washing car

What Is The Two Bucket Method To Wash Car Properly

Ron Buckley

Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Chase Manhattan

Everyone washes their car, but many people are not doing it properly. You may be causing damage to your car every time you wash without even realizing it!

The two-bucket method for washing requires two buckets holding water and soap respectively. This is done because it minimize potential scratches by rinsing off dirt before it comes in contact with the paint. When your paint is preserved in this way, you’re reducing the risk of rust developing and spreading over time. Additionally, keep in mind that it’s important to wax your car frequently to provide additional protection to your paint – amongst many other benefits of waxing your car. However, to preserve this wax you’ll need to use wax-safe soap or one of the household homemade car wash soap alternatives.

There are various methods online teaching how to wash a car with many different products, including homemade concoctions, but many of them can actually cause damage to your car.

This extensive guide will teach about the proper products and methods to wash your car.

The Two-Bucket Wash Method

Scratches are common during the washing process. Dirt is picked up by your sponge and rubbed against the paint, causing scratches.

The two-bucket method for washing helps minimize potential scratches by rinsing off dirt before it comes in contact with the paint.

Got scratches? Read our guide on removing them.

You will need two different buckets. One bucket contains your water/soap mixture to use for washing the car. Another bucket holds water for rinsing your washing sponge.

After washing a section of the vehicle, dip the dirty sponge in water to rinse off the particles.

Dirt falls into the rinsing bucket to prevent abrasive contact with the vehicle. If the rinsing bucket become very dirty, you may want to empty and refill it.

Car Washing Products You’ll Need

Before beginning, make sure you have the necessary materials:

  • Car wash soap. Read below about what you should and shouldn’t use!
  • Microfiber sponges
  • Wheel brush (optional)
  • 2 large buckets
  • Hose

[Waxing A Car With A Buffer]

How To Wash A New Car

When buying a new car, we recommend washing by hand with a mild detergent as strong car detergents can accidentally remove and take away the wax and polish on the paint surface. In order to maintain the benefits of waxing your car, follow the steps below.

Here are some simple steps to wash your car by hand.

  1. Rinse the car before beginning. This helps remove some dirt and lubricate the surface. If you live in a colder climate with salted roads I recommend rinsing your undercarriage as well.
  2. Wash from top to bottom with the sponge, starting on the roof. Use up-and-down or side-to-side motions. Washing in a circular motion can cause swirl marks.
  3. Flip the microfiber sponge before cleaning the lower half of the car. This prevents previous dirt from scratching the paint.
  4. Keep the sponge soaked with soapy water and rinse the dirty sponge frequently in the rinsing bucket.
  5. Clean the wheels and tires using a separate sponge or a wheel brush. Always keep dirty wheel towels separate from normal washing towels (see below for more).
  6. Rinse the entire vehicle from top to bottom to remove dirt and soap.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more automated method, a laser car wash is a touch free option that will not damage your paint.

Read next: Best Undercarriage Cleaner

Washing Your Car with a Pressure Washer

Washing your car by hand is very rewarding but takes time and physical effort.

You may not have enough time during your day to cover every inch of your dirty car by hand, but this does not mean you can’t wash your car!

Another way is to use pressure washing which is much faster than hand wash.

  1. Lightly rinse heavy dirt off the vehicle with water from top to bottom. Use low pressure and spray more than 3 feet away from the vehicle.
  2. Spray soap onto the vehicle using either the detergent tank in your pressure washer or a foam cannon.
  3. Spray soap in the wheel wells and under the vehicle if desired.
  4. If using a foam cannon, let the soap sit on the car for a minute before rinsing. Avoid allowing the soap to dry, as this could leave a residue on the car.
  5. Thoroughly rinse the vehicle from top to bottom, keeping the pressure washer hose more than 1 foot from the surface of the car.
    • If spraying too close, you could strip paint and cause other damage.
    • The car will need rinsed more thoroughly than when hand-washed because soap reaches more cracks and crevices when using a pressure washer.

What Soap Should I Use to Wash My Car?

You should use a designated car wash soap to wash your car, not an alternative soap such as dishwashing liquid.

Using products not designed for vehicles can yield unwanted results.

Car wash soap is designed to keep wax on your vehicle and is not too harsh on your paint.

For car wash soap, I use and recommend Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash.

Meguiar’s is a trusted name in auto detailing and this product effectively removes dirt and grime without stripping wax. It is a high-quality product at an affordable price.

There are also car wash soaps that wash and wax your car at the same time. This is quicker and more convenient, as it integrates waxing into the washing process.

Although it may be easier, it will not offer the same level of protection as paste wax.

A wash and wax car soap could be used to maintain your wax protection, but should not replacing waxing entirely.

[Our Preferred Turtle Wax Review]

Things to Remember

  • Don’t use dish detergent to wash your car because it contains harsh chemicals, is difficult to rinse off, and strips wax.
  • Use a designated car wash soap, instead of homemade alternatives.
  • Keep dirty wheel towels separate from normal washing towels. Very dirty towels may still have dirt on them after being washed, therefore they can scratch your paint.
  • Keep a storage section for very dirty towels so you don’t accidentally use them on your paint.
  • If you have stuck on material, use WD-40 to loosen it before scrubbing or you could damage the paint.
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