Who doesn’t love that new car feeling! Fresh interiors, glistening rims, and your reflection in the paint is a nice experience. Unfortunately, having a clean car requires some work, in this case an occasional wash.

Washing a car at home isn’t hard as long as you know how to wash a car properly! Do it wrong and you can end up with unsightly streaks and swirling. The car may actually look worse than when you started.

Read on for our guide on how to wash a car properly.

If manual work isn’t for you, GoGet cars are professionally washed every few weeks. Learn how GoGet can free you from car maintenance forever.

A GoGet Audi A3 with cartoon clean sparkles and a caption that says oh, so clean! indicating this car has been washed properly

The gear you need to wash a car

While you can wash a car with a tap and an old shirt, you’ll have a better time with the right equipment. Here’s a basic list:

  • A sponge or washing mitt
  • Two buckets (see blow)
  • Car wash product (any will do, just don’t use kitchen detergent)
  • Drying towel
  • A hose to rinse

You can get all of this from an auto shop, or most service stations.

General Tips on how to wash a car properly

If you read nothing else in this article, look at this diagram or see the list below it. These general tips will get you most of the way to a proper car wash.


An infographic of the GoGet Guide of how to wash a car properly. The four steps are: start with tyres, wash top down, wipe with straight strokes not circles, and use two buckets - one with suds and one to rinse your sponge.


  • Start with the wheels. They’re the car’s dirtiest bit, so get the grime off early. Use a dedicated sponge if you have one.
  • Use two buckets – one with suds, the other with water. Rinse your sponge each time you dip it in the suds.
  • Wash from the top. This stops dirt washing over clean areas. Rinse as you go to stop the suds drying in.
  • Wash in straight strokes. This stops swirl marks.

How to wash a car properly in 7 steps

1. Be Prepared

Get your equipment ready before you start (see the list above). Have your buckets and sponges in easy reach to prevent going back and forth. Ideally, wash the car out of direct sunlight to prevent the suds drying off.

2. Wash The Wheels and Tires

Your wheels are the dirtiest parts of your car, so cleaning them first stops mud and dirt getting thrown back onto the car when you rinse. Use a second sponge for the wheels (an old t-shirt can work too). Wash one wheel at a time, rinse it off, then move to the next.

3. Use Two Buckets of Water

Use one bucket of soapy water and one bucket of normal water. Rinse your sponge in the normal water every time you want to get more suds. This cleans your sponge of dirt between wipes, and reduces streaks.

4. Rinse First

Before you start, give the entire car a rinse to get off any loose dirt.

5. Take It From The Top

To wash the car, get your sponge wet and soapy, wash a panel in straight strokes, then rinse the sponge in the soap-free bucket. Wash from top to bottom and rinse the soap off as you go. Start with the roof and windows, top half of the body, then the bottom half of the body. If the suds are drying too fast, break that up into even small chunks.

6. Rinse Again

Even though you’re rinsing each section as you go, finish with another overall rinse, to make sure all the dirt is gone.

7. Dry the car

The best way to dry a car is with a microfibre drying towel, a drying chamois, or an air compressor. For a microfibre drying towel, dab the car dry from top to bottom. For a drying chamois, fold the chamois over and wipe it clean. If you have an air compressor, blow it dry from top to bottom.

If you only have plain towels, here’s how to dry a car without streaks. Get 4 or 5 towels with a fairly tight weave (old t-shirts will also work), starting with one under each hand. Wipe the car with one towel, then wipe across the same spot in the opposite direction with the other towel, Mr Miyagi style. When your lead towel gets too wet, swap it for a dry towel and lead with your second towel until it gets too wet.

Still confused? Watch this video, or join GoGet

These tips will get your car clean and streak free. There’s only so far we can go with words to explain something as visual as washing a car, so watch the video below for a similarly solid guide to washing a car properly.

Of course, if this is all too much, you could always sell your car – no joke. Instead of owning a car, tens of thousands of Australians have joined GoGet car share, using our cars by the hour when they need it. If you have a car that drives less than 10,000km a year, you’d probably save money using GoGet, while getting access to thousands of different types of cars. Here’s how it works.