How to Wash Your Car Like a Pro: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Kael Knight

Washing your car is nearly synonymous with car maintenance, but it can be much more complicated than taking a garden hose and a soap bucket out to the driveway. Follow these next few steps to get the most out of your next car wash. 

If you want to wash your car like a pro, you should start with basic decontamination. Did you know that washing your car without taking the proper steps first might actually do more harm than good? If your car has been exposed to contaminants like bird droppings, tree sap, industrial fallout, or other debris, don’t wash it straight away! The pressure and movement from washing a car can push these contaminants into your paint, potentially scratching or staining the unprotected car. Using a set of mild acids can help clear out contaminants before the wash to protect your paint.

If you have any oxidation on your car’s exterior, now is a great time to use a rust-removal acid compound to clear the surface. Fireball’s Iron Burn is perfect for this. Some contaminants are a little tougher than acids can handle – that’s where Clay-barring comes in. Clay bars are special tools detailers use to remove larger debris without harming your cars paint. You can pick up a clay bar from Clay Magic, or a similar brand.

Some cars will also require some special bug-removal attention. In these cases, you might be best off finding a degreaser specialized in insect removal. For particularly stubborn bug splatter and stain, spray the bug-specific degreaser on the concerned areas. After waiting a few seconds for the degreaser to activate, spray off with water.

Using a mildly acidic descaling shampoo, like Fireball’s PH3 Shampoo, is your best tool to save your paint from unneeded scrapes and abrasions. It works by eating away at debris before a wash, so there’s nothing left to scrape the paint. When you need your car washed, but know contaminants are threatening your paint job, blanket your car in foaming PH3. After just a few moments, our shampoo will loosen the debris without any kinetic abrasion. 

Once the shampoo has sat for a moment, you’re ready to wash the car. Go ahead and spray the foam away.

In this next step, we’re going to use a method called the Two-Bucket Wash System. In this set up, set out two 5-gallon buckets. Place your PH-neutral soap of choice in the first and clean water in the other. The second bucket is there to rinse the dirt from your washing mit, so that you’re not spreading dirt across your car. 

Begin by dipping your mitt in the shampoo bucket and washing the car. Every few panels, rinse your mit in the water bucket to ensure it stays fresh the entire time. The dirt should sink to the bottom, leaving relatively clean water near the top of the bucket. Fireball’s custom Grit Guard can help with this separation. Once you complete the entire vehicle, you can begin rinsing the shampoo off. Make sure to look for areas on your vehicle where trim features may create a wake along the surface of the vehicle during this step.

Once the car is reasonably dry, we’d recommend applying a protective coating. A good entry-level option for protective coatings is Fireball’s Easy-Coat lineup. The easy coat is a water-beading solution that will protect your car and give it a new, slick-looking finish. Application couldn’t be easier, simply mix with water and lightly mist the car from a spray bottle. After allowing 3 to 5 minutes (depending on temperature and humidity) for the coating to bond with the vehicle’s surface, rinse the car again. The coating will repel most of the water, making the car easy to towel dry. See our website for in-depth information on using Easy-Coat, such as mixture-to-water ratio and details on how weather might affect curing times.

That’s it! You’ve now successfully detailed your car. Nice work!