Using the Two Bucket Method of Car Washing to Help Avoid Swirl Marks

Author: Rob Mobberley

The Two Bucket Method of Car WashingWhether or not you have access to running water whilst cleaning your car either via a pressure washer or hose, many detailers still combine these with the ‘ two bucket ‘ method of washing a car.

So why use two buckets when one should do? I cringe these days when I recall helping my father wash his car with a single bucket of water and then afterwards throwing the remaining water left in the bucket over the car to start swilling it off!

Of course what I didn’t appreciate at that young age was that I had just covered the paintwork with all dirt and grit I had worked so hard to wash off.

This is the basic principle of the two bucket method i.e. to avoid the grime and grit getting back onto the paintwork and causing swirl marks and light scratches as you wash your car, motorcycle or other vehicle.

What is the Two Bucket Method?

To use the two bucket method you simply use two wash buckets, putting your wash shampoo mix in one and clean water in the other.  Firstly give your car a rinse to loosen dirt and wet the paintwork. Again if you do not have access to running water use a watering can or similar. Next soak your wash mitt in the wash mix solution and begin washing your car.

Then, before putting your mitt back into the wash solution simply rinse it out in the second bucket of clean water. This will remove the dirt and bits of grit from the fibres of your mitt so making sure they do not make their way back to your paintwork and thus reducing the chances of  creating swirling and light scratches. Now you can got back to the first bucket of wash mix, dunk your wash mitt and continue washing – each time following the same process.

If you want to further ensure you reduce the chances of any of the grit getting back into the wash mitt it would be worth considering using a special inexpensive device such as the Scratch Shield or Grit Guard (links to product pages). These effectively trap the grit, removed from your mitt, at the bottom of your buckets and preventing them swirling back up into the water above the shield or guard.

Related Products:2 x Car Wash Bucket and Grit Guard Combination

Your Turn: 

Do you use the two bucket method? What are your favourite washing tips?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.


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  • alan yates

    Hi Guys thanks for the 2 bucket method I have not used this method but when you read it it is commonsence really so off two buy second bucket
    Cheers Guys

  • Car Cleaning Guru

    The two bucket method, coupled with a grit guard and a wash mitt and three of the best ways to combat swirl marks and light scratches. Remember to dry with a microfiber towel instead of a chamois though or you’ll undo all that hard safe wash work!

  • Amanda Weil

    Thanks for the great article! A motorcycle cover is always a lifesaver for me after I clean my bike; it keeps it clean for a longer period of time.

  • David Sharp

    Have just started to use this method with a sheepskin mit. Have disposeed of my sponges!
    Tips: Don’t get the buckets mixed up when cleaning as the water only gets to look like the soap bucket after a few dunks. Try not to wash car in the sun as this will cause waterr to dry off too quickly and cause drying marks.

  • Carlton

    thanks for the tips guys, to which i am taking on board, im using the meguiars products on my wifes car and mine and could do with as many tips as possible
    thanks for the advise, much appreciated

  • Wrightyboy

    Just ordered wool mitt, on the lookout for x2 bucket/guard ……,…………
    TIP? Once washed, rinse with RAIN WATER I find this stops the drying out marks you can get with tap water. !!CLEAN MEANS YOU’VE BEEN DIRTY!!