Non-car enthusiasts probably roll their eyes at the idea of a bucket specifically designed for washing a car. After all, it’s just holding water and car wash soap right? What is so special about a “car wash” bucket when compared to a normal bucket? The easy answer to this question is that most car wash buckets come with a grit guard, and that’s one accessory every person should own if they wash their own car at home. As for the bucket itself, there really isn’t anything special about it.
What is a grit guard?
A grit guard is a pretty simple tool that is typically made from plastic. It’s designed to rest a few inches from the bottom of your bucket so it traps grit and dirt whenever you go to rinse off your car wash mitt. This helps reduce the chances of bringing dirt back onto a section of your car, which could scratch your paint.
You can also use the grit guard like a washboard for your mitt. Simply run the mitt across the grit guard to get all the loose dirt off of it, letting it rest at the bottom of the bucket.
I can’t stress how important it is to use grit guard when washing your car with a bucket. Without a grit guard, you’re simply rinsing your mitt in a bucket of dirty water and that leaves you a high chance of transferring dirt back onto your car.
How many car wash buckets do I need?
The debate on how many buckets you should use to wash your car will bring about all sorts of enthusiastic answers if you’re asking this on an internet forum. Answers will range anywhere from one to three buckets and my take ultimately depends on the other tools you’re using to wash your car. Here, I’ll explain.
The one-bucket method
The one-bucket wash method is probably what the average car owner uses. They fill their bucket up with a mixture of car wash soap and water and use that sole bucket for washing and rinsing the mitt. If you’re using the one-bucket method, at the very least you should be using a grit guard in that bucket. But I highly recommend to also use a pressure washer and a foam cannon if you only want to use a single car wash bucket. The pressure washer helps to get all the loose dirt off your vehicle before you even use your car wash mitt, and the foam cannon allows you to blanket the surface of your car with your favorite soap without having to apply it with your mitt.
When done properly, using a pressure washer and a foam cannon means you shouldn’t be coming in contact with that much dirt on your mitt. You can just rinse it off in the bucket with a grit guard, leaving your wheels for the very last.
The two-bucket method
If you are not using a pressure washer and a foam cannon, then I highly recommend using the two-bucket wash method. With the two-bucket method, you have one bucket filled with your combination of soap and water, while the other bucket only has water in it for rinsing. Again, I recommend using a grit guard here, at least in the rinse bucket.
By using one bucket specifically for rinsing your mitt before dipping it back into your soap bucket, you can minimize the risk of scratching your car. The two-bucket method is what professional detailers will typically recommend and use. But in my opinion, it’s not as necessary if you’re using a pressure washer and a foam cannon.
The three-bucket method?
Wait what? People use three buckets when washing their car? The three-bucket wash method is basically like the two-bucket method, except you have a third bucket solely for washing your car’s wheels. Your wheels can be the dirtiest part of your car, so you generally want to wash them last. By using a third bucket specifically for wheels, there is less of a concern that you’ll transfer that wheel dirt around.
Instead of buying a third bucket and having to fill it up with water however, I recommend just using wheel cleaner and a wheel brush for cleaning your wheels. This way, you don’t have to worry about your car wash mitt getting filthy from your wheels.
What bucket do you recommend?
There are a few options to choose from if you’re interested in getting a car wash bucket with a grit guard. Here are my picks:
1. Chemical Guys car wash bucket
This is the bucket I personally use. It doesn’t do anything special obviously, but it is a very good quality bucket at a competitive price. I have had mine for several years now, which is why it looks a bit different than the photo above. Note, the grit guard is sold separately.
2. Chemical Guys Cyclone Dirt Trap car wash bucket insert
This is Chemical Guys’ version of a grit guard, called the Cyclone Dirt Trap. It’s designed for wash buckets sized from 3 gallons to 7 gallons and pairs nicely with Chemical Guys’ own bucket of course. It’s available in a variety of different colors too: black, blue, lime green, and red.
3. Adam’s car wash bucket with grit guard and lid
If you want an all-in-one solution that does costs a bit more, check out this recommendation from Adam’s Polishes. It includes a 5-gallon bucket, grit guard, and lid. You can however, get a smaller 3.5-gallon bucket with a grit guard and save a few bucks. There is also an option for a 5-gallon bucket with grit guard and no lid.