Car washes are summertime favorites to raise money for charities and local organizations. They are especially great for teens and young adults who don’t mind getting dirty to achieve their goals. However, car washes require a little planning to make sure the clients stay happy, all problems are avoided or prepared for and the organization makes its goal amount of money.

Step 1.

Determine the amount of money the organization needs. The most successful car washes ask for a specific donation amount, such as $5. Simply asking for a donation will may have you wasting precious time on insincere people. Divide the amount of the goal needed by $5 (or whatever donation amount you decide on). The number you get is your goal amount of car washes for the day.

Step 2.

Divide the goal amount of car washes for the day by the number of hours you will be set up to provide the car washes. This lets your team know the number of washes they should aim to finish and helps everyone stay on track without wasting time.

Step 3.

Pick a location that is easy for clients to see the team working and also easy to get on and off the road. If the location is in a busy spot, potential clients may not take the time to try and get out of traffic. You also need a location with free access to a water supply. Some local businesses may allow a team to perform car washes in their parking lots and use their resources in exchange for advertisement.

Step 4.

Make brightly colored signs that easy to read from a very long distance. Do not try to put too much information on each sign. Your clients need to know how much they are expected to donate and where their money is going. Usually, two large signs which read “Car Wash $5” and two large signs with the name of your organization are enough. Use brightly colored poster board with thick black letters painted on to make them eye catching but also easy to read.

Step 5.

Ask local businesses to donate cleaning supplies, buckets and sponges to the car wash. In exchange, offer to make large signs with “Supplies Donated By ___” to display at the car wash.

Step 6.

Designate a few people from the team to stand at the road with the signs. Big smiles and friendly personalities are the most important thing. Clients are less likely to pull in if the sign-holders appear obnoxious or bored.

Step 7.

Assign different team members a different task so each car gets washed quickly, efficiently, but also with a good quality. Assign four team members to the tires with brushes and tire cleaner as four other team members take care of the windshield and windows. Then have everyone scrub a section of the car.

Step 8.

Be aware that the biggest complaint of charity car washes is streaking on the car or windshield. Be sure to thoroughly rinse each car and use towels to hand dry the windshields and mirrors. The most efficient way to quickly rinse the car is to pass the hose from person to person around the car.

Step 9.

Remind your team to smile and have fun without being obnoxious or wasting the client’s time. You want them to feel good about their decision to give their money to you instead of the car wash.

Step 10.

Have small flyers or cards ready with information about your organization and what the money is going to benefit. If your team is raising money for a mission trip, include facts about the mission and why you want to go. If your team is raising money for a separate charity, include information about the charity and why your team chose it. As you take the donation from the client, give them each this card. They can review the information later. This makes your client feel your organization is legitimate and they are more likely to encourage friends, family and co-workers to visit the car wash as well.


Ask for a specific amount.


Keep track of how many washes the team performs and encourage them to complete the goal amount each hour.


Depending on the nature of your organization and goal, you may encourage your team to wear anything form bikinis to regular workout clothing. Be aware of the charity or goal, though. Wearing skimpy bikinis may confuse clients if your money is going to benefit an abstinence program. Be appropriate, but also have fun.


Avoid excessive screaming, running and playing which could turn away potential clients.

Things You Will Need
  • Water supply

  • Bright poster board

  • Thick markers or black paint

  • Cleaning solution

  • Towels

  • Sponges

  • Buckets