How to Wash a Car By Hand: Step by Step Cleaning Guide

Washing a car

How to Wash a Car By Hand: Step by Step Cleaning Guide

Table of Contents

Taking your car to the car wash is the easy way to get a quick shiny look. But what if you need to wash your car in the driveway, or the mud you’ve picked up is more than the local auto-wash can handle? Washing a car by hand is something almost anyone can do with the right supplies. You can detail your car inside and out – or hold a fundraiser car wash – with these simple steps to wash your car.

Let’s start with the supplies list and then focus on exterior and interior car washing step-by-step.


Supplies to Clean Your Car

  • Exterior
    • Outdoor Hose
    • 2 Buckets
    • Car Cleaner
    • Soft Sponges or Cloths
    • Towels
    • Cotton Swabs
    • Glass Cleaner
    • Paper Towels
    • Squeegee
    • Car Wax
  • Interior
    • Vacuum
      • Hose Attachment
      • Upholstery Nozzle
    • Upholstery
      • Spray Cleaner
      • Brush
    • Dashboard
      • Armorall
      • Microfiber Cloth
      • Cotton Swabs
    • Screens
      • Glass Cleaner
      • Paper Towels or Microfiber


Cleaning Your Car Exterior

Spray the Tires, Wheels, and Undercarriage

Use your hose to blast out mud and debris around the tires and up in the wheels. Clean the undercarriage as best you can, as this is the area that faces the most dirt and buildup.

Rinse Down the Exterior

Run water over the entire vehicle exterior to prime it for washing.

Wipe Off Excessive Dust and Mud

Take a shop towel (an old or ragged towel) and wipe the excess dirt and mud off your vehicle. This will give you a baseline clean so that polishing can get you close to gleaming and finished.

Prepare the Buckets and Car Cleaning Solution

Prepare two buckets. One with clean water and one with water mixed with car cleaner. Use a cleaner specifically made for cars to avoid damaging finish or removing wax.

Rinse, Then Lather the Car

When the car is wet, dip your cloth or soft car sponge into the soapy water and lather the  car. Lather from top to bottom and work your cloth or sponge in circles to scrub any patina of grime off the car with soapy water.

Rinse and Wipe Clean

Rinse the car with water to remove the lather. Then wipe clean with a fresh towel.

Polish and Squeegee the Windshield, Windows, and Lights

Take a soft cloth and glass cleaner to clean the windshield and windows around the car. Then clean the outer mirrors and finally wash down the light covers with extra care. Use a squeegee or a lint-free towel to remove the last of the water and cleaner from your windshield and windows.

Apply Optional Wax Layer

If you want to, apply car wax or a protective clear-coat finish at the end of your car wash.


Cleaning Your Car Interior

Armorall the Dash, Steering Wheel, and Door Panels

Take a spray bottle of Armorall and apply it to most of the car’s smooth and textured interior surfaces. Gently wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, and the dash-material panels in the doors and consoles. Any car-plastic material should get a gentle washing and then coating with Armorall.

Glass-Clean the Screens and Control Panels

Use a glass cleaner like Windex to clean the screens, buttons, and control panels inside the car. Remove fingerprints and dust that build up on these surfaces so that your car interior gleams in direct sunlight.

Empty the Compartments

Clear out the glove compartments, center consoles, cup holders, and door pockets. Use your vacuum attachment and cotton swabs to get the last of the grit out of each compartment space, then wipe it clean with glass cleaner or Armorall.

Vacuum the Seats, Compartments, and Footwells

Use your vacuum and hose attachment to vacuum the seats and the cracks between the seats. Vacuum the carpet in the footwells and the grooves along the edges. Vacuum the compartments and pockets to remove the grit.

Remove Grit from the Grooves

Pay special attention to the grooves and channels in the footwells and less-used spaces of the car. Take care to remove the built-up pebbles and dirt in those hard-to-reach places.

Upholstery Spray and Agitate the Seats

Spray upholstery cleaner over your seats and soft spaces. Then agitate with a cloth to work the cleaner into the fabric. This can help to reduce stains, remove ground-in dirt, and freshen the overall scent of your car interior. Then vacuum again to help remove the last of the dirt and soap.

Glass-Clean the Mirrors and Window Interiors

Finally, polish your window interiors and mirrors with glass cleaner so that the passengers and driver have a perfect view sitting inside the vehicle.


Hand-washing a car is not as hard as it sounds. All you need is the right supplies and a checklist you can rely on. For more step-by-step cleaning guides or expert cleaning services, contact us today.

Regional Services

Regional Services

Regional Services are an experienced commercial and office cleaning company based in London. Regional Services are an award winning and fully accredited cleaning company who provide a full range of facility management services and expertise including cleaning, maintenance, waste removal, pest control, gardening and more.


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