Your essential car washing guide
The 3 bucket wash system
Get the right stuff
Now we don't want to sound patronising or condescending in any way, but you would be amazed at how many people just don't get the whole car washing thing. It is as simple or as hard as you wish it to be. Whether it's a quick whip around before a cruise, or a luxurious two bucket bath for your special someone. There are a few simple rules you must follow.
First things is you need a good bucket, preferably 2, with about 15 litres capacity and our new Great Barrier Thingy's. Our buckets are known affectionately as BOB, The Bowden's Own Bucket. We do three cosmetic versions of it for the separate Wash, Rinse and Wheels jobs. We'll go more into using them all soon, but they are a great quality item that's made right here in Australia.
The Great Barrier Thingy's are a great thing that fit snugly into the bottom of the buckets to allow all of the potentially scratching heavier grit and grime to drift through to the bucket base, so you don't get it back into your wash tools. It's a simple tool that works an absolute treat for minimising wash marks and swirls from occurring.
Important washing tools
We famously don't like the traditional sponges that most people have been washing their cars with since Moses was a boy. They have pores that work as great storage facilities for the grit and other tiny hard particles you remove from your car when washing. The pores keep them entrapped, so they can keep micro scratching your paint forever. Most swirls and light scratches come from car washing, which is why we've put a bit of thought into our three washing tools, to help prevent this from ever happening.
The bright orange Shagtastic Wash Pad uses a plush 2 stage blend of deep pile microfibre to give a fantastic clean, and safely removing the funk and grime particles from your paint. it has lots of give in the material to help prevent annoying micro scratches and swirl marks from happening to your precious baby. It holds the most suds and has the largest surface area of any of our wash tools, so you can wash faster and easier. This is the one we personally love to use the most when washing.
Our Muffy sponge is for those who still love the feel of a sponge when washing. It has a layer of special bright yellow microfibre on the top and bottom, allowing it to have a nice soft barrier, which will minimise micro scratching. Muffy also has its new mesh covered sides, so you can get heaps of suds in and out of the sponge, this also helps stop wash fatigue with the sponge getting heavy as you move around the car. If you ever accidently drop Muffy, you can easily wash it out. The bright yellow material aids you in being able to check it militantly, and find any foreign contaminants in the material. Please make sure that you inspect and clean Muffy militantly after each wash or if you ever drop her!
The Love Glove is another well thought out washing tool with a luxurious soft microfibre in a short nap weave, to stop the risk of those damaging particles getting caught in them, and a unique inner lining to again help draining and reduce washing fatigue. Its ideal for cleaning around grills, mirrors and other tight areas the Shagtastic Wash Pad and Muffy cannot get into. One feature you will love with the Love Glove, is how you can stick a hose into the open end of the mitt, turn it on and clean it out as the water streams through the mitt. This is great for when you have finished and in case you somehow drop the mitt. (Yes, I have proved it is possible.)
Choose your wash
You need a good car wash shampoo. We have three washes which are all a bit different. Our original custom blend, the Auto Body Gel, or our newest car washes, the Nanolicious Wash and Wax Wash, are the all pH balanced and specially created for the safest wash and still caring for your precious wax coat, sealant or paint protection coating.
A very important difference with all three of our washes is that we don't add any salt in them. Salt is a popular additive for car washes, as it increases sudsing, acts as a water softener so suds will happen in even rubbish quality water, and it thickens the product up to the gel like state. We found a better way to make it with no salt, about the only issue being is that if your water is bad quality it will not suds up as much. But, we hope that anyone who uses our wash will always use good quality water, so it's not an issue! All these years later and we still don't know of anyone else who makes salt free washes - just another bonus for using it!
Auto Body Gel was the very first product we ever made and it's still got a huge following. It has great lubrication, UV and anti rust additives, to minimise any micro scratching and is the easiest wash on your hands as well. It's not as high sudsing as the next two washes, but you can use this one in the direct sun and never have to worry about it leaving streak marks, which makes it very popular with many professional mobile detailers. It also leaves a lovely shine to the car and is just an all round great wash.
Wax Wash is one of our newest car wash shampoos. It's a more naturally based product that is infused with real T1 grade carnauba wax, to give your paint a boost in both shine and protection. We've put unique additives in this wash that will look after the plastic and rubber trims on the outside of your car to help keep them looking like new. The high sudsing and lubricated formula ensures that dirt is encapsulated and suspended in the suds to reduce any potential scratching of your paint while you're washing. Wax Wash is pH neutral, so it won't strip any waxes or sealants that you may have already applied, and it will leave a layer of wax protection on your paint. You'll love the depth and shine this wash will give to your paint. Has good UV protection and the highest ratio of anti rust ingredients, so we recommend it for all classic cars and anyone who lives near the ocean.
Nanolicious Wash is our most advanced car wash shampoo. We went to town on this one to make our absolute dream car wash. Super sudsy, extreme cleaning ability, lovely smell, awesome lubricity and a remarkably stunning shine. It uses a few different, special synthetic Nano polymers that are designed to leave a hydrophilic finish to your paint work, allowing it to sheet the water off better when rinsing it off. These same ingredients also help to maintain and even repair the super hydrophobic nature of modern ceramic paint coatings after just a couple of washes. With its advanced cleaning agents, and other wizardry it's truly one of the best car wash shampoo's on the market.
Be safe on wheels
For great cleaning of your wheels, we have made a Wheels bucket that is made just for this job. Use any of our car wash shampoo's in conjunction with Wheely Clean, Orange Agent and your favourite set of wheel brushes (that best suit your wheels), or you can use a separate cloth like our Dirty Deeds microfibre cloth. This system is perfect for looking after your polished or painted alloys that are so prevalent nowadays. As brake dust is quite hard to remove from any cloth and can build up over time, you really don't want to be using your paint cleaning tools, like Love Glove, Shagtastic or Muffy on them.
Use good water
You need good water. "D'uh" you say, but there are many different types of water. Never use bore or dam water as these are high in nutrients and the salinity content (salt = rust) may be questionable. Even if you have had your bore checked for salinity levels, think twice before you take to your pride and joy with the offending water, salinity levels fluctuate. Certain areas of Australia, like Adelaide for a classic example, have 'hard' tap water, this is where, for reasons only the water board really know, the water is high in mineral content. Hard water, like acid rain, is prone to leaving very defined water spots on your paint if it dries. Regardless of your water source, as long as it is not dam or bore, it will do the trick, but if you have the option of using 'soft' water, and the best of these is pure rainwater, go with it every time. We have special, double filtered tanks of rainwater just for washing the cars. Considering we live in a semi-rural area, this is not as extravagant as it sounds. They also double as fire fighting supplies and fantastic rogue bush-turkey deterrents.
You need a hose. If you are one of those people who buys those useless hoses that kink as soon as you even contemplate washing the car, you deserve the pain and anguish it delivers. On a return trip back from Sydney we had to wash the old Moffat race car transporter with one of those anaemic things. Never again! Get yourself a good quality medium strength hose. Not too tough so it's inflexible, not so weak that it's, for lack of a better word, kinky.
After our own multiple tests of the higher end hoses, the best hose we have used is the top of the line Nylex Never Kink Pro. Do yourself a favour and get one of these!
Our holy grail
You need a drying tool. We give you some great options with our new The Big Green Sucker microfibre drying towel and the more traditional microfibre Chamois for this task.
The Big Green Sucker microfibre drying towel is AWESOME!! We've put in a huge amount of time development on it, so we can certainly say it really sucks! This super luxurious drying towel is made for all serious car lovers who need the fastest and most effective tool for drying. Its thick, soft and plush weave is the most absorbent microfibre we have ever found and is exceptional at minimising errant dirt and grit missed while washing, from ever scratching your car. It glides over the surface, sucking up all the water as you go. The Big Green Sucker is a large 40cm x 70cm in size, so you can get your hands on each side of it and work your way around the car, drying pretty much the whole car without having to wring it out. Then, machine wash it after use, pop it in the dryer and it's ready to go once again.
After Glow is our latest drying aid product that we created for the very fussiest of enthusiasts who want perfect, spot free drying. You use this with two Big Softie microfibre cloths, a slightly damp cloth for applying and a dry one to remove it after. Its not as fast to use as the Big Green Sucker but it leaves a truly stunning shine and protective finish as you dry.
And for the traditionalists we have our orginal Chamois in 2 different sizes that are certainly not the common or garden variety ones you get at the local service station or car accessories store. They have low grip so they will glide over the car surface, removing the water and never strip the wax from it. They are not at the same level of our latest drying tools, but still very popular for many people who just want a good quality chamois.
Let's get wet
So now you have the perfect bucket, Love Glove/Muffy/Shagtastic Wash Pad, wheel cloth, hose, water supply, car wash shampoo and wash bay. You, young grasshopper, are ready to wash!
Clean the wheels
We suggest doing the wheels first, as if you do them after washing the rest of the car you take the risk of leaving water sitting on your paint and creating water spots as they dry. Even if you do wash and then chamois your car down, you always seem to get water back on your freshly dried paint, as you rinse the wheels down after washing them. It's a hell of a waste of time going back over it a second time, so do your wheels first.
We have two methods for cleaning wheels, first one is with one of our car shampoos in the Wheels bucket , Orange Agent and the Dirty Deeds cloth, and the second is if you suffer from bad brake dust issues, you will want to be using our epic Wheely Clean cleaner.
Let's start with the wash method first. Unless you are washing a Hummer or a Mack truck, half fill your Wheels bucket and add a capful of our wash to it. Spray the Orange Agent and use a wheel cleaning brush or the Dirty Deeds cloth and give your wheels a good and thorough scrub. Do them one at a time and rinse off with fresh water afterwards.
Our second and most favourite method is with our purpose made wheel cleaner; Wheely Clean. It was a 9-year journey to make an effective wheel cleaner that works. It's made for those who suffer from bad brake dust issues, and need a pH balanced, (i.e. non acidic or caustic), biodegradable wheel cleaner, that is safe for ALL wheels, whilst also cutting down the time of cleaning the round friends on our cars.
It's a revolutionary type of cleaner that utilises a chemical reaction with metal oxide/brake dust that changes its state to a water-soluble complex, for easy removal with a hose. With no scrubbing it will do about 80% of the cleaning job for you on really dusty, grime caked wheels, close to 99% if used weekly on a daily driver. It's pH balanced, no acid or caustic ingredients, so it is safe for all wheels including painted, alloy, anodised, chromed, clear coated, powder coated, aluminium, stainless, billet - the list goes on!!
The simple version on using it is that you spray it on, brush it around, wait for it to go red/ purple and then hose it off with a pressure washer or a strong jet of water. It's well worth reading the in depth How To Use article in our guides on using the Wheely Clean. This way you'll get the most of this great Aussie made product.
As for drying the wheels after the full wash, we like to use our Fully Slick or Boss Gloss sprays or even the new After Glow in a Dirty Deeds cloth, just spray into the folded cloth and wipe them over the wheels and then turn it to a dry side (or use a separate dry Dirty Deeds cloth) and buff them off clean. They'll now be shiny, protected and so beautiful. :)
It's wash time with the two bucket method
We are strong advocates for the two bucket wash technique as all paint is extra susceptible to light scratches when you wash. There is no real gimmick to this way of washing, it's there to really minimise the potential of ever scratching your paint dramatically.
Get your two 15 litre Wash and Rinse buckets, check to make sure they are clean inside, wipe them out if they are not. Place our Great Barrier Thingy's in the base of each bucket; fill the Rinse bucket right up first with fresh water, then the Wash bucket to the ¾ full mark with water. Now add the correct dosage of shampoo as on the product label, which is just one capful for all our washes. You add to the bucket when the water level is ¾ full, so you won't get a huge head of suds and very little water! Your aim is to get a nice layer of suds, about 10cm worth, so they sit just above the rim of your bucket. Be sure to rinse the washes cap clean in the wash water as well, so you can be sure to get the full dose.
Now thoroughly drench the car with the hose, to have rinse away as much of the dirt and "heavier" elements off from the car, especially down on the lower areas with a slightly stronger water pressure.
From the top
Your Shagtastic Wash Pad/Love Glove/Muffy wash tool is now immersed in the bucket. Squeeze it while immersed in the suds, so she sucks up as much of the good wash water as possible. You start at the top of the car, commonly known as the roof, going from panel to panel working your way down. Once you have finished the panel, submerge and squeeze the wash tool into the Rinse bucket and rinse it by shaking it vigorously or gently dragging it across the Grit Guards, before placing it back into the wash suds bucket.
This method of rinsing the wash tool means you only have clean water going onto the car. (Check the rinse bucket water colour out after the wash is done to get an idea of this, you'll never wash with one bucket ever again!) Gather as much water and suds as your mitt can carry, then re-apply to the next panel. Repeat this process, washing every panel on the car. Doing it this way means you are never putting dirty water onto your car.
The reason you start at the top is to minimise contamination of the Rinse bucket. The lower the panel is on the car, the more it collects road grime. So always wash the lower and rear panels last. Its also good practise to use twice the amount of suds as you would on the top sections when you're doing them, as well as turning the wash tool over often for each pass or wipe of these areas. Again this is all done to minimise the chance of ever micro scratching your paint.
Rinse with a stream of water
A great tip for rinsing the car, is to let a gentle stream of water cover the car; It catches all of the water beads and lessens the amount of water that sits on the cars' surface, allowing you to dry the car faster. It also acts as a good final deep rinse. Make sure you get in around the mirrors and boot areas that can hold any of the suds.
A good tip to save you some headaches of water appearing later, get a little portable 18v cordless blower, (the type that use a soft rubber tip, so you won't ever damage your paint if you touch it by mistake) and blow the water out from your grill, side mirrors, wheels, trims and any other area that can hold hidden water. Make real sure you don't point it at the ground and blow any dirt of dust back onto the car.
For the fastest drying: grab The Big Green Sucker and mist each side of the cloth with 3-4 sprays of our Boss Gloss detailing spray. We use Boss Gloss, as its formula is amazing for this job. It adds more lubrication for the towel to make it glide over the surface, it also helps draw more water into the cloth as well as helping the light trailing water spots evaporate faster and cleaner too. It also leaves a pretty stunning finish!
Do the glass first. (Refer to The Big Sucker article at the bottom of this page for some pro drying tips and hacks). This way you get no streaks on your glass. After the glass is done, start at the top of the car and work your way down. On the side, vertical panels (doors, front and rear) fold The Big Green Sucker in half, . Turn the cloth as needed, always using the same method.
If you're using a Chamois, again do the glass first while the material is totally dry. Hold the chamois like you would to throw a blanket across a large bed. Throw it out and then pull it gently back towards you. This minimises time, nothing else, so if you are comfortable with how you already use a chamois, do with this advice as you wish. Wring it out often, or you'll get smears when its full. On the side parts of the car, hold the top and lower part of the chamois when doing the sides, to stop it from ever touching the ground.
After Glow drying
One of the best ways we have to dry your car in with the After Glow drying aid. Now this is not as fast to do as the Big Green Sucker, but it does leave a perfect spot free finish that the more hardcore enthusiasts will really appreciate. One thing everyone will like is the amazing shine and level of protection this adds in one simple step. Have a watch of the short video below to learn more about this drying process.
The fun part
You’re done!! Does your baby gleam? Don’t you feel better now? To make you and your precious machine feel even better why not take him/her for a drive, at least five to ten minutes long. This will help get rid of any water left in cracks or recesses most cars seem to have. Please don't ever put your car away straight after washing it, as leaving water sitting around in the cars inaccessible areas is a huge no-no. This only invites every car’s biggest enemy to take hold, that of course, is rust.
When you get back just go around with the drying towel, After Glow or chamois, to again clean up the last bits of water.
Also be sure to wash/ wipe out all your wash tools and buckets with fresh water once done. We'd recommend machine washing with our Microfibre Wash and machine drying the Big Green Sucker and / or Big Softie cloths you use with After Glow straight after washing each and every time, (don't let them dry) as the After Glow or Boss Gloss in these cloths can make the cloth less absorbent if you don't wash it out. Likewise, use a machine dryer after washing to bring them back nice and fluffy like new! Your Shagtastic Wash Pad/Muffy/Love Glove can be machine washed as you see fit, we do ours every few washes, or if we use them on a really dirty car. You do not machine dry them though, just air dry indoors.
Now look back at your car and note that glowing shine, it's a now famous attribute of all our products and how they are working together. It's something that will just get better with the long term use of these and all of our other quality products.
In case you didn't know
YES, WE ARE CAR FREAKS!
And that is how we wash our cars at the Bowden household. All of these methods and tips have been pooled together by 3 generations of car freaks.
As every motoring enthusiast has different needs for their different cars and locations around our large continent, none of this should be taken as pure gospel. If any of what has been written goes against your regular methods, then think about it, weigh up both of the options and go with the one that is best for your car.
All the products in this article can be found in our stockists throughout Australia. Find a link at the very bottom of the webpage to them.
If you have any questions, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office on 1800 351 308.
Love your car,