How to Clean a Really Dirty Car Exterior Like a Pro

how to clean a really dirty car exterior

Our car is one of our daily companions on our day-to-day adventure. There may be some smooth roads and there may be some rough roads. But one thing we are certain of is that when cars get dirty, they can really get dirty… almost to the point of no return.

But in order to keep your car looking new while up and running, you need to know how to clean a really dirty car exterior in case your car encounters some serious dirt.

No need to post on Reddit! Just read on and find out the best way to remove ingrained dirt from car.

The Best Way to Clean Car Smothered in Dirt and Grime!


Dirt grimes, and road tar can be quite stubborn, especially those that have accumulated a lot of layers on your car’s exterior.

If you want to remove stuck on dirt from car, then you have to gather your battle equipment because you are in it for an intense battle against dirt!

What you will Need

Water Hose Or Pressure Washer

Car Wash Detergent Or Shampoo

Car Wax Or Car Polish

Two Or More Buckets


Microfiber Towels Or Clean Rags

Brush With Soft Bristles

Foam cannon and foam cannon soap

  • Pro Tip: Make sure to check the ingredients and detailed guidelines of your car body cleaner, wax, or polish before using them.

Do not sell yourself short just because some of them are cheap. Your cleaner for car exterior should be one of your holy grails so better find the right one.

Step #1: Foam up your car’s exterior

Get your foam cleaner spray because it is time to get this foam party started!

If you have a foam cannon, prepare the equipment that you will need. Then, dilute your foam cannon soap with some water or as instructed by the cleaner’s manual, and attach your foam cannon to your pressure washer.

Related: Learn more 4 simple steps to use soap with a pressure washer right here.

Turn on your pressure washer and spray your foam soap all across your car’s exterior surface.

The foam cannon can efficiently apply a thick layer of foamy soap that will later soften and help lessen or remove baked on dirt from car.

Doing a dirty car exterior cleaning can be hard. That is why we have to remove the accumulated gunks with whatever means possible. But if you don’t have a foam cannon available at hand, you can simply skip this part.

Step # 2: Rinse From Top to Bottom


After letting the foam sit for a while and let the chemicals do their work, rinse them down with clean water.

Using your pressure washer or water hose, set it to the lowest possible setting and rinse your car down until you clean the outside of a car from soap and dirt.

Some of the softened dirt from the foam cleaner should have been removed while washing down thus leaving you to remove caked on dirt from car.

Stubborn dirt won’t be easily removed with just this step but this will help a lot in your cleaning process.

Step #3: Scrub and Wash your Car’s Exterior


Split your car into different parts for easier cleaning:

  • Roof and windows
  • Hood
  • Trunk
  • Right side panels
  • Left side panels
  • Wheels

Use your bucket to make a soapy water solution for your car with your car shampoo. Read over the instructions on how to dilute the soap for better results. Soak your sponge with the solution and scrub.

You can also use a soft-bristled brush if there is hardened mud on the exterior or a brush wheel for your car wheels.

To avoid reintroducing the dirt to other parts of your car, start from the top to the bottom when cleaning each part.

  • Wash and clean exterior roof of car with your soaked sponge and rub it well until any visible dirt is removed. You can also clean your windows along with your roof to make it more time efficient.

If you have a separate window soap cleaner or prefer to use DIY household products, you can mix them in a separate bucket and use a separate sponge to clean your windows.

  • Wash the roof and windows that you recently scrubbed with soap until all soap and dirt have been removed.
  • Work on the rest of the parts with the same method. Scrub and rinse before proceeding to the next part until finished.
  • You may have to repeat the process until all the dirt is removed.

The reason why we clean the exterior part by part is to prevent the soap from drying on your car’s surface. We have to remove deep dirt from a car so we should not create new stains in the process.

Step #4: Dry the Surface

Using your microfiber towels or clean rags, soak up all the leftover water from rinsing and make sure you do not miss a spot.

We don’t want any water droplets to dry into the exterior which may result in an unsightly water spot.

Step #5: Work on the Detail


Once you have removed all the dirt and grime on your car’s surface, you can now properly detail a car exterior.

Apply the compatible protectants into your car and windows and make sure that you have applied them properly. Use a circular motion when spreading the protectant solution and let it sit for a couple of minutes (or as instructed) for it to bond with the surface.

Lastly, coat your car with a thin layer of car wax to make it glimmer and look brand new.

If you are unsure about car exterior detailing by yourself, you can refer to the instruction manual of your wax or polish for a proper guide.

It is important that you do this step to make your car look new for as long as possible while being protected from future dirt and scratches.

Can I Use a Degreaser When Cleaning My Car’s Exterior?


You can also use a degreaser if you have oily residue on your car’s surface. If you are going to use degreaser on car paint just because, then you better think twice. Degreasers can remove your car’s wax making it look dull and may lead to potential damage.

If you feel like it is okay to use the degreaser on any painted surface, make sure to replace any area that was stripped off of wax during the process.

Can I Clean a Very Dirty Car Without Water

There is a method to clean without water called waterless car wash but this may be ineffective if your exterior is covered in lumps of dirt. It is still better to deep clean your dirty car using the proper method.

Once your car is cleaned, you can check out a waterless car wash for occasional or spot cleaning.

How Do You Remove Ingrained Dirt From a Car?


You can clean baked-on dirt yourself when you follow the given steps:

  • Foam up your car’s exterior
  • Rinse from top to bottom
  • Scrub and wash your car’s exterior. Do it part by part and repeat if necessary
  • Dry the Surface
  • Work on the Detail

If you want this process to be more effective, check all your cleaning equipment, ingredients, and instructions beforehand. Having a clear understanding of what to do and what not to do is one of the keys to keep car clean outside.

How Do You Clean a Car That Has Been Sitting for Years?

You can also use the steps mentioned in this article but do not expect the impossible. A car that has been sitting on dirt and grime for years is susceptible to extreme damage to the car’s paint and metal.

Once you clean off the outer dirt, you may find rust, faded car paint, and other problems lying underneath.

It may be clean but the damage may be so severe that you have to replace the parts or worse- the car exterior is no longer salvageable.

This is why you must clean car exterior daily and avoid leaving it to rot.


By the time you are reading this, you should have learned how to clean a really dirty car exterior by yourself along with some helpful tips to guide you.

So why pay for an expensive car wash when you can do it yourself in an economical manner? Stop procrastinating on the cleaning that should have been done already and get those arms working.

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