How to clean your car in 3 easy steps

We all love that new car feeling and it’s easier to recapture at home than you might think. In this article we take you through 3 easy steps that you can follow to clean your car and make it shine both inside and out.

If you’re looking for a more thorough car detailing process, then check out our ultimate guide to car cleaning for a more comprehensive breakdown of the car cleaning steps.

Step 1: Wash & Dry

The first step is to remove all the dirt and grime that your car has picked up during its travels. For this, all you need is a couple of buckets, your car shampoo of choice and a sponge or wash mitt.

The process:

  1. Rinse your vehicle thoroughly with water, including the wheels, to ensure that you’ve removed any loose leftover dirt or grime.
  2. Next prepare two buckets – the first with water and your chosen car shampoo, and the second with just water – and start scrubbing! We’d recommend using a wash mitt to apply the shampoo to lift dirt and grime more easily while protecting your paintwork from scratches.
  3. Wash your car from the roof downwards, using the second bucket to periodically rinse your wash mitt to remove the dirt and grime it’s picked up.
  4. Once your car is clean, rinse it again with water to remove any excess shampoo. Now it’s time to move onto your wheels.
  5. Use a dedicated wheel cleaner and alloy wheel brush to remove stubborn brake dust and grime. Make sure you leave the cleaner on for the recommended time that’s listed on the bottle.
  6. Rinse your wheels thoroughly to remove all the wheel cleaner.
  7. Use a microfibre cloth or drying towel to remove any excess moisture and dry your car, ready for step 2.

The product checklist:

Type We recommend Why we love it
Bucket Halfords 10 Litre Bucket Great value and with a tough plastic construction, this bucket is ideal for car cleaning and general household chores.
Car shampoo CarPlan Triplewax Car Shampoo 1 Litre The CarPlan Triplewax Car Shampoo easily removes dirt and grime to leave behind a brilliant, streak-free, protective shine. The 1 litre bottle provides for up to 30 washes and is great value for money.
Car wash mitt Meguiar’s Super Thick Microfibre Car Wash Mitt The microfibre loops in this Meguiar’s wash mitt lift dirt and grime easily and help to prevent your paintwork from getting scratched. The mitt’s machine washable and provides great coverage.
Wheel cleaner and brush Halfords Alloy Cleaner Bundle This bundle offers a wheel cleaner spray and brush combo that provides a quick, easy and effective way of removing brake dust and road grime.
Microfibre cloth Halfords Microfibre Cloths (10 pack) Designed for washing, drying and finishing, the Halfords Microfibre Cloths are ideal for exterior and interior car cleaning. They contain antibacterial properties and can be used both wet and dry.
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Step 2: Polish and Protect

The second step is to remove any final minor imperfections from your paintwork with car polish and then protect all of your hard work with car wax.

Polish

A common misconception about car polish is that it’s the stage where you make your car shine. In reality, polishing essentially exfoliates your paintwork and removes a minute layer off your car (i.e. any dirt, scratches and other minor imperfections). It then leaves your car ready for the protect stage.

The process:

  1. Make sure you’re not working in direct sunlight and that your bodywork isn’t warm. This can make it harder to buff off the polish later.
  2. Apply a small amount of polish to a microfibre cloth or foam polisher pad.
  3. Start working the polish into your paintwork. Some people like to use circular motions while others like to go up and down – either way works, so it’s up to you.
  4. Apply more polish to the cloth or pad as you go and try to follow the contours of your car’s bodywork. To get an even spread it can help to work one panel at a time. Also try to avoid getting too much polish on rubber trims as it can leave behind a chalky residue.
  5. Use a clean microfibre cloth to buff off the polish and wipe away any remaining residue, to leave your car ready for waxing.

The product checklist:

Type We recommend Why we love it
Car polish Autoglym Super Resin Polish 1 Litre This easy-to-use car polish will rejuvenate your paintwork and remove light scratches, scuffs and marks. It’s suitable for all paint types and colours, and will give you a deep, glossy finish.
Foam pad Halfords Car Polish Applicator Pads (Pack of 2) These applicators pads are both great value for money and an easy way to apply car polish to your vehicle’s paintwork.
Microfibre cloth Halfords Microfibre Cloths (5 Pack) A microfibre cloth like this is an alternative way to apply car polish and the multipurpose cloths can also be used for washing and drying.

Protect

The protect stage is truly where you make your car shine. Car wax will smooth out the paintwork, fill any remaining swirls and scratches, and add a protective coating that will keep your car looking glossy and new for longer.

The process:

  1. Once again, make sure you’re not working in direct sunlight and that your bodywork isn’t warm. This can make it harder to buff off the wax later.
  2. If you’ve chosen a paste or liquid wax, apply it to the applicator pad or microfibre cloth and then directly onto your paintwork. Use circular motions to ensure you get an even coverage.
  3. Once you’ve waxed the entire vehicle, buff the wax off with a clean pad or cloth starting from the first panel you covered and working your way round to the last.
  4. If you’ve chosen a hybrid spray-on wax instead, simply spray the wax onto your car’s paintwork and wipe it off.

The product checklist:

Type We recommend Why we love it
Car wax
(paste)
Turtle Wax Original Hard Shell Shine Car Wax The Turtle Wax Original Hard Shell Shine Car Wax is the company’s flagship product and continues to offer easy-on, easy-off shine.
Car wax
(liquid)
Halfords Spray Wax The Halfords Spray Wax makes short work of adding a layer of protection to your car. Simply spray on and wipe off!
Foam pad Halfords Car Polish Applicator Pads (Pack of 2) The foam applicator pads make a second appearance as they can also be used to apply wax evenly to your car’s paintwork.
Microfibre cloth Halfords Microfibre Cloths (5 Pack) A microfibre cloth can also double-up as wax applicator and makes a great alternative to a foam applicator pad.
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Step 3: Vacuum & finish

With the outside finished, the final step in our 3-step process is to clean and finish your car’s interior. For this stage you’ll need a vacuum as well as interior detailers like fabric and glass cleaners.

The process:

  1. Remove any car mats you might have and then use your vacuum cleaner to pick up all the little stones, dirt and dry leaves that may have crept in over the months.
  2. Use an upholstery cleaner to remove any stains on your carpets, fabrics and vinyl. If you encounter a particularly stubborn stain, we’d recommend using an upholstery brush to help work the stain free.
  3. Clean and disinfect the high-touch areas in your car such as the steering wheel, door handles and belt buckles to help keep your car germ-free.
  4. Use your chosen interior detailer to clean all of your hard surfaces and leave them with a clean satin shine.
  5. Finally, use a glass cleaner to remove any dirt, dust, grease and more from your windows, windscreen and glass surfaces.

The product checklist:

Type We love Why we love it
Car vacuum Karcher WD 3 Car Vac Compact and versatile, the Karcher WD 3 Car Vac comes with a variety of special brushes and nozzles to make cleaning your car’s interior easy. It’s suitable for use on both hardwearing and sensitive surfaces.
Upholstery cleaner Halfords Upholstery Cleaner Quick-drying and perfect for spot removal, the Halfords Upholstery Cleaner has a deep cleaning foaming action that makes interior car cleaning easy.
Upholstery brush Halfords Car Upholstery Brush The Halfords Car Upholstery Brush has nylon bristles, can be used wet or dry, and can help restore velour and cloth upholstery.
Cleaner and disinfectant Auto Finesse Wipe Out Help to keep your car germ-free with Auto Finesse Wipe Out, which cleans, disinfects, is suitable for use on a multitude of interior surfaces and reduces dust build-up.
Interior detailer Meguiar’s Ultimate Interior Detailer This interior detailer cleans and protects in one, creating a durable satin finish on all interior surfaces and adding UV protection that keeps your interior looking better for longer.
Glass cleaner CarPlan Demon Glass This interior detailer cleans and protects in one, creating a durable satin finish on all interior surfaces and adding UV protection that keeps your interior looking better for longer.
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