Expert’s guide to the 20 minute car wash

A person washes the exterior of their car

Giving your car’s paintwork a wash is one of the easiest ways to take care of your vehicle. With most of the My Auto Shop team’s cars being covered with dirt dust from summer road trips, we’ve put together our tips on keeping your car’s paintwork at its best.

Start by cleaning your wheels

Before you get started on the paintwork, we recommend starting on the wheels, tyres and arches first. If you do it the other way around, it’s more than likely that you’re going to give yourself even more work cleaning even more dirt off the surface.

Get your cleaning tools sorted

Make sure you have all the necessary tools and products to get your paintwork clean.

Granted, some of the items aren’t always necessary. You’re probably not going to lose out on much if you don’t have a pressure washer or foam cannon, so if you’re not quite there with your cleaning equipment yet, a normal garden hose (with a nozzle) will work.

So, what car washing products do I need?

  • Car wash, or a wash and wax product
  • Two separate buckets
  • Grit guards
  • Two wash mitts (avoid foam sponges, as they can damage paintwork)
  • A pressure washer or garden hose with nozzle
  • A large microfibre drying towel
  • A detail spray or drying aid (you can get these from most auto parts stores)
  • A wax or sealant (optional)
  • A foam cannon (optional)

Ready, set, wash

Once you’ve got your car washing products lined up, it’s time to start.

If you’re using a foam cannon, get that set up. We recommend followings the instructions on the right ratio to mix with water, as it can vary depending on the specific product you’re using.

Step 1

Starting at the top of the car, clean the paintwork with one of your wash mitts, sliding the mitt in straight lines and flipping it as dirt builds up.

After you’ve completed a panel or two, rinse your mitt in the clean water bucket. This clears the mitt of any dirt and prevents cross-contamination with your soap bucket.

Rep the process for the top of the vehicle, rinsing and reloading the mitt as needed with soapy water. Switch to your second mitt and focus on the lower half of the car once you’re satisfied with the top half.

Because this section is typically dirtier than the top, make sure to rotate your mitt and rinse it.

Step 2

It’s time to get out of the car now that you’ve completed washing.

Using your pressure washer or garden hose, rinse the soapy solution from top to bottom, making sure to get into all of the panel gaps to prevent soap from drying and leaving residue.

After properly rinsing, a sheet rinse can be used to remove the remaining water. Then, taking your detail spray or drying aid, apply it as directed and finish with your drying towel.

The detail spray or drying aid will assist remove any missed dirt without blemishing the surface. Clean the mirrors and other overhanging areas of the vehicle before drying it thoroughly.

Step 3

When the vehicle is completely dry, walk around it to make sure you haven’t missed any locations.

If any marks appear, reapply your drying aid or detail spray and wipe them away with your towel. To take things a step further, you may now apply a wax or sealer to the paintwork to make it shine even more!

That’s all there is to it! A step-by-step guide to safely and effectively washing your car’s paintwork.

Personally, I find driving a clean car makes the whole experience that little bit more easy-going. We recommend giving your car a full wash and clean at least once every two weeks.