$4.99 Shipping over $49 w/coupon DI499 | 2,800+ Products | 91 Brands | 12,000+ Reviews | 1,800+ Detailing Articles
Close Menu
Clean ⋅ Shine ⋅ Protect
Cookies are disabled in your web browser. To shop with Detailed Image, please turn cookies on and then refresh the page.

My wash process for maintenance washings


Step one: Pre-rinse the car with a sharp stream of water via pressure washer or hose and nozzle. This will loosen and flush away the lighter dirt and debris from the paint, wheels, tires, glass, etc. if at this time you would like to apply shampoo to the car to start the breakdown process, use a foam gun and coat the entire car. If it’s a hot day, only coat the half of the car you will be working on first, then the second half. Don’t let the soap dry on the car.

Step two: Wash car with shampoo
Using a chenille mitt, sheepskin mitt, soft sponge, etc, begin at the top of the car and work your way around. I like to break the car into sections such as the following: 1 – half the roof, half the windshield and rear window, drivers windows front and rear, then re-soap after rinsing mitt out in water only bucket. 2 – drivers front and rear doors, rinse. 3 – half the hood and drivers fender, rinse. 4 – passenger half hood and fender, rinse. 5 – passenger half roof, windshield, rear window, front and rear side windows, rinse. 6 – passenger front and rear door, rinse. 7 – rear trunk lid and truck vertical, rinse. 8 – rear bumper, rinse. 9 – front bumper, rinse. 10 – both side skirts and behind wheels, rinse.

Step three – rinsing car soap away
Using pressure again, blast the soap off the car. At this time, the car should be free of dirt and debris, as well as soap remnants.

Step four – water sheeting method
Take the nozzle off the hose and turn the water on half way so there is some pressure, but not full blast. The key here is to PUSH the water off the surfaces. Start out and let it pool up on the roof and then start from the back of the roof and push all the water towards the front windshield. The water will collect and coagulate leaving behind next to zero water on the panel if done correctly (works best on a freshly waxed surface). Continue this trick all the way around the car. Only about 10% of the water should be left on the car.

Step 5 – Dry remaining water off the car with absorbent towel
Take your drying towel and lay it on the paint and blot the rest of the water off. Do not drag the towel across the surface UNLESS you are spraying some quick detailer on the panel prior to drying it. The QD will act as a barrier layer between the towel and the paint to help prevent it from scratching. It will also aid in the drying process due to its solvent ingredient. If you do not spray a QD while drying, you should go back over the car after you are done with the wheels with a QD and a micro fiber towel and remove any remaining water and/or dry areas. This will boost the gloss and slickness at the same time.

Step 6 – wash wheels/tires
Re-rinse the wheels one more time. Then, spray on your tire cleaner and wheel cleaner and allow it to sit, or if you do not need any cleaner because you maintain the wheels regularly, begin to wash them with the same shampoo you used on the car. If your shampoo bucket is really dirty, toss it out and start over with fresh water/soap. Using various brushes, clean the inner barrels first, then the lug nut area, then the faces of the wheels and lastly the tires (working inside out, bottom to top as it will help keep the bottom areas from drying on you while you finish the rest of the wheel). After you complete one wheel, flush with water and rinse any soap or cleaner away before moving on to the next wheel. Do both the drivers side wheels/tires first, then repeat on the passenger side. Now dress the tires to your desired level of gloss with tire dressing.

Step 7 – wipe down door jambs
Using the same quick detailer or spray sealant as you used on your paint, wipe down the door jambs to ensure those areas are just as clean. Nothing worse than a clean exterior only to open the door and find a bunch of grime in the jambs! Not to mention getting in and out of the car, your clothes will not get dirty with clean jambs.

Step 8 – windows
Once you have the whole car done, the last thing you want to do is the windows; doing the windows last will help prevent having to re-wipe them because your QD misted beyond the desired area on the painted surfaced of the car onto the windows. Take your micro fiber towel or glass cleaning towel and glass cleaner and clean the glass inside and out. Two ways to do this: Do the entire exterior first, then the interior. Or do the exterior, then the interior of each window before moving on to the next piece of glass. Either way is fine as long as there are no streaks. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take a second towel and re-wipe everything without glass cleaner to remove streaking.

Now your car is ready to drive fresh and clean! This I recommended every week for routine cleaning. Remember, its easier to maintain than it is to fix! Don’t let dirt build up over time and thing you can remove it next time as it may set in and stain!

Key notes:
– Fill up two buckets with grit guards: one with soap, one with just water
– After each section on the car, rinse the mitt in the water only bucket before putting it in the soap bucket. This will help keep you from washing removed dirt back on the car
– Never let the soap dry on the car. If its hot out, keep rinsing the previously washed areas of the car to prevent water spotting. Wash a section, then rinse it right away as well. Dried on soap can stain the car requiring polishing action to remove
– Wipe in straight line motions, not circular, and keep the pressure light and even!
– Work top to bottom around the car, last areas are the dirtiest ones – the bottom areas
– Do not try and wash a dry section. If a section dries before its time to wash it, rinse that area again. Dry sections will have hardened dirt on them it’s never a good idea to grind in dirt on paint!
– Blot dry, don’t drag dry
– Never use a towel on the paint without some sort of lubricant: quick detailer, spray sealant, soapy water, etc. Never dry wipe!
– Don’t wait until the car is filthy to wash it. Bonded dirt tends to scratch more than light, surface dirt.

Any questions, feel free to ask!

Eric Schuster Envious Detailing
Eric Schuster
Envious Detailing
Orange County, CA

7 comments on My wash process for maintenance washings

  1. Tony Trinh says:

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for the great write-up! I had always wondered myself how often to re-rinse my mitt and you confirmed the same order I was doing it in.

    After the water sheeting, I like to employ a leafblower to get all the remaining water out of the small nooks and crannies. One of my pet peeves is after washing and drying a car, taking a drive, and then finding dried water splatter underneath the side mirrors.

    I have two questions:
    1) I have a friend who swears by just using a foam gun and pressure washing everything off without using a mitt. Is it overkill if I use the foam gun to get the soap on the car, then a mitt to lightly glide the dirt off the car and rinse using the 2-bucket method? He tells me I’m risking marring the paint, but I find that just a soap and touchless rinse doesn’t always get everything out— like fingerprints or strange oily stains.

    2) Spot free water— I’ve read around and can’t get a straight answer for this. Is it good to use DI water from start to finish (including mixing with the soap) or just for the final rinse? Is the effect on the soap good or bad?

    Lastly, I have a question about you mentioning not to let the soap dry on the car. The house and driveway get NO shade whatsoever all throughout the day. I normally try as much as possible to wash my car at dusk, but hate it because I feel like it always makes me rush to beat the darkness and sometimes the next day I find areas I may have missed and are now more visible in sunlight. If I only soap sections of the car— when I rinse it off, won’t the water still dry and leave water spots? Isn’t that bad? Do you have any other tips for daytime washing?


  2. Jordan says:

    Hey Eric great write up! Have a few questions though. 1) Why don’t you do wheel and tires first then pre-rinse the car? 2) Why don’t you horizontal surfaces before you get down to the dirty areas? You know, just just to ensure no marring?


  3. Marco says:

    Thank you Eric for the sharing!

    I usually wash first wheels (wheel cleaner), tires and wheel arches (APC) if are solied, rinse then i rewash them with shampoo after the rest of the car just to be sure to avoid any cross contamination.

    I use DI water in the wash mix solution because the minerals in the water would neutralize part of the shampoo you are using. I do use plain tap water for the intermediate rinsing steps, as above, the minerals in the water would neutralize the soapy residue so that you can rinse clean easier. I do use DI water for the last water sheeting step so that i can avoid any water spot due the minerals deposit.

  4. Eric says:

    To me, washing the wheels first just allows more time for them to water spot while washing the rest of the car. I dont use DI water, so maybe it will be different for others.

    I also use a leaf blower type, but after I dry the car. I will use the blower to remove the water from crevices and then carefully blot dry those “splash areas” and then QD the whole car = no water spots.

    I wouldnt use DI water in the soap bucket for reasons as mentioned above.

    For washing without shade, just expect to wash a panel, rinse it, wash the next panel and then rinse both panels and repeat across the whole car. Just dont let the water dry up on the car, let alone the soap suds!

  5. Adam Moody says:

    Good write up. You should invest in a master blaster. Leaf blowers could induce dirt onto the paint.

  6. Christopher says:

    Hello Eric:

    It was eat to read you article. I am new to the fine art of detailing (well at least to this extent) but was something I did become involved with when I was a little younger. At this point in time I have purchased some nicer vehicles recently and was wondering what your process would be for the first wash and wax for a brand new car. I recently picked it and up and drove it for a few hours but don’t really want to do anything else until I have done the first wash and entire vehicle waxing? Also, do you recommend a paint sealant prior to even waxing. Please let me know your thoughts.


  7. Christopher says:

    Hello Eric:

    Hello Eric:

    It was great to read you article. I am new to the fine art of detailing (well at least to this extent) but was something I did become involved with when I was a little younger. At this point in time I have purchased some nicer vehicles recently and was wondering what your process would be for the first wash and wax for a brand new car. I recently picked it up and drove it for a few hours but don’t really want to do anything else until I have done the first wash and entire vehicle waxing? Also, do you recommend a paint sealant prior to even waxing. Please let me know your thoughts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Commenting Rules

  • Try to keep your comments as relevant as possible.
  • Don't be abusive: no personal attacks or any other nastiness.
  • Feel free to express your opinion, but do so in an eloquent way.

If you do not respect these rules your comments may be edited or even deleted.

My Offers
23 Off Fall Sale
Quantity Discounts - Buy More, Save More!
Big Discounts While Supplies Last - Clearance Items - Shop Now
TireBib A Bib For Your Tire - Buy Now
Close overlay