Between The Details: Wash

by: Patrick Horrigan

Owner and Lead Tech at We Care Car Care

Between the Details is a multi-part series on how to maintain your vehicle properly between details. This Chapter is on washing your vehicle.

Ask yourself, what do bird dropping, tree sap, mold spores, bug guts, Iron particles and environmental fall-out have in common? Chances are they are all sitting on the surface of your car right now. Unless it’s been only a few hours since your last professional detailing, it’s more than likely your paint is already getting damaged.

Washing your car is important to not only keeping it look nice but help extend the life of the vehicle.

There are several ways to clean your car between details, some better than others. Drive through car washes (even touch-less ones) may take away some of the dirt and grime but not without leaving its own type of damage.  Even the softest washes can leave light scratches in your vehicles clear coat. Commonly called spider webbing or halo scratching, under the correct light the scratches look just like spider webs.

Spider Web Scratching in Clear Coat

Your clear coat can be scratched just by dry and clean towel on the paint. Another drawback of mechanical washes is the poor cleaning ability. Some off the tough, stuck on contaminants such as tree sap and iron contamination will be left behind after your wash. Drive thru washes normally do not use any of the advanced cleaning products needed to chemically remove items such as tree sap and tar or lack the proper safe scrubbing power.

Washing your car at home is a much better solution and with the proper tools and techniques you can can do it safety and quickly. The ‘old’ method DIYers have used since the invention of the automobile has been the Bucket and Hose method. You drag out the hose, find a bucket and put in a little dish soap and fill the bucket with water then dig under the sink for a sponge.   While this method is far better than the drive-thru wash as far as removing surface containments, you can still easily create undesirable scratches in your paint. So how do you clean while reducing the chance of scratching?

The Two Bucket Method

We Care Car Care uses several waterless washing methods to clean 95% of the vehicles we detail. There are some circumstances where we cannot use a waterless wash such as cleaning modern RVs with a textured rubber roof. Our next posting will cover a how-to on waterless wash systems.

Today we will introduce you to a modified version of a more traditional cleaning method.  The two bucket method is the way professional detailers who use water, clean a vehicle. The secret behind the two bucket method is rinsing of your wash cloth after every panel to cut down on scratching.

To start you will need:

A parking spot out direct sunlight

Hose and spray nozzle

Two – 3 to 5 Gallon Buckets

The Grit Guard Insert

Meguiar’s Microfiber Wash Mitt

Car Wash Soap: Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner

A Drying Towel or Chamois such as Meguiar’s Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels


            The first step is the prep phase. Start by putting your grit guards in the bottom of the buckets and fill them with fresh water.  The grit guard is a plastic tray that keeps your wash mitt out of the solid debris that settles in the bottom of the bucket. By keeping the mitt out of the dirt you greatly reduce the chance of a stray piece of dirt being carried back to the paint in your mitt.   Next add your car wash soap to only one bucket by following the mixing directions on the bottle. I recommend Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash soap since it cleans all the mess without stripping away any wax. Now you have a wash bucket and a rinse bucket.

Next, try to park your vehicle out of the direct sunlight. Unless the water you are using to wash and rinse is heavily filtered, you will have water spots (mineral deposits) left behind if the water dries on the car. Next, rinse the entire vehicle top to bottom to remove and loose dirt or debris. Take your microfiber wash mitt and soak it in the wash solution then wring out almost all the way and then begin to wash the car one panel or section at a time. The dirtier the car the smaller you section should be. Once you have cleaned one panel/ section drop the wash mitt into the clean water bucket while you spray off the panel you just cleaned. You want to make sure you are cleaning the car top to bottom to avoid having to re-clean a section.  Rinse the wash mitt in the fresh water to make sure to get off all the dirt that was just collected. Re-soap the mitt in the wash solution and then continue on and wash another section. Continue until you have cleaned the entire body of the car.

Now, that the car is cleaned, dry the car right away to avoid water staining issues. At this point your car should be nice and clean. Depending on the length of time since your last wax you may want to finish the car with a maintenance or spray wax.

The final step….take a few steps back and enjoy!


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