How Long Should I Spend Washing My Car?


The amount of time people spend washing their car can vary greatly and there are a number of different factors that may affect the time it takes including things like the size of the vehicle in question, the level of experience and skill of the person doing the washing, the products being used and techniques being employed, the weather conditions and obviously how dirty the car actually is. When washing a car properly, there are certain things that should be done regardless of some of the factors mentioned above and these crucial steps will certainly affect the car washing routines timescale.

Generally, the washing routine should be kept the same for all vehicles and the same proportionate amounts of time should be spent on each part of the process. To begin with, before any contact washing takes place a thorough pre foam and rinse down of the vehicle should be undertaken to ensure as much loose dirt & grime is removed as possible to prevent it from being rubbed into the surface during the washing.

The foam needs to be left to dwell on the car until it begins to dissipate and run off and this usually takes about five minutes. Then, a thorough rinse with particular attention being payed to the wheels, arches and the lower third of the vehicle needs to be carried out and this can take between five to ten minutes. Some people then like to repeat the process again to ensure no areas are missed, meaning that the pre wash stage in total can take anywhere between ten to twenty minutes.

The wheels should be cleaned separately from the rest of the vehicle to prevent the paintwork and body from being contaminated. A thorough clean of each wheel can soon add up and require a fair amount of time to complete. If your wheels are particularly dirty and contaminated with baked on brake dust for instance and a strong wheel cleaner needs to be applied and left to dwell, along with the rears of the wheels and insides of the wheel arches being cleaned, then you can easily spend ten to fifteen minutes on each corner which can mean that after all four wheels have been completed a fair chunk of time has been spent.

If your wheels are not too heavily soiled or have been polished and sealed after receiving a thorough clean already, then they will be allot easier to clean and usually a good five minutes per wheel maximum should be all that is required to bring them back up to standard, giving you around fifteen to twenty minutes total washing time for general maintenance cleaning and anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour for more thorough washing of excessively soiled wheels and arches.

The actual contact washing process needs to be undertaken in a methodical, step by step manner and this will contribute to how long this part of the process takes. For regular maintenance washing, using the two bucket method (which should be adopted) and working a section at at time, washing the body of your vehicle should generally take around fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on the size of it.

For more thorough washing of heavily contaminated or larger vehicles this time period can easily be extended. For instance, grills, window rubbers, trim details & convertible tops may all need to be cleaned separately using a soft bristled detailing brush to lift out and remove mold, algae, wax & polish residues or ingrained dirt and when coupled with the two bucket technique and a large vehicle, this could potentially take from thirty minutes extending anywhere up to an hour. Overall, depending on the condition and size of your vehicle, the actual contact washing phase can take anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour in total for more extreme cases.

After washing, you then have the final rinse down, which, like the pre rinse stage, should take you about five to ten minutes to complete in order to thoroughly remove all traces of shampoo suds and residues. Your car then needs to be dried and this is a very important stage in the car washing process that needs to be undertaken in a safe manner to prevent any marring and damage from being inflicted into the paintwork. Ideally, a drying aid or detailing spray should be applied to the wet car to aid the lubricity on the surface and improve the shine. A good quality microfiber towel then needs to be used to dab, pat and lightly dry the surface of the car off in a gentle, yet thorough manner.

Again, like the washing, this should be done in a methodical fashion, working from top to bottom, a section at a time. Some people now like to use a small garden blower to drive out any trapped water from tight crevices and this can help to reduce the overall drying time, as can if the paintwork has been waxed or sealed – as more water runs off and beads up on the surface, making it much easier to dry. In general though, the drying process should usually take between fifteen to thirty minutes in total for a safe and thorough job to be performed.

You can now see, how depending on a number of different factors, the car washing process can vary quite considerably in respect to how long it can take to complete. The most common influencing factors being the size of the vehicle and how dirty it is. Generally, a vehicle that is washed on a fairly regular basis and is never too heavily contaminated should take you about an hour in total (maybe a little longer for extra large vehicles) to complete and dirtier cars that are heavily soiled or have simply not been washed for a prolonged period of time can take anywhere between one and two hours to finish.

Obviously, it is not possible to state an exact amount of time for every person as their own and their vehicles needs are different, so these time scales are just generalizations. You may well be able to wash certain parts of your vehicle in much less time than has been stated here. However in general, a good thorough and safe wash from beginning to end should really be taking you at least an hour to complete and if you are not spending this on washing your car then you may want to look at your washing routine for areas that can be developed, which will in turn help to improve the overall outcome achieved and minimize the risk of any damage being inflicted during the process.

Daniel Curtean