How to wash your car like a pro

Washing the car may seem like a chore, but not only is your car worth the benefits of a regular detailing, the process of maintaining your car’s paint job can be relaxing and rewarding in its own right. While regular professional maintenance is costly, in many cases your car detailing maintenance can be done yourself.

Before you get to the actual washing, inspecting the car’s surfaces under direct sunlight or another strong light source is useful to illuminate otherwise difficult to see dirt and scratches.

Cleaning and detailing your car is essential in protecting it from the elements. Phil Berg at recommends a regular wash about once a week. This ensures that gradual or imperceptible kinds of residuum, such as dirt and pollen, don’t collect and set into the clear coat of your car’s paint. Including an application of wax coating to the car after a cleaning is ideal once a month in order to further preserve the paint job.

To do the most professional job possible, you will need:

• A microfiber cloth, wash mitt, or sponge.
• A soft brush for harder to reach spots.
• Car washing soap. It’s important to not substitute this for dishwashing soap, as dish soap will harm the coat.
• Two to three buckets, one for soapy water and the others for rinsing, preferably with grit guards.
• A drying cloth, rubber bladed squeegee, or an electric blower. If you decide to use a blower to dry your car, make sure it is one you dedicate to the purpose of drying your car so that it will always blow clean air.

For a detailed step-by-step process,’s car expert, Aaron Gold, has an excellent guide on the ins and outs of a professional level DIY car washing job, including interior detailing.

Wash the surfaces of your car gently but thoroughly in order to preserve the paint. Once a surface is clean and you’re moving to a new surface, make sure to dry the current one to avoid the water drying unevenly and leaving marks. Once all the surfaces have been cleaned and dried they should be ready for an application of liquid or spray wax treatments.

All this said, sometimes a professional is what it will take to properly maintain and care for your vehicle. In those cases it may actually do harm to attempt the detailing yourself. Anything beyond the more superficial cleaning needs should be carefully inspected, assessed, and researched (take a look at these tips by Micah Wright to help sort questions you have about the process) before attempting to clean your car yourself.

For more practical information about taking care of your vehicle, read our car terms to know when getting a service, getting an oil change and when filling up at the pump.

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