How to Wash a Truck: Tips on How to Clean a Big Rig Effectively

Cleaning a semi-truck is about more than just keeping it clean. The 18-wheeler is not just a vehicle or a tool, it reflects its driver's attitude and approach. A clean truck always speaks for itself. If you're a CDL holder like a company driver, an owner operator or run a fleet of big rigs, understanding the right way how to wash a truck is crucial. Let's dive into a step-by-step guide to make sure your semi-truck sparkles.


  1. How Much Time Does It Take to Clean a Semi-Truck?
  2. Essential Tools and Equipment for Washing a Truck
  3. What Are the Best Chemicals and Solvents for Truck Wash?
  4. How to Wash a Truck by Hand?
  5. Using a Truck Wash to Clean Your Semi-Truck
  6. How much does it cost to wash a semi-truck?
  7. How to Clean Truck Interior: Creating a Cozy and Sanitary Cabin

How Much Time Does It Take to Clean a Semi-Truck?

A semi-truck is a huge vehicle – wide, tall, and pretty long. It isn't easy to wash it from the outside. If you're a newbie at washing, expect that it will take you at least one hour to wash a bobtail truck and achieve a satisfactory result. If you have basic skills in washing a big rig, you may succeed in just half an hour. No doubt, everything depends on the dirtiness of your truck. If it is covered with ice, snow, mixed with road salt, and ice-melting reagents, washing will require a lot of effort.

How to wash your truck

Essential Tools and Equipment for Washing a Truck

Manual semi-truck washing requires some special tools and equipment. The biggest helper is a pressure washer. You can find electric-powered and gas engine-powered ones. The more water pressure it builds up, the easier washing will be. 2000 PSI of water pressure is a necessary minimum for fast and efficient washing of a big rig.

The must-have accessory for big rig washing is a soap dispenser. Actually, it is the soap, or to be precise – surfactant or presoak – that makes all the washing magic. Soap dispensers are almost always included with a pressure washer. The top-shelf pressure washers even have onboard or built-in detergent (soap) tanks.

Truck Washing Equipment

If you don’t possess a pressure washer, but you have a source of running water and a garden hose, you also may quite successfully wash your big rig. Anyway, you will have to cover your vehicle with soap or, better, a special surfactant. To do so, ensure you have a downstream injector that sucks presoak or surfactant from the bucket and adds it to the water you are flushing your truck with.

Truck washing won’t do without a wash brush with a long extending telescopic arm, allowing you to rub and clean hard-to-reach areas of the big rig. You may want to have a brush with soft split filament or lint-free microfiber bristles to ensure scratch-free cleaning. Avoid using brushes with harder bristles as they may damage the truck’s body paint.

The complete semi-truck washing kit should include a windshield squeegee and a microfiber wash mitt to ensure a sparkling clean result. Absorbent towels are a must if you’re looking for a perfect result without a touch of dried water drops on the body of your truck.

Truck Washing Tools

What Are the Best Chemicals and Solvents for Truck Wash?

The market offers numerous products for washing your truck. Chemicals used for truck washing are similar to those for other vehicles, but they can differ in pH levels and cleaning strength. Since trucks often deal with challenging and dirty tasks, the aim of truck washes is more about achieving a thorough clean rather than just a shiny, spotless appearance, which is usually the objective of standard car washes. Just make sure that you stick to well-known manufacturers of cleaning solutions. Brands like TurtleWaxPro, Renegade Chemicals, JBS Industries, A-One Chemicals, and many others offer special solutions for truck wash, including very basic manual ones.

Truck Washing Chemicals

There are special categories of products. As mentioned before, you won't achieve a clean result without a presoak. Presoak is a type of chemical specifically formulated to soften and lift dirt and grit from the exterior of your truck. Typically applied at the beginning of the washing process, it helps to dissolve stubborn dirt, enabling the subsequent cleaning chemicals to work more efficiently.

Specialized chemicals are available for cleaning truck surfaces with bug buildup, as well as unique detergents designed for washing wheels and tires. These formulations are adept at eliminating stains and lingering brake dust from a truck's exterior.

Modern trucks have polished aluminum and chrome details in their exterior outfit. To maintain their bright and sleek appearance, special aluminum brighteners are designed. Brighteners remove oxidation, fight fading of the polished surface, and clean other imperfections on these types of surfaces. So, if you’re looking to revive polished aluminum wheels and other external aluminum components of your truck, use special brighteners to maintain their pristine appearance.

Let Your Truck Shine

To achieve an impressive finish, a range of special repellent coatings and surface protectants are available. These products impart a brilliant shine to the semi-truck's exterior. Surface protectants are formulated to defend against UV rays, swirl marks, and various environmental impacts, keeping the truck's exterior in excellent shape by forming a thin protective layer against outside elements. These protective treatments are available in diverse types, including waxes, ceramic coatings, and sealants, each offering its own level of protection and aesthetic enhancement.

Discovering the best way to wash a truck can significantly enhance its appearance and longevity, ensuring your vehicle always looks its best. Also, your employer may grant you a special reward and bonus to compensate for all your efforts.

How to Wash a Truck by Hand?

Washing a truck can often be a solo task. For many truck drivers, taking care of their big rig is a gratifying aspect of their work. Apart from plain cleaning, truck wash helps spot potential issues early on, preventing future hazards.

Here is the step-by-step instruction on how to wash a semi-truck manually:

Start with a Pre-Soak: Removing dirt and grime from your tractor-trailer is essential. This initial rinse aids in softening stubborn dirt, making the subsequent scrubbing process more effective.

Select Appropriate Cleaning Solutions: Opt for professional automotive or truck-specific soaps. Regular household detergents might harm your semi-truck’s paint and finish.

Gentle Scrubbing: Use a soft wash mitt or foam brush, focusing on the areas that require maximum attention. For higher sections, an extended brush can be a safer alternative to ladders, ensuring a thorough clean while maintaining safety.

Comprehensive Rinsing: Rinse off all soap, tackling one section at a time. This method prevents soap from drying and leaving residue on the vehicle’s surface.

Drying and Wax Application: While air drying is a possibility, hand drying with a soft cloth ensures a streak-free finish. A layer of surface protector also enhances the truck's aesthetic, showcasing your commitment to professionalism on the road.

Detailed Inspection: After washing, inspect your vehicle thoroughly, including mirrors and other small components, to ensure no spot is missed.

Big Truck Washing

Using a Truck Wash to Clean Your Semi-Truck

Many prominent carriers provide truck wash services at key locations, offering complimentary washes for their drivers during routine maintenance or the option to use pre-paid washes at designated truck wash facilities. To find the most suitable truck wash, align your choice with your company's policies and existing partnerships.

The cost varies depending on the type of wash: a basic tractor wash is generally cheaper compared to a more comprehensive tractor-and-trailer wash that includes advanced undercarriage cleaning. Consider whether you need additional services like protectant application, exterior trailer cleaning, a complete interior trailer washout, tire dressing, or polishing. While you should adhere to your company's guidelines, the final decision on these extra services typically rests with you.

Using a Truck Wash

How much does it cost to wash a semi-truck?

The truck washing price can vary based on the chosen method and extent of cleaning. Manual washing, especially if self-performed, is often more economical, while services like mobile or automatic truck washes may be pricier but offer thorough and convenient solutions. The cost for an automated wash ranges typically between $35 to $70, with additional charges for extra services like interior cleaning or wax application.

How to Clean Truck Interior: Creating a Cozy and Sanitary Cabin

The interior of your truck is akin to a second home during long hauls, and its upkeep is crucial. Here's how to conduct truck interior cleaning:

Initial Cleanup: Begin by removing all trash and debris from the cab.

Vacuuming: Clean seats, floor mats, and other areas with a vacuum to remove dirt and dust.

Surface Cleaning: Wipe down all interior surfaces, including the dashboard and window interiors, using suitable cleaning agents.

Sanitizing: Regularly disinfect high-touch areas to maintain a clean and germ-free environment in your 18-wheeler.

In summary, whether it’s conducting a thorough exterior wash, a meticulous interior cleanup, or evaluating the cost factors involved, mastering how to wash a truck is fundamental for any commercial vehicle operator. Proper cleaning practices not only enhance the visual appeal of your semi-truck but also contribute significantly to its operational efficiency and durability on the road.

Clean Trucks

Are you a CDL holder looking for a trucking job with a company that sees its drivers as family? Look no further than HMD Trucking. We truly value our drivers, offering competitive pay, top-notch trucks in prime condition, and the liberty to drive as much as you like. Start your adventure with us by filling out the form below. Our recruitment team will get in touch with you shortly. Join a community where you're truly appreciated.

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