Beginner’s Guide to Hand Washing a Car

Paying for a professional car wash comes with both its benefits and headaches. Clearly it’s a time-saver, whether you’re getting an exterior, interior, or full-service cleaning. However, commercial car washes sometimes use materials that may damage your car’s paint or machinery that can dent or break other parts of the vehicle. If your car needs a good cleaning and you want to save some money or avoid any potential damage, the old-fashioned method of handwashing your car remains the best option available. Now all you need to do is find the time and energy to get the job done. But before you do, give our step-by-step beginner’s guide to hand washing a car a quick read and you’ll officially be ready to go.

Park Car

It may seem obvious, but the first step of any car wash is to park the car, preferably out of direct sunlight. If you attempt to wash your car on a hot day, or even when the sun is directly overhead, you’ll likely end up with wet splotches along with the paint. It also makes the washing and drying process more difficult due to the water evaporating and the hot metal burning your hands. Now that you’ve parked your car outside of direct sunlight, remember to roll up all of the windows and pull away from the wipers from the windshield.

Prepare Cleaning Materials

Before washing the car, make sure you have all of the necessary materials nearby. You don’t want to be running in and out of the house wet and soapy because you forgot extra towels. The same goes for running to the store because you forgot a specific cleaning product.

  • Hose
  • Buckets
  • Soap
  • Sponges
  • Wash Mitt
  • Brush
  • Towels
  • Wax

Now that you have all of the cleaning supplies within arm’s length, it’s time to get started.

Fill Soap & Water Buckets

First, fill a bucket with water and then add soap. This is your washing bucket. Now fill an additional bucket with only water. This is your rinsing bucket.

Hose Car Down

Once your water hose is out and the buckets have been filled, use the hose to wet and loosen the dirt off the car. Aim the water stream downwards and avoid the windows in case of leaky window seals.

Clean Wheels First

Start with the wheels as they tend to be the filthiest part of the car. By washing them first, any dirt splashed off the wheels won’t spoil any of the vehicle’s clean sections. It’s best to use a long and thin wheel brush to clean all of the nooks and crannies inside the wheels and wheel wells. In the event, your wheels aren’t too dirty, or you don’t have a wheel brush, a sponge will work fine.

Scrub Car

Soak your sponge (or wash mitt) in the soapy water bucket and begin scrubbing down the entire body of the car. Only use a sponge or wash mitt, as a brush will likely scratch the paint.

Start at the Top

You’ll probably cover sections more than once throughout the car washing process, however, it’s still best to start from the top down. This cleaning strategy allows for clean sections to remain spotless while dripping soap and water washes over any uncleaned, lower regions. The “start at the top” method will also help reduce the length of the total car wash. If your car still appears dirty, give it a second scrub and wash.

Rinse-Off Car

Remember to keep the car wet as you’re washing. In order to prevent the soap from drying on the paint, always rinse off each section after washing. Similar to cleaning the car, you want to rinse off the car top to bottom. When rinsing off the entire car, don’t forget the often forgotten areas like the inner- and under-door shuts, as well as the aforementioned wheel wells.

Clean Tires

The tires of the car may be too dirty for a sponge to work effectively. If this is the case, use a thick-bristle brush to clean the dirt off the tire plies and sidewalls. If the tires are exceptionally dirty, you may want to consider purchasing a specific tire and wheel cleaner sold at any auto parts store.

Dry With Towels

Take a couple of Best drying towels for cars and begin drying the entire vehicle. Remember to completely wipe off all of the car’s surfaces as any sitting water left on the automobile can lead to paint damage or even rust. Most towels work fine in drying off a car, however, if the car is new and you’re worried about the paint job, use microfiber towels to be safe.

Wax When Dry

Wax should be applied only after the car is cleaned and has enough time to dry. If you wax the car and water appears on the surface of the car, you will probably have to re-wax. While many people skip this final step and call it a day after the car has dried, waxing can help protect the paint on the car from the sun and dirt.


And that my friends, is how you hand wash a car.