A clean, shiny car looks good. But unless it’s a display that never leaves the garage, it won’t stay clean for long. Road dust, insect spray, bird droppings and winter salt can quickly coat regularly driven vehicles.
If your car needs a deep clean and you’re not sure how, follow this detailed step-by-step how to wash your car at home. You can do better on your own in less time than going to an automated car wash.
Steps How to Wash Your Car At Home
Clean your car at home by following these steps
Step 1: Need Cleaning Tools
It is important to assess your condition before washing. This will help you determine what types of cleaning supplies you need when washing your car.
Ideally, your cleaning tools/supplies should include:
- Hose with variable nozzle
- Soft sponge and/or car wash gloves
- Several microfiber towels
- One (or more) large microfiber towels for drying.
- Three buckets – one for clean water, one for dirty water, and one for cleaning fluid and wheel-specific water.
You may also need:
- Vacuum cleaner for indoor use
- Rubber gloves
- Rim cleaner
- Window cleaner
Before you apply anything to your car, be sure to read what’s in the product you plan to use. Not all car cleaning products are universal and can damage paint, coatings or other surfaces.
Older cars may require a cleaning regimen of clay, wax and polish to protect the paint, while newer cars may have a tough clear coat still intact.
Car cleaning products are specially formulated to prevent loose dirt and grime from scratching your car’s finish; plus, they’re very gentle and won’t remove existing paint layers on your car.
Step 2: Where to Wash Your Car
While it may be tempting to wash your car on a warm, sunny day, it’s actually a very common mistake.
Professional car groomers generally agree that you should never wash your car in direct sunlight. Water, soap, and cleaning products can dry quickly in the sun, leaving stains and streaks on paint and windows.
Instead, try washing your car by hand on a cool surface on a slightly cloudy day, and keep a spray bottle with you. You may also want to park the car on a flat surface so you have room to fully open the door.
Step 3: Clean the wheels
First, you should wash the dirtiest parts of your car, usually the wheels.
Wash the tires individually with a bucket of fresh water to avoid getting dirt on the vehicle paint.
Before cleaning your wheels, purchase a tire brush, microfiber cloth, separate sponge, and tire-specific cleaning fluid.
Water-based, non-corrosive rim cleaners are recommended for all types of car rims and are ultimately the safest choice for tire cleaning products.
You can then coat your wheels with the cleaner of your choice. Let the solution sit, then use a tire brush to remove dirt from the tires.
Finally, spray the wheel with clean, cold water to remove any cleaning agent from the wheel. After cleaning the wheels, be sure to dry them with a clean microfiber cloth.
Step 4: Clean the headlights
Also, don’t forget the headlamps. Dirty and sun-damaged plastic headlights can turn yellow over time, making them less effective on the road and ruining the overall look of an otherwise clean car.
To clean your headlights, you can wipe them with cleaning fluid and then with a damp cloth. Apply protective paint to restore your headlights after washing.
Step 5: Clean the Exterior
Washing the car body will help remove any dust, dirt or mud. This also helps prevent further scratching of the car’s paint finish.
Wash every part of the car (top to bottom) to remove larger debris. Remember to wash the body with soapy water in a clean bucket!
It is best to use a hose without a nozzle to rinse the soapy water. At low pressure, this type of hose allows water to flow gently down the top of the car (this is called the foil method).
Now dry your car with a large microfiber cloth or chamois before moving on to the next step. Remember that your car must be completely dry before applying any wax or protective coating.
Step 6: Clean Windows and Glass
Cleaning your car’s glass and windows will not only make it look shiny, but it will also allow you to drive safely without squinting through the glass.
It is important to note that standard glass and tinted glass require different cleaning methods. You want to use a window cleaner designed for car windows, not a product like Windex, which can damage your car’s exterior window finish.
When cleaning windows, it’s best to spray the cleaner directly on the surface and wipe with a microfiber cloth so the spray doesn’t drip. You can then repeat the process for the interior of the car as well.
When cleaning your windshield or windows, it’s best not to park your car in the sun, as the cleaner will evaporate and leave an unpleasant residue or streak.
Step 7: Clean the Interior
We all know how difficult it is to keep the interior of a car clean, and sometimes forgetting to do so when you have kids or pets.
You can clean the interior of your car by following these steps:
- Remove all debris from the car (including on the floor, under the cushions, and on the seats).
- Pull the footpads out of the car and shake to remove any dirt or dust. You can scrub them with soap and hot water, let them air dry completely, and put them back in.
- Vacuum the front and rear seats, floor, under pedals and side door panels.
- Wipe away dirt, dust and grime with a microfiber cloth or cleaning wipes. You can spray a small amount of car cleaner between the console, steering wheel, and car seats.
- Clean the cup holder with a cleaning wipe or a cotton swab moistened with cleaning solution.
- Clean stains from seats and carpets with a special cleaning solution, then wipe clean with a damp cloth.
- Hard-to-reach places between the seats and around the center console can be reached with a paint stirrer whose end is wrapped in a microfiber cloth.
Now that your car is washed and clean the next step is adding shine and protection. Some of your next steps may include:
Preparing the surface – use a clay bar to remove suborn spots along with any wax that was previously applied. Repair scratches – fill lighter scuffs and scratches with a smooth coat of wax or use a scratch-specific repair product for deeper scratches.
Polishing for extra gloss – This step is optional and is a great option for anyone who wants a high-gloss sheen that can make your car’s paint look like a mirror.