[Philkotse guide] The proper way to wash and wax your car

Updated Feb 17, 2020 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Very dedicated car guys are typically known to enjoy washing and waxing their own cars. If you have the time, you might want to try it for yourself.

Why wash and wax your own car?

If you’re a car enthusiast, you already know that the most satisfying parts of owning a car is washing it by yourself and watching it glisten in your driveway.

For those of you who’re a bit new to the car-owning game, you’ll find that washing your own car will have a few advantages. You can save money, you can ensure the quality of the wash, and of course, …you’ll have fun!

A boy washing a car

Washing cars can increase dopamine levels. Don't quote us on that

Hold your horses though. Washing a car improperly can have severe consequences on its paint-like swirl marks and scratches. In order to avoid that, here are the steps on how you properly wash and wax your car.

The proper way to wash a car

Step 1: Take a look at your car and assess its “dirtiness”

While it might seem simple to others who are used to this kind of activity some other folks might get too enthusiastic and will bring out his/her inventory of washing implements from the get-go. That’s cute but the proper way that’ll save you the effort is to actually assess how dirty your car actually is.

A very dirty car

If your car looks like this, time to whip out everything you got!

Does it need a quick wash and just a minimal amount of product? Or does it need all your tools? Or does it even need a new coat of wax at all? For cars with just a slight amount of dirt on it, sometimes simple spray, soap, wash, and dry will suffice.

>>> Put in mind 10 things you should never do when your car is not clean

Step 2: Read the labels of your cleaning products

Before using the cleaning products you’ve bought, be careful to read the labels on them first. A particular product might not be suitable for washing your tires and/or there might be some special considerations like how you apply the product, etc.

A label on a car shampoo

Do read the labels on the car products you're buying. This is for you and your car's safety

Also, note that it’s ideal to have your car parked in the shade. This is because the chemicals in the cleaning product might react to the heat of the sun and will potentially damage your car’s paint. Better safe than sorry.

Step 3: Three buckets

The last thing that you’d want to do to your car is to wash it with dirty water and with a dirty cloth. Why? Well dirty water might already have sediment collected and those sediments will most likely get caught in between the fibers of a washing cloth.

Three bucket system

Washing a car with only one bucket is like using the toilet brush to brush your teeth

To avoid this, you’ll need three buckets, each with their own dedicated was cloths. One for holding clean soapy water, one for just plain water, and the last one for the wheels and tires only because these, of course, are most often the dirtiest part of the car.

As for the washcloths themselves, we recommend buying a set of microfiber wash mitts which can be had at a lot of different stores (even at the mall) from Php 120 to Php 1,000.

>>> Check out: 8 steps to clean your car using common household items

Step 4: Spray

You can’t just lather on the soap without rinsing it first because this ensures the removal of dirt, dust, and mud.

To do just this, grab your simple garden hose or your pressure sprayer, and start from the roof of the car. Go slowly and evenly and move downwards towards the bottom panels and then finally, on the wheels of the car.

Remember, if you have a pressure sprayer, do not set it on the tightest setting as it will potentially damage parts of your car (even the paint itself if you’re not careful) if it’s too strong. Instead, set in on a middle strength spray setting.

Someone spray cleaning his tires

If the wheels and tires are very dirty, then let'er rip!

>>> Have you got 10 must-have car care products

Step 5: Soap

If you’ve read the label on your car soap, follow the recommended amount and mix. Also, make sure that the now soapy water remains clean.

Just like the pre-wash on step 4, start from the top to the bottom. While there are some other recommended methods like dividing your car into “panels” and all that jazz, we recommend doing what you find that’s comfortable to you. That is, as long as you start from the top to the bottom.

A person applying soap to a car

Just like the pre-wash spray, apply the soap from top to bottom


Note also that you can’t just use any soap for washing your car. Some soaps like laundry detergent or dishwashing detergent might have chemicals that’ll harm the pre-existing wax layer on your car and even the clear coat.

For applying soap for your exhaust tips, wheels and cooling vents, use the third microfiber cloth.

Step 6: Rinse

Next, use the second microfiber cloth while spraying away from the soap. Again, do this from the top towards the bottom.

>>> FYI: A guide to car wash services in Metro Manila: Price list, Contact details & More

The proper way to wax your car

Step 1: Prepare the car’s surface

Now that your car’s clean (but still damp), you can now assess if it really needs a touch up with a clay bar. If you find swirls, scratches, and some stuff that won’t just come off like oxidation, and it’s time to use the good ol’ clay bar.

To use the clay bar, turn into a disc-like shape, apply clay lubricant and then gently rub the clay bar on the affected area. Keep rubbing the clay on the area until you feel that it can glide easier over a surface. Lastly, wipe off the lubricant off the area.

A guy applying car clay

If you're really not sure of what you're doing, then bite bullet and go to a professional

Be careful not to rub too hard or drop the clay bar as that might damage your paint instead. Also, if the cay bar gets dirty, just mold it with your hands again until it’s visibly clean again. Do check the clay from time to time for debris.

>>> Tips for you: How Can I Repair My Car’s Scratches?

Step 2: Polish

This step is optional but if you want that really glossy finish, you can polish the car by hand or by using a power polisher. If you already have a variable speed angle grinder, there are adapters out that can turn your angle grinder into a buffer but it still does have some risks.

Step 3: Apply the wax

If your car’s already washed and is parked away from direct sunlight, then you’re ready to wax.

First off, choose the wax. We highly recommend the ones that have a genuine carnauba.

Next, place around a peso coin-sized amount on the applicator that came with the wax. Note that applying too much wax can be annoying. It’s hard to remove and will leave gunks all over the car. So we highly advise applying small amounts first.

>>> Relevant article: Best wax for car in the Philippines: List of 6 recommended brands

A man waxing a car

A washed and waxed car restores pride of ownership. Doing it on your own will elevate you further

If the wax product didn’t come with an applicator, then a damp sponge might do the trick.

To apply, use gentle circular motions. You can also divide the car by section and apply the wax for each at a time. If you have a buffer, you can finish the waxing process by setting the buffer at a low speed to remove any imperfections. For a beginner, however, we highly advise using your hands first.

>>> Also check: Car Waxing, Detailing & Polishing: What’s the Difference?

Final Step: Wash the wheels and tires

When you’ve done washing the car and waxing the car. You can now use the third bucket to wash your tires and wheels. You’ll also need a brush. If the wheel well is too dirty, then you’ll need a longer brush from that. Also, depending on the dirtiness, you might need stuff like iron remover.

Now first off rinse the wheel and tire to remove dirt and particles. Once it’s good and wet, apply your choice of wheel cleaner.

Next, scrub the tire to further clear it of particles and other gunk.

A guy washing his wheels

If you can't reach those tight, hidden spots with a brush, go get 'em with your hands

Just like your entire car, do rinse away from the top to the bottom. Use a smaller brush to clean in-between the spokes or angles of the wheels to reach that dirty nooks and crannies.

And finally, spray water onto the wheel and tire to rinse all of it off. Use another piece of microfiber to dry the wheel.

For more guides like this one, keep reading here on Philkotse.com.

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel


Cesar Guiderone B. Miguel was born and raised in Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte. He graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology. He previously worked as a freelance writer for various websites, as a member of the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction Management's training staff, and as a medical sales representative.

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