You’ve Been Washing Your Car Wrong This Whole Time

Buckets, soaps, sponges, mitts, brushes, oh my! When it comes to car care products, it seems like there is so much information out there and none of it seems to make sense. Washing your car doesn’t need to be so complicated, in fact, even though you’ve probably been doing it wrong, washing your car correctly probably isn’t more than a few buckets away from your typical routine.

The Two Bucket Method

You may have heard of it, you may not, but the Two Bucket Method is a tried and true method used by automotive detailers everywhere. It doesn’t sound complicated because, at its core, the two bucket method is just that…two buckets. That’s right, the only difference between your normal car washing station is probably just one bucket.

Why two buckets? It’s simple. When you are washing your car, no matter how clean it may appear, you are picking up dirt and debris off your paint, and each and every time you put your mitt back into the bucket to get more soap, you are just stirring around that dirt. With the two bucket method, each bucket serves a different purpose.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 20: Workers at Divisadero Touchless Car Wash apply soap to a Cadillac on March 20, 2015 in San Francisco, California. As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, commercial car washes could potentially face water use restrictions even though most currently recycle a large portion of their water. Home car washing using a hose without a nozzle that automatically shuts off is currently banned in the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The first bucket is your wash bucket. This might sound complicated, but hear me out. The wash bucket holds two key components to washing your car: the soap, and water. Froth up the mixture like a sudsy bubble bath and get ready to spoil your car with a spa day. Place the wash mitt into the soap, place the soapy mitt on the car. Do. Not. Repeat.

I know what you’re thinking….do not repeat? How can I finish washing my car then? This is where bucket number two comes in: the rinse bucket. Before you ever place the soap mitt back into the wash bucket, it must be rinsed thoroughly in the rinse bucket (hence the name, rinse bucket). Once you’ve shaken out all of the gross bug corpses and anything else that was hanging around on your paint off of the wash mitt, you can place it back into bucket number one and repeat the process.

That’s really it. I told you it would be this simple, but there are a couple of other things you need to keep in mind.

Washing mitts

SOCHI, RUSSIA SEPTEMBER 28, 2018: Washing a tyre during a practice session ahead of the 2018 Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom racing circuit. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei FadeichevTASS via Getty Images)

If you are the type of person who uses one of those big bristled broom-looking brushes to wash your car, take this is your sign to stop. Anything that comes into contact with your car has the potential to damage the paint, causing scratches and swirls that make it look dull over time. The two bucket method is important, but you can’t negate the importance of your wash mitts. For wash mitts, you are looking at a fluffy microfiber mitt, well, actually 3. You will need 3 microfiber mitts, and once I explain why, you can never unknow.

I would start by recommending you get three different colors unless you have a crazy good memory or intend on machine washing your microfibers (don’t forget to do this on low heat or they will get fried). Why 3 colors? It’s simple. Each mitt will correspond to a different section of the car: top, middle, and rims. Why? Because some of these sections are dirtier than the others. You wouldn’t want to wipe the dirt from your wheels across your hood, would you? Of course not.

2020 Honda Passport
2020 Honda Passport | Honda

Bonus Points

You’re probably thinking, “It can’t be this simple” but it is. Want to step up your detailing game? Here are some tools that can guarantee you are getting the best wash.

1.) Using a pressure washer. If all you have is a hose that will suffice, but nothing quite beats a pressure wash.
2.) If you have a pressure washer, then, by all means, the next tool you should get is a foam cannon. Yes, it is as fun as it sounds. Give your car a once-over with the foam cannon and use the two-bucket method as usual. While there are some foam cannon extensions that will run you big bucks, I have found that the less expensive $15 ones on Amazon Prime do the same job.
3.) You read that I said anytime you touch your car you risk damaging it, right? For the sake of reminding you, this included any towel you could use to dry your car. This includes any of the big microfiber towels you see at the store. If you want to dry your car, your best bet is to use a leaf blower. While that may sound stupid, it’s essentially just a big blow dryer for your car.

If you’ve been washing your car wrong this whole time, I hope these small changes can help prevent any further damages or scratches to your paint.