Step-by-Step Hand Wash Car Guide: Mastering the Art of DIY Car Washing | How to do car wash at home

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Updated on:

November 9, 2023

Hand Wash Car 101: Essential Products and Tools for a Home Car Wash Experience | Hand car wash tips

Drive through car washes use brushes with hard bristles that can lead to scratching the exterior of your vehicle's paint. Detailing places that perform hand wash can often do a bad job. This is why learning how to hand wash your car is a very useful skill.

It is fairly easy to learn how to preform a professional car wash on your vehicle. Longterm, knowing how to wash your vehicle can increase the resale value of it as well as prolong the life of the paintwork. All you need is two hours of your time and a couple of cleaning supplies, and you are about to become a professional detailer.

In this article, we will give you a step by step guide on how to wash your car efficiently.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hand washing your car is a useful skill that can prevent damage to your vehicle's paintwork and increase its resale value. Drive-through car washes with brushes can cause scratching, and some detailing places may not do a thorough job.
  • To perform a professional hand wash at home, gather the necessary supplies such as car wash soap, glass cleaner, microfiber towels, two buckets, and a steamer.
  • Follow a step-by-step process for washing your car, including rinsing, washing wheels and tires, washing the exterior, rinsing again, cleaning windows, cleaning door sills and jambs, cleaning the interior, drying, and optional waxing for added protection and shine.

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Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)

How often should you be washing your car?

The amount of times you should wash your car mostly depends on where you live and how messy of a person you are.

If you live somewhere where it is muddy and rainy, it is very important to wash your car as often as once a week since in that climate you get the car dirty often. Dried out mud combined with road salt can lead to damaging paint and car's finish. In addition, if you are the type of driver who eats in the car and leaves a lot of trash, this makes it even more crucial to clean it every week. If you leave food and trash in the car you can get roaches or mold, which are very hard to get rid of.

So best answer is once a week. but if you are not a very messy person, once in two weeks will be enough.


It is very important to take a couple of steps of precautions before starting this process.

  1. You should take off all jewelry like rings and bracelets. You do not want your accessories to scratch the paint of your car when cleaning the exterior.
  2. Wear clothes that do not have any metal parts, like belts or any clasps. This can also scratch the car's paint.
  3. Make sure to park your car on your driveway or where there you are not in the way of other cars.
  4. Some chemicals can be sensitive for your skin so you should wear a pair of gloves to protect tour skin.
  5. Park your vehicle away from direct sunlight. Sun will dry out any cleaning solution fast and this will not give you enough time to wash your car efficiently.
professional cleaning supplies for car washing

Car wash materials needed for making hand car wash at come

In order to perform the best car wash, you need to gather some necessary supplies. Most of these you can find lying around your house, or substitute most of them.

1. Car wash soap

Bad quality cleaning solution can leave streaks on your vehicle. This is why it is crucial to get a high quality car soap that will be able to remove all debris and stubborn dirt like bird poop.

The Chemical Guys Extreme Bodywash & Wax Foaming Car Wash Soap is a great option for car washing. This is soap combined with wax product produces a lot of foam that is able to combat against the toughest grime. This is a concentrated formula that can be used for A foam gun or diluted in a bucket of water.

Another great product is the Fortador Blue Magic Car Wash Soap. This is a highly concentrated polymer based cleaning wash that is multipurpose. This wash increases the shine of paint leaving a sleek and glossy finish. Compared to other car soaps, Blue Magic gets rid of all dirt and grime much faster and better, leaving no debris behind.

You can also use dish soap instead of a professional cleaner. Just dilute some of it in water to make a soapy water that can be used with a sponge or microfiber towels.

2. Glass cleaner

There are a lot of kinds of glass cleaners on the market, but the ammonia free glass cleaner is the best one to use to wash the windows. Ammonia free cleaners are gentle enough to not damage your tints, but powerful enough to leave your windows sparkly clean and with no streaks.

The Sprayway Glass Cleaner Aerosol Spray is one of the best ammonia free cleaners. This product's foam formula does not leave streaks and cleans your windows thoroughly.

Fortador 50 to 1 Polimer Glass Cleaner is the best automotive glass cleaner. It is an alcohol base glass that is safe for tinted windows. This ethanol-based product is proven to remove all types of stubborn stains, like grease, from all kinds of glass surfaces.

Learn more about removing water spots from car windows and paint.

3. Microfiber towels

Using regular scrubbing sponges on your car might leave scratches on the car paint or finish. This is why it is best to get a microfiber towel or a mitt that is specifically designed for car washing.

Check this guide about proper laundry detergent and washing of microfiber cloth
two buckets with grits for car washing
Two buckets with grits

4. Two buckets

You will need to get two buckets filled with water. First bucket will have soapy water that will be used to dip your clean microfiber towel in to wash a car.

Second bucket should have clean water where you will rinse dirty microfibers and sponges in.

You can also get a third bucket to use when washing wheels. Wheels will be the dirtiest part of your car so these buckets will come in handy.

powerful portable steam cleaner
Portable multi purpose steam cleaner

5. Steam cleaner

This is an optional tool, but it is very useful. With a steamer you can quickly and efficiently clean the exterior and the interior of your car. A steamer does not require any chemicals in order to clean tough dirt.

The Fortador Volt Mini is a portable but powerful steamer that can be used for many different tasks. This steamer comes with a lot of attachments that make it easy to get into all the nooks of your vehicle, like under the seats. Steam is safe to be used on paint, leather, and even glass.

6. Additional supplies and equipment

These are some other supplies you will be needing.

  1. Pressure washer
  2. Vaccum or leaf blower
  3. Hose
  4. Wax
  5. Stiff brush or wheel brush
  6. Headlight restoration kit (optional)
Learn more about full set of mobile detailing tools
washing cars at home

Washing car at home | Full Cleaning process

Before starting the washing proces, make sure to park your car in a shady spot. In addition, gather all the supplies and put them close to you to not waste time when you start washing.

Make sure you have a hose and running water since it will be very hard to do a thorough wash without it.

tinsing car

Step 1: Rinse

Use a hose or pressure washer to spray down and rinse your entire car, including the tires. You need to make sure you rinse off loose dirt and surface dirt off to make the whole process much faster and easier.

washing wheels

Step 2: Wash wheels and tires

Since wheels are the dirtiest parts of your car, you should start washing a car with these.

Spray down the wheels and use a wheel brush to get into wheel's barrel and wheel wells. Do not forget to get into the cracks and back of the wheels as well as wipe brake dust.

Discover our top picks of wash mitts.
wasging car exterior

Step 3: Wash the exterior

Start by washing your car from top to bottom. Dip your microfiber wash mitt in soapy water bucket and begin on the car's roof. Go in side to side motion instead of circular motions to eliminate streaks.

Wash your car in sections, moving around the vehicle and rinsing as you move from one section to another. Keep dipping the microfiber cloth in soap bucket to consistently have enough product to wipe off dirt, bird droppings and water spots. Do not forget to rinse off damp microfiber towel in a bucket with fresh water to not spread dirt all over the car.

If you want to perform clay bar treatment check this guide.

Step 4: Rinse again

Use your hose and rinse your vehicle again. After you have rinsed off all the soapy water mixed with dirt, examine your car.

After you have washed your car, you might notice you have missed some spots. If so, grab your microfiber and wipe off any remaining residue.

cleaning car windows

Step 5: Wash windows

Spray you chosen glass cleaner and use a clean microfiber to wash the windows. Go in a side to side up and down motion to efficiently clean the windows without leaving any streaks.

Step 6: Rinse once more

After you see that you do not need to use anymore soap or cleaning solutions, hose down the car again. Frequently rinsing the vehicle will prevent leaving marks from water droplets.

door jambs cleaning with steam

Step 7: Clean door sills and jambs

With a damp microfiber, go over the sills, jambs, and any dirty edges.

cleaning car interior

Step 8: Clean up car's interior

Use your vacuum to suck up any crumbs and to go over the floor mats.

Grab an interior spray or diluted dish soap and use that all over the dashboard and other parts if your interior that might be dirty. Use clean microfiber towels to wipe off the debris. When washing a car interior, make sure that you are not using the same microfibers you used for the exterior.

Use a foam brush or paint brush to clean the air vents.

If you have smoke smell inside check this guide for odor removal.

Step 9: Dry your car

After washing the exterior and interior, you can proceed to dry everything off. The best method to use to dry your car is the two-towel method. Grab the first dry towel and collect majority of the water. With the second towel, pickup any remaining water.

Open the car windows and let the interior of your car to air dry.

Learn more about best drying towels for cars
spray wax for car paint

Step 10: Protection

This is an optional step but one of the pro tips that is highly recommended to preserve the cleanliness of your car wash.

Use your favorite wax and apply it all over the car. This will not only make your car shine, but also make the future washing easier.

If you will wax you car, learn more about microfiber towels for waxing.

Expert opinion: Value of Hand Washing is Beyond Automated Cleaning

After using automatic car washes in tunnels, it's smart to realize that hand washing is important to keep your vehicle looking its best. Automated car washes are quick and easy, but they use brushes that can leave marks on your car's paint.

To prevent this, it's a good idea to learn how to wash your car by hand. Spending just a few hours and gathering the right cleaning tools can help you become skilled at giving your car a proper wash.

This skill will not only protect your car's paint from damage but also increase its resale value and make the paint last longer. Choosing to wash your car by hand is a practical way to maintain its clean look, especially because automated tunnel washes can leave annoying marks and spots on the car's surface over time.

About the Authors

Sergey "Serg" Paskevich
Panama-based detailing pro, proud owner of Car Care Performance Detailing studio in Panama-City. Specializing in Paint Correction, Ceramic Coating, and comprehensive Car Detailing services
Kristina Tretyakova
Distinguished as a South Florida Top-10 student in 2021. Studying Marketing and Business Administration at FIU. Proficient in daily operations and skilled in cleaning, auto detailing and copywriting.

Learn More

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Bug-Free Zone: How to Get Rid of Cockroaches and Bugs in Your Car Like a Pro


How to Do Car Interior Detailing like a PRO | Complete Workflow of Interior Detailing


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