What Is The Best Way To Use A Car Exterior Cleaner?

In this article, you will learn:



  • How to perform a quick touchup with a waterless car wash

  • The quickest way to perform a complete car wash at home

  • The professional detailer's way to wash your car

Very few things are both the best and the quickest. Sports cars, jets, Olympic sprinters - those are usually the best because they're the quickest. But, when it comes to performing a job, the best results are almost never the quickest to achieve.

This is definitely the case when it comes to washing your car. If your car is really dirty, you can't rush through the wash and expect a beautiful outcome. Even worse, taking shortcuts with a car exterior cleaner can scratch the clear coat, making your car look worse, not better, in the long run.

The good news is most cars don't require a complete detailing very frequently. You may be able do a quick once-over with a waterless car wash product in five minutes. Or, if your car or truck is only moderately soiled, you can likely get it sparkling clean in 15 minutes. But, if your car has significant dirt and grime or if you're washing it as part of a complete car detailing, you'll need to set aside some time, maybe 30 to 45 minutes, to wash your car and remove tough stains from bugs, tar and tree sap.

So how do you do each one? Check out the Turtle Wax car wash soaps, and then, let's dive in.

The waterless car wash

If you're the type that settles for nothing less than a spotless, sparkling clean car, an exterior detailer or waterless car wash spray, like our Clean & Shine Detailer, may be just what you need. These cleaning products are made to save you time while cleaning lightly soiled cars. With a waterless car wash, there's no need for a hose and bucket if only need to remove fingerprints and clean up light dust and pollen.

To wash your car without water, start at the top with the roof and work your way down. Work in 2" x 2" sections and spray each area until wet. Wipe the area with a microfiber towel, folded in quarters, until the surface is clean and dry and move to the next 2" x 2" section. Move from the roof to the hood, trunk, glass and down the sides, finishing with the lower rocker panels and around the wheels.

Each time the microfiber becomes saturated, refold it to a clean side and continue washing. You may need as many as four or five clean microfiber cloths to complete the car wash.

The quick, complete wash

For quick, routine washes, grab a clean bucket, a garden hose, a large car wash mitt and a premium car wash soap with integrated wax like our Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash & Wax. The wax is important because it will save you time drying the car as the rinse water will just run off the car.

Start by rinsing the entire car with a strong stream from your garden hose. Spray the roof first and work your way down, breaking up and rinsing away as much soil as possible using this no-touch first step. Add the car wash soap to the bucket and fill with water, producing a thick foam. Dunk the wash mitt in the soapy solution and scrub the roof and windshield clean and rinse. Then, divide the rest of the car into quarters, cleaning and rinsing each section as you go.

Dunk the wash mitt frequently to rinse out soils and pick up more soap. Wash and rinse the front end, including the hood, grill, lights, bumper and front fenders. Then wash and rinse the rear, including the trunk, taillight area, bumper and rear fenders. Finally, finish with the side windows and doors, scrubbing the lower rocker panels last. Rinse that area and dry the car where necessary with a microfiber towel.

Pro Tip: Apply a spray coating to your clean car. Sprays like Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating will keep your car cleaner and make future washing and drying easier.

The pro-style wash at home

Every once in a while, you may want to take your car from "nice and clean" all the way to showroom-sparkle by going the extra mile. In those cases, you'll need to take care of a few more important details with a handful of other detailing products.

Start with the tires and wheels. This is the dirtiest job of a car wash, so always wash these spots first and use a designated tire and wheel brush, not one of your cleaning towels or wash mitt, to avoid transferring any abrasive soils onto the paint. We recommend All Wheel & Tire Cleaner and a Wheel Woolie. Spray the cleaner and, if necessary, use the brush to break up soils. Scrub the tires, wheel faces, spokes, wheel barrels and accessible brake components. Rinse and dry with a microfiber towel.

To wash the rest of your car, follow the steps in the quick, complete wash above, using a car wash soap without integrated wax, such as our M.A.X. Power Car Wash. You'll tackle the wax later. As you dry your car, look for any stuck-on soils like bird droppings, tar or tree sap. Instead of scrubbing these stubborn soils and potentially scratching your clear coat, spray these spots with Bug & Tar Remover and simply wipe clean.

Lastly, check the clear coat for embedded contaminants. You likely won't see these with your naked eye but identifying and removing them is important to get your car truly clean and to prepare the finish for waxing. To check for contaminants, place a zippered, plastic bag over your hand and slide it gently over the surface of your car. If you feel tiny bumps, like stuck-on grains of sand, there are, in fact, contaminants in your clear coat. This is the job for automotive clay bars and lubricant. Use them together as directed to remove the contaminants.

Presto, your car should be super clean, even down to the microscopic level! If you found any scratches, swirls or oxidation during your work, now is the ideal time to correct those imperfections before applying a layer of protective wax. With all that done, your car should look like it came straight from the detail shop. Congratulations!

Now, take it for a spin and show it off.

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