Washing your car the correct way

Before storing your vehicle it is a good idea to hand wash it to remove any deposits, dirt and fallout. Whilst doing this, you’ll get a very good idea of the condition of the bodywork.

It gives you the chance to make a note of any scuffs, scratches or blemishes which you may not have noticed before.

It is estimated 80% of surface scratching is introduced in vehicle paintwork by a poor wash technique. This is usually a result of using one bucket of soap solution which becomes dirtier as the wash process progresses. This dirty water contains thousands of dirt and grit particles in suspension, which when a sponge is placed back into the bucket to replenish with suds, brings grit back onto the bodywork, scratching it in the washing process.

There is a very simple and effective method to help prevent scratching your car whist washing it. Recognised by the trade as ‘best practice’ but not known by many. The professional method to wash a car is to adopt: 

The Two Bucket Technique:

Items required:

  • 2 x Good sized buckets, ideally with grit guards (one for wash the second for rinse. Grit guards are a mesh grid in the bucket raised off the bottom by a series of baffles. This guard allows any grit in suspension to fall beneath this grid and is then prevented from becoming ‘lifted’ back into the upper sections of the water by the baffles).
  • 2 x Lambswool wash mitts (one for upper body parts and the other for sills etc. These new type of mitts have a deep pile enabling any grit to be drawn away from the paintwork. A sponge typically traps the grit between the paintwork and sponge causing scratching).
  • 2 x Wheel brushes (1 x large, 1x small).
  • 1 x Good quality car shampoo (Do not use washing up liquid, these contain salts).
  • 1 x Non acid wheel cleaner if wheels are particularly dirty/baked on brake dust. (Acid wheel cleaners are too aggressive in our opinion, over time these damage the surface of wheels).
  • 1 x Drying towel (Effectively a deep pile microfibre towel. These are more absorbent than a chamois and kinder to the paintwork. The deep pile allows any particles on the surface to be safely drawn into the towel rather than becoming dragged across the surface introducing scratching).

Method:

Ensure you wash your car in a shady area and that the paintwork is cool to the touch. Using appropriate protective eyewear and gloves is advisable too.

Start with the wheels:

  1. Rinse with a hose to remove any loose debris.
  2. Fill one bucket with water, adding car shampoo.
  3. Apply and agitate the soap solution to the wheels using two brushes, one for the face and the second to reach behind the spokes and inner wheel.
  4. Rinse off with a hose.
  5. Should any stubborn dirt remain, apply a non acid wheel cleaner to repeat this process. Do not at any stage allow wheel cleaner to dry on the wheels before rinsing off.

Bodywork

  1. Moving onto the bodywork, rinse the car from top to bottom, this will help reduce the risk of scratching by removing loose particles and wetting the surfaces to be washed, acting as a lubricant.
  2. Fill two buckets with clean water adding a good quality car shampoo into one of them.
  3. Rinse the Lambswool wash-mitt in the rinse bucket to ensure it is grit free, wring out and place into the soapy water bucket.
  4. Start at the top of the car and wash each area in sections, moving the mitt over the panel in parallel lines, not circles, using light pressure.
  5. Before replenishing the mitt with soapy water rinse the mitt thoroughly in the clean water bucket, wring out excess water and then replenish with suds from the soapy bucket. This removes any grit or dirt from your mitt between ‘topping up’ with suds.
  6. The sequence in which Windrush Car Storage prefer to wash each section of a car is: roof, bonnet, glass, upper doors, front bumper, lower section of the doors, sills and rear bumper last.
  7. Use a separate mitt or sponge to wash the lower section of doors, bumpers and sills so that you don’t contaminate your ‘good’ mitt with a lot of grit or grime.
  8. Rinse the car with a hose starting at the top working down the car in a uniform, methodical manner. Use the hose without a ‘jet’ attachment; this will result in the water ‘sheeting’ from the car taking water and soap with it as it glides off.
  9. Dry the car with a drying towel instead of a traditional chamois as this will result in a smear free finish.
  10. Ensure to rinse all of your wash equipment after use and store in one of your buckets with a lid on top so that next time you come to use your wash tools, they are clean and dirt free. We would also recommend to wash your drying towel after each use too.

You should now have a sparkling clean car!

The best piece of advice we would ask you to take away is to take your time. We typically spend 2 hours washing a car correctly, even if it doesn’t appear to be very dirty, and give the same level of care to every vehicle we look after, from everyday to classic car storage.

Meguires have created a very good video of this two bucket technique: