I don’t know about you guys, but when my dad handed me the pressure washer at the car wash for the very first time I felt the hairs on my upper lip start to grow,

Not the best look when your in grade 6 but I felt amazing.

The greatest feeling was when my dad trusted me enough to take our 1998 Toyota Corolla to the car wash all by myself,

As weird as it seems this was a big deal for me, being trusted with the car and to make sure I did a good job.

Of course I did a horrible job the first few times but after going a few times you get into the groove of it and soon I began learning all tips and tricks on how to clean your car efficiently and properly. But then I found the ultimate car wash guide

If you need those same tips I have accumulate over the years on how to clean your car at the car wash read our guide down below!

Disclaimer: We apologize beforehand to all the car detailers and enthusiasts out there before hand, we know the car wash isn’t the safest place for your car, especially for its paint but we make this for the people to do it for those who are brave enough to do so!

We are only looking out for the interests of all our clients and readers, that is why we feel like we have been trusted with the responsibility of teaching the public on how to clean their cars safely at the car wash, without damaging any aesthetics of your vehicle!

DripAutoPros Guide To Cleaning Your Car At The Car Wash

Be Prepared

The self serve car wash isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be,

It is definitely no where close to as intricate time consuming and as car detailing, but it does the job done at the end of the day.

The first thing you should do before you even leave home is make sure your taking everything you’ll need with you.

We compiled a list of a few things we think know are needs, and a few things that will put the cherry on top and truly make the best of your trip to the carwash.

You always want to be prepared beforehand to save time and money while getting a quality clean!


  • Change or a credit card if your going to the newer car washes, so that you can pay for the services of course.
  • Wash mitt
  • Microfibre towels, a bunch of them. We recommend investing in a car drying cloth (chamois) so you don’t have to use multiple microfibres drying off your car. 


  • Two buckets and grit guards , soap in one bucket and water in the other, work from the top to bottom, one panel at a time and you can get the best results out of your wash while causing the least damage to your paint
  • Wheel cleaner/degreaser and a wheel cleaning brush. I know it is extra, but hitting the wheels with water and soap doesn’t really do the trick and give it that shine that you expect after a car wash.
  • Tire shine, you’ve taken the contaminants off the tire and now the dull look is finally gone, but the wheels aren’t shiny and glossy like the rest of you car is. Applying tire shine on your wheels and letting it sit while you dry your car after the carwash then wiping it off when your done will be the final pièce de résistance to a successful clean.

How to clean your car at the carwash

Quick Rinse For The Big Stuff

After clipping your mats on the mat holders and taking all the products you’ll need to help you with the car wash out of you car, you are now ready to start.

First step to follow would be to set the knob on the car wash panel to “ rinse “ With the pressure washer ready you can now take off the majority of the grime, mud and whatever else your car has attracted in one simple step.

Start to wash your car from top to bottom, roof all the way down to the tires.

Most people start from the bottom because that’s where most of the dirt is but you’ll notice as you do the top part a lot of the dirt will seep to the bottom of the vehicle again.

Now with a pressure washer it’s easy to clean everything major like the top of the hood, bumper, etc but make sure you completely rinse every inch of the vehicle.

You have a gun that shoots pressurized water, you should use that to save you time by spraying every nook and cranny, cracks and corners of you car so that you don’t have to spend so much time cleaning the spoiler, doors or trunk afterwards by hand.

But keep in mind to stand 3-5 ft away from the car as you spray it down as being too close can cause damage to the vehicle!

Detailing or washing a car isnt generally what most people like to do and if you fall within this category you can always call our Calgary mobile detailing team!

Clean Your Wheels

Now here comes the first “ extra “ step that most people skip or are too lazy to do.

When it comes to cleaning your wheels at the carwash, your sometimes limited on time because of the people waiting behind you and it isn’t like you can do a complete car detailing in the 5 minutes worth of quarters you put in.

Since you have rinsed off a majority of the grime off your tires already this part should just take out the excess dirt and really clean the wheels.

What do you have to do? Simply just spray the degreaser onto the wheels and wait, don’t spray them clean yet, we will come back to them in a few minutes!

Apply Soap, However You Prefer

Now there’s two ways of cleaning your car with soap at the car wash, well there’s three ways but we will never recommend using the foam soap brush as one of them.

You can choose to give your car the quick car detailing experience or the enhanced car wash experience.

The enhanced car wash experience is really simple, set your car wash panel knob to “high pressure soap” and spray it down really quickly with that, making sure to once again get all the nooks and crannies.

Now you can use the foam brush here, but that’s only if you want to put deep swirls and scratches into your paint, in the long run making your car look worse than when it pulled into the carwash.

Once the soap has been applied to the vehicle, don’t let it settle, grab your car wash mitt you brought from home and get to work scrubbing top to bottom and really working the soap onto the vehicle,

Now you can move onto the next step … unless you wanted to take the alternative route.

The alternative route is the car detailing route.

Why is this weirdo bringing two buckets to the car wash?

Simply fill one bucket with water and another with soap and you can mimic what you did in the other route, to familiarize yourself with the two bucket wash system we recommend you read our blog that describes all its benefits and how it works!

Still Have More Car Wash Questions?

Its ok to have more questions, the process of Car Detailing and car washing can be confusing because of its ambiguity, check out this video to answer any of your questions or get in touch with us for more information!