The 3-Bucket Wash Method

Updated: Aug 10

Welcome to GreenTree Auto Styling's blog! This new addition to our company will be used to provide as much value as we possibly can to our clients, all packed-up within a single webpage.


The first blog post we wanted to create is regarding the 3-Bucket Wash Method. This washing method is absolutely fundamental when it comes to properly cleaning your vehicle. It is the first step to understanding that there is a LOT more to detailing a vehicle than most people think.


So... What is the 3-Bucket Method?

The 3-Bucket method is a way to wash your vehicle in order to prevent the chances of damaging your vehicle's paint work. It is a method used by virtually every professional detailer in the world that is designed to prevent cross-contamination.


Bucket #1

Your first bucket is the one that everyone is already familiar with - the 'Wash' bucket. It consists of a 5-Gallon bucket, a grit-guard, and some warm water mixed with your favorite car soap. Pretty simple stuff, so far, right? This bucket is designed to be your wash mitts last stop before it touches your paint. It allows you to get a good amount of lubrication, detergents, and emulsifiers onto your wash mitt to better aid in washing your vehicle.


Bucket #2

This bucket is the most important of the 3 buckets. It is your 'Rinse' bucket! This bucket consists of the same things as the Wash bucket, minus the car soap. (We also add in a little bit of Rinseless Wash concentrate to aid in lubrication but this is not necessary.) Just a bucket of warm water with a grit-guard on the bottom. Now, why is this the most important bucket? I'll tell you!

When you wash a panel of your vehicle with your wash mitt.. Where does all that dirt end up? That's right.. in the mitt! So, it is extremely important that, between each panel of the vehicle, you go back to your Rinse bucket, scrub the mitt on the grit-guard at the bottom to get all of the dirt out of the mitt, double check that your wash mitt is free of contaminants, and then dunk your mitt back into the Wash bucket before moving onto your next panel. Using this process will reduce the chance of dragging all of the contamination across your paint, resulting in micro-marring.


Bucket #3

This bucket is one of those things that not everyone talks about because sometimes.. it's optional! The third bucket in your 3-Bucket Method is your 'Wheel' bucket! If you plan on cleaning up your wheels and tires during your wash process, then this is a MUST. However, if you aren't going to be taking any brushes or mitts to the wheels, then you can skip this one and just use buckets #1 and #2.

This bucket consists of the same thing as bucket #2. Just some warm water, a grit-guard and your wheel cleaning brushes/mitts. This bucket is important because as we all know, the wheels are always the dirtiest part of your car. Dirt, grime, brake dust, etc.. Would YOU want to bring all of the filth from your wheels and drag it across your paint work? I thought not.. So, always clean your wheels FIRST and have a dedicated wheel bucket in your arsenal that never EVER comes into contact with your Wash or Rinse buckets. Think of it as a totally separate process from washing your car and never dunk your wheel tools into the Wash or the Rinse buckets.


So, here's the full process:

  1. Rinse down the vehicle

  2. Clean your wheels and tires using your Wheel bucket and dedicated wheel tools

  3. Foam down the entire vehicle to encapsulate and dissolve debris

  4. Using a clean microfiber wash mitt, dip it into your Wash Bucket

  5. Wash ONE panel of the vehicle, from the top - down

  6. Dunk your mitt into your rinse bucket and scrub it on your grit guard

  7. Ensure that your wash mitt has no contaminants in it

  8. Repeat steps 5-7 until you have washed your entire vehicle

  9. Rinse down vehicle to remove soap and remaining dirt

  10. Dry the vehicle by starting with a leaf-blower to remove standing water

  11. Towel-Dry the vehicle using a quality drying towel and your favorite drying aid. (No, your bathroom towels or beach towels don't count as quality..)

  12. ALL DONE! Great job on washing your vehicle like the pros! You prevented micro-marring and have ensured that your vehicle's shine and luster will remain for a long time to come!