10 Tips for Washing Your Car at Your Apartment Community

Don’t let random passersby deface your ride with “Wash Me” scrawled in windshield dirt. Instead, avoid the old “drive of shame” and give it a good old-fashioned scrub down with an apartment car wash.

Even if your apartment doesn’t have a car wash station on its list of amenities, that doesn’t mean you can’t still DIY this wet and wild chore. It just takes a few supplies and a little bit of strategy to get the job done.

A dirty car with someone writing

How do I wash my car if I live in an apartment?

Sure, you could drive somewhere for a car wash, but where’s the fun in that? Hand-washing a car is a great workout and an even better way to cool down in the summer months. Just follow these easy tips for an apartment car wash and you’ll soon have the ultimate clean car. Bonus points if you detail the inside, too!

1. Use a spigot and hose

The water’s going to have to come from somewhere, right? Even if you know where the spigot is already, it’s probably smart to check with management to make sure you can use it. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even spot you a hose for the job! If not, pick up an expandable hose at the local hardware store. Those are easier to store than the old-school variety.

2. Go waterless

A waterless car wash product is a solid option for cars that aren’t filthy to start off with. So, if you’ve just gone muddin’, skip ahead. These products are not for you. Waterless car wash is available in concentrated form (so you have to dilute it), or ready-to-use. Some even have built-in wax! To use, simply spray the product on and wipe it off with a soft towel. When the towel section gets dirty, use a different part.

3. Use a no-rinse product

Split the difference between waterless and a full wash by using a no-rinse product, like Optimum No Rinse. This three-in-one product functions as a rinseless wash, as well as a detailer and a lubricant. Just add the recommended amount to one or two gallons of water, then apply with a wash mitt or microfiber towel.

Car wheels being washed.

4. Be wheel wise

The wheels are not the same as the rest of the vehicle, so don’t treat them like they are. Clean them first because they’re the dirtiest parts of the car.

Spray with a good hose to dislodge dirt from crevices. Use a tire-specific cleaner and a towel/mitt to scrub it down. Don’t use that towel on the rest of the car because it’s likely pretty gross.

5. Go with waterless wipes

The waterless car wash product community is booming. There are waterless wipes already primed with cleaners available for purchase. Pick up a pack each for general washing, tire and trim and wax, if you want to go full-out.

Man washing his car.

6. Pick up a pump sprayer

Here’s another idea on the waterless front. If you want to avoid the hassle of a spigot and hose (or don’t have access to one), purchase a small pump sprayer. Such a device helps evenly apply a coat of waterless cleaner. Then, you just clean as normal with a mitt or microfiber towel. It can also rinse the car off with plain water (fill it up inside first), but the water pressure isn’t as good as the average hose.

7. Use a duster

If you can’t do a full wash apartment car wash at your complex or just don’t have time, use a California Duster to quickly get rid of dirt and dust and bring back the shine. This tool will buy you more time between washes, and is usable during full washes, as well.

8. Wipe aways bugs with dryer sheets

Sometimes dried up, dead bugs just don’t want to come off. Without the power of a professional car wash it is extra challenging. Before you start washing, use old dryer sheets to wipe bugs off. Then wash as normal.

Toothpaste on car.

9. Apply toothpaste (no, seriously!)

No need to buy a pricey product to put the finishing touches on your headlights. Squirt some toothpaste on a rag and polish up those headlights until they shine.

10. Create your own all-natural cleaner

For the final, streak-free rinse, opt for a green cleaner. Wash the car as normal. Then rinse the soap residue with a hose. Mix three parts vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle and spray the car. Then wipe down with a newspaper for a shiny, squeaky clean finish.

Hand washing a car.

General apartment car wash tips

Specific techniques aside, there are some general things to consider when doing an apartment car wash. Minding these suggestions make the whole process easier, not to mention more effective and enjoyable.

  • Do a quick once over: Before setting up for the apartment car wash, make sure your car isn’t leaking any fluids or oils. That won’t go over well with management.
  • Steer clear of storm drains. It’s bad for the environment, local wildlife and drinking water if soap from the car wash gets into the storm drain. Do your best to find a spot far away from storm drains to prevent any issues, or use an eco-friendly cleaner that is non-toxic and doesn’t have chlorine, fragrance, phosphates or petroleum-based ingredients.
  • Seek out the shade: It seems counterintuitive, but the sun causes streaks. So for the best finish possible, find a spot in the shade to do your apartment car wash.
  • Get your towels: Grab a few towels or wash mitts to get the job done. Make sure to have one each (at least) for the tires, body wash and for drying.
  • Conserve water: Don’t just leave the hose on indiscriminately. Doing so wastes about 10 gallons per minute! While you’re doing the wash — turn it off whenever you’re not rinsing or filling the bucket. Make it easier on yourself by attaching a nozzle that will automatically shut off the water when not in use.
  • Clean up after the clean-up: Other than waiting for water to dry, no one at your apartment should see any residue from your apartment car wash. Resist the easier, but less responsible urge to dump dirty water in the street. Instead, carry the bucket inside and dispose of it in a sink or toilet.

Other than these tips, use your common sense. If all goes well the first-time management is more likely to let you keep doing car washes from the comfort of your apartment parking lot.

Lather, rinse, repeat

Each and every time you wash your car by hand you’ll come up with ways to make an apartment car wash more efficient and easier. Eventually, you’ll be a well-oiled machine for…well, your well-oiled machine.

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