What Is The Two Bucket Car Wash Method – And Does It Work?

As with many of life’s endeavours, there are “levels” to washing your car.

Entry level car washing is just that … actually washing your car via any possible means (I mean let’s face it, how many people actually clean their cars these days?)

From there, you can “level up” by doing things like buying superior detailing products, using better equipment, or even looking at something like the “two bucket” wash method.

Maybe you’ve had a friend recommend the two bucket method, or you’ve seen it online – but what is the two bucket car wash method and is it actually any good for cleaning your car?

In this short edition of Car Facts, I’ll walk you through the 101 of doing a two bucket wash, and why you might want to consider doing this.

What Is Two Bucket Washing?

Car washing beginners use the same bucket for everything. You fill the bucket with water and your wash of choice (something like Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax or Mother’s California Gold, both of which I recommend and use) and then you start washing your car with your sponge or mitt.

Once you’ve worked on a section of the car, e.g. the driver’s door, you go and dunk your sponge/mitt back into the bucket that contains the car wash liquid. This achieves to purposes: Firstly, you get rid of the dirt and grime already on your washing implement. Secondly, you “refresh” the amount of car wash you have to lather on to your next panel.

However, the eagle-eyed car washer will spot the problem here.

By using just one bucket, every time you dunk your mitt/sponge/whatever back into the “hybrid” rinse and car wash bucket, all the dirt, grime and small particles of grit that you’ve disposed of in the past risk being transferred directly back onto your washing implement.

In effect, if you use just one bucket you are not “isolating” the dirt that you are washing off your car to the greatest possible extent.

Washing your car with one bucket is like cleaning your bathroom sink first, and then going on to clean your toilet and squeeze out the sponge into the sink you just cleaned.

The “two bucket” wash method helps to solve this problem.

Long story short, you use two buckets (wow, who would have thought it?)

Each bucket has a specific job.

Bucket one is your “car wash” bucket, which contains your diluted wash such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax.

Bucket two is your rinse bucket.

You hose down your car/rinse it off, then dunk your mitt or sponge into bucket one and agitate to get a thick layer of suds.

You then clean the first panel or portion of your car (e.g. one door) and instead of rinsing off your implement in bucket one, you make sure that you only ever rinse it – thoroughly – in bucket two.

You can then return to bucket one and dunk your now rinsed-off mitt or sponge, replenishing the available car wash suds to work on the next panel. 

If you want to take this further, you might periodically empty bucket two (the rinse bucket) and hose it out to really do a thorough job at providing a superior rinse to your washing implement. However, whether or not you do this depends on your willingness to throw out more water than is needed during the washing process. 

The advantage of doing this?

You greatly reduce the risk of contaminating your washing implement with the same dirt, grime and grit you’ve just removed from previously-washed sections of the car.

The benefits?

  • A better, more thorough clean (if you’ve ever done a single bucket wash, you’ll know that fairly quickly the contents of the bucket wind up looking like soapy mud … and you are transferring that back to the car with each dunking of your sponge or mitt)
  • Less risk of dirt or small particles of grit/grime damaging your paint. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of using the two bucket method. With a single bucket wash, if even small particles of dirt, grit or grime get back onto your wash mitt, the action of cleaning your car’s paintwork could then result in scratching (oftentimes very minor/fine scratching, but something you want to avoid nonetheless). 
  • You look like a total boss compared to all the other people in your street mistakenly cleaning their cars with single buckets only. 

Should You Use A Grit Guard With Both Buckets?

If possible, yes. It is worth paying the tiny extra cost to get a grit guard for both of your buckets. 

If you can’t get your hands on a grit guard for each bucket, then at least the two bucket method makes a big difference … but it is well worth investing the extra if you can.

When I last went car wash bucket shopping (exciting, I know) it wasn’t hard at all to find affordable buckets with grit guards, or you can buy “aftermarket” ones that will fit into your existing buckets. 

If you’re not sure what a grit guard is, basically it’s a small piece of plastic grate that slots into the bottom of your wash bucket. The idea is that grit and dirt from your mitt/sponge then collects at the bottom of the bucket underneath the grit guard, and when you dunk your mitt or sponge back in the bucket it won’t come into contact with the grit (which is trapped under the guard) therefore meaning less risk of that grit being re-transferred to your mitt/sponge, which could in turn result in scratching and damage to your paint. 

Recap – What Is The Two Bucket Wash Method & Is it Worth Using?

The two bucket wash method is as easy as one, two … and that’s it.

When washing your car, use two buckets instead of one.

Bucket one (or Bucket A, or whatever you want to call it) is the bucket that contains your diluted car wash, as per manufacturer instructions.

Bucket two contains water, and is where you rinse off your sponge, mitt or other washing implement before dunking and agitating back into bucket one to start the next section of your car. 

This means better isolation of the dirt you are removing from your car, and superior wash results with less risk of paintwork damage. 

Ideally you would use a grit guard in the bottom of each bucket, which will further reduce the risk of “cross-contamination” of dirt, grime and grit particles. 

Don’t forget either to use a good quality car wash – I’m a big fan of Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax, but there are so many great products out there to pick from. If you’re going to put effort into doing the two bucket wash, you don’t want to use some crappy wash that won’t get good results.

What do you think about the two bucket wash method? Leave a comment below – it would be great to hear from you.


  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

2 thoughts on “What Is The Two Bucket Car Wash Method – And Does It Work?”

  1. Over thinking a car wash! How about the microfiber cleaning sponge and rinse bucket getting contaminated? Best to go to twenty new rinse buckets and twenty new microfiber cleaner sponges! Ridiculous!

    • Fair point. I would argue the “two bucket” method isn’t particularly complex and won’t cost much. It’s about as far as I personally go in terms of higher level car washing … I don’t use one of those foam cannons or anything like that. There’s levels to car detailing and washing – this is a fast and easy way in my view to minimise the risk of paint damage. Whether that is worth it is purely personal preference. Thanks for commenting!


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