Two Bucket Method Car Wash (6 Steps)

Photo by Isaac Taylor from Pexels

Photo by Isaac Taylor from Pexels

Two Bucket Method Car Wash (6 Steps)


The “two bucket method” of washing a car is a simple and organized way of washing your car right at home!

The purpose of this method is to remove as much dirt and debris as possible from the exterior of your car. Rather than paying to run through a car wash or doing the potentially expensive pressure washer method, the at-home two bucket car washing method can be your go-to method to get your car spic and span without much of an investment.

Let’s explore this popular process on how to wash a car using the two bucket wash method.

What is the two bucket wash method?

This technique is called the two bucket method for a simple reason! You will have two large buckets to work with. You might be thinking “Why do I need two buckets and not just one?” The reason you should use the two bucket method is to trap as much dirt and grime as possible in the bottom of your rinse water bucket and keep dirt and debris from collecting on your wash mitt and causing swirls and scratches in your clear coat.

Vehicle Paint Layers & Scratches
Car Wash Scratched My Car! What To Do Now?
Polished Clear Coat on Left / Unpolished Clear Coat Scratches on Right

Materials needed for the Two Bucket method

Microfiber scratch-free wash mitt

This type of mitt is made of soft, absorbent material and prevents scratching on your cars’ paintwork.

Grit Guards

These plastic guards act as filters and are placed in the bottom of the buckets to minimize the collection of dirt on the wash mitt and reapplication of it onto the car. They’ll sit a few inches above the bottom of the bucket leaving room for grit to fall to the bottom.

Two 5 Gallon Buckets

Large buckets are great for washing a car of almost any size and can be easily purchased. One will act as your wash bucket and the other as your rinse bucket.

Car Shampoo

Purchase a car shampoo that is pH balanced. A great go-to is a shampoo from Chemical Guys, who have many high-quality car detailing products. A pH balanced shampoo will guarantee that no damage will come to the wax protection on your vehicle, unlike using a more alkaline shampoo.

Microfiber drying towel

Like the wash mitt, a microfiber towel will minimize swirls and scratches in the drying step of this washing process.

The Two Bucket Method Step-By-Step

First thing, make sure to position your car in a shaded area, if possible. Exposing your car to direct sunlight while washing it will allow soap and water to dry up quickly, leaving unwanted water spots or streaks. Direct sunlight also enhances the damage of build upon a car’s surface, potentially leading to damage to its paint job.

Step 1 – Prepare the two buckets

Fill one bucket up to about the three or four-gallon mark with clean water only and fill one bucket with water and car shampoo. Place one grit guard in the bottom of each bucket to guarantee the debris will sink to the bottom and not clump on your wash mitt as you continue to wash your car.

Step 2 – Rinse your car well

Once the buckets are prepared, grab your hose and rinse your vehicle top to bottom, thoroughly, to remove large pieces of debris. Using a good electric pressure washer is preferred over a standard water hose. It has more power to remove dirt and road grime prior to physically touching the finish. This helps minimize chances of scratching the surface.

Step 3 – Dip your wash mitt into the bucket with shampoo

Once you’ve dipped your mitt into the shampoo bucket, begin washing car sections by panels and always go top to bottom.

For example, start from the top of the front passenger’s side and work your way down the window and then to the running board.

Once you’ve sufficiently washed one panel, rinse that panel again, from top to bottom! Washing and rinsing your car in sections will keep the soap from sticking and minimizing streaking.

Step 4 – Rinse your mitt into the bucket with water only

Your rinsing bucket should be for just that. If you see that there’s quite a bit of dirt on your mitt from the first panel wash, dunk it in the rinse bucket and rub it back and forth against the grit guard so that more particles will fall to the bottom.

Step 5 – Dry your car with a microfiber towel

After washing each panel, dry the same panel with a microfiber towel. Drying almost immediately after cleaning will prevent water spots from forming. A key element for a good drying technique is dabbing, which can minimize streaking. Air drying can lead to visible streaks or swirls and a leaf blower can be a bit too pricey or unwanted for many people. A microfiber towel will prevent streaks and scratches all while being a very affordable option.

Step 6 – Rinse and repeat!

Repeat the previous steps for all the panels of your car.

Don’t forget the wheels!

Pros and Cons of the Two Bucket Car Wash

An unmistakable pro of this wash method is the amount of dirt and grime that can be eliminated from your vehicle. As you continue to place the microfiber wash mitt into the rinse bucket after washing each panel, you can be assured that dirt and debris will not return to your car giving it a clean and finished look.

Another pro of this method is the affordability. All of the materials previously listed are very affordable and can be easily obtained at almost any auto parts or big-box store. A pressure washer is not needed even though it is recommended.

One con is that this car washing method can be tedious and time-consuming. We live in a hustle and bustle world and it can be difficult to take time for yourself as well as household chores. Set some time aside in your busy schedule, maybe on a Saturday, to deep clean the exterior of your car.

As you can see, the pros out way the cons significantly!

Can I wash my car with one bucket? If so, how?

Yes, you can. Just remove the rinse bucket. I still STRONGLY recommend using a grit guard since you’re now only using one bucket. There will be lots of dirt and grit that collects in this one bucket so it is essential you do something to help prevent your wash mitt from picking the grit back up and potentially causing scratches.

What is the three-bucket method?

The three-bucket method encompasses all the steps of the two bucket wash method except the fact that there’s another bucket! This third bucket can have many different functions. It can be used for washing the wheels only, it can contain another, stronger cleaning solution, or it can act as an extra rinse bucket. 

The three-bucket method is great if you want to wash another part of your car separately or potentially use a stronger cleaning agent as an extra. For example, you can use the third bucket for specifically washing your wheels with a different cleaning agent before or after you’ve washed the rest of the car.


Using the two bucket wash technique is the best way how to wash the car you love properly. This is because it is the most reliable way to ensure dirt and grime will be fully eliminated from your car without causing damage to the clear coat.

When performed correctly, you can minimize causing swirls and scratches with the help of using soft microfiber wash mitts and microfiber towels.

It’s a great method to keep your paintwork looking sharp and free of blemishes.

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