How To Clean Your Car With A Pressure Washer

Blast Away Dirt and Grime – The Ultimate Guide to Washing Your Car with a Pressure Washer

How To Clean Your Car With A Pressure Washer

Washing your car with a pressure washer is an efficient and effective way to remove dirt and grime from your vehicle’s exterior. Not only does it save you time, but it also helps to preserve the finish of your car. However, it’s important to use the right technique and equipment to avoid damaging your car’s paint or trim. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the steps of washing your car with a pressure washer, and provide tips on how to do it safely and effectively. So, let’s get started!

Why Is A Pressure Washer Good For Cleaning The Car?

One of the most obvious reasons that using a pressure washer to clean the car is a good idea, is that it is so much quicker than traditional methods. That said, you must be careful to use the right settings otherwise you risk damaging the paintwork, and we all know that can become incredibly costly to repair.

Using a pressure washer offers a degree of versatility that cannot be gained using other methods. For example, many modern pressure washers come with a foam attachment meaning that after pre-washing, you can apply detergent. Once everything is spic and span, your pressure washer will also rinse the soap away far more effectively than a bucket of water or the hose.

Moreover, a pressure washer can be turned up to spray a more direct and intense jet of water to remove stubborn dirt on certain areas of the car. While you shouldn’t use high pressure on paintwork, around the wheel trims and tyres, this is a great way to get things up to a sparkle. Another great tip for protecting the wheels while cleaning is to spray the jet from a further distance; you’ll still get the same cleaning results without the risk of damage.

You also have the option of cleaning your car or bike whilst out and about with the portability of cordless pressure washers.

Are There Any Downsides To Cleaning The Car With A Pressure Washer?

Like anything in life, your pressure washer isn’t perfect and there are some drawbacks to using it on your car. Primarily, it can cause damage to the paintwork and other delicate parts of the car, so I would always recommend using it with caution.

In addition, you will need to keep an eye on the settings because using the wrong ones can not only cause damage, but will also fail to deliver the results you expected. You can’t be too harsh, but not too gentle either; it’s something of a delicate balance.

Tips To Ensure You Do Not Damage Your Car When Using A Pressure Washer

  • Choose the right nozzle: Use a nozzle that is specifically designed for car washing. A 25-degree nozzle is a good choice, as it provides a good balance between cleaning power and gentleness.
  • Adjust the pressure: Set the pressure to a low or medium setting to avoid damaging the paint or stripping off wax.
  • Pre-rinse the car: Use the pressure washer to rinse off loose dirt and debris before applying soap.
  • Use a car wash soap: Use a soap that is specifically designed for car washing, as it will be gentle on the paint and won’t strip off wax.
  • Work from top to bottom: Start at the top of the car and work your way down to avoid pushing dirt and debris onto already-clean areas.
  • Rinse thoroughly: Use the pressure washer to rinse off all the soap and dirt, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  • Dry the car: Use a microfiber towel or chamois to dry the car thoroughly, as leaving water on the surface can cause water spots.
  • Use caution around delicate areas: Be careful when using the pressure washer around delicate areas such as the mirrors, antennas, and emblems. Use a lower pressure setting or switch to a handheld sprayer to avoid causing damage.

Step By Step To Clean Your Car With A Pressure Washer

Now we understand the pros and cons of using a pressure washer to clean the car, let’s dive into the execution. As I mentioned, it is important to always use the right settings, so be sure to read through this guide as well as your user manual and have a play with the tool before getting started.

Step 1 - Prewash and Rinse

Step 1 – Pre-Wash & Rinse

Before you get down to thoroughly cleaning the car, you will need to rinse away any surface dirt. As you’re driving, debris and dust will gather on the car and trying to get rid of these with soap may make the situation worse (imagine mixing mud into soap; it wouldn’t end well). To correctly prepare the area, you should set your pressure washer so that the jet is between 5cm and 8cm. This will allow the pressure to be enough to remove the dirt without causing any damage to the paint. However, when it comes to rinsing the windows, you will want to widen the jet a little more as this is a much more delicate area.

Step 2 - Adding Soap

Step 2 – Adding Soap

Now, if you prefer, you could apply your detergent by hand and work it in manually, but let’s face it, nobody’s got time for that. The good news is that your pressure washer will do all the hard work for you, provided it comes with a foam cannon. That said, even if yours doesn’t, there is a wealth of snow lances available online, many of which are universal.

Using this, turn the pressure right down and coat the car in detergent. You don’t need to work it in, but give it time to cut through the dirt and grime.

It is important not to leave the soap for too long otherwise it will begin to dry. Once this happens, you will be left with ugly smears that will require buffing by hand down the line.

Step 3 – Brush The Bodywork For Ground In Dirt

Using the supplied rotary brush, gently clean your car’s bodywork using a circular motion taking care not to press too hard. Work methodically around the vehicle to insure you have completely covered the entire vehicle. Whilst brushing, be sure to keep pressing the trigger to ensure the brush is always wet and never completely dries out.

Never use the same brush on the wheels. Instead use a separate triangle brush as this is better suited to reaching inside the spokes of the wheels. If you only have one brush, leave the wheels to the end and rinse the brush thoroughly before using again on the paintwork.

Step 4 - Rinse Off The Soap

Step 4 – Rinse Off The Soap

When you are ready to rinse, you will need to turn the pressure back up as we did in the first instance. Be mindful to reduce this pressure when working on delicate areas of the car.

There are some pressure washers that don’t have the option to adjust the pressure and if this is the case, you can just stand a little further away from the vehicle.

Step 5 (Optional) - Chamois cloth the paintwork dry 

Step 5 (Optional) –  Dry The Paintwork Using A Chamois Cloth

To achieve the best finish, it’s always a good idea to dry the paintwork using a Chamois cloth. These can either be leather or made from a synthetic material. Both work extremely well at preventing “streaking” and water marks as the water dries. This is particularly apparent if you are cleaning your car on a hot day.


Washing the car always feels like something of a task, but using a pressure washer can make things a lot quicker and simpler. However, it is vital that you always use the correct settings to avoid causing damage to your car. Following these simple steps mentioned above will see your car clean and sparkling in no time, so that you can get on with enjoying life rather than doing mundane chores.

Pressure Washer Pressure Guide

Below is a guide to help you choose the best pressure (bar) for the various tasks including cleaning your car.

Task Light Duty
50-110 Bar
Medium Duty
110-130 Bar
Heavy Duty
130+ Bar
Block Paving
Fences & Garden Furniture
Commercial Vehicles

Are you looking for the best pressure washers to clean your car? If so, then read my article below. This article not only lists my top picks, but also shares my experience on what I believe you should look out for when purchasing a suitable pressure washer for cleaning your car.

Best Pressure Washers for Cleaning a Car

Click below to see my full list of Best Pressure Washers for General Cleaning.

10 Best Pressure Washers UK

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