Make it sparkle

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If your car has a paint protection treatment, make sure you choose a suitable car wash.

With all the different cleaning products and paint finishes on the market, washing your car isn't as easy as it used to be.

What you'll need

You should be able to get most of what you need from one of the larger discount stores. Otherwise, it'll also be available at specialist auto stores.

  • Car wash liquid
    Some car wash liquid is environmentally friendly. Look for the brands that won't make a mess of our waterways. Check your user manuals to see what car wash will work the best with your paintwork. If your car has a paint protection treatment, make sure you choose a suitable car wash.
  • Large sponge
    The bigger and thirstier the better!
  • Two plastic buckets
    One for soapy water, one for clean water.
  • Chamois
    There are two types available - leather or synthetic. Which one you choose largely depends on how much money you're prepared to pay. They're great for cleaning off water before it dries, causing ugly streaks.
  • Polishing rags
    Make sure the rags aren't dusty or leave fluff in the polish.
  • Car polish
    There are many types of different polishes. Ask your auto accessories sales person what is the best for your car.
  • Tyre black
    Usually this comes in liquid form or a paste.
  • Dustpan and hand-broom
    For sweeping up dust and mess inside your car.

Washing your car the water-conscious way

  1. Check your local area for the current water restriction requirements as with some water restrictions, you can't hose your car. Use a car wash that won't damage your paint finish (some cars have a protective coating that requires a special low-acid car wash). Also make sure that if you're using a wash and wax product, not to get it on your windscreen or windows because it will leave a film that you won't be able to get off easily. Fill the other bucket with clean, cold water.
  2. Park your car on grass whenever possible, away from any drains - we don't want any soap run off going into the ocean right? It's also better to park your car in the shade when you wash it, especially when you're using the bucket-method of washing.
  3. Loosen up the dirt and rinse off the grit by thoroughly drenching your car with the bucket of clean water. This will remove any abrasive dirt that may scratch your finish while you're washing it with the sponge. Fill the bucket up again with clean water, so it's ready for the rinse-down.
  4. Using a sponge and warm soapy water start washing the roof of the car with a large circular motion. Keep the sponge wet, but don't use too much water, as you'll need to wash the whole car with that one bucket of water. Once you've washed the roof, rinse it off with clean water before the shampoo dries. Continue this method, washing and rinsing a side at a time.
  5. Now take a chamois and dry the finish off before the water dries and leaves runs and streaks. Do it one panel at a time so you don't miss any sections.
  6. Using a clean cloth (handtowels are great) start polishing the car section by section. You can use a polishing agent to bring a sparkle to the finish, but be aware, some polishes have cutting agents that may eat away any protective coatings. Polishes usually need to be applied with one cloth, left for a while and then buffed up with a clean cloth.


Blacking your tyres not only keeps them looking great, but it also helps to keep them in good condition longer. Regular treatment actually helps to stop the rubber from splitting on the sides. Tyre black is easy to apply, but can be messy. Silicone-based products are less messy and can be used on other black areas of your car, such as the bumper or side strips.


Some people choose to use specialised window-cleaning fluid to clean their glass, but it's not a great idea. If window cleaner drips or runs down into the gap between the window and your hood, it can erode the rubber seals or the windscreen wiper spray nozzles. The best bet is warm soapy water and a squeegie. A service station-style squeegie does a great job of taking off all of the water that would otherwise dry and streak.


You can get products that are specifically designed to bring your chrome details and bumpers to a sparkling shine. They usually work like a polish. You apply a paste, let it dry and then polish it off. Avoid using household metal polishes as they may discolour your paint if they spill.

Cleaning the insides

First take the mats out of the car and give them a good beating to remove dust from the carpet fibres. Give them a good going over with a vacuum cleaner if you're really serious. Alternatively, most servos have industrial strength vacuums that you can use for a couple of bucks for every few minutes.

Using a damp rag, clean the dust off all of the interior mouldings - the dash, the vinyl, and any other surfaces that are easily wiped clean. If your car is older, and has discoloured vinyl, you can spruce it up with a vinyl dressing liquid.

A small battery powered vacuum cleaner (sometimes known as a Dustbuster) is great for getting crumbs and other grit out of car upholstery, especially fabric seat covers.

All spruced up!

So there you go - a fairly easy way to keep your car looking a million bucks without wasting too much water.