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How to: Wash your car for beginners

As I write this how to guide many of us are stuck at home during the COVID-19 lock down. The weather is currently beautiful and my inbox is slowly filling with questions of how to and what to use to wash the car. We'll use video footage from a recent video as a demonstration!

Although washing the car can seem a pretty straight forward task, its important to use what us detailers call the "Safe Wash" method, this is to prevent damage to the paintwork, especially if you have a ceramic coating installed.

Back in the day a bucket and sponge and a bottle of "Wash n Wax" would suffice, but as modern day paintwork can be finicky at the best of times, and we all want the best results the only way I would personally recommend washing a car is the detailers way.

Disclaimer - I will not be held responsible for any damages caused from incorrect use of this how to guide, you do this at your own risk! I am also not sponsored by any of product manufacturers mentioned in this blog however these are the products I'd recommend based on my own personal experiences.

Before we start, make sure you have plenty of room to work with everything setup. We'll be using a mixture of water and electricity with cables and hoses, I can't count how many times I've tripped up my own hose pipe and the last thing we want is damage to yourself or your car!

If you're in direct sunlight bare in mind that products can and will dry very quickly, and you'll also get dehydrated quickly too!

This can be carried out with both pressure washer or a normal garden hose, however a pressure washer is preferred. Also some aspects of this how-to can be missed out completely if you don't have the correct product or equipment (I'll state if its possible to) but bare in mind this will affect the end result! If you car has a ceramic coating installed I'd recommend contacting the supplier or the detailer who installed it to see which product range is recommended to maintain it.

I'll leave links to products and equipment as we go along with a full breakdown at the bottom of each step.

So pop some old clothes on, grab a cold drink (I recommend a nice cold beer!) and bang some tunes on. Lets make a start on cleaning your ride!

Don't forget to take some photos before and after!

1. Wheels, tyres and arches

The wheels tend to be the grubbiest part of the car, so it makes sense to clean this area first.

Only work on one wheel at a time and start by giving it a good rinse to remove as much grime and brake dust as possible.

Spray your wheel cleaner onto the wheel and leave to dwell for a couple minutes and do not allow it to dry.

Spray your wheel cleaner into the bristles of a soft detail brush and gentle agitate into the wheel making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies around the wheel nuts and in between the spokes.

Use a long reach wheel brush and a bucket of wheel shampoo (or regular shampoo) and work from the top down cleaning behind the spokes and the barrels of the wheel. This step is not essential if you don't have access to the equipment or products.

Spray all purpose cleaner onto a stiff bristle brush and onto the tyre and scrub until you have achieved a nice foaming action.

Step back and rinse the wheel and tyre top to bottom & give the wheel arch a good rinse too.

If wheel cleaner will not remove stubborn brake dust I'd recommend using a Iron fall out remover instead of wheel cleaner following the same technique, the product will bleed red/purple when its activated.

The wheel cleaner I personally recommend can be found here:

The detailing brushes can be found here:

Long reach wheel brushes can be found here:

Wheel soap can be found here:

The tyre brush can be found here:

And the all purpose cleaner diluted 5:1 can be found here:

Iron fall out remover can be found here:

2. Pre Wash

With the wheels now attended to its time to turn out attention to the rest of the car.

Starting from the top down, rinse the car panel pet panel to remove any loose dirt. Hold the pressure washer lance at a downward 45 degree angle and around 20 - 30cm away from the panel. Don't get too close as you could damage the paint!

If you have a build up of grime and bug splats on the lower areas I recommend using a Citrus based pre cleaner. Simple spray onto the affected areas only, leave to dwell then rinse after a couple of minutes. You're only going to really need this on sills, bumpers and grilles of the dirtier car. Do not allow to dry!

And now the fun bit. Snow foam. Fill your snow foam lance with 1 - 2 inches of product and the rest with fresh water. Lift your wipers up and open your fuel flap as its important to clean inside this too, and working from the bottom to top spray a even layer of foam all over the vehicle.

We work bottom to top in this case because the lower areas are usually the dirtiest, so the foam has more dwell time! Leave the foam to dwell for around 5 - 10 mins but do not allow to dry.

Whilst the foam is dwelling, using another detail brush (its important to have different brushes for different tasks to avoid cross-contamination of products and dirt) and all purpose cleaner to gently agitate areas such as badges, grilles, panel gaps, window seals and the fuel flap whilst the foam is dwelling.

Once complete rinse the car from top to bottom making sure to remove all the foam ready for the wash stage.

Citrus cleaner can be found here:

Snow foam can be found here:

The snow foam lance can be found here:

Don't have a pressure washer? Hand pump foamer:

3. Wash

With 2 buckets with grit guards (designed to catch grit and dirt), fill one with fresh water about 3/4 full. Pour your shampoo into the other bucket (around 2 cap fulls) and fill with fresh water, again around 3/4 full.

Get a fresh wash mitt, and rinse it in your fresh water bucket, followed by dipping it in your shampoo bucket and working from the top down on flat surfaces first, wash the roof in straight lines backwards and forwards. We use straight lines in case a bit of grit gets caught and scratches the surface, they are easier to rectify than overlapping circular scratches, although this is a very rare occurrence.

Once complete, rinse the mitt into the fresh water and then the shampoo and move onto the next panel (ideally bonnet or tailgate, windscreen or rear window). Repeat all around the vehicle taking your time on each panel with overlapping straight motions. Make sure to wash the mitt out in between panels. I'd also recommend a second mitt for lower areas like sills and under bumpers as these tend to be rather dirty and you should not clean these with the same mitt as you'd use on the rest of the paintwork.

Do not allow shampoo to dry and starting top to bottom rinse the entire vehicle making sure all product has been removed.

Buckets can be found here (You'll need 2) :

Shampoo can be found here:

Wash mitt can be found here:

4. Drying

With the car completely rinsed, spray a fine misting of quick detailer over every panel and using a drying towel in a sweeping motion, dry the vehicle top to bottom.

The quick detailer adds a layer of lubrication to aid drying.

Same can be done with wheels and a smaller microfiber towel however I'd personally recommend spraying the quick detailer onto the cloth first before wiping the wheels to avoid over-spray onto the brake components. Always use a fresh microfiber cloth for different products and tasks!

Don't forget to dry sills, door jambs and the fuel filler flap!

If you have access to compressed air, blow any crevices such as grilles, badges and wheels dry.

Quick detailer can be found here:

Drying towels can be found here:

Electrical blower can be found here:

Microfibers can be found here:

5. Spray Wax

With the car dry, spray a fine misting of spray wax into a panel and buff with a microfiber cloth until it has disappeared. Usually 1 or 2 sprays per door are enough so use this as a measurement for doing other panels.

Spray wax is ideal to add a bit of temporary protection to your paintwork, it'll last around 4 - 6 weeks with regular washing however I like to use it on every wash. It also acts as sacrificial layer for existing wax. Ceramic coatings will have their own spray wax designed specifically for use with them, so make sure you use it if your car has a ceramic coating installed.

Spray wax can be found here:

6. Windows and glass

Cleaning windows is often something that gets overlooked however although you have just shampoo'd and dried the car, a dedicated window cleaner will do wonders to your glass.

Using a window cleaner and a glass waffle cloth (or a microfiber cloth). Spray a small misting (around 2 or 3 spritz) over the window and buff until the product has disappeared. Flip the cloth over and buff with the clean side to reveal crystal clear glass! For mirrors spray directly onto the microfiber towel and then wipe across the mirror glass.

For heavier soiling or staining use a glass polish. Apply 2 pea-sized drops to a microfiber applicator and with light to medium pressure work into the glass in overlapping circular motions. Buff clear with a microfiber cloth

Glass cleaner can be found here:

Glass waffle can be found here:

Glass polish can be found here:

Polish applicator can be found here:

7. Tyres and trim

With the rest of the car complete the last step is to finesse though smaller but crucial areas to make your car stand out from the crowd!

Using a microfiber applicator and some trim dressing, spray a couple spritz into the applicator and apply to trims, and simply leave to cure. Wipe any excess away with a microfiber towel.

You can also spray trim dressing onto wheel arch liners!

If you plastic trims are a little faded, use a trim restorer instead. Apply a small amount to an applicator and massage into the faded trim removing any excess off paintwork. Leave to soak for around 5 - 10 minutes and remove any excess. You could then add a layer of dressing to offer more durability.

Finally with a sponge applicator, apply a few drops of tyre creme and massage into the tyre sidewall and allow to dry. I personally recommend 2 layers per tyre to give off that perfect satin finish.

Trim dressing can be found here:

Trim restorer can be found here:

Tyre creme can be found here:

Tyre applicator:

8. Step back and admire the beauty

You're all finished! With practice this should take around 2 hours at most, perfect to get you out the house! I'd recommend this weekly with normal everyday driving but as cars aren't getting used as much do it at your discretion.

Pro Tip: If the neighbour shouts over the fence "You can do mine next" or "You missed a bit", simply throw your buckets of water over them. Disclaimer - Don't actually do that.

While you're down here, give our Facebook page a like!

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