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5 Car Washing Tips That Will Save Your Weekend

Car ready to wash in the driveway

There’s no two ways about it: Nothing looks better than a clean car. Some of us do it every week, while others just can’t seem to find the time. A good car wash can also help extend the life of your vehicle by removing harmful contaminants that could lead to chassis corrosion. Sure you can run through the local drive-thru car wash, but a good hand car wash at home can be relaxing while also giving you a chance to inspect your vehicle. Here are five car washing tips that will cut down your washing time while still giving your car that fresh-from-the-detailer look.

Man washing his car in the driveway by Joseph Nicolia on FlickrPrewash Prep

Start with a clean washing space if possible. Use a leaf blower or the water hose to rinse the area around the vehicle. This way you don’t end up accidently splashing any dirt from the ground back up on the vehicle. Next grab two water buckets (one for soapy water, one for dirty water), an old clean hand towel or car wash mitt, and a couple of towels that you don’t mind using to dry a vehicle. Have your garden hose  sprayer on and ready to go with plenty of hose length unrolled to allow you to walk around the entire car while spraying. You should also make sure to pick up a bottle of car wash, do not use dishwashing soap as it can damage some paint finishes and strip away the protective wax coating. If your wash is from concentrate, make sure to properly dilute it before application. If you have a tall van or SUV you may want a step stool or small ladder to reach the top of the roof completely.

Made in the Shade

If possible, you should wash your car in the shade rather than in direct sunlight. Washing in the shade is great. It keeps you cool while also preventing the soapy water from drying before you can rinse it off. If you can’t find a shady spot, or your soap dries prematurely, you’ll need to reapply the soap and the rinse before it leaves residue behind. If you have to work out in the sun wash small sections at a time such as a fender or half the hood.

And… Wash!

Fill both buckets with water. One bucket will be for soapy water, the other bucket for rinsing the wash towel or mitt. Start by adding your car-wash solution to one bucket of water and dunking your hand towel or car wash mitt in. Read the directions so you only use the amount of  car-wash solution  necessary, especially if it is concentrated. If you have a foam cannon and a pressure washer handy go ahead give the entire car a good coating of soap suds to soak in. The type of soap you choose will determine the outcome of your wash: Some soaps will simply wash off your vehicle; others add a wax or water repellent in lieu of a full-on wax job.

Once your towel or mitt is soaked, don’t wring it out — the wetter it is, the better. Slather soapy water on the top of the car and start washing. Starting on the roof prevents dirty soapy water from running down an area you already washed. If your vehicle is large, cover it in sections; the object here is to rinse off your vehicle completely before the soapy water completely dries. You can experiment with one large towel or two. Washing with one towel in each hand lets you cover more ground. Save the tires and wheels for last as they will be the dirtiest and thus will leave the most dirt on the wash towel or mitt, which you don’t want back on your now clean paint.

As you wash use the rinsing bucket to clean off the wash towel or mitt so that dirt does not get carried back to the car’s paint. The grit and dirt lifted from the paint will settle at the bottom of the rinsing bucket. Also be careful to not let your washing rag or mitt touch the ground which could pick up grit and cause paint scratches.


If you can manage to wash down your entire vehicle in one shot, rinsing should be quick and easy. If you have to wash your vehicle in sections, then it will take a little more time. If this is the case, give the vehicle one final rinse over the whole surface to rewet it for drying. If the vehicle is freshly waxed the water should sheet off it quickly leaving a nearly dry surface. Avoid using a power washer; it can easily take the paint off your vehicle , damage its body parts, or push drive water past weather seals into places you don’t want wet. Leave the pressure washer for the concrete driveway.

Dry and Drive

Use a full-sized towel. Hold the corners, and drape it flat over the vehicle. Drag the towel over broad surfaces to dry as much as possible, and use a smaller hand towel to mop up any smaller portions you may have missed. You can also use a leaf blower to get water out of cracks and crevices like areas around lights and side mirrors. Now for the fun part: Once you’ve removed as much water as you can, take your car for a quick spin up and down the road to let the wind dry if off completely.

There you have it: the quickest car washing tips in the west. Using a handful of household goods and a good quality car wash solution, your vehicle can look like it just came off the dealer lot without taking up your whole Saturday.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more car washing tips, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Image courtesy of Flickr


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

2 thoughts on “5 Car Washing Tips That Will Save Your Weekend Leave a comment

  1. that is pretty much what I do. I have to wash the truck in sections and rinse as I go, top to bottom and then a good overall rinse.

    my best bud swears by using shampoo as it cleans but gentle. of course his wifey is a hairdresser so he gits all the poo he needs. The only problem is it takes him TWICE as long – cause the directions say to “rinse and REPEAT”!!!

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