How to Clean Your Car with a Pressure Washer in the Right, Safe, and Effective Way

How to Clean Your Car with a Pressure Washer in the Right, Safe, and Effective Way

A pressure washer is a powerful and efficient way to remove dirt, grime, and debris from your vehicle. However, improper use can damage your car's paint and other surfaces. This blog will walk you through safely and effectively using a pressure washer to clean your vehicle.

To clean your car with a pressure washer: Prep your cleaning area, rinse using two pressure washer tips, apply a wheel cleaner and scrub, spray with a foam cannon and/or contact wash, rinse a second time, dry the vehicle using a microfiber towel, and apply a wax or sealant if necessary.

Required Products

Here are the required (and several optional) products and materials to gather before you pressure wash your vehicle.

The Product/Material Good To Know

Pressure Washer
Choose a pressure washer with adjustable pressure settings and a PSI (pounds per square inch) rating between 1200 and 1900. Higher PSI can cause damage to your car's paint and delicate parts.
Use a nozzle with a wide spray pattern (40-degree or 25-degree) to prevent concentrated pressure on the car's surface.
Car Wash Soap   
Opt for a pH-balanced, biodegradable car wash soap to remove dirt and grime without harming the paint.
Bucket and Microfiber Mitt   
A bucket with a Grit Guard and a soft, microfiber wash mitt will help you safely agitate dirt particles without scratching the surface.
Microfiber Towels   
These are used for drying the car after washing to prevent water spots.
Wheel Cleaner   
A dedicated wheel cleaner is essential for removing brake dust and grime from the wheels.
Tire Brush   
Use a brush with soft bristles to clean the tires and remove stubborn dirt.
Wheel Brushes   
These come in various sizes and shapes to clean intricate wheel designs effectively.
Foam Cannon (Optional)    
A foam cannon attachment can help you pre-soak the car with soap, loosening dirt and grime for easier removal.
Car Wax/Sealant (Optional)    
Applying wax or sealant after washing can protect the paint and enhance its shine.


Read on for the step-by-step technique that will leave your car sparkling clean.


Before washing, park your car in a shaded area. The sun casts heat and UV rays, which can cause soap and water to dry prematurely – leaving water spots. While prepping, dedicate a safe, handy location to your materials, keeping them out of direct sunlight. Keep any microfiber towels or wash mitts off the ground to avoid contamination. 

Rinse with two tips accordingly

Begin by connecting the wide-spray nozzle to the pressure washer. Most pressure washers have two tips: one 25-degree spray pattern and another 40-degree tip. When rinsing or cleaning your car, we recommend using the 25-degree tip for the wheels and wheel wells. For the rest of the exterior – paint, windshield, roof, etc. – use the 40-degree tip. 

Spray the vehicle from top to bottom so debris can easily flow down the car. The purpose of this step is to remove any light debris and apply additional lubrication for the following steps. 

Apply wheel cleaner and scrub

Wheels are the dirtiest part of the vehicle, and it often takes time for cleaning chemicals to lift embedded dirt and brake dust. Before washing, apply a wheel cleaner and agitate it on the wheel using wheel and tire brushes. If you’re dealing with particularly dirty wheels, apply a wheel cleaner and allow it to sit for several minutes, returning and scrubbing later. 

Spray with a foam cannon and/or contact wash

Next, apply a car shampoo to the vehicle by hand or using a foam cannon. We recommend the use of a foam cannon. Foam cannons quickly cover the vehicle's entire exterior and cling to vertical surfaces, allowing longer dwell time. 

If you don’t have a foam cannon, we recommend manually applying the soap using a two-bucket wash system – one bucket for clean, soapy water and another for rinsing. Dip your wash mitt into the clean bucket and begin wiping in long strokes from top-to-bottom until the entire vehicle is covered. We recommend rinsing the mitt frequently for ample lubrication and cleanliness.

Rinse a second time

Switch back to the wide-spray nozzle and rinse the vehicle thoroughly from top to bottom. Remove all soap residue and debris lingering on the car.

Dry the vehicle using a microfiber towel

Use a clean, dry microfiber towel to pat dry the vehicle. Avoid rubbing, as it can potentially lead to swirls and other marks.

Consider Stoner Car Care’s Gauntlet XL Drying Towel if you need a drying towel. It uses a microfiber construction and is large and effective enough to dry one vehicle thoroughly.

Open the doors, trunk, and hood to dry water trapped in seams and crevices as you dry. 

Apply a wax or sealant if necessary

If your car doesn’t already have a wax or sealant layer, you’ll want to apply one. Using an applicator pad or microfiber towel, buff the compounds into the exterior per the manufacturer's instructions. Look for a glossy finish for your end result. 

Additional Tips when Using a Pressure Washer

Use these tips below for a pristine finish: 

Maintain a safe distance

Keep the pressure washer nozzle at least 1-2 feet from the car's surface to prevent damage.

Mind the pressure

Adjust the pressure settings according to the type of dirt and the surface you're cleaning. Higher pressure is not always better.

Test an inconspicuous area

If using a pressure washer for the first time, test its impact in an inconspicuous area to determine the appropriate pressure setting.

Avoid hot surfaces

Never use a pressure washer on a hot car or under direct sunlight. The heat can cause soap to dry quickly, leaving behind residue.

Regular Maintenance

Clean your pressure washer's nozzle and filters regularly to maintain its performance.

Rinse away!

Clearing your car with a pressure washer can be an efficient and satisfying process when done correctly. By following the steps outlined in this guide and using the recommended products, you can achieve a clean and shiny vehicle without causing damage to its surfaces. Remember to prioritize safety, use appropriate pressure settings, and take your time to ensure a thorough cleaning.

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