Car Detailing: Washing Your Car Properly

Pro Detailer Magazine gives an introduction to washing your car the correct way.



Loads of the mud and grime that sticks to your car can be removed without the need to even touch it. Furthermore, you can loosen the more determined detritus, thus reducing rubbing… always a good thing when it comes to paintwork.

Step 1: Get yourself a snow foam lance attachment

Get yourself a snow foam lance or pump spray – use either snow foam or citrus pre-wash, or a bit of both (not in the same bottle). Do heed the instructions and concentrations, but generally speaking, spray liberally – make tea – wait – then rinse. A car protected with wax should look much better at this point…



Get down to your local DIY store and buy three plasterers buckets – big 25 litre ones – they’re cheap and sturdy. Then treat yourself to some grit guards that go in the bottom – these trap all the nasties away from your wash media. Christen your buckets with name stickers… Wash, Rinse, and Wheels – so you don’t get confused in mid-wash fervour.



Got a sponge? Bin it! Sponges are for the bathtub, not your motorcar, which deserves better. Feeling skint? Get a noodle mitt – they’re a couple of quid, easy to look after (as in to wash, not support emotionally) and are good at drawing the dirt away from your paint rather than rubbing it in. Feeling flush? Try a real wool wash mitt. These cost more, don’t last as long, and need a bit of TLC between sessions; but are perhaps the softest thing you can stroke your bodywork with unlicensed. For sheep lovers there are synthetic alternatives.

Fill three buckets with warm water, or cold if you’re feeling pointlessly brave, and drizzle some automotive shampoo into the Wash and Wheels ones – none for Rinse. DO NOT use domestic hair shampoo or dish soap, there are good reasons why not, but that involves chemistry, which is dull. Just don’t.



After, or even during, your pre-wash you should attend to your wheels. Use wheel cleaner and wheel brushes (clues are in the names). Clean inside and outside the rim, move the car a foot or two so you don’t miss anywhere. Clean the brush in your Wheel bucket as required. Then rinse carefully, and perhaps pressure wash your arches while you’re down there. If there’s lots of brake dust you might want to employ a fallout remover too – just don’t breathe it in as they pong.



Then gently wipe your body, start at the top, use straight lines, apply no pressure, and just do an area within an easy arms-length. Then rinse your mitt in the Rinse bucket, dip in the Wash, and repeat. You can do glass, grilles, lights – essentially everything this way. Be methodical so you don’t miss areas and feel silly when you spot them moments after you have put all your kit back in the shed.

On dirtier areas, like bumpers and sills, rinse more often. In theory your Rinse bucket should be nasty and brown, your Wash bucket nice and clear by the end. Rinse again, use filtered water if you can.



Get your chamois leather. Now, bin it.

Partly as some creature, normally a pig, shouldn’t have to suffer in the name of shine, but mostly as it will often damage your paintwork. Most folk damage their car during drying – don’t be ‘most folk’. Get a proper microfiber drying towel – a big, plush, absorbent one. If you really want to show off, get a pet drier blower contraption, so you can chase the drips out of crevices.

Lay your drying towel on the panels, and then pat gently, before carefully peeling it off. Do not rub it dry. You will be amazed how much water is removed and retained in the microfiber – there’s physics involved, but that’s tedious, so let us just call it magic for now, polyamide magic.

If you’re in a hard water area you might get little white spots, these are water spots and can be a pain. To avoid them, spray a little Quick Detailer while drying.



Only kidding, alas you have only just begun, at least in detailing terms. Yes you’ve been going nearly an hour, you’re probably a bit cold, and your back is sore… but suck it up, there’s decontamination to do, then polishing, then sealing, then…

At this point you have three options. Congratulate yourself on a job well done, wander home with a swagger, and accept that your car looks ‘OK’.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to settle for mediocrity; but also have a busy life with a friend, or a family, or a job, or a gaming addiction, you can always hire a professional. No one will know you didn’t do it yourself. Apart from your neighbours, and possibly the postman. We suggest searching online at as these guys know their stuff, are insured, and are jolly nice, reliable people.

We feel a bit awkward suggesting the third option as detailing can become a habit, it can take up all your free time, and lead to the sort of obsessive behaviour that stops you ever getting invited back to dinner parties. But if you would like to get more involved yourself, then there are plenty of resources available to help – both online and in old-fashioned print – the PRO Detailer Magazine being a good starting point.


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