3 Bucket Car Wash Method: Everything You Need To Know

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3 bucket system

While most people use two buckets, there’s even a safer way to wash your car: the 3-bucket method. In this post, I’ll explain how this system should be used so you can benefit from it the most.

Key Takeaways:

  • The 3 bucket method includes a wash bucket, a rinse bucket, and a wheel bucket.
  • The 3 bucket system requires you to spend a bit more time washing your car, but with all the benefits of using this system, it’s worth it.
  • Each of these buckets should have grit guards installed to prevent microfiber wash mitts and brushes from picking up dirt from the bottom of the buckets.

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. 

When cleaning the wheels, make sure to also wash your microfiber 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 should 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, towels, or brushes for cleaning the wheels and the car.

After washing your mitt or other microfiber towels 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 that 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.

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.

Paint correction 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 process.

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. The 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 buying dedicated car wash buckets is the best option.

Check out my top picks for the best car wash buckets you can buy without spending too much money.

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