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The Perfect Car Washing Guide...

One of my least favourite parts of the car cleaning process is washing! yep, that's right, I hate it, loathe it with a passion bordering on the psychotic.

Why I hear you ask? OK, the wash process is when you risk causing most damage to any paint finish as there is constant friction between the washing tool and paint and any dirt on the surface can act as a scourer, leaving more damage, more swirls and more work ultimately.

With this in mind, I figured that other people might be having the same issues so I've compiled a 'how to' guide. This is by no means a definitive (you can only wash your car this way) gospel, rather, it's a bunch of hints, tips and 'do's and 'don'ts' which may be helpful.

Sun or Shade?

Traditionally, washing your car in bright, hot sunshine (which we of course experience a lot of here in the UK…) was always a no-no and whilst there are some shampoos which can and do work reasonably well in sunny conditions, I always try to avoid this as water spots very quickly on paint and glass, shampoo dries streaky before you can rinse away, drying towels drag on water spots, causing scratching – plus the folically challenged always end up with a sunburnt head!

Which shampoo?

There are a lot of shampoos available both off the shelf, via the Internet or from specialist companies who supply the trade. I usually steer clear of "wash & wax" type products, as they rarely use a particularly good quality wax and I want pure cleaning power from my shampoo (now, THAT sounds like an advert for washing powder!)

Expensive shampoo is something I usually avoid, not because I'm tight, but because they rarely out-perform lower priced products. I always look for shampoo that doesn't strip any wax from the car and ideally one which sheets water off the surface (more on this later) Sonax Extra Gloss and Mothers California Gold are particular favourites for this reason.


I always evaluate any car I work on before doing anything to it. Look for any damage, corrosion, bird mess etching or other fallout and decide on the best route to removal.

I then rinse the car with plain tap water from the hose. Spend a good few minutes doing this, as pre-rinsing will help remove any dust, loose dirt or mud from the car, reducing the risk of this causing damage to your paintwork.

Mix your shampoo as directed – you can use either cold or lukewarm water, not hot as it can either strip wax or reduce its ability to protect, plus it'll burn your hands…..

Get a second bucket and fill with cold water.

Chuck out that sponge!!!!!!!

Yellow sponges are, in my humble opinion, the single biggest cause of wash damage. They trap dirt on a flat surface and simply move it around the paint, making the dirt particles like a scouring pad on your pristine paintwork. Even regular rinsing can't overcome this problem, so what can you do?

Easy, invest in a lambswool washmitt. Does exactly what it says on the tin, in that most have a synthetic mitt that you fit your hand into covered with a thick layer of genuine lambswool.

Why stick your hand up half a dead sheep? Why not I say – whatever floats your boat……

Seriously, lambswool is softer than a synthetic sponge and draws dirt deep into the wool, and away from your paint. It also rinses cleaner and dirt is not trapped as easily, thus reducing the risk of damage.

You can clean them in a mild liquid detergent and I have mitts, which are close to 2 years old and still work well. Chenille and microfibre mitts are also available, but in my experience lambswool performs considerably better.

Back to the process…..

Don't be a scrooge!

You should now have the following tools.

1. Bucket filled with shampoo mixture

2. Bucket filled with cold water

3. Washmitt

4. Hosepipe

This is the order in which I wash my Astra hatch.

1. Roof

2. Side windows

3. Bonnet

4. Sides to rubbing strip approx 1/3 from sill height

5. Rear window/boot

6. Front end

7. Windscreen

I try to follow the logic that, under normal use, area 1 stays cleanest and area 7 collects the most dirt, bugs and so on.

Put mitt in bucket, onto panel and soap thoroughly and here's where you don't need to be (and mustn't be) stingy with your shampoo mixture! use plenty as the soap is both cleaning and providing lubrication (no sniggering at the back please) between your mitt and the paintwork. You can always make up more if you run out! Try to work in straight lines to minimise swirling. I generally use the following rule;

Horizontal panels (roof, bonnet, boot) – front-to-back-motions

Vertical panels (doors, wings, front & rear) – top-to-bottom motions

After each panel, dip the mitt in the clean water bucket, rinse and continue. I generally change the water every 3rd panel or more frequently if the car is very dirty.

I tend to do the roof and side glass, then rinse, bonnet, rinse, side 1, rinse, side 2 rinse, tailgate, rinse, grill, rinse, windscreen, rinse.

I then switch to another bucket, make up more soap solution and clean the sill panels, front and rear bumpers and rinse.

You can use 2 or even 3 clean water buckets (I do this on my black 205), Grit Guards on your rinse bucket, different mitts for different areas – your choice really.

Get your end off

Finally, remove all couplings from the end of your hose then use the stream of water to get as much water from the car as possible – the less water left, the less drying needed.


Get a good microfibre waffle weave drying towel. These are heavier microfibre towels, with pockets that soak up water very quickly 'some won't' even wring out after drying 2 or more cars!

I tend to use several towels on a rotation basis when I dry cars and blot water spots. I also use a lightweight waffle weave which absorbs less water but is lighter than most drying towels.

Meguiars Water Magnet is the best drying towel I have used so far – absorbs a lot of water without becoming heavy.

Always dry in straight lines – I dry front to back on all horizontal panels and top to bottom on all vertical panels. Don't forget doorshuts, petrol filler and boot/bonnet shuts (I have several older towels for these areas)

You can also use some QD spray whilst drying – just make sure it's compatible with any wax on the car to avoid streaking.


This guide should help you to maintain the perfect finish and reduce paintwork damage during washing.

You can add a lot of tools, products and other techniques into the wash process but I have tried to stick to the basics rather than confuse everyone. thumbsup.gif


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Only use soft hand brush,this washes dirt etc off unlike cloths sponges and any kind of mitt.that rub the muck into the paint. a good soaking first softens hings up.

Not all car washering machine will damge your car. like most things they vary.

I mostly hand wash both our family cars with rainwater from a butt this doesnot leave any spots as tap water can do.

Use the local garage washer in winter,just the basic wash option.its a brilliant machine,and the queue for shows i am not the only one to thinks so.

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Having been a professional valeter in the past I've always tended to use a steam genie when washing my car.

For those that have a diy power washer like a Karcher then my advice would be to clean the car down with med to high pressure cold water,lots of it.Particularly up under the wheel arches,lower body,sills,rubbing strips to really get all that loose grit n road dirt off.

Note.Always keep the nozzle at least a foot,preferably 2 back from the area you're cleaning !!!

If you have the option use med to high pressure med hot with car cleaner (not hottest maximum heat,I've seen paintwork lifted off like wallpaper with a steamer before,especially on plastic body coloured mouldings !!).

Thoroughly attend to the problem areas,lower body,sills,bumpers with the pressurised hot shampoo using a mitt with your bucket of clean shampoo n water to remove real stubborn areas of dirt.

Thoroughly rinse with pressurised cold water from the roof down taking time to rinse door shuts,rubbing strips,around the roofline and tailgate as soap loves to collect here.

Once you've fully rinsed the car I still prefer to dry it with a good old fashioned and somewhat maligned chamois leather of good quality.

Keep it in a bucket of cold,clean water so it''s thoroughled wet when you begin.Wring it out and run slowly and methodically over the entire bodywork,wringing it out after every application.

The thing with a chamois is to make sure the dirt has been removed before you start and you keep the leather scrupulously clean ~ but that equally applies to mitts,sponges,clothes or anything else.

Once it's been dried with a chamois any damp areas will quickly air dry but if you're impatient you can't beat an old fashioned paper towel,particularly for glass !!!

When it comes to maintaining the wax coat I personally wouldnt go to the effort of power or hand washing my car without applying a layer or two,at the very least of wax afterwards !!

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I've found that Car-Plan Leather Cleaner (aerosol in Asda, £4 or so) is good not only for dashboards, door-trim and external rubber, but is also a SUPERB glass-polish after washing - just don't let it over-dry, I do about a 1/4 of a windscreen or rear-window at a time. I only discovered how good it was after over-spraying some from window-rubbers onto the glass - it was what Bob Ross used to call a 'happy-accident'.

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Nah, none of it, wash your car when it is pouring with rain, sound stupid, well it isn't and where I live they probably think I am stupid when I don the rain suit wellingtons etc and go out and wash my car and my missus car too,been doing it this way for donkeys years, takes me all of 30 mins to do both and these cars are old, no rust and still gleaming 10-15 years on from new, and yes, clean.

Why wash your car in the rain, well the rain softens all the muck bird crap etc so makes for easy removal. I'm no car wash expert, never have been and I loathe the task, but every now and then it literally throws it down and this is when I wash my car, I wash it very similarly to how the OP does it but I use a long reach brush[softened every time I put it away,the rain is doing the rest for me, and after washing I use clean water from a watering can [that has never contained anything else, and then rinse the suds using that, then the rain does the rest,result when the air has dried it and the rain ceases, a gleaming car. These Sunday morning in the sun car washers intrigue me so very much,sun helps bloom car paintwork, this is fact, so when people watch me wash my car instead of thinking I have lost the plot look outside of the box.I'm not soaked, natures own,that is the rain has more than done this tedious job for me and I am well satisfied with 30 mins work.now to dry my rain suit, job done, that is until the next time.

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