Snow and hail make life difficult for drivers during the winter months, but it's the rock salt and grit that are the real dangers for your car.
Any exposed, unprotected metal can rust quickly, so it's important to give the underside of the car – including the wheel arches – a going over with a pressure washer before you get the bucket, sponge, leather, wax and cloths out.
You can easily pay a tenner or more for a basic clean at your local car wash, so why not do it yourself and save the money – and get some exercise into the bargain!
1 Soak it
First, give your car a good drenching. A hose or pressure washer is the best option, but a few buckets of clean water can be used instead. A jet-wash is particularly good for cleaning around wheel arches.
If your aim’s not good with the buckets, use a wet sponge to get water onto the dirty areas, but avoid rubbing at this stage because any grit could scratch the paintwork. Splash or jet plenty of water around to get rid of any large deposits and loosen-off any dirt.
2 Rub a dub dub
Now to get serious. Check your favourite car shampoo's dosing instructions and either add it to a clean bucket which you then fill with the recommended amount of water, or fill your hose/jet-wash detergent dispenser. Some shampoos also contain wax, which is good for short-term protection but won't give you the long-lasting coverage of a separately applied wax treatment.
Begin soaping down your car starting with the roof and working down over the body. Be methodical and work your way around the whole body carefully to avoid missing anywhere.
If you’re using a sponge, wring it out over the ground rather than over the soap bucket. And if the sponge becomes very dirty, give it a good rinse in a second bucket of clean water to prevent rubbing grit on the paintwork.
3 Tackle the details
The best way to clean trim, badges and details is with plenty of water and minimal elbow grease, but a small brush may be needed to get into tight spots.
4 Wash the wheels
Leave the wheels until last. But before you give them a going-over with the sponge, spray each wheel with a wheel cleaner. Leave it to sit for a minute or so before using the sponge to remove brake dust and other muck.
If necessary use a dedicated wheel brush to get into the harder-to-reach areas.
5 Rinse cycle
Again using your hose, jet wash or buckets of clean water with no soap, rinse off the car to get rid of any remaining foam and soap suds.
6 Chamois time
Use a chamois leather cloth to dry the car, buffing it to a shine and removing any streaks.
7 Wax on…
A decent layer of wax can last for weeks, so choose your favourite (we like Autoglym's range), read the instructions and apply. You can do this with a soft, clean cloth or a hand-held polisher you plug into the mains. Usually, you allow the wax to dry before buffing off with another clean cloth.
Make sure you don't get any wax on rubber trim or the windscreen.
8 Get the vac out
Once the outside of the car is dry it’s time to clean the inside. After removing all the mats and any rubbish, use a dustpan and brush to sweep up any loose dirt. Then get the vacuum cleaner and use a nozzle tool to go over the whole of the interior, removing any dust and dirt.
9 Wipe down
Use a damp cloth to wipe down interior trim and let it dry before using trim cleaner. Don’t use a cleaner on the steering wheel because it may become slippery, which obviously could be very dangerous.
A clean paint brush can be useful for getting dust out of awkward-to-reach areas such as air vents.
10 Clean the windows
Use a car window cleaner to remove and dirt, grease or streaks from the inside and outside of the windows. Pay particular attention to the windscreen and don’t forget the mirrors.
11 Finally, the upholstery
If the seats still look a bit grubby after the vacuuming, tackle them with an upholstery cleaner, following the instructions carefully. Remember to leave plenty of time for them to dry before you drive the car, or sit on a clean old towel.