How to Wash, Polish & Wax a Car

by Tom Ryan

Your car is an investment that should last for years with proper maintenance, and washing your car on a regular basis is an act of maintenance you should not ignore. Keeping your car clean serves a greater purpose than giving it aesthetic value; in fact, neglecting to properly wash your car can lead to expensive problems like paint chipping and rust. For less than an hour of work each week, you can maintain your vehicle's looks and even lengthen its life.


Park your car in a shaded area. Following the directions on your car-wash soap, fill the bucket with water and soap solution. Rinse off your car with the hose.

Dip your big sponge or mitt into the sudsy water, and wipe down your car. Work in sections, starting at the top of the vehicle and working your way down. Be careful not to scrub too hard, which can rub dirt and other contaminants into paint and scratch the car.

Rinse your sponge or mitt in the bucket of soapy water periodically. Wring it out or swirl it around in the water to shed any loose particles that may have accumulated in its pores or fibers.

Spray down the car with the hose as you complete each section to wash off any dirt knocked loose by the sponge or mitt.

Dry the car using clean towels. Gently sop up any accumulated water by laying dry towels across wet spots; do not rub the car down with the towels.

Visit a self-service car wash with a high-pressure hose. Use it to clean the underside of the car, the wheel wells and any other hard-to-reach surfaces, particularly in the vehicle's smaller nooks and crannies.


Wax your car every three to six months, only after washing it first, to protect it from the elements and to give the car a sheen and coat the paint in a light seal.

Wait for your car to completely dry before applying wax. The paint should be dry and cool. Like the washing process, waxing is completed one section at a time.

Shake your bottle of wax thoroughly, and squirt some onto a small, soft sponge. Rub the wax onto the car, creating a thin layer. After one or two minutes, the white color of the wax begins to fade; when this happens, buff the wax using a clean towel.

Clean wax stains from any unpainted areas of the car that you may have touched, such as the windows, windshield wipers or trim. Household window cleaners are one solution.

Items you will need

About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera car wash image by Photoeyes from