Water cooler: Tips for washing your car at home

Is your car dirty because of this summer’s adventures? Here are some tips for making your vehicle sparkling clean.

Start by gathering all the necessary supplies. It is best to use a hose with a spray nozzle or pressure washer for thorough cleaning, although you can use a waterless wash solution if necessary.

You will also need two buckets, one for the soapy water and one for the rinse water. Five-gallon buckets from a hardware store are great, especially because you can install a grain guard at the bottom of the rinse bucket to keep dirt particles out of your cleaning tools between rinses.

Use a soft sponge or car wash mitt to clean the main body of the car, but you can also get additional accessories, brushes and microfiber cloths to clean the wheels and other specific areas. Keep a microfiber cloth or chamois leather aside for drying. Buy car wash fluid, as other cleaning solutions and soaps can be too harsh on the paint. You can also buy a wheel and tire cleaner to tackle road dirt.

Once your supplies are gathered and the buckets are full, you are good to go. Follow the directions for the cleaning solutions you will be using to ensure you get the best performance from them. It is generally recommended that you wash your car on an overcast day or out of direct sunlight to prevent the soap from drying on the paint, but if you are washing it in the sun, just make sure you work efficiently.

Start with the wheels because they are the dirtiest part of the car. It is best to use a sponge or a separate tire brush to avoid spreading debris on the car body. Coat one tire at a time with cleaning solution, let sit for a few seconds to loosen dirt, then scrub. Rinse the tire and brush or sponge, then move on to the next wheel. When the wheels are done, empty the rinse bucket (and the soap bucket if you used it for the wheels) and start over before moving on to the car body.

Before washing, You can use a foam gun to treat the car with a foaming cleaner (also called snow foam) to soak in and remove dirt and grime from the surface. Foam gun accessories generally require a pressure washer. This first step helps to avoid rubbing dirt on the paint when washing your hands.

If you skip the lather, go straight to rinsing the car. Try to remove as much dirt as possible with water and a spray nozzle before washing. When washing by hand, work up and down and in one section of the car at a time. Start with the roof, then the hood and side panels. Wash the back last as it tends to be the dirtiest section.

Rinse the glove or the sponge in the rinse bucket between each section. Some sources recommend using sideways motions because circular motions are suspected to cause more scratching.

After washing, Immediately rinse and dry the car with a towel (microfiber or chamois is preferred). To speed up your work, you can also dry the car using a leaf blower before finishing with a towel. Don’t forget about hidden areas where water can collect, like door sills, siding and spoilers.

For a streak-free view, wash the inside and outside of the windows with a dedicated glass cleaner. To protect your paint from the elements, apply a detailer spray or wax to the car body. Rinse off any residual dirt or grime from cleaning products before packaging.

Rachel Baker can be reached at (509) 459-5583 or [email protected]

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