How to clean up when selling your car

Wheel things

“Make sure wheels are cold to the touch before you begin or you could discolour or damage the finish,” Ade explains. “Start cleaning them from the bottom up. This way you’ll avoid patches and streaks before you hose off.”

Top down

“Avoid washing the car in the sun and start washing the bodywork from the top down using shampoo and a clean, thoroughly rinsed sponge. Start on the roof and wash one half of the car at a time. Rinse off before the paintwork dries, to avoid streaks, and then repeat on the other side.”

Two buckets, one sponge

“Even after hosing, dirt and grit can cling to your car and scratch the paintwork as you wash. Minimise this by using two buckets: one with the shampoo in and the other with clean, fresh water. Charge the sponge and begin washing then regularly rinse the sponge in the bucket of clean water. This traps the grit and dirt in the second bucket.”

Polish and protect

I used a Meguiars Clay Kit which draws a surprising amount of dirt off the car’s paintwork after washing. I then polished it. Ade says: “Spending quality time on your car now will pay dividends later in the year as it will help ward off the summer’s tree sap, bird droppings and dead insects, and make keeping it clean easier in the long-run.”

Window wonder

“Many people neglect their car’s windscreen and windows, but a good glass polish removes fine scratches and cuts glare from the sun while also beading water when it rains. Some products such as Autoglym’s Car Glass Polish also have anti-misting properties in them.”


You can buy a baffling array of products to clean your car. The most important thing to understand is that household cleaning products generally aren’t suitable because they strip the paint’s surface of important waxes, while household window cleaners will smear on car glass.

Products are covered by a vast range of costs, too. You might want to eschew the old pair of pants you use as a polishing cloth for a £6.49 purpose-made Autoglym article. And while Halfords will sell you a car vacuum cleaner for £19.99, you could buy the all-new Dyson Digital Slim for £279.99.

I asked Halfords’ car cleaning team to give me their pick of budget products and they chose Carplan shampoo and Complete Wheel cleaner and, hardly surprisingly, Halfords Car Polish. I washed half the car with the £1.99 shampoo and half with a £9.99 Autoglym product. Although both dealt with the dirt famously, there was less shampoo residue to polish out on the Autoglym side.

Whichever you choose, it’s false economy to spend hours painstakingly washing and polishing your car then not bother waxing it. And given that waxing takes some time, you should probably go for a quality product; it’s not the sort of job you want to repeat on a fortnightly basis. That said, waxes have come on over the years and the best will go on doing their job for weeks in the harshest climes. Independent car product expert Kim Adams of Auto Express recommends Armor All Shield as a good compromise between price and effectiveness.


It’s an oft-cited fact that a clean car is a more valuable car. Here’s what the experts say. CAP black book editor Philip Nothard claims: “Assuming the tyres are legal, the car is damage-free and has all its documentation, a clean could add up to five per cent in value terms. And by clean I mean more than a quick wipe over with a chamois leather.”

Tim Naylor from British Car Auctions says: “In the auction sector, BCA’s data shows that cars that are pre-sale-prepared tend to attract more buyers and higher bidding. This becomes even more apparent on very high value prestige and executive cars, where a sparkling presentation is expected.”

TV presenter Mike Brewer, a former car dealer, adds: “If your car doesn’t look the business when a buyer comes to see it you’re already in danger of losing the sale.”