In recent years, gas stations have expanded to accommodate convenient miniature car washes, putting may of the larger ones out of business. To the casual user, a car wash is a quick, easy way to make your vehicle sparkle to perfection. The thing that most frequent users miss, though, is that the costs add up very quickly. After a few "premium" washes, you'll have wasted around $50. To bypass the insanely high prices, try washing your car at home! Read on for some useful car-washing tips.

Investigate Local Pollution Laws

Before you may begin the washing, I advise that you investigate local laws or ordinances prohibiting outdoor car-washing. Many communities have restrictions on the practice, as it can be damaging to the environment. As hard as this sounds, it will only take a few minutes to call your city hall or local governmental center to inquire about these restrictions. If the offices are closed, check your local governmental website; ordinances may be available in downloadable PDFs.

Gather Necessary Tools

The tools you will need to wash your own car are pretty straightforward, but here is a list of my suggested gear that you will use:

  • Hose
  • Adjustable Spray Nozzle
  • Biodegradable Soap
  • Bucket
  • Washcloth
  • Sponge
  • Toothbrush (for hard-to-reach areas)

Washing The Car

Before your begin washing your car, make sure that the windows are rolled up, that the car is turned off, and that the car is in "park" (you don't want to accidentally be run over by your own car!). Add a couple tablespoons of biodegradable soap to a clean medium-sized bucket, then fill the rest of the bucket with water. Do not fill the bucket so much that it will spill or be to heavy when you move it around. When the bucket is at your desired fullness, begin soaking a couple washcloths and sponges in the bucket.

While the washcloths and sponges are soaking in your soap-water solution, rinse of your car with your hose. Set your adjustable spray nozzle to a heavy mist setting (not extremely hard, but enough to knock off large particles of dust and dirt). Be sure to rinse every crevasse in sight. While this stage dramatically improves the look of your car on its own, it is important to continue in the washing process.

Use one of the washcloths to wipe down the back of your car. When you remove the washcloth from the bucket of soapy water, try to keep as much soap from dripping on the ground as possible. Even if you are using biodegradable soap (which you should be), you should still try to keep all pollutants from reaching the groundwater (where it would make its way to rivers or lakes).

The reason why you have started washing the car from the back, is because the front is considerably more dirty, and it is best to keep your washcloths as clean as possible (dirty cloths will just spread dirt, not remove it). As with the rinsing, scrub all crevasses and cracks thoroughly. When your washcloth no longer secretes soapy water, and begins taking on a grayish tone, rinse and soap that cloth in the bucket. Use the alternate cloth while this one has a chance to clean in the soapy water. Repeat this process as your cloths lose their once sterile appearance. In addition to cracks and crevasses, remember to scrub within grilles and tires. Every inch of your car should have been soaped up by the time you finish this step.

Similarly to before you soaped up the exterior of your car, it is now time for another thorough rinse. At this moment, it is not terribly important to wash off every soap bubble in sight; focus on dirt clumps and strands of grass that may have stuck to your washcloth but did not leave the surface of your car.

After a semi-thorough rinse, restart the soaping process. The back of your car will be, for the most part, spotless after the first round of soaping. Now is the time to really focus on the front end and bottom rim of the car; wherever dust, rust, and dirt still remain. Again, rinse off the soap. Take more care with this rinse, as it will most likely be the final rinse you will have to do. Once there are no soap bubbles in sight, assess the condition of the car. If you do not notice any problem areas, you no longer have to wash, and may begin drying the car with a towel. If, however, you still see problem spots, proceed with a site-specific third soap/rinse cycle.

Dry the car completely before driving it. While it seems to be a good idea to dry it by air on a short drive around the block, it will jeopardize all of the hard work you've just put in. Dirt and dust will easily cling to water droplets remaining on your car, sticking to the sides as the water evaporates.

Congratulations, you've just saved yourself a few dollars! Trust me, the savings will add up over time, especially if you would normally go to a car wash on a regular basis. Do not think of washing your own car as a big chore; it can be a social bonding opportunity between parents and their children. They're also great fundraising opportunities. As long as you follow local pollutant regulations, you will have no problem fitting a home car wash into your routine. Drive safely!