A showroom quality car wash for less than $1.00

DIY car wash tips for showroom quality

I still remember being a little kid and my grandpa driving through a full service car wash. We got to walk through and watch the car get blasted with these funny colored foams and then blasted with fans loud enough that conversation was impossible. I could just stare in awe as the army of guys armed with towels coming out of every pocket descended on the car and began wiping every surface. It was then and still is an impressive display of luxury in our world. For around $25 today you can experience this at your closest full service car wash. The one near me ranges from $25 – $45 for a much more clean and luxurious experience. These places do a great job, but what if you could get an even better looking car at the end and spend next to nothing? You might even get a little tan or some stronger muscles out of the deal.

Here is how my grandpa used to wash his cars before a parade. He built the cars himself from junk yard parts. When he washed the cars for parade day he was gonna make sure they were as close to perfect as they could, but also making sure he didn’t have to spend any more money than was necessary.

1930 Model A
1930 Ford my grandpa built from a junk yard – also some very cool 90s teenagers


Here is your arsenal of consumables:

  • Wheel & Tire cleaner – anything that says degreases will do, get whatever is cheapest and on sale from your local auto parts store or online. I have a 64oz bottle I refill a spray bottle with. It has lasted more than a year at a price of $14.00
  • Wash fluid – Get the best price per ounce on a foaming concentrate wash fluid mine was another 64oz that typically lasts about one year washing three cars regularly. $6.49
  • Tire Shine foam – I always buy the No Touch brand just because my dad always did. This stuff is not necessary but does a great job on the final finish; it makes such a difference that it’s clearly one of the secrets to making cars look new. One can lasts 8 months on three vehicles – $6.99

One time purchases/acquisitions:

  • Microfiber towels – Get a bunch, 20 or so that are bought in bulk packages. I’ve found Costco and Autozone to make the best 3-10 packs. Also get 3-5 larger and much more high quality versions. When you are shopping for these you are looking for fluffy feeling and the packaging to say “finish”.
  • 5 gallon buckets – I use 4 buckets, but that’s just because I have 2 that are permanently stuck together and one is my chair for when I’m doing wheels. You’ll be fine with 2 that are new or at least very clean inside.
  • Wheel brush kit – Just get a generic one, make sure the brush fits between your wheels and has bristles on all sides.

Here is the process – Let’s call it the clean bucket system.
The idea of this system is to never let a dirty towel touch the clean water or clean towels.

  • Fill your wash bucket with whatever the recommended amount on the container says and add water until ½ full (2.5 gallons)
  • Add your ¾ of your bulk microfiber towels and mix very well
  • Give your vehicle a gentle rinse to get any easy dust off (optional if you are in extremely limited space, you’ll just use more towels is all)
  • The towels should be pretty saturated at this point. Take 1 towel and begin scrubbing your car down. When it starts to feel like the towel has run out of soap and water mix then throw that towel in the dry bucket. Repeat this step until you have scrubbed all surfaces of the car, including the door jams
  • Rinse as needed, I live in a very dry place so typically I break this up into 4 equal parts during the whole process.
  • Scrub any foreign particles aggressively with the soapy towel until they come off. 
  • After you have washed and rinsed you’ll need to start drying. Use the remaining bulk microfiber towels for this job and add them to the dry bucket.
  • Grab your clean, higher quality microfibers and wipe down all surfaces after the car is fully dry. (This is a crucial step if you want showroom quality)

If you lived in a place without access to a hose that can reach your vehicle this process still works with an additional bucket that is just full of water and a few extra towels. Your rinse process is using a clean and wet towel to rinse the soap off.

Alright so now the body of the car looks like brand new and you’ve spent nothing other than a small amount of water and a small amount of consumables. At this point most wash cycles you are done. However, when you are really going for that parade look you can’t leave those wheels with all that road and brake dust can you?

Here is how you get your wheels to be admired:

  • Wet the wheels, I will usually use the remaining wash bucket and equally dump it on all the wheels, careful to splash too much on the body or you’ll need to wipe that down.
  • Hit the wheels with the Wheel & Tire cleaner – do a good coat including inside of the wheel.
  • Go clean up – The cleaner needs to do its job and now is a perfect time to put your wash stuff away. (keep 2 towels very wet with the wash solution)
  • After 3 minutes or more your wheels will be ready for your 2 Tire Towels. Get in there and make sure you touch every surface you can with mild to medium force. Each wheel should take you at least 2 minutes. If it’s been awhile you may need more towels and a little more time.
  • Spray the wheel down with water to remove all the excess grime
  • Wipe any areas you missed now that the water did its job
  • When the tires dry spray on a thin layer of the Tire Shine Foam. Let dry
  • Once everything is totally dry go back and wipe the wheels (not tires) down with a dry microfiber

This is everything you need to make your car look like you spent $25+ on a car wash when in reality you spent around $1, got a decent workout and have a pride of ownership that you did it yourself.

The final product

Building Raised Garden Beds – Efficiently

It’s no secret that our family dreams of a homestead where we grow our own food, raise our own animals and live a life more connected to our planet. These goals are very real for us and we plan to pull the trigger at full FI/RE in the next 3-5 years. In the meantime while we cannot have that full dream today we can take steps to learn in the kiddy pool before jumping in the ocean.


One of the big projects I wanted to do was figure out an affordable way to build raised garden beds. I’ve seen tons of people spend a lot of time on craigslist and get free materials. That is absolutely wonderful that you can do that. I, however, do not have the time and energy to track all that down. I also live about an hour away from most of civilization so it’s gonna be a big journey and then dealing with the craigslist curse that 50% of the time the deal dies or is gone when you get there when it involves free. Free is best, but my time has value and I wanted the project to be efficient and affordable. 

Instead of sourcing the materials on craigslist or facebook market I went to our local lumber yard. I made sure to not go to a chain, but the one that is locally owned and asked if they had any 1 bys that were warped or damaged that the contractors didn’t want. Sure enough I got a sizable discount on some slightly warped or damaged wood.

The next step in the process is to get some food safe stain since this lumber is not treated there needs to be some layer of protection from the elements and the soil it’s going to hold back. I know the research says that all wood stain is food safe when it’s fully cured but it’s only about $2 more for my entire project to get the food safe stain. Even if it’s an unnecessary precaution it’s just so cheap that you might as well. 


The other benefit of buying from a lumber yard is that they cut everything exactly to my drawings. I wanted my beds to be 3’x6’, two boards tall with cedar fence posts at 18” at 6 points. I was able to have a professional with a bad ass saw make all my cuts for this project in all of three minutes. Here is the picture of the finished product. I added shelves from some scraps to mount the greenhouse (we are already close to our first frost). 

Total cost of the project, including the 3.5″ deck screws that will last me a year
$109

Not bad considering that built three 3’x6’ garden beds and I have deck screws to last many other projects. On Homedepot.com you can purchase a 3’x6’ raised garden bed kit for $93.46 plus shipping and tax. That one appears to have no additional reinforcements whereas mine has the cedar fence posts which was a large % of the total budget. 

Do it yourself to save a bunch of money, have some pride and satisfaction that you designed  and built something for yourself then go use your savings to buy you and your sweetie an ice cream cone.

Here are the instructions if you wanted to copy what I did.

To make 1 bed
6 – posts – Cedar fence posts cut to 18″ each
4 – plywood, pine, cedar, whatever, just thin and 3′ long
4 -plywood, pine, cedar, whatever, just thin and 6′ long

Position the cedar posts flush with the 3′ boards and begin drilling decking screws from the outside into the cedar posts. 6 screws in a rectangle on each board will be more than sturdy.

In the middle of the 6′ boards screw the cedar posts to both the sidewall boards. Continue fastening the cedar posts to all sides and you’re ready to fill with soil!

We have a long way to go until we are growing 80% of our food, but these first steps of sustainability will provide for us on a small scale until we are ready to fully commit and will also teach us valuable skills and lessons that are much less costly on a small scale then when you are planting on a 50x scale.

The Seltzer Experiment

I like to think I buck the norms and pave my own path. At the end of the day my wife and I are millennials and with that I suppose some stereotypes are true. We are addicted to seltzer. Like most of you that share this affliction you likely tried a Sodastream at some point. After all the machine seems much cheaper than just buying seltzer in cans from the supermarket. After the Sodastream started to seem a little too expensive and annoying to change out the tiny canisters I figured that if this company is packaging such an easy concept that there must be a more  direct way.

From my research the cheapest way to get seltzer is to make it yourself,  but you have to get your gas supply at  your local gas supplier, a company like Airgas. 

There are quite a few levels you can take from here depending on how much work you want to put in up front. Our setup is pretty basic. It’s a 20lb CO2 tank attached to a regulator with removable caps that attach to 2L Pepsi or Coke bottles. Take a 2L of cold water, attach to tank, turn on, put in fridge. 

I’m interested to try the same concept with 5 gallon kegs that you then dispense from refrigerators modified with a beer tap. While a lot more up front work and cost this seems like a fun project that will still save money in the long run. Plus, how many people can say they have seltzer water on tap. 

If we are going strictly for cost savings then the 2L option we are currently using is going to be hard to beat. The upfront costs of the regulator and caps was right at $140. A tank exchange is $44 in my area and makes about 90 gallons of seltzer at our favorite carbonation rate. That’s the equivalent of 960 cans. 

Some quick math:
First tank –  $188 for 960 ‘cans’ or 20 cents a can
960 cans bought in bulk in actual cans (Walmart store brand)- $3.22/12 or 26 cents a can 

The insane thing is that there is no payback period on your investment. It starts paying off on the first tank! This math gets even better as our above example just amortized the entire cost of the operation in the first tank. This means that your second tank and onward will cost 4.5 cents a can equivalent.  Each additional cap for a 2L bottle is about $8.90 on Amazon (get the stainless steel ones, they’ll last years) so you can even add a 2L to your stockpile every 10 bottles and you’ll still come out way ahead. 

We have found that keeping two 2L’s loaded with CO2 and capped with one full 2L that hasn’t been gassed yet is the right amount in the fridge for two regular users. It’s so simple to gas one, but you need the water cold first so that’s why we refill one after use and just get it cold. We also recycle the bottles every 3-6 months and replace them with a fresh Coke (which should be included in the cost, you could ask friends or co-workers for their empty 2L’s and you’ll get more than you could ever want). Remember the expiration date on the bottle is as much for the Coke as it is for the bottle. I am currently researching some more permanent bottles but have yet to find anything I’m willing to try. 

From here I’ll be doing the experiment in my free time of locating a suitable size and cheap fridge along with the necessary parts to do the beer tap build. We are redoing our kitchen so this project is on hold until that’s done. Until then I strongly recommend getting yourself a tank, regulator and some caps. If you happen to find a good bottle that can be reused under 45lb of pressure then link it below.