A good, thorough car wash involves more than simply running your car through a machine. I brought our car to Mothers, well-known manufacturer of car washing and detailing products, to learn how to wash a car the way the pros do it.
What you will need:
1. Car wash soap. Don't use dishwashing soap! Dish soap is hard on rubber components, plus it can remove your car's wax coat. We used Mothers Caranuba Wash & Wax, which sells for around $10 for a 64 oz. bottle (compare prices).
2. A wash mitt made of sheepskin or microfiber cloth. Both materials are designed to pick up and hold dirt. (Mothers prefers microfiber mitts as they have more "fingers" to scrub the car.) Sponges work too, but a wash mitt makes the job easier and is kinder to your car's finish. Don't use towels; they merely push the dirt around rather than pick it up.
3. Two buckets.
4. A drying cloth. Chamois (natural or synthetic) is the traditional choice, but it can scratch your car's paint. An absorbent waffle-weave drying towel makes the job faster and easier. You'll also need a few extra microfiber detail towels.
5. A shady location. (Direct sunlight will dry the car prematurely and leave spots.)
6. A dirty car.