How To Clean The Car Like A Professional

Save money and get top results with our guide to polishing and protecting your vehicle

Man cleaning red car, How To Clean a Car in 7 Steps, Handyman magazine,
Wash the car and give it a thorough scrub and polish for professional looking results 

We all love a sparkling clean set of wheels, but a trip to the car wash for a thorough clean and polish can cost a lot of money and you can’t always be sure you’re getting good value. 

Cleaning the car is a job many of us put off, but doing it yourself means you’ll pay no more than the cost of the products, which can be used again many times. 

Paying attention to detail when cleaning your car not only keeps it looking like new, but it can help prevent premature rust and extend the life of the paint job. 

Follow our easy guide on how to clean the car like a professional, achieving a sparkling finish and long-lasting results.

1. Wash the car 

Soak the car with a hose or pressure washer to wash away surface dirt and dust. 

Use a jet spray on the wheel wells where road dirt accumulates. Be sure to check water restrictions in your area before hosing.

Fill a bucket with warm water and add car-washing liquid, following the volume instructions. 

Don’t be tempted to use detergents such as dishwashing liquid as they are too harsh for the paintwork.

Starting from the roof down, work in sections using a microfibre cloth in a circular motion, and rinse the area immediately before moving on to the next section. 

Open the bonnet and boot and wipe the crevices, not forgetting around the licence plates, door handles and trim.

Rinse the whole car again then dry with a chamois, starting from the roof and wringing the chamois often.

TIP The surface of the car must not be hot when applying cleaning products, so never work in direct sunlight. 
 

Man washing car with sponge and washing liquid, How To Clean A Car in 7 Steps,
Don’t be tempted to use detergents such as dishwashing liquid as they are too harsh for the paintwork
 

2. Scrub wheels and tyres

Soap and water is often not enough to remove caked-on dirt and grease on the wheels, so buy a specialist product for the type of wheel, which may be painted, chrome, alloy or clear coat. 

Spray with wheel and tyre cleaner and allow it to soak in for 10 minutes.

Use a soft-bristle brush to work the cleaner into all the nooks and recesses. Rinse and repeat if necessary. 
 

Man scrubbing wheels and tyres with a brush, How To Clean A Car in 7 Steps,
Use a soft-bristle brush to work the cleaner into all the nooks and recesses

3. Revive the paintwork 

Contamination from brake dust, air pollution and salt dulls the finish on your car and will eventually lead to surface rust and oxidisation. 

The best way to revive the finish is with a rubbing compound or clay bar kits. Professional detailers have been using these products
for years and now they are commercially available.

Using a damp, clean cloth, rub the compound back and forth, overlapping each stroke and applying firm pressure. Keep going until the surface is as smooth as glass, and use a dry clean cloth to remove any residue.

man waxing car, How to clean a car in 7 steps,
Using a damp, clean cloth, rub the compound back and forth, overlapping each stroke and applying firm pressure

4. Removing stickers 

Soak the sticker in warm soapy water for 10 minutes, then take a plastic putty knife and get under a corner and start working it loose. 

If it still won’t budge, spray with water dispersant, leave for a couple of minutes to absorb, and try again. Repeat as necessary until you can peel the sticker off.

Remove the film of adhesive with rubbing alcohol, then wash and dry the area, finishing with wax. 
 

man removing sticker from car with wd40, Handyman magazine, How to clean a car in 7 steps,
Soak the sticker in warm soapy water for 10 minutes, then take a plastic putty knife and get under a corner and start working it loose
 

5. Deal with scratches 

Deep scratches may need to be sanded out by a professional, but marks on the surface can often be buffed out or their appearance improved with specialised products you can use yourself.

Before waxing, apply a small amount of scratch remover with a damp cloth, rub the affected area and quickly buff off. 


6. Wax the car 

Working in sections, lightly cover the paintwork with a good quality wax solution. The wax will fill shallow scratches and protect the surface. 

Apply the wax in the shade with a clean damp cloth, rubbing in a circular motion. Let the wax dry to a haze and rub off with a lint-free cloth. 

Open the doors, the boot and the bonnet to remove the haze from all the edges. Reapply every
six months. 

 

7. Polish metal 

The easiest way to keep the metal fittings on your car looking their best is to revive them with a liquid metal polish. 

Use it on chrome bumpers, wheel alloys, door handles and light fittings to bring them to a high shine.

After washing and drying the car, apply metal polish with a clean lint-free cloth, working in small sections until the shine is restored.

For corroded and tarnished surfaces, apply a corrosion and stain remover prior to polishing.


 

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