Washing a car by hand is a therapeutic experience for many car owners. It’s good, because washing is also the best way to keep the car looking clean. But there are some things to watch out for so that you don’t accidentally damage the finish. You can safely clean the car without damaging the paint with the help of the DIY approach.

Check the condition of the vehicle

Before you take out the hose, buckets, cleaning supplies, and towels, determine how dirty the car is. Is the rocker’s panel covered with mud? Does the car have a lot of dust? After driving on icy roads, do you need to remove salt? The quick wash may not require an entire arsenal of products. While a new car’s paint is still intact, an old car may require a full cleaning regimen with polishes, waxes, and paint protection.

Car condition

Check the label for information

Read the label before you apply the product to the vehicle. Not all the automotive cleaners are all-purpose. The wrong product can damage the paint, clear coat, or other finish. Always use the mildest cleaning products you can find if you have any doubts about the materials of the car’s components. A lot of time and money is saved by reading the instructions.

Use three buckets

The removal of contaminants from the vehicle’s surface is the main goal of the deep clean. You don’t want to wash the car with dirty water. That’s where the three-bucket system is used. There’s just water in the first bucket, and the second is a bucket with soapy water. To rinse clean the mitt before re-soaking in the soapy bucket, you’ll use a bucket with only water. The third bucket is filled with a mixture of cleaning products and water to be used only for the wheels.

If you can, move the car out of the sun before you start cleaning. It will reduce the amount of water and cleaning products evaporating when you work.

First wash the wheels

First, we should focus on the dirtiest part of the car: the wheels. Use the third bucket meant for cleaning of wheels. Ensure not to leave any residue of cleaning products on the tires. While driving, the tires may splash the product onto the paint. When you’re done, spray the wheels with water to wash away any cleaner.

Washing the wheels

Clean the headlights

The older the car, the more cloudy and yellow the headlights become. You may use Headlight restoration kits, and many include UV blockers, which will protect your headlights from further sun damage. The other surfaces around the headlights must be covered with masking tape.

Wash the car exterior

Washing the body of the car is the most obvious part of the process. It removes dust, dirt and mud. Before using soapy water, rinse with clean water first to remove large dirt particles. Do not use soap or cleaning agent that is not made for washing cars. The wax on the car paint can be damaged by detergents and dish cleaners. Dry the car with a microfiber towel or slightly damp chamois.

Exterior car wash

Now clean the windows

That’s another area where choosing the right product is important. There is ammonia in household glass cleaners, which can damage the exterior window of the car. Instead, use a window cleaner that’s designed for the car. Unfortunately, the only way to remove streaks is to use good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Check the surface of the car

It’s easier to spot the deeper-seated stains in the paint when the car is washed. You can feel the presence of contamination with your hand even if you’ve just washed the car. A clay bar can be used to remove these tough spots.

Scratch removal

It’s much harder to remove scratches. There may be a wax filling in minor scratches or scuffs. Use ‘elbow grease’ to buff out these scratches. If this does not work, use a specialized repair compound that may take several applications to hide a scratch. A deeper scratch may need a fix using paint pens found in parts stores or dealerships. But the colors may not match perfectly if the paint is fading. Then you can ask the shop to get the appropriate paint. If the scratch is up to bare metal, you’ll have to add primer first. Apply a thin layer of two to three coats. Let each layer dry for about twenty minutes. Use a clear coat and scratch repair compound to add further protection.

Polishing with wax

Polishing for a glossy look

Your car can be polished to shine like a mirror. This step is not required, but you can apply the polish by hand or with a dual-action polisher. Watch out for these polished tools, as a heavy hand can cause unnecessary swirls. If you are not confident with the tools, just do this step by hand.

Adding wax protection

Many people believe that wax on the paint will make it shine and that’s true. Wax is a protective layer, which blocks UV rays to prevent fading. Anything corrosive that may come in contact with the car is also protected by wax. You can choose between carnauba or synthetic waxes. Synthetic ones are easier to use.