How to Wash a Car by Hand

Things you’ll need

  • 2 Large buckets
  • 2 Thick sponges (one for car itself, and one for hubcaps because of the metal shards from the brake pads or one sponge for tires, one microfiber towel for the car)
  • Microfiber towels
  • Car wax
  • Glass cleaner
  • Hose
  • Shady area or time in the evening


  1. Get everything you will need, and set it aside near the car.
  2. Add a small amount of soap into one bucket (not quite covering the bottom) and fill with warm water. Use a high quality car wash liquid. Follow the directions on the bottle of car wash liquid for proper dilution.
  3. Fill the other bucket with a little plain water.
  4. Spray water over the car using the hose to loosen dirt and grime.
  5. Soak the entire sponge in the soapy water, and apply on the car, starting from the top (using small circular strokes works well).
  6. When the sponge becomes excessively dirty, clean it in the the bucket with plain water.
  7. After one section is soaped, rinse it with the hose before moving on. Remember to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  8. Use the soapy rag and scrub really well in all the nooks in the hubcaps, headlights, and trim, and rinse off with the hose.
  9. Dry the vehicle with a fresh towel.
  10. If bug/tar/sap residue remain, remove using the procedure to Remove Bugs, Tar, and Sap from Your Car.


  • Do not keep the water running while you wash your car, the average at-home wash will use between 80-140 gallons of fresh water. Buy a shut-off valve and hose sprayer.
  • Do not use dish-soap to wash your car. It will strip your wax and protective coating.
  • Make sure you start from the top of the car and work your way to the bottom.
  • While rinsing, set the hose on a lighter mode.
  • Consider washing very dirty cars twice.
  • For that extra shiny look, use wax. Wax helps protect paint from tiny chips and from cracking due to UV rays, keeping the car looking better longer. Follow the directions on the bottle.
  • Don’t forget to shut all the doors and windows before washing.
  • Glass cleaner also helps to give the windows a “high definition” look. Clean both inside and out.
  • To remove road film and water-spots from the window glass and mirrors, use rubbing alcohol. It’s cheap, you use very little, and it works great. Do not let rubbing alcohol come in contact with your paint.
  • Do not wash or wax your car in direct sunlight. This will cause water to evaporate and will ‘bake on’ your soap or wax, leaving dull residue that can be difficult to remove.
  • Instant Shine type waxes will polish chrome and glass beautifully, but use vinyl conditioner for dark-colored plastic parts and tires.
  • It’s best to only use 100% microfiber towels. Anything else can hurt the finish of your car, even cotton towels. When finished washing your car with the microfiber towels, wash them in the washing machine with the same soap you wash your car with, and do not use fabric softener.
  • If bird droppings get on your car, get it off immediately; it will damage your finish. Same goes for bug residue.
  • Rinse the car before the soap dries. Otherwise you’ll get soap stains. Wash one side of the car first, and then move on to the other. Never let the soap dry.
  • Consider using a clay bar system to remove contaminants before waxing. Wash the car, dry it, use the clay bar, then wash the car again, and dry it again before using the wax.


  • Watch for water run-off when washing your car, it is contaminated with brake dust, oils, exhaust fumes. It will drain into our waterways untreated. Either wash your car on the lawn, or look into a waterless car wash.
  • Use an extra sponge for your tires. The small metal shards that come off of the brake pads can ruin your car’s paint finish. Remember, brake pads are coarse pieces of a substance that breaks apart into small pieces after a while, because of the friction they undergo.
  • Do NOT use Windex on the inside of color tinted windows, as it will discolor the tint and cause the tint to peel. A better option is “tint safe” window cleaners available at discount stores in the automotive section and at auto parts stores. they are safe inside and out. If in doubt, do not use a glass cleaner with ammonia as it will damage the tint if sprayed on the outside.



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