The Best Way to Wash a Car

There’s more than one way to wash a car, and each method has its pros and cons. CR talked with paint specialists, car-wash owners and professional detailers to get their views.


Richard Pryor stars in this comedy about a day in the life of several car wash employees. It’s a true comedy gem.


The car wash industry has its own version of the real estate industry’s mantra: “Location, location, location.” In order to succeed in the business, a car wash operator should choose a spot that is easy for customers to access. The site should also have plenty of space for vehicles to enter and exit the car wash without blocking the entrance or surrounding roads. Additionally, the facility should be located on a highly-traveled road or street and have a high traffic count.


Many people skip the pre-wash stage at the car wash, which is a mistake. This step helps prepare the vehicle for the washing process and can prevent scratches and swirl marks from forming.

It can also remove dirt, grime, and pollutants that may damage the vehicle’s paint and finish. For example, some contaminants, such as bird droppings and tree sap, can chemically damage the exterior of the vehicle if left untreated. By loosening these contaminants during the pre-wash stage, the car wash can more easily remove them during the main cleaning cycle.

Typically, the pre-wash process is done with a pressure washer or foam cannon. After the vehicle is sprayed with the product, it should be allowed to sit for a few minutes before being rinsed off. It’s important to use a quality pre-wash product, such as Twister Comfort, which is safe for aluminum and chrome and creates a thick foam that is ideal for scrubbing hard-to-reach areas.

This step can help reduce the amount of time and effort required to complete the main washing and drying stages of the car wash. Additionally, it can prevent the transfer of dirt from the wheels and rims to other areas of the vehicle, resulting in a cleaner finish.

The pre-wash is also a great opportunity to apply a wax or sealant, which can add protection and shine to the vehicle’s paint and finish. It can also help prolong the life of the vehicle’s mechanical parts.

There are a number of things to consider when choosing a pre-wash solution, including the type of product and how it is used. For example, the pre-wash should be applied with a pressure washer using a wide spray pattern and then left to soak for a few minutes. It should then be rinsed off to avoid premature drying of the surface. If the vehicle is being washed by hand, a clean wash mitt or sponge should be used to ensure that scratching from trapped dirt particles doesn’t occur. Lastly, the use of a degreaser such as Snow Foam can help to loosen up stuck-on contaminants. Then, a high-quality car wash shampoo can be used to remove the remaining debris and leave the vehicle looking shiny and new. A good car wash shampoo should be PH neutral and will not strip existing wax or sealants. It should also contain degreasing agents to effectively remove oil, grease, and other contaminants from the vehicle’s surface. It’s a good idea to test the shampoo on an inconspicuous area of the vehicle before applying it to the whole car.