Having a solid system to follow for washing your vehicle is the foundation of maintaining as near a perfect paint finish as possible. It doesn’t matter what type of ways you are doing it, be that a decontamination wash or a regular maintenance wash, ensuring all are done correctly are essential to maintaining that perfect finish. The last thing you want is more work on your hands from not following a few simple steps.

Most damage to cars exterior is done in the washing stages, so don’t rush this stage or you will end up with more work than you can handle.

By following our step-by-step guide you will be giving your paintwork the best possible chance to stay in perfect condition!

Never wash in direct sunlight !

Wheels and Wheel Arches

These are the grubbiest parts of the vehicle, we always suggest washing these first, the last thing you want to do is to get your body washed and then blast your wheels pushing metal fillings up onto the paint work to scratch it in the rinse stages, foam stages or hand citrus wash stages.

Wheels should be cleaned with a non-acidic wheel cleaner and a soft wheel cleaning bush like a woollies wheel brush. If your wheels are heavily encrusted then after a non-acidic wheel wash, we would suggest an iron fall out remover, but this is only as a last resort if the wheel are heavily embedded with brake dust and iron. Then it’s time to hit them with the fall out remover, otherwise a standard non-acidic wheel cleaner is fine. If your wheels are generally clean and only require light work, then a shampoo mixed with water sprayed on and a soft detailing brush would work perfectly fine here.

Start by cleaning all the wheel arch areas first, wash the wheel arches first of all, then apply a good APC, citrus cleaner or a TRF to the wheel arch areas, using a brush to agitate any dirt to make removal easier when washing again with the power washer or hose jet, then get onto the wheels.

The Rinse Step

This step is to remove as much traffic built up on the surface of your vehicle, this is always best done from top to bottom, the purpose of rinsing this way is to ensure on road film and contamination is carried down the vehicle in the water rather than being taken up the vehicle if you wash form the bottom up. Take your time doing the rinse steps, rushing will only cause damage. The purpose of the rinse steps is to ensure you remove dirt and grime before contact is made with your paintwork.

Ensuring you spend time on joint areas, windscreen join areas, door jamb areas, fuel flaps, name badges, grilles and those little nooks and crannies where grit and grime can become embedded and stuck.

It’s best to use a soft detailers brush in small areas, like fuel flaps, door jambs, joints and around windows, names badges and grilles and an APC or citrus wash solution, spray those areas, then agitate with the brush to loosen any debris and grime, once this is carried out these areas can be rinsed off to make sure all dirt and grime is washed away and not left on the paintwork to scratch it.

If you are using a pressure washer, be careful how you use this and don’t get too close as this can cause damage to rubbers and paintwork.


Making sure your paintwork is safe before you touch it is important, as this avoids adding swirls and unwanted scratches to the surface.

There are many different solutions to these stages, but in main, it’s prewash and snowfoam that’s important to remember.

Using a citrus spray solution apply this to the front of the vehicle in particular paying attention to bug splatter areas on mirror backs, grilles and front bumpers, apply the citrus spray solution to the lower half of the sides and the read od the vehicle, then apply this to areas around windows and door joint areas, name badges and trim, when applied to name badges and window surrounds use a soft detailers brush to agitate the grime so this can be removed easier when apply the snow foam and washing down after the snowfoam has had time to dwell.

After allowing the citrus prewash solution to dwell, some people rinse at this stage, but there no real pros and cons of doing this, you can rinse or simply move onto applying the snowfoam to the surface of the vehicle.

In general, snowfoams are mild alkalines or a pH neutral solution, which is sprayed onto the full vehicle via a foam gun / lance set up. Foam guns can be connected to your pressure washer or your hose depending on the tap pressure you have?

Cover the full vehicle in snowfoam, allow this a good 5 to 10 minutes to dwell on the surface, this will safely lift away dirt and grime from the paintwork allowing for better results when dried. The snowfoam step is especially important as you want this stage to lift away as much dirt as possible. The last thing you want is to find your washing mitt is moving dirt around causing scratches.

While the snowfoam is dwelling on the surface, it’s a good time to hit the name badges again, trim and window surrounds.  

Rinsing down, start at the top and rinse thoroughly making sure to pay attention to windows, grilles and trim areas to ensure all dirt and grime is removed fully, once all snowfoam is removed it’s advised to give the full vehicle another rinse with plain water from the power washer or hose, to remove any small particles left hanging around.

Two Bucket Wash

Here you need two buckets and two grit guards, one is a washing bucket the other is a rinsing bucket, some people use a triple bucket system, a rinsing bucket, a second rinse bucket and a wash bucket, it’s down to personal choices.

Always start washing from the top of the car down, leaving the lowest areas to last, so start with the roof, then areas like the boot, bonnet bumpers and lower sides until completed.

Bucket 1 is washing bucket, fill this with lukewarm water and add the correct amount of your shampoo of choice, read instructions for full details, normally it’s around 3 cap full’s. Swill the wash mitt in your bucket to foam up your water.

The 2nd bucket is your rinse bucket this is just cold water, you use bucket 1 to wash the car and then bucket 2 to rinse your wash mitt, after rinsing place your wash mitt back in bucket 1 and wash the next section of the vehicle, then rinse again in bucket 2, and follow the procedure, back to bucket 1 wash the next section of the vehicle and so on.

Once the full vehicle is washed, rinse down once again, paying particular attention to name badges, window surrounds and door jamb areas as this is where small particles of dirt can become stuck, using a hose pipe on door jamb areas to remove any items that become stuck, boot areas are a problem area on saloon and hatchback vehicles.


This step can involve multiple items, Drying towels, Blow air driers, and rinse aids for drying.

If you are using a drying machine, start with the top and work your way around the vehicle from top to bottom.

If you are using a good quality microfibre drying its best to use this correctly, don’t just rub the towel around the vehicle this can cause marring and swirls to appear, it’s best to lay the microfibre drying towel on the paintwork and gently pull this towards you soaking up the water as it’s pulled to you.

If you are using a drying aid solution, then apply a couple of squirts to the paint work and gentle pull the drying towels towards you to soak up the water.

Remembering not to apply too much pressure when drying as this can cause marring and swirls, once dried if using a drying aid you will be left with a beautifully dried vehicle with a layer of protection.

Finishing Off

So, have you just completed a maintenance wash or are you going on to do paint correction and a ceramic coating?

If it’s just a maintenance wash then now is a good time to top up your coating, you can also apply a water repellent coating to windows and all other glass, head lights and rear lights.

If you are going on to carry out a full paint correction, you are now ready to proceed to the next steps in the process.