Valeters’ top tips: How to quickly wash cars like a professional

Fancy giving the cars on your site a proper clean up? Or want to make sure your own personal car is cleaned like a pro? We asked car valeter Ted Welford to give us some top tips on how to get your vehicle shining like it’s just rolled out of a showroom

Time 8:48 am, April 14, 2022

Whether you’ve got a pitch full of cars to sell, or your own motor needs a good tidy-up, knowing how to clean your car like a pro is handy.

A good car clean is a skill every car lover should have, so to get some advice we’ve enlisted the help of an expert car valeter to tell you how to clean your car like a pro.

Do the interior first 

If your car isn’t well looked after, there’s a good chance the interior will be the part that takes the most time. Though a quick hoover will improve it, you should spend extra time on it to really bring it up to pro levels.

If the vehicle has mats fitted, take them out of the vehicle and then it means you can properly vacuum beneath, and you may need a damp cloth to scrub at any dirt beneath – as well as on the mats themselves.

Don’t forget the seats too, especially if they’re leather – if leather is shiny, it means it’s very grimy, you want a nice matte finish instead. For leather, it’s worth investing in a dedicated cleaner to avoid damaging it over a sustained period of time. 

Last up, don’t forget to clean and sanitise key touch points – such as the gear selector, steering wheel and indicator and wiper stalks, all of which are often clogged with muck. 

Clean the inside of the car

Exterior attention

Once you’ve got the interior out of the way, it’s time to move to the exterior. If you’re looking to sell a car, this is the area that arguably matters the most, as it’s the first area potential punters will see.

It’s worth using a pressure washer here. Before you even touch the car you should try and jet wash as much dirt off it as possible, though be mindful not to spray the nozzle too close to the paint.

Pay special attention to the wheel arches too – these are an area that’s often overlooked.


We’d recommend doing the wheels with their own bucket of car shampoo and water. The finish and appearance of a set of rims can make or break the overall finish, so it’s worth paying special attention here, and make sure to clean into the barrel of the wheel, not just the faces. 

A range of wheel brushes can help with this, while you might need to invest in a dedicated wheel cleaner for ingrained dirt that can’t be shifted purely by scrubbing. 

Work top-down

When you’ve done the wheels, it’s time to move on to the rest of the car. For this, you should use two buckets – one with just clean warm water and a second with the car shampoo mix in.

The best method to avoid wiping grit around in your car’s paint is to dunk the wash mitt – chuck that old sponge away, it’ll only cause damage to the paint – into the clean water to rinse it off, then wring it out and dunk in the car shampoo and continue that way. 

Jet washing a car

You should also work top-down, the idea being that the roof and bonnet will be the cleanest areas, while the lower doors and sills will have the most dirt on them.

Once you’ve gone around the whole of the car, you should rinse it off straight away, and importantly don’t leave it to dry on its own accord as it can really ruin the finish when spots of water are left on. 

Instead, get a proper microfibre towel and dry it off this way – it will really improve the finish. Don’t be tempted to use a drying blade either, as these will scratch your vehicle’s paint.

Clean under the bonnet 

There’s a good chance that potential buyers will have a look under the bonnet and it doesn’t leave the best impression if they open the latch to discover a filthy engine bay. 

It’s recommended to not use a hosepipe/pressure washer to clean under here, and instead to just do it by hand.

You don’t have to be obsessive, but even just sprucing up the top surfaces and actual underside of the bonnet will dramatically improve the finish.

We recommend using a well-diluted all-purpose cleaner in combination with some damp cloths – there’s no point using new cloths, as they’ll only get stained and ruined. Be careful not to be too heavy-handed here too, especially in areas like the fuel hoses. 

Don’t forget the door and boot shuts 

Other areas often overlooked are the boot and door shuts, as technically they’re neither the interior or exterior of the car. However, they really attract dirt build-up, and if left damp, can cause corrosion further down the line. 

So it’s worth giving them some TLC, particularly the lower areas where people get in and out of the vehicle, and which you’ll probably notice as soon as you open the door.

Again, you don’t have to be excessive, but even just 10 minutes of attention here will reap the benefits in the long run. 

The finishing interior touches

Finishing touches

The finishing touches really matter when it comes to making your car look like the work of a ‘pro’.

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On the interior, you might need to go around and do a final vacuum to get rid of any dust that might have gathered, or that you might have missed earlier.

As for the exterior, go around with a spray wax once the car is all dry. Not only will this help to get rid of any water marks or drips that might have accumulated, but it will also add extra shine and gloss to the car, as well as a bit of protection too.

Other neat touches to do include adding tyre shine, which will ‘blacken’ the rubber and make it look far better, while if the vehicle has exhaust tips with a silver finish, it’s worth polishing them up. It’s details like this that really count. 

Ted Welford's avatar

Ted Welford is a motoring journalist for Car Dealer's parent company Blackball Media. He writes for a variety of motoring publications and tests the latest cars on a regular basis. He likes cleaning them too.

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