Tips to wash, polish and wax your car at home

Date Posted 15th January 2019
Read Time 7 min read

At Hippo Leasing, we have learned a lot about caring for cars over the years we have been in the industry so we know a thing or two about how vehicle need to look their best when they go to their new home!

We have a team of 20 valeters who wash, polish and prepare cars seven days a week just to keep up with the cars we have in stock and the cars that arrive every single day to our Prep Centre.

We know you’ll want to take the very best care of your car, whether you’re leasing from us or not, so we’re passing on our valet team’s knowledge to you.

What do I need to clean my car?
First off, what kit do you need to clean, polish and wax your car? In terms of the correct supplies to give your car a high-quality wash, you are best off with the following:

  • Access to a pressure washer with a wide spray option, or a hosepipe fitted with a spray nozzle
  • A pressure washer foam cannon or a hosepipe foam gun
  • 2 large buckets
  • A microfiber car wash glove
  • 4 good quality, large, microfibre cloths and a soft buffing cloth
  • A wheel or alloy (soft) brush
  • A degreaser – specialist degreasers are best but a small amount of washing up liquid also will also work well
  • A good car shampoo
  • A clay detailing kit (for dirtier cars with a build-up of grit and impurities on the paint)

Before washing, remove dust
The most important thing to remember when washing a car is that any impurities (grit, dust, dirt, oils and old wax) on the car or on your cleaning materials will damage the vehicle’s paintwork if you don’t remove these prior to any physical action on the car.

That’s why we work to the general rule that one must always lift the dirt before removing it. This rule of thumb for dust and dirt applies throughout the cleaning process and extends to if you drop your cloth on the floor, if you use dirty water on the car,  or simply move dirt from one place to another. Bearing this in mind is a good way to prevent unnecessary blemishes to your car’s paintwork.

The car wash
When you are ready to give your car a wash, there are seven key steps in making your car exterior smart and shiny:

  1. Preparing to wash
  2. The ‘hands-free’ wash
  3. The physical wash
  4. Potential clay bar clean
  5. Drying the car
  6. Polishing the car
  7. Adding a sealant or wax finish

1 – Preparing to wash
It may extreme but you should look to wash your car in clothing that won’t damage the paintwork like having a belt buckle or even clothes with zips or a watch or jewellery on your hands. Have all of your materials close to hand and, if it’s a hot day, try to wash the car in the shade.

2 – The ‘hands-free’ wash
The hands-free wash is one of the most important steps in giving your car a thorough clean. To do it properly you need a pressure washer (set to wide spray option) or alternatively a hose pipe with a spray nozzle.

Start on the roof of the car and gently spray back and forth while you look to lift the majority of the dirt off the surface of the car. Don’t be tempted to blast the dirt from close up or you stand a good chance of damaging the paint work…no closer than a foot and a half from the surface is the general rule but you should check the force of your spray on some paving or the ground before starting.

Try and get all the dirt you can off the car without actually touching it, working downwards so the dirt runs off the car. Don’t forget to do wheel arches at this point.

Speaking of wheels, and especially alloys, it’s often a good idea to try and lift the dirt off these at this point. Use a soft brush on the wheels with some wheel cleaner and remove as much build up of muck giving it a good burst of clean water at the end to remove the chemicals.

If you need to remove old wax on the car and embedded dirt, you will want to use a degreaser to help slide both of these off the surface. If you have a foam cannon that you can attach to your pressure washer, this is a very satisfying way of cutting through grease and grime and wax, alternatively, you can buy a foam gun that attaches to your hose.

You can buy specialist de-waxer or alternatively use a little washing liquid to strip the car of grease and grime spraying the foam onto the top and sides of the car, allowing the dirt to float off and away from the car making sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards.

3 – The physical wash
By now you will have removed most of the dirt and you won’t have even physically touched the car. You will need your two large clean buckets now, one with clear water and the other with your car shampoo mix and a microfiber washing glove. A microfiber washing glove looks a bit like a good mop head with loads of fibres that clear dirt without damaging the paint so they are well worth the investment.

Spray the top and sides of the car with your shampoo mix (preferably from the spray gun) but apply by hand if necessary and start cleaning the car from the top in straight (and not circular) motions.

Use the second clean water bush to clean your glove every now and again and be sure to get into the hard to reach places like the joints between the boot and body, the petrol flap and the door sills.

4 – Clay bar clean
If you really want to treat your car, consider a clay bar kit which will remove any impurities left on the car. It works by picking up specs and dirt that are impregnated into the paint – it makes a huge difference, particularly to cars that are not cleaned often.

5 – Drying the car
Next, dry the car. Traditionally, people used chamois leather to dry cars. Nothing wrong with these, but a good quality microfiber cloth is often easier to use and requires less wringing though you will need two instead of one to do an average-sized car.

6 – Polishing the car
Cars pick up small scratches over time but you can effectively polish most of these out with a good scratch remover. For scratches use a light scratch remover and use it sparingly plus use a circular motion to buff the area followed by a clean microfiber cloth ensuring that you don’t overuse the polish and go through the outer, clear layer into the base coat. Scratch removal is not something to be done every time you wash…think once a year or so.

7 – Adding a sealant or wax finish
The final step is sealing the finish. Different waxes have their own instructions but you will want to use the applicator and follow swiftly with a microfiber cloth.Try not to get wax on the trim but if you do simply wipe off swiftly with a microfiber towel. Use the final soft buffing towel to give you the perfect seal and finish. One tip is to use a soft, fine paint brush to get any wax out of hard to reach lines on the car where the unpolished wax can look unsightly.

We’ve broken down the steps in giving your car a pro clean to ensure you are as thorough as possible. This preserves the integrity of your vehicle’s paintwork as long as possible and allows you to drive a pristine car down the road.

To get your car showroom-level clean and gleaming, doing it yourself can be more satisfying than getting it done at a carwash. Follow our steps to get your the professional level clean that your car deserves.

Arrow to top