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The Perfect Father’s Day Gift: Wash Dad’s Car!

This Father’s Day, give his <em>other</em> baby a bath. Here’s how to do it right in five steps.

If Dad has a photo of his precious coupé right next to the family portrait, think no further about his Father’s Day gift. Make him a proud papa by treating him to a car wash done right.

1. Gear Up

Shop your garage for supplies, then hit the auto store to fill in the blanks. You’ll need a wash mitt with a deep nap (it should resemble a shaggy dog), a soft scrub brush, a detail brush (an old toothbrush will work in a pinch), a hose, a car towel or chamois, and your trusty vacuum.

Grab two buckets: Fill one with water, and the other with water and soap. Leave the dish detergent in the kitchen and buy soap made specifically for cars; it’s formulated to go easy on an auto’s rubber components and wax coat. Buy a separate wheel-cleaning soap, too.

Before you start, park the car in a shady spot near your water source. Direct sunlight will cause it to dry too quickly and leave spots.

2. Wheelie Clean

First, spot-treat any bird droppings or dead bugs with a spritz of water and a smear of soap. While the soap’s working its magic, vacuum the interior and collect all that loose change (treat Dad to ice cream!)

Next, tackle the wheels. Soap up the scrub brush and scour those tires, using the detail brush to get into tiny places. Rinse, step back and admire your handiwork.

3. Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After you’ve given the whole car a thorough rinse, slip on your mitt, dip it in the soapy bucket, and give that ride a good rubdown. Work from top to bumper, keeping the car wet as you work.

Rinse the mitt often by dipping it in the clean water bucket, then soap up again in the sudsy one. The two-bucket method means dirt stays in the rinse bucket. (Bonus: You’ll avoid those dreaded swirl marks.) The car’s lower panels are the dirtiest, so save your best elbow grease for the end.

4. The Trickle-Down Effect

Give the car a final rinse, starting on the roof. Though it’s tempting to play firefighter with your hose, use the gentlest spray possible to avoid water spots. Better yet, just remove the spray nozzle entirely to get a tender trickle.

5. Dry Run

Follow the instructions on your towel or chamois to dry the car—some require a dragging method, while others use a traditional wiping motion.

Work quickly to avoid water spots, and be gentle so you don’t scratch the paint. Dry the main surfaces first, then the windshield wipers, trunk openings and doorjambs so drips don’t ruin your flawless Father’s Day present.