Bus Wash! Have You Ever Wondered How to Wash a Bus?

Oct 24th 2018

A beautifully restored vintage bus, with tourists, on Catalina Island.

From bus wash sprayer systems to brick-and-mortar set-ups that run exactly like car washes, it’s not difficult to figure out how to wash a bus. A little bus wash soap, a little water, and a little technique. That’s really about it.

Some drivers choose to wash their own buses, or the owner may put someone else in charge of cleaning the fleet. Who does the washing up doesn’t matter as much as how it’s done. Whatever the method, we have dozens of tips that will result in a cleaner, shinier bus. Have it ready for school kids in the morning or passengers ready for a cross-country adventure.

Passengers deserve the best, regardless of how old they are or where they’re going. They deserve a ride that has been properly cleaned with good bus wash soap and rinsed with fresh water. Young children and teens on the school bus need a disinfected, clean environment to keep seasonal bugs and illness away. They pass enough germs back and forth as it is. Adult travelers who choose to take the bus — whether it be down a city block or across state lines — deserve the same thing. Wherever these passengers go, it’s essential that they get there in a clean bus.

Stick to the DIY Method

When considering how to wash a bus the best way, it’s always worth considering the DIY method first: bus wash soap, a rag, and good old sweat equity. While this doesn’t make sense for everyone, some fleet owners and bus drivers do choose to wash their vehicles themselves. Washing a bus yourself can save money, and it gives the drivers freedom to choose their methods and their wash times. If a bus needs to be washed sooner than previously scheduled, it’s not a big deal!

The only thing to keep in mind when washing a bus yourself is that you’ll need your own supplies, like bus wash soap, and several specialized pieces of equipment. Let’s take a look at those tools.

Assemble Your Tools

Even if you already know how to wash a bus, you can’t do much without the correct tools. (We’ll talk about consumable supplies like bus wash soap next.)

For example, a power washer is a huge timesaver when washing your bus, and makes the job a lot easier too. It reaches more areas than you can reach with a regular hose, and the higher pressure helps you to successfully clean the outside of the bus, which has a tendency to attract compacted, large messes that standard hose pressures aren’t good at dislodging, even with high-quality bus wash soap. If you don’t have access to a power washer, a simple garden hose will do helpful for the final rinse and gentle cleaning. Next, make sure to grab your detergent and, if you choose, a foam mixer.

If you decide to be really old-school and wash your bus by hand, you’ll need much more. You’ve washed a car before, right? Maybe in your driveway on a sunny morning? Washing your bus is very similar! For the outside washing, grab the same things you would for an at-home car wash — gloves, sponges and scrub brushes, and buckets. Good sponges and cloths will help your bus wash soap reach its full potential.

For the inside of the bus, assemble a different set of tools. Paper towels, brooms, multi-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, and trash bags are all essential for inside cleaning. You may need air freshener as well, and a vacuum never hurts to get fine dust and debris out of small cracks and crevices. Vacuums are especially handy for seats that gather unexpected debris in the microfibers or vinyl seat casings!

Choose the Right Bus Wash Detergent

Ah, bus wash soap! The linchpin of the whole operation. When it comes to bus wash soap (or more properly bus wash detergent), you have to choose your product carefully. This is an important part of knowing how to wash a bus properly!

The detergent you use should have a high pH level. It needs to be as alkaline as possible in order for you to get the best results. A high pH also helps to keep the vehicle’s paint and finish as pristine as possible. (If you have alkaline buildups like calcium or lime, use a cleaner like CLR to treat those separately.)

Never settle for bargain-basement bus wash soap. If you’re not sure which type of detergent to use, contact your local bus wash and inquire about which products they use.

Never Let the Chemicals Dry

Never let the chemicals you use dry on the bus. This applies to everyone, even those of you who don’t use an additional foam mixer. After soaping down the exterior with your bus wash soap of choice, you can let it rest for no longer than 60 seconds. After that, you need to rinse it off quickly. The tip is particularly important when you’re washing the bus outside in warm or windy weather.

Hot Water Is Best

Using hot water is always best when you clean a bus with a pressure washer. It’s a small but vital tip to remember as you learn how to wash a bus. Aim for a temperature that ranges between 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Fahrenheit — temperatures in this range are effective at melting away impacted dirt while also keeping your paint safe.

Don’t Forget the Inside

The inside of the bus gets just as dirty as the outside, but cleaning the inside isn’t as simple as mixing a little bus wash soap with water. You may be able to find a comprehensive, full-service bus wash that takes care of the interior as well as the exterior, but don’t be surprised if you don’t. Your fleet might have its own cleaning service, but that’s no guarantee either. The interior is an often-overlooked part of learning how to wash a bus.

Just like cleaning the outside of the bus, however, cleaning the inside of the bus isn’t hard, even if you do have to take care of it yourself. The first step is to get rid of any detritus. The best way to do this is to clean from top to bottom. That way, dirt, grit, and food particles will fall to the floor instead of spreading around and creating new messes. You may need to use an upholstery cleaner on the seats, but a vacuum cleaner will suffice in relatively neat buses. Next, take your broom and sweep the floor. Just open up the doors and sweep dirt out the back. If the floors are especially dirty, consider mopping from front to back.

When mopping, a touch of bus wash soap will go a long way: Don’t overdo it. If you do end up with soapy residue, use paper towels or highly absorbent cloth to clean up as much as possible, then rinse thoroughly with water, then dry again with towels or cloths. Repeat until the slipperiness is gone.

Clean the Windows from the Inside

You can’t claim to know how to wash a bus if you don’t know how to do the windows! There are lots of them, and they get so dirty! But even more so on the inside: Everyone touches them — it doesn’t take much for a bus window to end up smeared, greasy, and unsightly. To clean your windows, try using old newspapers to wipe down the panes after you spray them with cleaner. The material in newspapers doesn’t leave nearly as many streaks. Before you finish up, make sure you’ve cleaned the windshield, the driver’s side window, the panes on the door, and the glass in the back.

Try a Gantry System for Cohesion

Bus wash units with a gantry-type setup erase any need for the drivers to judge where to clean, what to scrub, and how long to do it. Ideal for any type of bus — commercial, school, and everything in between — gantry systems take all the work out of mastering how to wash a bus. Forget about measuring out bus wash soap yourself: These units are the full package!

These systems typically have two brushes tackle the sides, back, and front of the bus on a vertical plane, while a horizontal brush tackles the top, the hood, and the windshield. With a gantry system, each vehicle in a fleet of buses can get as clean and sparkling as the others. Everything is even thanks to controllers with programmable logic functions.

Consider a System Without Brushes or Touches

Brushless, touchless bus washing systems mean that you never know how to wash a bus yourself. Touchless washes are careful as they clean not just the bus, but also any of its attachments. In other words, there’s less of a worry that the washers might damage a side mirror or a caution sign. This system uses a gantry platform itself, although some of them have drive-through options.

These systems are also more resource-efficient. They use less water and less bus wash soap and are much faster than hand-washing.

Drive It On Through

Finally, when time is short, you can always find a bus wash that’s just like a traditional car wash. These drive-through washes are completely automatic, leaving the driver with no responsibilities beyond driving the bus through. Different washes may not have the same design, but they’re all set up in much the same way: They do a preliminary wetting and apply bus wash soap automatically. Next, scrub curtains handle the top and the hood, while vertically aligned brushes tackle the back and sides of the bus.

Whether you head to a bus wash station or conquer the job yourself, you have to remember that washing a bus isn’t quite like washing a car. There’s more of everything, and the job is a big one. The most important lesson you learn as you seek tips about how to wash a bus is that you can always use a helping hand. How do you prefer to clean your bus? Do you take it to a wash facility or do you scrub it down yourself? Do you have a favorite bus wash soap brand? Share any tips that you have, and don’t forget to mention your favorite products, on our blog now!