How to Wash the Exterior of Your Car

We get asked many times how to wash or valet a vehicle like the professionals do. This article aims to provide details on how to get the best out of your washing regime and gives a step-by-step guide on how to go about it.


The procedure

Firstly clean the insides of the windows with a damp microfiber cloth and a window cleaner such as Autoglym Glass Spray. This will give you a good idea how clean the windows are on the outside when you come to clean the exterior glass.


Clean the Wheels

It is important to start with a wheel cleaner and give the wheels a good soaking with something like Dodo Juice Mellow Yellow Wheel Cleaner and leave them for a few minutes. The wheels can then be cleaned using a suitable brush. Although a brush is not absolutely necessary, a purpose made wheel brush such as Meguiar’s Ultra Safe Wheel Brush will be better on certain shapes of wheel. Wheel cleaners are formulated to be acidic or caustic which eats away at the brake dust without damaging the wheel itself. For this reason it is important not to use these products when the wheels are hot.

The wheel cleaner can then be rinsed off at this point, with just water. It is important that the wheels are thoroughly cleaned off afterward as wheel cleaners will attack brake dust including the material which makes the dust! Depending on your budget and availability, it is best practice to use a different bucket to wash the wheels than the bodywork of the car for the simple reason the wheels are usually dirtiest and deposits sit in the bottom of the bucket may scratch your paintwork.

Now you can move the car forward or backward until the wheel has turned through 90 degrees and do the wheels again ensuring you clean all the bits missed the first time. On some wheels you might want to roll the wheels in thirds.


Wash the Exterior

Now it is time to wash the exterior of the car. If you have a pressure washer now is the time to dust it off and get it working. Power wash the vehicle to remove surface dirt including inside the wheel arches and those hidden areas which will contain grit and dirt. Once the majority of the loose dirt is removed it may be necessary to use dedicated cleansers and concentrate on the dead bugs, tar spots and brake dust at various areas on your paintwork. Once this is done rinse off with clean water and be ready for the contact wash.

To wash the car we recommend a soft cotton car wash in Houston mitt. There are plenty available from Dodo Juice, Meguiar’s and AutoGlym and a good quality shampoo such as Dodo Juice Born To Be Mild which, as the name suggests, is mild and wax friendly. You can now begin washing the car. Again depending on budget and availability it is best practice to use the two bucket method – one bucket of water containing the shampoo solution for washing the car and a separate one for rinsing your sponge or mitt afterwards thus keeping the sponge or mitt as clean as possible. Dodo Juice produces some nice vinyl decals for your buckets so you can tell the difference! You can also buy Dodo Juice or Meguiar’s grit guards for the buckets to reduce the amount of dirt deposited in the bucket between washes/rinses.

Always start from the top of the car and work down using plenty of water, taking extra care round the skirting not to scratch the paint work. If you are not using grit guards or the two bucket method then don’t use the bottom quarter of the bucket, as the deposits will collect there.

The car can then be washed a second time using the wash bucket and shampoo and a soft bristled brush to work at the nooks and crannies and the plastic trim. It is important not to let the car dry naturally as this will leave streaks. A body brush or ‘traffic brush’ is great for cleaning the panel lines and around the lights and grill. However, only buy a purpose made brush and only use it on the lower half of the car. These special brushes are designed not to scratch but they are still quite harsh so avoid using them on the main painted panels.

Make sure to wash the inside door frames taking care not to get the electrics wet using the brush. You also don’t want to wash all the grease off the hinges as this will make the doors squeak and rust.



The car can now be rinsed using clean water. This can either be from a bucket or from a hosepipe (providing no ban in force). Usually a bucket will remove most of the soap without the need for a hosepipe.

Once the soap solution has been removed, you can now use a large microfiber cloth such as Dodo Juice Supernatural Drying Towel and start drying it off, starting with the roof and working down. Depending on how hot it is you will have to work quite fast as it will leave watermarks if it dries on its own.


Finishing off

You can now use a suitable tyre dressing such as Autoglym Instant Tyre Dressing which is designed to make the tyres look new and black. Be careful not to get it on your newly waxed/polished paintwork or it will look untidy.

You can also clean the exterior glass making sure you extend the windscreen wipers to allow access and a suitable microfiber cloth. Once the glass is clean ensure is it smear free.

Now you have a choice. You can either go out in the car or you may want to move on to cleaning the interior.