The basic dos and don’t of washing your car at home

buckets over carWith car washes and valeting businesses closed due to the virus outbreak, many of us are washing our cars at home.  Some of us are making it a family affair.  Whilst both my car businesses are shut, I’m still available to offer car care advice and guidance. I love talking about cars and helping where I can. This guide is for a very basic car wash, for people with little or no experience, but it also might act as a reminder, to check that you haven’t picked up any bad habits.  If you want a longer more ‘detailed’ read on how to care for your car’s body work, head over to the guidance on Vintage Valets.

As this is a money-saving motoring website, my main advice is to beware of talking short-cuts that could turn out to be costly in the longer term.  

Remember – DON’T work on your car if it is likely to bring you within two metres of anyone outside of your household. And DON’T work on your car if you are feeling unwell.

waterless eco wash daisy

If you are space and water limited, and want a greener option – consider a water-less wash.  There are a few products available, but I favour (and stock) Water-less Eco Wash by Bristol Detailing Supplies.  It is simple to use – instructions on the bottle.  It’s not best for heavily soiled cars – but it has been keeping my cars beautifully clean during self-isolation.

For a basic wet wash (that will take about an hour) you will need: 

  • a hose with a spray attachment, or a pressure washer.  If you have neither or no outside tap, you could improvise with a pump action pressure sprayer (available from about £5).  If none of this is possible and you absolutely insist on washing your car – you could throw buckets of water over it (I’ll get hate mail for this).  If you have a snow foam lance – you probably know all about car washing – you might want to read here for further advice.
  • two buckets of warm water.  If you can’t get hold of a second bucket – use the biggest saucepan or reciprocal you have!
  • A wash mitt.  DON’T use a sponge – they attract grit which can then be rubbed back into bodywork causing tiny scratches and swirls
  • Car shampoo (lubricating shampoo is the best kind)
  • A microfibre drying towel. You don’t have to dry your car if you don’t mind water marks – but don’t cut a corner and use a normal towel – this may scratch or swirl your paintwork.

Basic car wash method: wet, wash, rinse

  • Start from the top of the car, pointing the hose (or alternative) downwards – rinse your car with water to loosen dirt.  If you have to use buckets – then throw from as high as possible – and don’t let go!
  • Include your wheels, inside the wheel arches and in between panel gaps.
  • Add shampoo to one of your buckets of warm water
  • Soak your mitt in the shampoo mix and start at the top using gentle sideways motion. Rinse your mitt in the bucket with just water, before re-soaking it in the shampoo bucket. Go around the top of your car first.  Then the middle. Leave the sills, lower bumpers and wheels till last. 
  • Keep your car wet at all times.  Use the hose if it starts to dry off.
  • Rinse off the shampoo with the hose (or alternative).  If you can still see dirt, repeat the shampoo stage using clean water.
  • Once rinsed, pat dry with the microfibre drying towel.  If you are using a professional drying towel, it helps to make it damp first.  


  • DON’T use just water – shampoos have a lubricant that prevents scratching
  • DON’T try to save money by using washing up liquid – It contains salt, which aids corrosion
  • DON’T use a sponge or anything else abrasive (so important I had to say it twice)
  • DON’T use a blade to dry your car – we have seen damage to paintwork caused by these.
  • DON’T get too close with a pressure washer – I talk to at least three customers a week who have blown holes in their paintwork or alloys by doing this.


  • Check the weather. Avoid Washing your car in the rain or in bright sunshine – it can leave water marks as it will dry before you have a chance to towel it.
  • Use a grit guard in the bottom of your bucket, if possible
  • Try out waxes and polishes on your clean car.  It will help to protect your car and can be very rewarding.
  • Send me a message or comment if you have any questions! 

Remember to have fun!  I love cleaning cars so much, I made it my business. (picture below not me – but you get the idea).

Stay safe and well.


rede dress car wash


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