In the dry dusty Chico summers our cars start looking bad pretty quick. Living in an apartment usually means you don't have a driveway and hose available to be able to wash your own car. You can always take your car to one of the many car wash places in town, but the quality can vary and some of them get pretty expensive. Some people just really like washing their own car, whether it's because they do a better job getting all the details clean or they just enjoy working outside.
So what are your options?
DIY Car Wash Hacks for Apartment Living
If you want to keep your car looking nice while living in a Chico apartment there are more options than you think. Because of past droughts in California, many apartment complexes shut off exterior water access and removed spigots. Even if there are working exterior spigots at your Chico apartment, your parking space could be on the opposite side of the complex and running a 200 ft. hose through the middle of the parking lot isn't really an option. Here's what you can do.
Get Pump Sprayers
With a couple simple pump sprayers from the local hardware store or Walmart for as little as $5 each, and a bucket you can do a surprisingly effective job. Make sure to get a least a 1 gallon capacity, 2 gallon is even better. These pump sprayers are often used for spraying a mixture of fertilizer and water, buy brand new ones and ONLY use them for washing your car. Fertilizer isn't good for your paint. Put in some car wash soap concentrate and then fill it up with water inside your apartment. Fill the other with just water for rinsing and bring a few microfiber towels.
Try to wash your car in the shade or under a carport and avoid the hottest part of the day. You don't want your car to dry with streaks and spots on it. Pump up your sprayers and adjust the tip so you get a good water/soap spread. Wash your car section by section working from the top down. First spray with the soapy solution and let it sit for a couple minutes and then thoroughly spray it down again before you start to scrub. Moisten your microfiber cloth with some soapy water and rub lightly, don't swirl to avoid damaging paint.
After cleaning each small section of your car you should use the rinse water sprayer to wash away the soap and dirt and then inspect for any leftover grime. It may require a second pass. Check your microfiber towel frequently, when it starts to collect a lot of dirt and grime, switch to a fresh one to avoid scratching the paint and smearing more dirt around. At the end you should take a clean dry microfiber cloth and dry the whole car, if you let it dry on it's own you will have streaks and water spots.
Use a Waterless Car Wash & Wax
"Waterless" might be a slight exaggeration, but it's surprising how much area you can cover with a very small bottle of this stuff. It comes as a concentrate that you mix with water in a spray bottle. You simply spray it on, let it sit for a minute and then wipe it off with a microfiber cloth moving in a single direction and flipping the microfiber cloth to a clean side frequently. You'll want to bring several microfiber cloths if you are cleaning the entire vehicle.
One of the most popular brands is the Chemical Guys EcoSmart Waterless Car Wash and Wax. A 16 oz bottle is less than $20 and makes 2 gallons of wash mixture, or about 6 - 8 car washes, depending on the size of your vehicle. If you have thick dirt and mud on your vehicle, the waterless wash isn't going to do the trick and you should probably just do a quick drive through wash to get the big stuff cleaned off. Then you can come back to your apartment for the detail work.
Chico summers are hot and dusty so within a couple days of washing your car you will likely have a thin film of dust all over it, making it look sad and dull. Get a California Duster to use between washes. It's basically a dust mop for your car, but it works great and gives you your shine back when you don't have time for a full wash.
One of the easiest and most affordable places to get your car washed is Thorton's Chevron. If you buy at least 8 gallons of gas, you get a free basic wash which is plenty for most people. This is NOT a touchless car wash, so those of you with brand new cars and a pristine finish, this probably isn't for you. It's not perfect for everyone, but it is free, which is always the right price. Your 1998 Honda Accord with 250K miles on it will never have looked better.