My black car exterior cleaning regimen. Saving money and time.

Before reading let me just say I am not compensated, given free products, given discounts, nothing for any of these reviews/opinions. This is all just my personal experience with these products.

I like to keep my car clean. Like really clean. I usually wash my car 1-2 times per week. There’s a problem, it’s time consuming and expensive. Buying small bottles of soap, rim cleaner, and detailer add up pretty quickly.

My goals

  • Do my best to slow the swirl mark process down on my car
    • No matter what you do, swirls will happen, you can however try to slow them down
  • Make the car wash process as quick and painless as possible without sacrificing quality
    • Higher initial investment in grit guards, leaf blower, and microfiber towels but should pay off in the “less swirl longrun”
  • Make the process as affordable as possible
    • Utilize Amazons Subscribe & Save to it’s full potential, place orders only when I meet the 5 item 15% discount, remove or “skip” items from my Subscribe & Save list once they are delivered
    • Buy in bulk as much as possible, the cost savings are enormous


The products I use

  • Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Wash 128 ounce
    • $21.21 on Amazon – Subscribe & Save (6 month S&S subscription)
    • Smells great, suds up more than the more inexpensive big box store brands
  • Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect Refill 169 ounces
    • $64.09 on Amazon – Subscribe & Save (6 month S&S subscription)
    • In my experience works a bit better than Chemical Guys diablo wheel gel
    • I like seeing the cleaner work with it’s color changing effect
  • Chemical Guys Chenille Microfiber Premium Scratch-free wash mitt (2 pack)
    • $6.51 on Amazon – Subscribe & Save (removed from S&S once received)
    • Was the cheapest option out there, good reviews
  • 2x Chemical Guys Grit Guard insert
    • $6.91  on Amazon – Subscribe & Save (removed from S&S once received)
    • Any grit guard will do, this was the cheapest on Amazon
    • One in each of the 2 buckets
  • Grit Guard Washboard bucket insert
    • $12.98 on Amazon, cheapest one up there
    • Used in conjuction with the bottom Grit Guard in the rinse bucket to drag the wash mitt across to really loosen up and trapped dirt
  • Meguiar’s Last Touch Spray Detailer 1 Gallon
    • $24.78 on Amazon (No S&S option)
    • Bulk alternative to Meguiars Quik detailer
    • Used in between washes and for oh sh*t moments on the road, keep a spray bottle handy in the trunk for bird droppings, etc…
  • EZ Detail Brush Mini
    • $14.60 on Amazon
    • Very soft, completely covered metal components for getting any stubborn brake dust off the wheels
  • Toro 51617 Rake and Vac Leaf Blower
    • $52.99 on Amazon
    • 215MPH blower, fairly inexpensive
    • Used to dry the car initially, with a good sealant on the car it’s drops drying time down to 5 minutes. Get water out of all the crevices, less wiping dry = less swirls in the paint
  • Aerolon Tech Shine
    • $24.95 on Amazon and at local detailing shop
    • Lasts a good 3-4 months
    • After I purchased the vehicle I took it to California Detailing in San Francisco. This is the owners product he recommended. He claimed it would over time reduce any swirls induced during the cleaning process. I was skeptical (and still am) but I have had a few swirls disappear somehow.
    • I tested this product on my commuter parking lot car (aka SHIT BOX) and it definitely adds a layer of slickness to the paint.
  • 303 Aerospace Protectant (Gallon Size)
    • $31.98 on Amazon – Subscribe & Save (removed from S&S once received)
    • “It’s like sunscreen for your car”
    • I use it on my tires as a wheel shine, shine does not last very long but gives a nice sheen without any slop ever
      • Applied with a foam applicator pad, wiped down with an old dirty microfiber cloth
    • A gallon lasts a long time, also used exclusively on the interior dash, leather, trim, etc.

Cost breakdown

  • The same goes for car cleaning as it does for any consumables you purchase. Find an item you like and buy in bulk quantities
  • Amazon Prime members should use Subscribe & Save whenever possible. If you don’t need it right away it’s a good way to save a TON of money. The more items you add the more you save, you can get an additional 10% off (15% total) the already low price by of S&S. Once you get that product, just remove it from your S&S list.
  • The below figures take into account the Subscribe & Save savings but not the additional 10% off! (5% off is by default with S&S, 15% off total on most items)
ItemBulk CostNormal CostPrice if bought in small quantitiesSavings buying bulk
Wash Soap$21.21 for 128 oz$8.16 for 16 oz
Wheel Cleaner$64.09 for 169 oz$16.93 for 16.9 oz$169.30$105.21
Spray Detailer$24.78 for 128 oz$8.47 for 32 oz$33.88$9.10
Spray Protectant$31.98 for 128 oz$15.98 for 32 oz$63.92$31.94
$190.32 in savings by buying bulk and using Subscribe & Save

My car wash method

  1. Soak the rims with rim cleaner and let sit while
  2. Prepare the 2 buckets for washing
    • I like to rinse the wash mitt with a little high hose pressure before dumping it into the soap, I also put a bit of soap on and in the wash mitt
  3. Soak the car, quickly rinse off the rims
  4. Wash the car in straight lines ONLY
    • I start on the roof, move down to all the glass, then to the doors/quarter panels just below the door handles and up, then trunk lid and hood, then lower parts of the car all around. Lots of scrubbing the wash mitt in the rinse bucket between each side and quarter panel
  5. Rinse everything off
  6. Apply wet polish
    • Applied via the provided sponge while the car is still wet
  7. Rinse again
    • The wet polish I use tends to scrape off the sponge and pool up a bit on/in crevices, detailed rinsing is required to get it all off
  8. Bust out the leaf blower
    • I start at the top and work my way around the car, “pushing: the water off the car, into the drain chanels and off with the air
    • This removes about 95% of the water on the car and in the cracks
  9. Open all the doors, wipe off the door jambs and foot sills
  10. Walk around the car with a dedicated microfiber cloth to dab up any remaining water

On a good day I can get this done in less than 1/2 an hour. If the rims need a little TLC maybe closer to 35-40 minutes but on average it’s around 30 minutes.

Random tips

  • Always wash in straight lines, never do circles, ever.
  • Be sure your wash-mitts and microfiber NEVER FALLS ON THE GROUND, if they do, retire it to the shitbox car
    • When washing your microfiber towels wash them separately with liquid detergent, never use powdered detergent
  • Have at least 3 microfiber cloths to be exclusively used on certain areas of the car.
    • One for the very visible areas of the car like hood, trunk roof, above the door handles
    • A second for the lower portions of the doors/quarters/bumpers
    • A third for the door jambs, hinges, kick plates, etc
3 comments Add yours
  1. I remember I used to never wash my car myself, would just take it and pay for the car wash. Then I got it detailed extremely nice one day, and a few days later I saw minor areas of dirtiness on the interior and exterior, and immediately had to clean them to the point of no return out of ADD from keeping the car looking nice. Ever since then I wash my car once a week myself, and make it quick and painless maintenance rather than a huge chore!

    1. I hear you Trevor, I to got to the point of almost OCD keeping the car clean but now wash once every week or two. I see your local to the Bay Area, definitely give that Techshine stuff a try. The creator owns California Detailing in San Francisco.
      I swear I didn’t believe it would remove fine swirl marks but it really does, totally worth a try at the very least.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Awesome how you broke down all the pricing info here! I never really knew what a good base budget would be when it came to washing my car, but this really paints a good picture for me, thanks for this!

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