3 Bucket Method: The Best Way For a Proper Car Wash

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washing car with a sponge

You have probably heard some car detailers mentioning a 3 bucket method for washing vehicles. Today, I decided to speak about the 3 bucket wash method and why it’s the best method for an extremely safe car wash.

3 Bucket Method is a car wash method where you use three different buckets, each one for a different purpose. Usually, there are Wash, Rinse, and Wheels buckets that car detailers use. 

Without using a 3 bucket method when doing a car wash, there are chances that you will damage your car paint. And I bet no one would like to do that. Every car detailer (professional or weekend warrior) should know what this method is all about and how to use it properly.

3 Bucket Wash Method: Explanation

As I said earlier, there are buckets for washing, rinsing, and wheel cleaning. Only reading the names of buckets is enough for everyone to understand, but I’d like to go into some details and show you what is 3 bucket system.

1. Wheels Bucket

wheels bucket 3 bucket method

Wheels bucket is used for washing wheels and the area surrounding them, which tend to be very dirty. 

Simply mix your favorite wheel cleaning solution with water, and you can start cleaning your wheels.

When cleaning the wheels, make sure to also wash your MF cloth and brushes in the rinse bucket to prevent any damage and for better results. 

The reason I mentioned the Wheels bucket first is that you shall always wash your wheels first. It’s the dirtiest part of your car, and you don’t want some of the wheel cleaning solutions to end up on your car paint.

2. Rinse Bucket

rinse bucket, 3 bucket method

When you wash one part of your car, you shall wash out all the dirt and grime from your wash mitt, other microfiber cloths, and brushes to prevent scratches and swirls on your car.

That’s the reason we use the rinse bucket. The rinse bucket is filled with clean water and will remove all the dirt from your wash mitt, cloths, or brushes for cleaning the wheels and the car.

After washing your mitt or other MF cloth in the rinse bucket, it’s ready to soak into the wash or wheels bucket again, and continue with car washing.

Remember: after washing the wheels, empty your rinse bucket and give it a quick wash with clean water to make sure all the brake dust and other dirt is out. Then you can go to the next step which is washing your car.

3. Wash Bucket

wash bucket, 3 bucket method

This bucket you shall fill with your favorite car wash soap and water. You will use this bucket to soak in your microfiber wash mitt or any other microfiber cloth that you use for car washing.

When your wash mitt soaks enough soap, you can start washing your car with it. When washing your car, there is plenty of dirt and grime which will stick to your wash mitt, and that’s the reason why using the rinse bucket is necessary.

Remember, never use some of your wheel cloths or brushes on your car paint. Always use a special type of cloth, such as a wash mitt.

Which Buckets To Use?

I don’t want you to spend hundreds of bucks just to buy some “specialized” buckets for car washing. But you have to pay attention when buying them.


One of the most important things to have in your buckets is the Grit Guard. Grit Guard goes to the bottom of your bucket and will prevent your wash mitt or other washing microfiber products from picking up the dirt and dust from the bucket.

So, you have to make sure that Grit Guard will fit your bucket. That’s why I recommend buying some buckets with the grit guard in the package.

The best “budget” option I found so far is Adam’s Grit Guard Detailing Wash Bucket (click price now).

adam's polishes 3 bucket method

You really don’t need too much money if you already have the buckets; even better. Just find some cheap grit guard, and you are ready to go.

Why Is Using a 3 Bucket System So Important?

Some people still use only one bucket when washing their cars. But I can guarantee you that they made some damage such as swirl marks or scratches on the car paint.

Also, some people are using the 2 bucket method. Honestly, that’s also a great method where you only have Wash and Rinse buckets. The con of this method is time. You will need more time to wash the car since you will have to wash both buckets after washing the wheels. 

Also, there is a big chance that some of your wheel cleaning solutions will stay inside the wash bucket, and mixing them with a wash soap isn’t a smart idea.

So, here are the main reasons why you should choose 3 bucket method:

  • You won’t scratch your car
  • You have separate buckets for different chemicals (cleaning solutions)
  • You’ll speed up the time of the car wash

There are many other reasons, but I think that I was clear enough. 

Fixing your car paint is much more expensive than the cost of 3 buckets with grit guards. So, why risk all that money?

Buy some buckets and improve your car washing.

How To Wash a Car With 3 Bucket Method

Here’s a quick video from BrowdensOwn where he explains how to wash a car with a three bucket method. The video is only 5 minutes long, so it won’t take much of your time.


I hope that now you understand the importance of using the 3 bucket method when doing a car wash. This is the safest way to wash your car without making any damage. 

Let’s go and wash some cars!

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