How to Wash a Car at Home

A clean, shiny car never stays that way for long, so proper washing techniques are essential. Learn all about how to wash a car yourself.

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A clean, shiny car looks great. But unless it's a showpiece that never leaves the garage, it won't stay clean for long. Road dust, bug splatters, bird poop and, in winter, salt residue soon cover a vehicle that's driven regularly.

This is where proper washing can help. If your car needs a good cleaning but you're not sure how to do it, follow this detailed step-by-step guide. In less time than it takes to drive back and forth to an automatic car wash, you can do a better job yourself.

Tools Required

  • Car washing sponge
  • Hose
  • Large bucket
  • Long-handled brush with hose connection
  • Microfiber Cloth

Materials Required

  • Bug stain remover
  • Car soap or mild dish soap
  • Heavy-duty shop towels
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

Fill Your Bucket and Soak the Car

  • The first step to knowing how to wash a car properly is getting your soap mixture right.
  • Drizzle three tablespoons of car washing soap or mild dish soap into your bucket, then fill the bucket with water. Make sure the solution is nice and foamy.
  • Let the soap and water mixture sit while you soak and brush the entire car thoroughly with your hose-attached brush and water only, making sure to get water into all nooks and crannies, including the wheels. Wash off all the loose dirt you can.

Fill Your Bucket and Soak the CarSteve Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 2

Scrub One Section at a Time

  • Use your car washing sponge and soapy water to thoroughly hand wash the car one part at a time.
    • I like to start with the hood and work my way back. Work on about one quarter of the vehicle before moving on.
  • Scrub vigorously with the sponge to remove all the dirt, grease and debris. Add more soap as needed to maintain suds.

Scrub One Section at a TimeSteve Maxwell for Family Handyman