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How to Wash a Car by Hand

Washing your car yourself can be a relaxing and satisfying respite from the concerns of life and an activity the kids can help you with. You only need soap, a bucket, and some rags.


  1. Image titled ParkCar Step 1
    Park the car out of direct sunlight. This prevents premature drying which can leave splotches on the paint.
  2. Image titled EverythingYouNeed Step 2
    Set everything you will need near the car. This includes cleaning material such as the soap that you will use for cleaning, a large supply of water (depending on the size of the vehicle), a bucket or hose, rags to dry your car, and other items, and a little help.
  3. Image titled WashSoap Step 3
    Fill a bucket with water and add car wash soap in the quantity directed on its bottle.
  4. Image titled FillBucketWater Step 4
    Fill another bucket with plain water.
  5. 5
    Check that all windows are closed and retract the antenna.
  6. Image titled HoseDown Step 5
    Hose off the car to loosen and soften the dirt. Don’t use a strong jet, as this can rub grit over the paint and scratch it. Try to aim the jet downwards on all surfaces. Aiming upwards around windows may cause water to dribble into the car if there are flaws in the rubber seals.
  7. 7
    Pull the windshield wipers away from the windshield until they click into their propped position, away from the glass.
  8. Image titled SoakSponge Step 6
    Soak a large wash mitt or sponge in the soapy water, being certain to wash out any dirt in it, and begin applying it to the car. Do not use a brush on the car body — this will leave little scratches.
  9. Image titled WashTop Step 7
    Wash the car section by section, starting at the top. Circle around the car several times, washing lower areas with each round.
  10. Image titled RinseSponge Step 8
    Rinse the dirt out of the wash mitt or sponge in the bucket with plain water frequently.
  11. Image titled RinseHose Step 9
    After one section is washed, rinse it with the hose before moving on. You don’t want the soap to dry on the paint and stain it.
  12. Image titled KeepCarWet Step 10
    As you progress, keep the entire car wet, as this will prevent droplets from drying on the paint and leaving water-spots. You want to be able to dry the car with towels before it air-dries.
  13. Image titled ScrubLowerBody Step 11
    Scrub the lower body and the wheels last, as these are the dirtiest, grittiest parts. It’s a good idea to use a separate wash mitt or sponge on the bottom.
  14. Image titled WheelBrush Step 12
    Use a long, skinny wheel-brush for cleaning the openings of the wheels. If the wheels are very glossy, instead use a sponge or a mitt to clean them just as you would the car body after hosing off as much of the extra dirt.
  15. Image titled SideWalls Step 13
    Clean the tire sidewalls with a plastic brush.
  16. Image titled HoseAngle Step 14
    At some point rinse the bottom of the car, from various angles, with a spray nozzle. This is particularly important when the car has been exposed to salt.
  17. Image titled DryVehicle Step 15
    Dry the vehicle with fresh towels.
  18. 18

    Every so often, touch up and protect the clean car.

    • Remove rust from the car and touch up the paint if there is significant damage, or easily stabilize and seal small scrapes and rust spots with rust converter. Wash off any grit or corrosive pre-treatment chemicals, allow rust converter time to dry and cure, and do not wax a fresh paint finish.
    • Adhesive accessories such as door, door-edge (i.e., other guy’s door) and bumper guards and reflective patches stick best to a clean, dry, not-too-waxy car.
    • Wax (or similar polish) should be applied to a clean, dry car. Failure of water to stand up in beads or small pools repelled from the surface is the traditional sign to re-wax. Abrasive polishes are rarely, if ever, needed with modern car paints and risk unexpected damage scouring through a clear coat: Leave them for experts and/or extreme cases.
    • Apply RainX or similar water-repellent treatment to clean, dry glass to repel water from it and improve visibility. Reapply it when water no longer forms small beads – every few months on side and back windows as may be desired, every month or so on the windshield, where it is most needed and from which the wipers will tend to rub it off

    Adopted From: http://www.wikihow.com/Wash-a-Car-by-Hand

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