more comfortable washing your car, you can incorporate more products into the routine.

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