How to wash a car

This might seem an odd topic for a car wash business where drive-through car washes are our thing. But we reckon that if you are reading this you are doing it because:

  1.  You’ve bought your first new car and you are looking for tips on how best to look after your new pride and joy; OR
  2. You already have a car but you want to check if you’re doing it right; OR
  3. You’re’ a car enthusiast who knows exactly how to wash a car and you’re curious about why on earth we would write this; OR
  4. You simply want to know how washing your car at a car wash business like Car Lovers Express works.

Whatever the reason, we’re pleased that looking after your vehicle is something you want to do. And if it means that this article will help you in some way, then that’s a good thing.

Car Lovers Car Wash Club member cleaning car
A Car Lovers Express employee while cleaning a vehicle

Manual or Auto wash – What’s the difference?

The options for car washing are a bit like driving cars. Most of us drive automatic cars because well, it’s just easier. Especially in busy city traffic. Many of us know how to drive a manual car also. But there are some who get a special kind of pleasure from driving a manual.

The same goes for car washing. Many people like to use the auto option because it is easier, quicker and you get a fantastic finish. But many others get joy, and maybe a little therapy too, from putting in the work to get their car looking like new again. You might say it’s a labour of love.

In the end whether manual or auto wash, the choice is yours. Even so, understanding the art of car washing is useful. And it can be an art, because do it wrong and you can end up with unsightly streaks and swirl marks on your car’s paintwork.

So, let’s run though the basics of how to wash a car manually. Why? Because this will help you to understand what goes on in a drive through car wash as well.

# 1 – Get your wash gear together

If you are washing your car at home, here is a list of what you’ll need.

  • A soft sponge or washing mitt
  • Car wash shampoo
  • At least two buckets – One for the car wash solution and one with clean water to rinse your sponge or mitt in. You may want a third bucket for a cleaning solution that is specifically for your wheels.
  • A hose with a variable nozzle
  • Some microfibre cloths or chammies

Some Dos and Don’ts

  • DON’T use dishwashing liquid to wash your car. It is not designed for your car’s paint and may affect the finish.
  • DON’T use old towels or shirts as car wash cloths. They won’t be kind to your paintwork either.
  • DO use a purpose made wheel cleaner. It is inexpensive and designed to effectively clean brake dust and built-up road grime.

# 2 – Select your location

It is always better to wash your car in a shaded area rather than in direct sunlight. This is to make sure the cleaning products don’t dry before you get a chance to rinse off.  

#3 – Close the windows!

Seems pretty obvious right? But sometimes it gets forgotten and unfortunately water has a habit of finding its way in through the openings and the interior gets wet. So, make sure the windows are tightly closed, particularly if you are using a pressure hose or nozzle.

#4 - Rinse first

It’s a good idea to give the entire car a water rinse first. This helps to remove any mud, dust or loose dirt that is stuck to the car. It takes some of the effort out of the washing and prevents scratching.

#5 – Clean the wheels

For obvious reasons, wheels collect the most dirt. Washing them first helps to stop the dirt from spraying back onto the paintwork later in the process. Spray under the wheel wells to remove accumulated mud and dirt. 

You can use an old t-shirt or towel for this job.

#6 – Wash time!

Start at the top. Using your wet, soapy sponge or wash mitt, start with the roof and windows first. After the roof and windows are done, move down to the bottom half of the car. Use straight strokes. 

Rinse as you go. Don’t forget to rinse the sponge in the water-only bucket.

#7 – Rinse again

Once you have cleaned the whole car, give it another rinse with the hose. Make sure the water coming off the car is clear and that you haven’t missed any spots.

#8 – Dry off

Using your dry microfibre cloth or chammy, wipe the car dry. Like the washing process, start at the top and work your way down.

A few extra tips

Now that you know the steps, here are a few extra tips.

Take care with high pressure hoses

Although pressure hoses or washers are great water savers, there are some things to take into consideration when using them.

  • Keep 1 – 2 metres from the car so you don’t damage the paint or rubber seals.
  • Keep the spray moving. Spraying in one place for too long can cause damage.
  • Be safe – never spay at a person or animal. If you are on a surface that has loose rocks or gravel, don’t spray into the ground around the car. The pressurised stream of water can cause them to fly up and hit you or the car, and cause damage.

Washing the windscreen

A nice clean, smear-free windscreen not only makes your car look good, it’s also important for safety. Dirt and smudges on the windscreen obstruct your vision and focus.

After washing and polishing the car, give the windscreen that final clean using an ammonia free glass cleaner. Use two lint-free microfibre cloths to minimise streaking.

Lift the wiper blades first! Check on whether you can do this manually or whether you need to unlock them.

Spray the cleaner evenly across one half of the windscreen and wipe it using straight vertical motions. With a second cloth wipe again, this time using horizontal strokes. Repeat on the other half.

To finish off, buff the glass with a dry cloth using small circular motions.

Clean the wiper blades

We often forget about this little piece of equipment. Yet when we encounter bad weather or need to get rid of bugs or bird poop, the importance of clean wiper blades becomes evident.

Brace the wiper with one hand and pinch the blade’s rubber or silicone blade with a damp cloth. Slide it up and down the length of the blade to remove the stuck-on dirt. Continue this until the cloth comes away clean.

Shine up the headlights

The lights on most cars have a plastic lens that can become faded or discoloured from dirt or sun damage. It is important to wash and rinse your lights and headlights thoroughly to keep them in good condition and provide maximum illumination.

The friendly and experienced staff at Car Lovers Express are always happy to assist. They can provide advice on all aspects of your car wash needs. Find your closest Car Lovers Express store and message us with your query today.

Car Lovers Express employee while manually washing a car

Now you’re good to go......

Or you could give your car the deluxe treatment with some wax and polish. And for a really thorough job you can give the car’s interior a clean as well.

How to make your wash easier​

Now that you know what to do, you’re perhaps going through a mental checklist of things you need to do.

I need to buy washing products, sponges, cloths and wax and polish too. And I have to store them somewhere!

I don’t have a space where I can wash.

I don’t have enough buckets.

If I wash my vehicle on the driveway the soapy water will go into the drain and my council frowns on this.

There is a solution to all these dilemmas. You can wash your vehicle in manual wash bay at a carwash service like Car Lovers Express.

The benefits of using a carwash service

  • You have access to professional products as part of the service you choose. This saves you time and storage space, and is easier on the budget as well.
  • Wash bays are undercover, so you wash in the shade.
  • Car washes are built according to council requirements. This means contaminated water from the wash doesn’t flow into stormwater drains.
  • It helps save on your water bill.
  • Convenience – most services are open 24/7. Great for shift workers or night owls who want to clean their car at night without keeping the neighbourhood awake.
  • You have access to high-pressure hoses and vacuum cleaners – in case you want to clean the interior as well.
Car Lovers Clean Fleet receiving car wash

Want to know more?

The friendly and experienced staff at Car Lovers Express are always happy to assist. They can provide advice on all aspects of your car wash needs. Find your closest Car Lovers Express store and message us with your query today.