GUIDE: Keeping your Ford Focus clean and swirl free on a budget

Hey guys, after owning numerous cars and knowing people that detail professionally, I wanted to share my experiences and help you guys keep your car as clean as possible, while also maintaining it on a modest budget. I personally don't like others touching my car, so not only do I spare the grief of worrying about someone else messing my car up, but I save money by not having to pay professionals. Plus this helps us avoid drive-thru car washes which, goes without saying, SHOULD BE AVOIDED! Also avoid using bristle brushes from self-serve car wash stations. In my guide below, I note that those places are ok if you use your own supplies.

So in light of that, I will write-up a small guide to show the cheapest and most effective way to keep your car clean and swirl/scratch free.

Here is what you need:

- (2) Water buckets
- (1 or 2) Microfiber wash mitt
- (1 or 2) microfiber towel
- (2) chamois cloths
- Car wash soap of your choice (I prefer Meguiars Gold Class)
- Water hose with spray gun attachment

When is the best time to wash your car? Typically when it is coolest during that day, so either morning or evening. You want to avoid washing your car in direct sunlight so soap and water doesn't dry before you can rinse it off and also because it makes it much harder to work with.

Preferably a driveway or a carport, but the street is fine if you have a hose that can reach and don't have a private driveway or covered area. You could also do this at a self serve car wash by bringing your supplies and just using their spray guns but NOT THEIR BRUSHES!

Start by turning your water source on and using the spray gun to rinse the car. I have a multi-setting gun that has multiple options but I prefer the "garden" setting since it sprays multiple streams and isn't too high in pressure. For areas with heavy bug buildup, like on my car front bumper for example, I use a "sharp" spray to get heavy stuff off. For everything else I use the lighter setting.

Get the car rinsed down and most heavy debris, dirt, mud, stains and etc off if possible. Grab your buckets, in one you will want to put a dollop or roughly 2-3 caps of soap in, fill with water. In the other (in my case smaller) bucket fill it with water. The bucket with no soap will be a rinse bucket. Why? I will explain in a second. With the soap bucket, drop in your wash mitt(s) and microfiber towel. Now you are ready to start tackling the cleaning process of your car. Before you grab your mitt and start washing, remember this very simple and easy process of where to start and how to wash. Yes, believe it or not, this is important.

Always start from the top, in this case the roof. I prefer to start on the passenger side and work my way around counter-clockwise. When I start at the roof, I will only do the half of the roof on the side I'm on, so if I start on the passenger side, I'll only wash down the passenger half of the roof and proceed to work my way down. Wash a small section at a time. After you wash a small section, take your mitt and drop it into your rinse bucket. Work it in the rinse water and wring out soap and any debris your mitt may have caught. The reason for the rinse bucket is to keep your soap bucket clean and avoid dirt and debris scratching your paint. After you've rinsed, apply soap to mitt from the soap bucket and continue on. The next important note is the direction of washing. NEVER WASH IN CIRCLES. It is best to wash SIDE TO SIDE, from top to bottom. Dirt will fall as you work your way down which is why this is the best method. Washing in one direction minimizes the potential of creating unwanted swirl marks and keeps things consistent. Remember to rinse often, I usually wash half the car, rinse and then do the rest and rinse again.

After you do one side, work your way to the next. Same principle, top to bottom, side to side and rinse mitts often. You may need an additional microfiber mitt if you have heavy dirt buildup or mud on your car. Remember to rinse often. You may need to empty and re-fill your rinse bucket 2-3 times depending on how filthy it gets, which can get dirty quickly. If at any point you DROP a wash mitt on the ground, YOU MUST DISPOSE OR NO LONGER USE IT DURING THIS SESSION. Debris from concrete, stone, dust/dirt and other outside particles have now entered that cloth and will scratch your paint. This is where having a spare mitt may come in handy.

Once you have washed the entire car, proceed with a re-rinse. Now it is time to work on the wheels. Remember that microfiber towel I mentioned earlier? This is where it comes in handy. I keep mitts for the car only and towels for the wheels. Rinse the wheels down and then proceed to soap up the towel and clean the wheels, one at a time. I usually wash one wheel, rinse it in the rinse bucket then proceed to the next wheel and so on. You can also use this same towel to wash the lips of the fenders and wheel wells.

Now we will use the chamois to dry off the car. Again, top to bottom is the best way. The chamois is best to use for drying in my opinion since it is not cloth that can potentially scratch the paint and like a sponge, absorbs water as you dry. A panel at a time works best to dry off, then wring out water and continue. I typically fold the towel in half and flip over occasionally. Same as washing, I work my way around from top to bottom and side to side, going around the car.

After you have dried the car, grab your second chamois and work on the wheels/tires. I have two different chamois, one extra large size for the car and another in a smaller size for the wheels. They are also color coded so I know which is which.

Nooks and crannies (the extra mile)
Once you've dried off the paint and wheels, you are still not done. Open all the doors/hatch and you will see tons of water inside the door jams. Grab your paint chamois and work on the jams. People often ignore these and if you're anal like me, I want my entire car to look good and the door jam is one thing people will notice. There shouldn't be much dirt in there, but you may need to flip the towel occasionally if dirt gets built up. Dry both the jams, the b-pillars and the insides of the door edges. This is going the extra mile and it's a step most people take for granted. Be sure to get the trunk jam area also.

Final walk around
You may think you're done here, but you aren't. Proceed to do a final walk-around and check for drips. More than likely some water will have made it's way out from either the spoiler, door jams, door handles or side mirrors. Dry off any water drips that have made it's way out. This is where you can now also tire shine if you so wish. Now with the rinse bucket, throw your towels/mitts in there and proceed to do one final rinse. You can also do this with the chamois' if you wish. Be sure to put those in your laundry every 1-2 washes separately from your other wash items. Proceed to air dry when done.

Wax and interior
I will leave this up to the user since there are a ton of methods and products on these two topics. For general reference, I typically wax my paint 3-4 times a year. Interior I generally do a wipe down with a separate microfiber towel for dust/hair. And will proceed to use a natural interior protectant.

I hope this guide helps you to keep the car clean and swirl/scratch free for a minimal budget. I can report that I have used this method for 4 months with no swirls or scratches on my paint. Do it right, take your time and your results will be the same!