Professional Car Cleaning Tips

A yellow sponge washing a black car with lots of bubbles.

When it comes to cleaning our cars, most of us opt for a drive-through car wash or if we're really ambitious, a hose in the driveway. Either way the car does end up looking better, and most of the dirt is gone, but to really clean your car you need to make a little more of a commitment.

Getting your car really clean takes about half a day but other than the time there's very little cost. In fact you'll quickly get back whatever you spend simply by not paying for car washes. Here's how to really clean your car and keep it looking great.

Tools of the Trade

Car wash soap - While many people think this is just repackaged dish soap, car wash soap is specially formulated to not damage your car's finish. Dish soap/detergent can actually remove car wax.

Car wash mitt - The best ones are made from sheepskin or microfiber cloth.

Soft brush - This is good for hard to reach places. Make sure it's something that won't scratch your finish.

Two pails - One to hold water and soap and the other for clear water for rinsing your wash mitt.

Drying cloths - Absorbent cotton towels and some microfiber cloths for getting into nooks and crannies.

A spot to work out of the sun - Cleaning your car in the direct sun will leave water spots.

Dealing with Bugs and Bird Droppings

Start by dealing with any dead bugs and bird droppings. Spray undiluted car wash soap on them and leave it to work while you clean the wheels.

Cleaning the Wheels

First, fill your two pails and ensure the wheels are cool before you start (if the wheels are hot the water will evaporate and leave spots). Spray them all with the hose. Wash them with a soft brush and the mixture of car wash soap and water. An old tooth brush works well for cleaning small openings and edges.

You can use the wash mitt or a sponge instead of the soft brush, but if you do, use a different mitt to clean you car. (You don't want to take a chance of dirt from the wheels getting into the mitt and scratching the car's finish). You can get special wheel cleaning liquid but car wash soap works just as well. After washing each wheel, rinse it with clear water.

Starting at the Top

Clean your car starting at the top and working down. First, spray it all over with the hose then gently scrub with your wash mitt dipped into the soap mixture. Work on small sections at a time rinsing your mitt in the clear water before dipping it into the soap mix.

Now it's time to pay special attention to get rid of the dead bugs and bird droppings. Use a small, soft brush that won't scratch the paint when cleaning in tight areas.

Keeping It Wet

While washing, keep the car moist by frequently misting it with the hose. This will keep water spots from forming.

Rewashing and Rinsing

After scrubbing the entire car, go over quickly once again with your mitt and soapy water. Gently rinse the soap off by removing the hose nozzle then playing water on the car, here again working from the roof on down.


Finish up by drying with clean cotton towels. Try not to leave any lint behind. Change towels frequently. Get the car completely dry and you'll have no water spots.

With these tips your car will be shining like new. All with no need to pay for a professional!