best way to wash car after ceramic coating

Best Way to Wash Car after Ceramic Coating

Last Updated on September 28, 2023

In the world of automotive detailing, ceramic coating is the ultimate line of defense in protecting a car’s paint. This cutting-edge treatment forms an ultra-hard, clear layer on the vehicle’s surface, providing a high level of protection from scratches, stains, and UV rays. However, maintaining this high-gloss, hydrophobic shield requires specific cleaning techniques to uphold its longevity and effectiveness.

The best way to wash a car after ceramic coating is by hand using a PH-neutral soap, following a gentle and meticulous washing technique to preserve the coating’s integrity and shine.

Let’s look at this method, along with variations that are perfect to clean a car with ceramic coating.

Hand Washing Ceramic Coating with PH-Neutral Soap

Hand washing with a PH-neutral soap is an excellent method to clean a ceramic-coated car. While it may require more time and effort compared to other methods, it ensures that you treat every part of your vehicle gently and with utmost care, which is paramount to maintaining the ceramic coating.

  1. Rinse the Car: Start by rinsing the car with clean, low-pressure water to eliminate larger pieces of dirt and debris that could potentially scratch the paint during washing. Ensure you pay extra attention to areas like the wheel wells and under the side mirrors, where grime tends to accumulate.
  2. Prepare the Soap Mixture: In a clean bucket, mix a PH-neutral car shampoo with water. The water should be warm but not hot. PH-neutral shampoos are specifically designed to be gentle on the coating and will not degrade it over time. Avoid using dish soap or other household cleaners as they can strip away the protective layer of the ceramic coating.
  3. Wash the Car: Submerge a clean, microfiber wash mitt into the soap mixture and start washing the car section by section, in straight lines rather than circles. The straight-line method helps avoid creating swirl marks on the paint. Always start from the top and work your way down, as this allows dirt and soap to flow downward. Don’t forget to clean less obvious areas, such as the door jambs, gas cap compartment, and the area around the windshield wipers.
  4. Re-dip the Mitt Frequently: After each section, rinse the mitt thoroughly in a separate bucket of clean water and then re-dip it in the soap mixture to ensure you’re always using clean tools. This helps prevent cross-contamination and potential damage to the ceramic coating.
  5. Rinse and Dry: After washing the entire car, rinse off the soap with a gentle stream of water, starting from the top. Lastly, it’s crucial to dry the car promptly and thoroughly. Letting the car air-dry or driving around to dry it off can lead to water spots, which are mineral deposits left after water droplets evaporate. Use a microfiber drying towel or a car drying blower to prevent these spots and ensure a streak-free finish.

Remember, the ceramic coating is there to protect the car’s paint, and washing the car properly helps protect the coating. Hence, these steps should be carried out with utmost care.

Two-Bucket Wash Technique for Ceramic on Car

The two-bucket wash technique is a car washing method often used by auto enthusiasts and professional detailers alike. It may seem like a lot of work, but this technique significantly reduces the risk of inflicting swirl marks or micro-scratches on your car’s surface during the washing process.

  1. Preparation: Gather your supplies. You’ll need two clean buckets, a grit guard (a plastic grid insert that sits at the bottom of the bucket), a PH-neutral car shampoo, and a high-quality microfiber wash mitt.
  2. Install Grit Guards: Place a grit guard in each bucket. These will help to trap and isolate dirt particles, preventing them from contaminating your wash mitt.
  3. Prepare Your Buckets: Fill one bucket with water and PH-neutral car shampoo, creating a soapy mixture. Fill the other bucket with just clean water. This will serve as your rinse bucket.
  4. Rinse the Car: As with Method 1, begin by rinsing your car with a hose. This will dislodge and remove larger dirt particles.
  5. Wash the Car: Dip your wash mitt into the soap bucket and start washing your car, section by section. As with the previous method, always work from top to bottom to prevent dragging dirt and contaminants across the paintwork.
  6. Rinse the Mitt: This is where the two-bucket method differs significantly from other washing methods. After washing each section, instead of dipping the dirty mitt back into the soap bucket, you’ll rinse it out in the rinse bucket. Scrub the mitt against the grit guard to remove dirt particles. This ensures that you’re not transferring dirt back onto your car, which could potentially scratch the paint or damage the ceramic coating.
  7. Repeat the Process: Once the mitt is clean, wring it out, then dip it back into the soap bucket and continue washing the next section of your car. Repeat this process until your entire car is clean.
  8. Rinse and Dry: After washing the entire vehicle, rinse the car to remove all soap, starting from the top and working your way down. Then, using a clean, dry microfiber towel or a car drying blower, dry your car to prevent water spots and ensure a streak-free finish.

The two-bucket wash method is slightly more labor-intensive than standard washing techniques. However, the reduction in risk of inflicting scratches and swirl marks on your car’s paint and ceramic coating is well worth the extra effort. Weekly maintenance washes can further ensure your car looks its best for as long as possible.

Using a Foam Cannon on Car Ceramic Coating

For an even safer and more effective cleaning method, using a foam cannon, especially when dealing with stubborn contaminants like tar, iron, or bug residue, can be an excellent choice. A foam cannon—also known as a foam gun or foam lance—attaches to a pressure washer and mixes car wash soap with water and air to create thick, clinging foam. This foam lifts and encapsulates dirt particles, reducing the chances of scratching your car’s ceramic coating during the washing process.

  • Prepare Foam Cannon: First, fill the foam cannon’s reservoir with a pH-neutral car wash soap. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct soap-to-water ratio.
  • Attach to Pressure Washer: Once the soap and water are mixed, attach the foam cannon to your pressure washer. Ensure your pressure washer is set to a gentle setting to avoid potential damage.
  • Pre-rinse the Car: As with the other methods, especially when considering areas prone to tree sap and bird droppings, it’s essential to pre-rinse your car with water. This preliminary rinse will remove any larger pieces of debris from the car’s surface and prepare it for the foam.
  • Apply Foam: Start applying the foam from the bottom of the car and work your way up. This method ensures that the foam has more time to dwell on the dirtier lower parts of the car. Coat your car in a thick layer of foam and let it sit for approximately 5-10 minutes. This dwell time allows the foam to penetrate and lift the dirt off the car’s surface.
  • Hand Wash (Optional): For extra cleaning power, especially in areas that might have been affected by tree sap or bird droppings, you can use a microfiber wash mitt to gently agitate the foam on the car’s surface. This step is optional but can help remove more stubborn dirt. If you choose to hand wash, remember to rinse your mitt frequently in a separate bucket of clean water to avoid dragging dirt across the paintwork.
  • Rinse: After the dwell time is up, rinse your car thoroughly, starting from the top and working your way down. Be sure to remove all the foam, as any residue could potentially cause streaking.
  • Dry the Car: Lastly, it’s vital to dry your car thoroughly. Use a microfiber drying towel, air blower, or a car drying blower to dry your car as soon as possible to prevent water spots from forming. Make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, including door jambs and trunk seals, where water can hide. The foam cannon method provides a deep, thorough clean while minimizing the risk of scratches and swirl marks.

Though it requires a pressure washer and a foam cannon attachment, the investment is well worth it, especially when it comes to maintaining the pristine condition of a ceramic-coated car.


How often should I wash my car after ceramic coating?

Ceramic coatings, although highly resilient, are not self-cleaning. Therefore, a regular washing routine, sometimes even a weekly maintenance wash, is essential to maintain their protective properties and high-gloss finish. Generally, it’s advised to wash your car once every two weeks.

However, this frequency can vary depending on several factors. If your vehicle is often exposed to harsh environmental elements or if you drive it daily, you may need to clean it more frequently. If it’s garage-kept and rarely used, it might require less frequent washes. The key is to monitor the car’s condition and adjust the washing frequency accordingly.

Can I use a pressure washer to wash my car after ceramic coating?

Yes, you can use a pressure washer to clean a ceramic-coated car, but it’s crucial to use it correctly. A pressure washer can provide a quick and effective way to rinse off dirt, but when misused, the high-pressure water could potentially damage the ceramic coating or even strip away protective sealants. Keep the pressure washer’s nozzle at least a foot away from the car’s surface and avoid using a narrow, high-pressure stream. Instead, opt for a wider, low-pressure setting for the safest results.

How long should I wait before washing my car after applying a ceramic coating?

Patience is key when it comes to ceramic coatings. Once applied, the coating needs time to cure and form a strong bond with the car’s paint. It’s generally recommended to wait a minimum of 48 hours before washing your car. However, this can vary based on the specific product used and environmental conditions, with some manufacturers recommending up to a week. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure optimal results.

Should I avoid automatic car washes after ceramic coating?

While automatic car washes offer convenience, they’re generally not recommended for ceramic-coated vehicles. Most automatic car washes use harsh chemicals and stiff brushes, which could cause micro-scratches and degrade the ceramic coating over time. For the best preservation of your car’s ceramic coating, stick to the gentler hand washing or foam cannon methods detailed above.

Can I use a clay bar on my car after ceramic coating?

While you can technically use a clay bar on a ceramic-coated car, it’s not typically recommended unless you’re dealing with persistent contaminants that regular washing can’t remove. Clay bars can be abrasive and, if used improperly, could potentially mar the coating. If you do need to use a clay bar, make sure to use it sparingly and with proper lubrication to minimize the risk of damage.

Can I use wax or polymer products on a car with ceramic coating?

While applying wax or polymer sealants won’t harm a ceramic-coated car, they’re generally unnecessary. Ceramic coatings already provide a high level of protection and shine that far exceeds the capabilities of traditional car waxes or sealants.

In fact, ceramic coatings can make these products obsolete, as the coating provides a harder, more durable, and longer-lasting protective layer. Instead of applying wax or sealant, focus on proper maintenance and regular washing of the ceramic coating to ensure its longevity.


Ceramic coatings are an excellent way to protect and preserve your car’s paintwork. However, proper maintenance is key to their longevity. Hand washing, the two-bucket technique, and using a foam cannon are the best ways to wash a ceramic-coated car. Always use PH-neutral car shampoo and microfiber materials for the job. Following these cleaning methods will ensure your car’s ceramic coating remains in top condition for as long as possible.