How to Clean a Car with a Pressure Washer

Pressure washers are great tools to clean patio stones, decking, and walls with just water and no harsh chemicals.

But did you know that a pressure washer can also clean your car? As long as you follow the correct way to clean your car with a pressure washer, it will be easier than hand washing and will use less water than a hosepipe.

So, if you’re planning on hiring a pressure washer and want to get the most out of it, read our guide on cleaning your car below.

Create an account with Speedy today to start hiring, for access to our full hire range, bespoke pricing, and account benefits.




When using a pressure washer, wear eye protection to shield yourself from any debris which may be flicked up by the pressure of the water. You’ll also want to wear gloves and waterproof clothing when pressure washing a car.

Familiarise yourself with how to use a pressure washer in general before using it on your car.


You will need:

  • PPE such as eye protection
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Pressure washer
  • Car shampoo/detergent
  • Handheld brush and sponge for finer detailing
  • Towel for drying


How to Pressure Wash Your Car

Before we get started, it is really important to reiterate that you have to take care when pressure washing your car or any other vehicle.

Do it wrong, and you could chip the paintwork, damage fragile parts such as lights, or soak the interior. Choose the right settings on the machine though, and you’ll wonder how you ever washed it by hand.

Always read the specific instructions which come with your pressure washer model before you begin. Below is a general guide.


Step 1: Remove loose debris

Use a soft-bristled brush to remove any loose debris on the car, such as dried leaves or flower blossoms. This means they won’t get wet and stick to your car when it is being cleaned.


Step 2: Rinse

The first step is to remove the existing dirt from the car. Adjust the settings on your pressure washer to around 5-8cm wide. This should be enough to clean without damaging paintwork.

If your pressure washer can’t be adjusted, or you’re worried it is too powerful, you can hire a suitable pressure washer from Speedy. You can also stand further away from the car, around one metre.

Then, go over your car and rinse it down. Use an even less powerful setting on windows, mirrors, and lights.


Step 3: Add the detergent

Most pressure washers allow you to add a cleaning detergent to a container or via a lance inserted into the detergent bottle. Choose the least powerful setting on your pressure washer, and generously apply the car shampoo all over the car.

If your pressure washer can’t do this, use a car wash foam spray or similar to apply detergent manually. A large spray bottle of car shampoo mixed with water will also do the trick.

Leave to work and break down the remaining dirt for a few minutes. Don’t allow it to dry, though, as this will leave your car with shampoo marks on the bodywork.

If your car is really dirty and the detergent has a tough job to do, use a foam cleaner, which will give you a dense, longer-lasting foam.


  • SPEEDY TOP TIP: Use a higher concentration of cleaning shampoo sparingly, rather than a lot of diluted shampoo. This will be more effective


Step 4: Focus on the finer details

Around the wheels or at the bottom of the doors, there will likely be a greater build-up of dirt. Aside from adding more detergent to these areas, you might also want to manually clean them before rinsing the detergent away.

Use a wheel brush to clean the wheel spokes and wheel arch. Some pressure washer models also have wheel brush attachments available to purchase or hire separately, so it is well worth checking.

A sponge can also be a great way of washing lights and around the wing mirror if you’re concerned about the power of your pressure washer.


Step 5: Rinse

Now it's time to rinse all of the detergent off. Again, use a less forceful setting on windows and lights, or just avoid these and hand wash instead.

Ensure you rinse the detergent away really well. Any leftover residue will create unsightly shampoo patches on your car bodywork.

Standing slightly further away from the car will allow you to cover a wider area with the water, getting the job done quicker.


Step 6: Dry

While cars can dry naturally, you risk leaving behind watermarks. You’re best using a high-quality dedicated microfibre car towel or a Chamois cloth to manually dry the car bodywork instead.

Be gentle, and don’t apply pressure. The towel alone does the drying for you.


  • SPEEDY TOP TIP: Even better than a microfibre towel is a touch-free alternative, such as a blow dryer. Grab your leaf blower and turn it on, which should do the trick!



Tips for Cleaning Your Car with a Pressure Washer

  • When you first turn the pressure washer on, point it at the ground to get the right level of pressure before pointing it at the car
  • Close windows and ensure doors are closed before pressure washing
  • Pressure wash on a plain, flat surface such as concrete. Avoid pressure washing near gravel or other areas with debris and dirt, as this could damage the paintwork
  • Don’t get too close to the car. Use handheld cleaning tools such as brushes and sponges to clean any finer details such as window seals
  • Check your car for existing paint chips. You don’t want to make them worse
  • Don’t spray under the bonnet



How can I remove soap and watermarks on the body of my car?

Whether the soap has dried before you got a chance to rinse it off, or the water has dried on the car rather than running off, you can sometimes be left with marks after cleaning your car.

A pressure washer should mean you don’t have this issue, but if your car currently has some water marks, wiping them away with a wet microfibre towel should be enough. Mix one-part regular white vinegar with one-part distilled water if the stain is particularly stubborn.

If they don’t disappear, use a proper car polisher to restore the shine.




Thank you for reading our Speedy Hire blog, we hope you found this guide on cleaning your car with a pressure washer useful.

If you want more tips for your pressure washer, read our How-To Clean a Patio with a Pressure Washer blog.

You’ll find all the power tools and hire equipment you need right here. Why not start planning your next DIY project and open a Speedy account online or visit us in-store for all your tool hire needs?


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