Skip to Content
How to wash your car
Michael Chapman white clock learner driver3 minute read Car Sharing Guides

How to wash a car like a pro

Setting out time for cleaning your car can feel like a big old chore at times. We all know that feeling of ending up with ice cold hands and not really seeing much change to how your car looks, or worse, it…


Setting out time for cleaning your car can feel like a big old chore at times. We all know that feeling of ending up with ice cold hands and not really seeing much change to how your car looks, or worse, it ends up looking streaky.   

Maybe you just need to get a hold of better cleaning products that are more suited to the job at hand. After all, it’s a good way to keep up with general car maintenance. If you’re willing to spare an hour or two, you could get your car sparkling clean and looking the best on the block. So, take a look at our top tips and tricks on how to wash a car.  

Clean your car  

Don’t worry, we’ve got more instructions coming on that, but firstly you’ll need to decide where to start cleaning. Let’s focus on the outside for now, after all, it’s the bit everyone sees.   

Before you start cleaning your car:  

You’ll need to get yourself a bucket of car shampoo and clean water. Remember that it has to be a shampoo specifically for cars, as something like dish soap could damage the paint work.   

You’ll also want to use a wash mitt in swiping motions instead of circles, as this way you’re more likely to end up with a streak free finish.  

Top tip: start from the top of the car and work your way down. It’s probably obvious, but if you’re anything like us, you might get carried away and start cleaning the main body of your car only to have the dust and dirt from the roof washed down onto it after. So, if you’re not keen to clean to start with, try to avoid having to do it twice.  

How to clean car wheels and tires  

If you’re going all out, you’ll want to turn your attention to the wheels next. This extra step could be a nice touch if you’ve been borrowing someone else’s car and are about the return it.   

For this part, it’s a good idea to grab a wheel brush to use on the tougher bits and to get in between the spokes. Doing it this way makes it so much easier than scrubbing away with your sponge. You can use a wheel cleaner spray if you have it, but it’s just as effective to stick with the car shampoo and warm water like before. You might get a bit more of an arm workout in too.   

Use a pressure-washer to wash away the loose dirt from both the tyre and the wheel, this will make the job a lot quicker for you. Although, you do need to keep an eye on how you’re using the pressure-washer. For example, having the nozzle too tight could damage both the wheels and the paint work on your car, so it’s something to bear in mind.  

How to clean car headlights  

Dusty headlights won’t cast as much light when you’re driving, so giving them a good wipe down could make all the difference. There’s a story out there about using toothpaste to get rid of unwanted residue and you might be keen enough to try this out. If you’re not though, going back in with your car shampoo and a clean cloth will do the job. Make sure to buff them out at the end to get them sparkling.   

Best way to dry a car  

After the main job is done and you’ve rinsed your car, you’ll need to dry it in a specific way to get the top-end finish you’re after. Choose a cloth and make sure it’s clean, won’t moult, and won’t scratch the car. You can go for circular motions if you’ve made sure the cloth is a highly absorbent one, as it’s less likely to leave the car with swirl marks.  

We’ve put a car cleaning products list together to help you out when choosing the right cloth.  

How to clean car windscreens  

A clean windscreen is a good windscreen, and it’ll be the last thing you clean on the outside of your car. Switching the water and shampoo out for a more specific glass cleaner or window cleaner will give it the finishing touch. Use it on the windscreen, windows, and wing mirrors. You’ll need a microfibre cloth for this, or any cloth you’d use to clean the glass in your house, it’s all the same at the end of the day.  

Inside car cleaning   

Why stop now? You’re already on a roll so you may as well take the plunge and get the inside of your car looking just as squeaky clean as the outside. Grabbing a bag for any rubbish and a getting a hoover in there will make it look 10 times better instantly, then you can start on the other bits.  

How to clean car seats   

Depending on what sort of car seats you have, you might need to get yourself some cleaning products specifically for the type of fabric. This will help make sure you avoid causing any damage.   

How to clean leather car seats  

The first step you’ll need to take is reading your car’s manual. There’s probably some information in there on how to take care of the car seats and it might advise on which products to avoid.   

Once you’ve done that, give the seats a good hoovering to get rid of the crumbs and other bits and bobs. It’s best to attach the brush tool to the hoover so that it doesn’t scratch and damage the leather seats. Next, go in with a mild leather cleaning solution and a cloth to kill bacteria and wipe away any dirt, making them look as good as new!  

How to clean fabric car seats  

Easy, to get your fabric car seats clean just repeat what we said above! Instead of a leather cleaning solution though, grab fabric spray or a car interior shampoo (make sure it’s suitable for the material) and get cleaning.   

Steam clean car seats  

Taking the time to steam clean your car seats is really putting in the effort. If you have a few extra minutes, adding it onto your car cleaning task would be the perfect way to prep for a lockdown date night. As well as making the inside of your car look as good as new, steam cleaning will also sanitize and kill bacteria. So, what could be more ideal right now?  

After the steam cleaner has heated up, go over the car seats in sections and hold it over any stains for about 15 seconds. It works like magic, so give it a go if you really want to show your car off.  

How to clean car mats  

If your floor mats are leather, follow the same steps as you would for leather car seats. If they’re fabric, you’ll need your hoover, a disinfectant fabric spray, and any sort of cloth.   

When the hoover has done its job, give the car mats a good spray with the disinfectant and let them sit for a few minutes. Wipe the fabric down with the cloth and leave them out to air dry before slotting them back into place. Job done! Easy, right?  

Car cleaning kit  

So, before you start the car clean, figure out if you’re already stocked up on the products you’ll need or if you could do with popping to the shops. Using the right car cleaning products means you’ll avoid damaging the paint and other materials in the car, so it’s worth investing in some of these. They could also make a good gift for a new driver, so grab a few while you’re at it!   

Car cleaning cloth  

The right cloth can make a difference to the finish you get on your car – and we all want the end result to look how we pictured it after all the hard work.   

Lots of us go for a chamois cloth for a polished look, and they’re definitely effective in achieving it. There are other options too though if you don’t have this to hand, and in some ways, they’re even better! A microfibre cloth will be more gentle on the car and so it helps to prevent scratches and marks in the paint work. So go for one of these if you have it lying around.   

Car cleaning brush  

Using a car cleaning brush will give the car more of an intensive clean, it’ll also look more polished at the end. However, you’ll have to watch how you use the brush in case it starts leaving tiny scratches in the paint, so keep this in mind if you’re opting for one of these.  

Car shampoo  

Adding a fair amount of car shampoo to your warm water bucket will really help you out, as getting the perfect finish doesn’t just come from elbow grease. It’ll do the basics like removing dirt and avoiding damage to the paint work, and as a cherry on top, it’ll polish the car at the same time. These are the main reasons you should definitely get yourself a shampoo specifically for cars before starting.   

Car wax  

Last up is the car wax. It might seem like an extra step that you really can’t be bothered with, but waxing your car actually makes it easier to clean in the long run. It also protects the paint from holding dirt and dust, and from getting scratched. This all means your car will look newer for longer, and if you come to sell it – you might get a better deal!  

Make sure the surface is clean and dry before starting to wax your car. Then you can dip the applicator into the wax to get a thumb-sized amount out and apply it in circular motions. The whole car will need just a thin layer of wax, so don’t be overly generous. You’ll need to leave the car to dry, ideally in the shade so the wax doesn’t dry too quickly.   

Once it’s dry, the last thing you need to do is buff the wax away. Get a clean microfiber cloth, or any soft cloth, and start removing the wax in circles again, not sweeps. You can stop when you start to see your own reflection.   

Professional car cleaning   

If you don’t feel like cleaning your car yourself, you can just as easily find a car cleaning service near to where you live. You can avoid buying and storing the car cleaning products and get it done for a similar price!  

And relax…  

So, now you know how to wash a car and you’ve got it looking spotless (at least for a while…), why not show it off and take it out for a drive. We might be able to help with our temporary car insurance. Take a look and be on the road in minutes!   

Back to top