How to Wash
an Old Car
in 8 Easy Steps

In a pinch, its nice to know how to wash an old car for very little money.

Note that this technique is not appropriate for a very valuable car or a car you care very deeply about. For these cars, soap and wax -- and not detergent! -- is the way to go.

However, if saving money is important to you and you have no wax on your car, you might try these steps:

  1. Buy a 5 gallon platic bucket.

    They sell them at Home Depot and other places. It should have a carrying handle on it so that you can manage it easily.

  2. Buy a hugh sponge.

    A sponge this size will be the size of a very small loaf of bread. Again, you can problably get this a Home Depot if you live in the United States. The sponge will likely have a peanut shape -- bigger on the ends than it is in the middle.

  3. Fill the 5 gallon bucket with water.

    Cold water is fine.

  4. Add one level teaspoon of dish soap to the water.

    Important! Add only one teaspoon. If you want to add less than this, it will probably work just as well and will save some wear on the paint job of your car.

    If you have just waxed your car, stop right here! Detergent (dish soap in this case) removes wax.

    Don't underestimate the power of dish soap! It is very strong stuff and will damage your paint job to some degree. That's why you want to add as little as possible to get the job done -- and no more.

    If you have a car that is very valuable to you, stop right here. You should not be washing your car with dish soap (detergent) at all.

  5. Take the sponge and slop the water on the car rubbing as you go.

    The key word here is slop. You don't want to wring the sponge out before it reaches the car.

    Slopping water onto the car puts lots of water on the car. You should be running out of water in the 5 gallon bucket by the time you have rubbed down your entire car.

  6. Now take the bucket and sponge and rinse both out.

    Take the sponge and saturate it with fresh water and wring it out 10 times. This should get all the soap out of the sponge.

    Take the bucket and put tiny amount of water in it and swish it out. Do this 5 times. This should get all the soap out of the bucket.

    When you can see no more soap in either the bucket or the sponge, you are done with this step.

  7. Refill the bucket with fresh water (no dish soap!)

  8. Slop the fresh water with no soap in it on the car.

    When you run out of water in the 5 gallon bucket, you are done. You've successfully washed and rinsed your car!


This technique is the poor man's car wash. Don't go there if you are very particular about the paint job on your car.

If your ambitions for preserving the paint job on your car are fairly modest, this may be the way for you to go.

©Edward Abbott, 2002-2004. All rights reserved. Revised May 5, 20024

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