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How to washing the two bucket method


The two bucket method is a safe way of shampooing your vehicle, in one bucket you'll have your soapy water and in the other, clean rinsing water, ideally in each bucket you should use a grit guard. By shampooing this way you are removing the loose particles from both the vehicle and your mitt and keeping them safely away from your paint.

Before starting on the main body of the car, wash your wheels and seals, these are the places that trap lots of dirt and grime so cleaning these first will stop the dirt spreading. Next, using a pressure washer or a hose pipe, give the car a good rinse of clean water to remove the loose dirt and grit. Just a light spray is all you need and if you don’t have a pressure washer or a hose pipe a watering can will do.

For the two bucket method, you'll obviously need two buckets, the 5 gallon buckets are the optimum size to go for, you'll also need a wash mitt and here you can choose from either microfibre or wool. Either way you want a soft mitt that will hold lots of water and wash solution. A thicker plush will trap the dirt and keep it away from the cars surface.

A good shampoo is next on the list, Just looking at our washing and shampoo section might seem a bit bamboozling as there is so much choice, so where do you start? You want one that produces lots of suds as it’s the suds that help lubricate the surface of the car and stop dirt dragging across the paint. A mild shampoo that doesn’t strip wax is important, you don’t want to strip all the protection off your car’s surface. This is why domestic washing up liquids aren’t suitable as they’re designed to cut through grease and so will strip the car’s surface of any waxes and sealants. Dilution ratios vary from shampoo to shampoo so it’s important to check yours prior to diluting it.


Load your wash mitt in the soapy bucket and apply the suds to the surface using a light pressure passing the mitt back and forth in a straight motion. Here. we've used the lamsbwool wash mitt, it's a soft, natural material that holds lots of suddy solution. We've also opted for the fingerless so that you can easily swap the mitt around.

Start at the top of the car and work down and out of direct sunlight which can cause the shampoo to dry. You might come across stubborn areas that the mitt alone won’t shift, resist the temptation to scrub and instead you might want to clay or use a tar remover.


Rinse your mitt often in the rinse bucket before re-loading the mitt with the shampoo.

After washing the car you need to rinse. Again just a gentle water flow or watering can is sufficient and you want to rinse until the water sheets off the car. And again, start from the top and work your way down.

Now on to the drying stage. Chamois leathers have long since been replaced by microfibre or waffle towels as the tool of choice, the fabric proving a safer alternative as there is less chance of dragging particles across the paint. That said, care still needs to be taken in case there is the odd bit of dirt. When the towel becomes too wet change to a dry one as the absorbency won’t be as effective.


Here's the before shot,


And the after...


5 thoughts on “How to washing the two bucket method”

  • BeeEmm

    I gave up on the two bucket method because with all the rinsing, the 'rinsing bucket' soon looked the same as the soap bucket. I was left with two soap buckets. Did I do something wrong?

    • Bear Head

      Yeah, kind of. The rinse bucket is to be dipped into after a pass of a panel with the sponge or mitt. You scrub and rinse the crap out of the sponge into the rinse bucket. All the dirt and particles off the car will end up in here. Over time, when the car is really mucky you're best to chuck both buckets and refresh halfway around the car. If you take a deep sniff of both buckets you can usually tell which bucket has the soap in. If you stick a hose into the soap bucket on a high pressure the soap bucket will foam and the rinse bucket won't. When you've washed the car look in the rinse bucket and the soap bucket. The soap bucket will or should be full of clean water, and the rinse bucket usually ends up black and full of muck.

  • ChrisM

    You mention about washing up liquid being too strong and eating into any wax protectioon, but what about a pressure washer - that's very powerful. When I bought one to do the paving slabs in the garden I tried it on the car once, and never again. IMHO it's far too risky as it could cause damage.
    Also I leave the wheels until last as they're dirtiest and I don't want to risk spreading any dirt from them that gets ont the sponge/mit onto paintwork. The sponge gets washed through before it's next used - actually I use a separate sponge for the wheels and under the sills only, never on the visble paintwork

  • neal patel

    did you used microfiber towels for drying?? i think it is not the microfiber towel which is shown in the image.!

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