Two-Bucket Method For Washing Your Car (Detailing Essentials)

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Here at Torque Detail, we’re all about equipping you with the tools and information that give you the best return on your time and hard-earned dollar.

Today, we’re doing a full run-down on one of the easiest ways to boost your car-care game, and you’ll find out why you should be using the two-bucket method every time you clean your ride.

We’ve all seen once-stunning paint jobs that are dulled by thousands of tiny swirl marks. You know those tiny surface scratches that always catch the light? They look terrible, right?

These swirls are caused by small particles of dirt scraping across the clear coat. More often than not, this is caused by nothing more serious than an owner’s well-meaning (but poorly executed) cleaning attempts.

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The Car Shampoo That Leave No Dirt

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Table of Contents

What Is The Two-Bucket Car Wash Method?

The two-bucket method is a time-proven technique for preventing those ugly swirls. It’s the crucial first step to keeping your paintwork factory-fresh year after year.

We’re all familiar with the old one-bucket method. We take our bucket, fill it with water and car shampoo, and happily set to work with the cleaning mitt. Easy.

And it gets our ride pretty clean.

But the problem isn’t what we’re washing off - it’s what we’re leaving behind.

Scratches. Lots and lots of scratches.  

The two-bucket method solves this problem by using an extra bucket (the rinse bucket) of pure water to rinse all the dirt and grime off your wash mitt. Then, once it’s clean, the mitt goes back into the soapy bucket, ready to safely wash the next section with clean water. Taking this extra step will prevent all that dirt from being washed back onto your car’s paintwork and causing that eye-catching damage.

What You Need For Two-Bucket Washing

No expensive equipment or long shopping lists here. All you need is:

Two Buckets

Two large, sturdy buckets.

Car Shampoo

For the first wash of the year, you’ll want a thorough, deep clean. Torque Detail Decon Soap is a great way to start a full wash from the ground up. It strips away the old wax layer and banishes harmful contaminants such as iron deposits and brake dust. If you’re planning to go the whole hog and clay bar your vehicle, Decon Soap is an absolute must.

On the other hand, you may have already made the switch to a top-quality ceramic coating, or perhaps you would like to keep your current wax finish. If so, Torque Detail’s Ceramic Shampoo is formulated to give you the deep clean you need while leaving that wax or glass-like ceramic finish completely intact.

Wash Mitt

The Decon Wash Pack and Full Decon Kit both include our top-quality wash mitt.

Unlike other options such as cotton cloths, a proper mitt offers the maximum surface area to attract dirt but is soft enough to be kind to your paintwork.

Microfiber Towels

Microfiber towels are essential for the final drying stage.

Optional Extras

Grit guard x2 (recommended)

When you dunk your mitt in the buckets, the grit and dirt will transfer into the water. A grit guard traps these abrasives at the bottom of the buckets and minimizes the risk that they’ll be washed back onto your car.

Grit guards aren’t strictly necessary because the two-bucket method already reduces the chances of cross-contamination. Nevertheless, they’re certainly a good investment for just a few extra dollars.

Reusable clay pad & clay lube

If you’re stripping your wax or sealant back to the clear coat, using a clay pad is a highly effective way to get every last contaminate out of your clear coat.

Our clay pad is available together with our Decon Soap and Wash Mitt as part of the Torque Detail Full Decon Kit.

The Two-Bucket Wash Method: Pros And Cons

Pros

Cons

So, what makes the two-bucket Method worth your time?

Pro #1 - Safe Method of Cleaning

The two-bucket method is far, far safer for your paintwork than using a single bucket. Rinsing the dirt and abrasives out of the mitt in the pure water rather than in the soapy water means that your soap will stay cleaner and free from abrasives, ready to clean the next section.

Pro #2 - Grit Guards Aren’t as Necessary

If you aren’t using grit guards, careful use of the two-bucket method will go a long way to insuring your ride against washing-related damage. It is still recommended to use them for extra safety.

Pro #3 - Simple and Easy to Do

A bucket for soap, a bucket for water. It couldn’t be simpler! There are no clever techniques needed here. It’s as easy as it sounds!

We’re trying to give both sides of the argument here, but, to be honest, there isn’t really a downside!

Nevertheless, there are a few things worth mentioning.

Con #1 - Excess Water

Using two buckets will inevitably use more water than using one. We’re only talking about a few gallons here, so it isn’t a problem for most of us. However, if you live in an area with water restrictions, it’s a good thing to keep in mind.

Con #2 - Longer Preparation Time

Filling up an extra bucket with water will take an additional minute. That’s sixty seconds of our life we’re not getting back... but we’d say it’s worth the time!

There is also a complete alternative to the two-bucket method: a foam clean.

Foam guns or cannons offer a fully contactless method for soaping down cars. It requires a pressure washer with a foam cannon attachment or a garden hose with a foam gun attachment. It lacks the simplicity we love about the two-bucket Method, but if you’d like to give it a try, there are several attachments on the market.

Pros

So, what makes the two-bucket Method worth your time?

Pro #1 - Safe Method of Cleaning

The two-bucket method is far, far safer for your paintwork than using a single bucket. Rinsing the dirt and abrasives out of the mitt in the pure water rather than in the soapy water means that your soap will stay cleaner and free from abrasives, ready to clean the next section.

Pro #2 - Grit Guards Aren’t as Necessary

If you aren’t using grit guards, careful use of the two-bucket method will go a long way to insuring your ride against washing-related damage.

Pro #3 - Simple and Easy to Do

A bucket for soap, a bucket for water. It couldn’t be simpler! There are no clever techniques needed here. It’s as easy as it sounds!

Cons

We’re trying to give both sides of the argument here, but, to be honest, there isn’t really a downside!

Nevertheless, there are a few things worth mentioning.

Con #1 - Excess Water

Using two buckets will inevitably use more water than using one. We’re only talking about a few gallons here, so it isn’t a problem for most of us. However, if you live in an area with water restrictions, it’s a good thing to keep in mind.

Con #2 - Longer Preparation Time

Filling up an extra bucket with water will take an additional minute. That’s sixty seconds of our life we’re not getting back... but we’d say it’s worth the time!

There is also a complete alternative to the two-bucket method: a foam clean.

Foam guns or cannons offer a fully contactless method for soaping down cars. It requires a pressure washer with a foam cannon attachment or a garden hose with a foam gun attachment. It lacks the simplicity we love about the two-bucket Method, but if you’d like to give it a try, there are several attachments on the market.

How To Do A Two-Bucket Wash

Okay, we know it’s a simple process. We know it’s worth it. So how do we get started?

Step 1.) Park in the shade

If your car is in direct sunlight, the washing water will dry out almost immediately. It will be virtually impossible to towel-dry quickly enough, and the result will be a water-spotted, dirty finish. Not a good look!

Step 2.) Get your gear ready

Fill the first bucket with pure, clean water and the second with water and your choice of Decon Wash or Ceramic Wash. Ensure that you use the correct dilution ratio. If you’re using grit guards, place one at the bottom of each bucket. Finally, make sure that your mitt and microfiber towels are clean.

Step 3.) Wheels first

Wheels are typically the dirtiest part of the car, and washing them last often sprays dirty water onto your newly cleaned paint. Take your preferred wheel washer and a separate wheel washing mitt and get those rims done first.

Step 4.) Rinse everything down

Take a garden hose or your non-soapy water bucket and give the car a complete soaking. A rinse will wash away any looser dirt and debris without the need for any wiping or scrubbing that could scratch your paint.

Step 5.) Give ‘em both buckets!

Dunk your wash mitt in the soap bucket and, starting from the roof, gently and methodically work it over each section of the car. Working from top to bottom prevents dirty water from washing onto areas you’ve already covered.

After completing each small section, give the mitt a good rinse off in the bucket of pure water. Put some elbow grease in here! This is the stage where all the contaminants that can damage your paint are washed off. When the mitt is clean, squeeze it out, dunk it back in the soap bucket, and tackle the next section.

How much of the car to cover before each rinse is down to your judgment. As a rule of thumb: a dirtier car = more rinses. Any dirt on the mitt risks scratching or leaving swirl marks, so the key is to keep that mitt as clean as possible at all times. If you’re not sure, rinse more!

Step 6.) Final rinse-down

Once you’re happy that every panel, nook, and cranny is completely clean, it’s time to give everything a final rinse-off with fresh, clean water. Don’t be tempted to use the water in either of the buckets! Either empty them out and refill them with fresh water to slosh over the car, or use a garden hose to give everything a good spray-down.

Step 7.) Dry

You can check out our full guide on how to dry your car. As mentioned before, it’s essential to dry it as soon as possible to avoid the water drying on the body and leaving any nasty spots or streaks.

And… your wash is done! Congratulations - you’ve successfully given your ride a top-notch clean that’s guaranteed to be safe on your paintwork!

If you’re going to use a clay bar, now is the time to do it.

Step 8.) Protect and shine (optional)

So, you’re all done with the wash and your ride is looking better than ever. But if you want to take things up a gear with a showroom-ready gloss finish and full protection from the elements, here’s how you can do it:

Torque Detail’s Mirror Shine replaces your standard wash, wax, polish, and sealant products. After washing, a swift application will enhance your paint job with a deep, rich shine and provide a water and dirt-repelling protective shield.

Simply put, that two-bucket wash you just did will look even better and for longer than you could have ever hoped! You can find a quick guide on how to use Mirror Shine here.

190+ Glowing Reviews - Decon Soap
The Car Shampoo That Leave No Dirt

★★★★★ The Decon Wash Pack will strip previous coats of waxes and sealants, as well as remove surface contaminates. Your vehicle's surface is filled with contaminants. Some of these may be visible, such bug guts, bird droppings, water spots, and tree spots. And some contaminants, such as iron deposits, brake dust, and overspray may not be visible to the naked eye.

BUY NOW

Summary

The two-bucket method should have a place in everyone’s car-care arsenal. It’s cheap, it’s simple, and it solves a problem that has plagued nearly every car owner at one time or another.

We hope you’ll join us in banishing the swirl-marked woes of single-bucket washing to history and finally treat your ride to the five-star wash we all know it deserves!

Published on Feb 02, 2021