How to Wash Your Car at Home

How to Wash Your Car at Home

You might doubt you can get a professional-looking car wash at home, but the truth is you can - easily. Routine at-home washing can restore your car’s appearance and save you money. This post will share the products you need and the step-by-step process for a successful home car wash. 

For a home car wash: Spray down the wheels with a wheel cleaner, rinse your vehicle with water, clean with car shampoo, rinse and dry the car, and apply a wax or sealant to protect the paint. 

Required products and materials 

Gather the following supplies to prepare for your at-home car wash.

A wheel cleaner (preferably neutral in pH)

Hose or water buckets

Car shampoo

Wash mitt

Microfiber towels

Wax or sealant product


Spray down the wheels with a wheel cleaner

You usually work from top to bottom when washing a car to avoid reapplying dirt to the vehicle, but a wheel cleaner is an exception to this rule. Wheel cleaner needs time to lift brake dust and other baked-on road grime, and applying it at the start of your wash gives the cleaner time to work.

We recommend opting for a neutral-pH wheel cleaner for general cleaning. Acidic wheel cleaners (that rank low on the pH scale) remove stubborn grime and debris, but they can cause damage during prolonged exposure. Neutral-pH cleaners have enough cleaning strength to remove your everyday debris without risk. Consider Stoner Car Care’s wheel cleaner if you need a wheel cleaner. Its gentle, neutral-pH formula foams to cling onto your wheels for deep cleaning. 

To learn more about the pH scale and the wide variety of wheel cleaners, check out our detailed car washing guide here

Rinse your vehicle with water

Using a hose, rinse your vehicle’s exterior, starting with the roof and moving down. This step doesn’t have to be thorough; you are simply trying to remove light debris and provide additional surface lubrication to prepare to wash. 

While you have the hose handy, consider rinsing the bottom side of the vehicle – especially if you live near the coast or in an area that uses road salt. Salt can cling to the underside of your car and cause corrosion and other damage. Even a light spray can help dilute and rinse away salt from your undercarriage.

Clean with car shampoo

Read the back of the car shampoo’s label to find the proper ratio of shampoo to water. Follow the product instructions, adding the correct amount of solution to a water-filled bucket. 

Dip a wash mitt into your cleaning solution and wash the vehicle from top to bottom. Start at the roof, and work body panel to body panel until finished. 

The cleaning solution will do most of the work for you, so avoid using pressure when going over the exterior. Instead, let your mitt glide over the surface, wiping gently.

Rinse and dry the vehicle

Rinse thoroughly to remove lingering soap and lifted debris using your hose. Again, let gravity help your process by working from the car’s top to bottom.

Once rinsed, begin drying your exterior. We specifically recommend using microfiber towels. These cloths are soft, absorbent, and optimized to attract debris, making them perfect for detailing. 

If you work in hot conditions, water spots or streaks may form on your paint. These marks occur when the soapy solution dries too quickly before rinsing. If these spots appear, reapply a bit of soapy water to the affected area, then immediately dry it. 

Finish with a wax or sealant to protect the paint

Nothing looks sweeter than a newly-washed car. You’ll want to safeguard your hard work and finish by applying a wax or sealant. Ensure the vehicle is fully dry before using either protective product. A clean, cry surface promotes a strong bond between the product and your exterior.  

Waxes and sealants provide different finishes and lifespans. Check out our exterior detailing guide for a complete comparison. The diagram below shares critical takeaways for each product.

Save time and money by washing at home!

Keeping your car clean requires the right products and materials, but you can do so in the comfort of your garage or driveway. To wash your car at home, follow these steps: Spray down the wheels with a wheel cleaner, rinse your vehicle with water, clean with car shampoo, rinse and dry the car, and finish with a wax or sealant to protect the paint. Make your home your car wash, save some time and money, and enjoy a clean ride.

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