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How to Wash Your Car on a Budget With 5 Products

Thinking you need thousands of dollars in fancy equipment like vacuums or steamers to wash your car? Think again.

Truth be told, detailing product manufacturers create new SKUs all the time that aren’t really necessary. Why? To make money of course! If you only want to wash and detail your vehicle, you don’t have to spend thousands on dozens of detailing products.

Many manufacturers will sell one product designed to clean wheels…and another for brake dust. And another designed for removing iron deposits. The costs can add up.

What brands won’t tell you: You only really need a few multipurpose car wash products to clean and protect a vehicle.

Quick Tip

Only purchase essential car wash products you can’t live without to save money; purchase products in bulk to save $ in the long run (especially cleaners, towels, and degreasers).

I’ve reviewed all the products in my garage, and want to share the 5 essential budget-friendly car wash products I recommend that cost less than $50.

1. Super Clean Cleaner and Degreaser

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For starters, all you need is an interior and exterior-safe degreaser or all-purpose cleaner. An all-purpose cleaner typically will be less aggressive and pH neutral; for tough grease, an APC is slightly less effective than a degreaser.

If I had to pick one product for interior and exterior surfaces, it would be Super Clean—one of the most affordable and popular degreasers.

This product is incredibly versatile and can be used to clean car carpets, interior surfaces, as well as wheels. Need to remove traffic film? It can tackle that too. You can even dilute Super Clean for interior surfaces, even seats.

While APCs and diluted degreasers can clean leather or vinyl, I do recommend a dedicated conditioner that can restore these materials and protect them from UV rays.

2. 5-Gallon Bucket

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You’ll want at least one bucket for washing paint, and one bucket for washing wheels…but not the same bucket to avoid contamination. A bucket is the cheapest way to apply soap since it costs a bit less than a foam gun or foam cannon.

And yes, you can sometimes find PVC-style 5-gallon for free at restaurants or other stores; just be sure they are clean!

3. Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Soap

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You can find a ton of cheap car soaps out there, but I recommend Meguiar’s Gold Glass line of car soaps for the money. You can find these soaps everywhere, some with wax for added protection. Many come in 64-ounce containers—that’s about 32 washes if you use a couple of ounces per wash.

Compare 64 washes to a premium car shampoo that costs $20-$30 per 18-ounce bottle and lasts roughly 10-20 washes per bottle. Premium soaps have their place, but not absolutely necessary if you need to cut costs.

Check out my post on car foams vs soaps vs shampoos so you’ll know the differences between these products and when to use one.

4. Flexilla Water Hose and Sprayer Kit

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You’ll need a hose kit and sprayer for starters, and you can’t go wrong with a Flexilla hose. It’s popular, affordable, won’t kink, and less than $50.

Quick Tip

Car wash kits can be a great way to save money vs. purchasing items separately but do your research. Some kits are low quality and overpriced.

 

If you already have a hose, you’ll obviously need a simple sprayer attachment. I recently bought one for about $7, and it’s even got multiple spray patterns you can try out.

Get a thumb-controlled spray nozzle to save your grip and keep the water flow consistent.

Since you’ll probably also want a good hose reel at some point if you don’t have one, here are a few I recommend at different price points.

5. Microfiber Towel Pack

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Did you know you can wash and detail both the interior and exterior with just a few clean microfiber towels? No mitts or brushes required.

You technically can use a regular-pile microfiber towel to lather soap in place of a wash mitt. I recommend a combo pack of microfiber towels that includes:

  • Microfiber glass towels: Low pile to help prevent streaks
  • Regular microfiber towels: Great for interior and exterior use
  • Microfiber drying towels: High pile, large, and designed to absorb

Even though you can technically use some of your microfiber towels on wheels, one item just outside of my top 5 is a detailing brush set for interior and exterior use. A tire brush is a good idea to purchase as well, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money on brushes right away.

Is it cheaper to wash your car at home?

It is most cost-effective to wash your vehicle at home, assuming you don’t make more than about $100 per hour! Time is money, and everyone values their time a bit differently.

For example, the average 2-hour wash and detailing job costs around $200-$300 depending on the state or country. However, once you invest in some basic car wash and detailing equipment, costs are minimal.

When to spend more money on car wash and detailing supplies

You will need other products like waxes, vacs, sealants, and even clay bars to get your car from scratched up to looking like new. However, with some basic car wash equipment you can effectively remove dirt and grime.

My advice is to learn how to wash and detail on a budget, so you can see results and not get ripped off. Some automatic car washes or basic detailing jobs simply aren’t worth the money!

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

This video course unpacks the fundamentals of washing and detailing. From exterior cleaning and blemish removal…you’ll learn the secrets that will give you spotless pro-level results!

If you’re ready to learn the basics as a beginner, check out our video course, Washing and Detailing for Beginners. It’s packed with how to use these basic supplies to get the beautiful vehicle you want.

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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