Washing your car yourself not only saves you money, it can also be incredibly satisfying. Nothing beats swapping all of that dirt for a clean, gleaming finish.

But it’s important to know how to do it properly to avoid common mistakes like rubbing grit into the paintwork or scratching it. 

Here’s how to easily clean your car exterior.

Find the right moment

Don’t wait for a sunny day to wash your car, cloudy days are better for it.

The heat will dry out your car between washing and cleaning, which could leave stubborn streaks and water marks. So, wait until a cooler time of day and place your car out of direct sunlight, if possible.

Rinse your car

First you need to wash off dirt and grit that’s built up on your car. You can use a garden hose or a few buckets of water to do this, but a pressure-washer is the most practical option.

You’ll need to be careful, as powerful pressure washers can damage paintwork if they’re not used properly. Avoid holding your pressure washer too close to the paintwork, and be especially careful when spraying your tyres. If you’re planning to use one, the consumer group Which? has put together a guide on the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of rinsing a car with a pressure washer.

Whatever you’re using, start from the top of the car and rinse away as much dirt as possible. 

If your car is really dirty, then Auto Express recommends using a pre-washer, such as snow foam or traffic film remover, to loosen off all the grime. You can then rinse them off after a few minutes. 

You should also take special care to rinse the inside of the wheel arches and alloy wheels. To clean them well, Halfords recommends using an alloy cleaner.

Wash it

To wash your car, grab a bucket of water, a wash mitt or large, grit-free sponge and a specialist car shampoo. Avoid standard household products, like fairy liquid, as these can break down your car’s protective wax.

Mix the shampoo in the bucket and wash the car from top to bottom. Wipe sideways, rather than in circles, to minimise swirl marks.

It’s worth giving the windows some special attention, so they don’t end up looking streaky. Use a window clearing product to get them looking clear and shiny. 

Rinse and dry

Next, rinse the shampoo off your car and then dry it. For best results, use a microfibre drying cloth or chamois leather, using that same gentle sideways motion. Don’t use towels as you could create scratches, and don’t leave your car to dry naturally as you’ll end up with watermarks.

If you’re really dedicated, use a hairdryer to blow water out of nooks and crannies, such as around the door handles.

Polish and wax 

You don’t have to polish and wax to your car, but you will get a nicer, glossy finish if you do, while also adding a layer of protection to the paintwork.

To apply wax, use a fine sponge and spread it evenly across the bodywork. Once it is dry, use a soft cloth to buff for that car showroom shine.

Your car should now be looking tip-top and ready to go. If you also want your pride and joy to shine on the inside, read our guide on how to keep your car interior clean and organised

 For more car maintenance tips, go to Solved.