The Best Way to Wash Your Car



You’ve spent plenty of money on the purchase of your car or truck, now the question arises, “How do I take care of it?” Proper washing is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood areas of auto care, and sadly improper washing damages and dulls your vehicle’s finish over time. 

Is It Bad to Wash Your Car Too Often?

Assuming you’re using the proper washing techniques and equipment–or going to a reputable automatic wash that won’t damage your car–there’s nothing wrong with washing your car as much as you want.

While some might view the act as a bit excessive, if you have the means and desire to grab the hose and sponges every day, then by all means have at it!

1. DO: Choose the right soap

One of the most oft-repeated, old-school car wash tips is to use dish detergent for maximum cleaning power — but this also happens to be perhaps the worst advice you could take when cleaning your vehicle. Dish soap is great for dishes, because it’s formulated to cut through grease, but those same strong chemicals and detergents will not only strip the wax off of your car, but also dull the finish of your paint and trim. Always use a soap that has been formulated specifically for cars—unless you are intentionally removing wax in order to reapply a fresh coat.

2. DO: Start from the top and work down.

Beyond using the wrong chemicals to clean a car, another mistake people make is to start cleaning at random, or to begin with the worst areas first. But a professional knows that it is essential to start at the top and work toward the bottom. Use gravity to your advantage. That way, contaminants are not being reintroduced to surfaces that have already been cleaned.

Begin by rinsing the vehicle: the roof, glass, hood and trunk lid, and so on. All of that mud and debris at the bottom of the car? Rinse it off on the way down. Keep that idea in mind all the way through the process. Once you have the loose debris rinsed off, start washing with a sudzy mitt on the roof. Then rinse. Wash the glass on one side, then rinse. Continue washing and rinsing top down in relatively small areas to prevent the soap from drying on the surface. And do not attempt to do so in the sunlight. Work in the shade.

3. DON’T: Let anything touch the ground

Did you drop your wash mitt, drying cloth or detailing rag? It’s done. Forget about it. Walk away. Well, maybe not that last one, but definitely don’t use it again during this wash session. The small particles of dirt and grime it picked up after being in contact with the ground mean it’s guaranteed to scratch and spiderweb your paint should you use it before thoroughly machine-washing it. For this reason, it’s helpful to keep a supply of extra towels and a mitt or two handy to use should you accidentally drop anything while washing.

4. DO: Use two buckets or rinse carefully

In keeping with the same theme, you’ll want to rinse your mitt off in between every dip into the suds bucket to clean off the dirt you just removed from your car. Ideally, you should have two buckets at the ready — one for rinsing your mitt and one for getting a fresh batch of clean, sudsy soap on your mitt to use on the car. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t accidentally scratch the paint while washing your car.

5. DON’T: Wash in direct sunlight

Most professionals caution against washing your car on a bright, sunny day, because one of the keys to a proper car cleaning is keeping it wet until it’s time for it to be properly and thoroughly dried. If the metal is hot, the water, and even the soap, will dry up quickly because of the sun, which will leave spots all over the paint and glass. Keeping the car wet with a light drizzle of water, parking in the shade, or washing in the early evening will prevent spots from forming. It’s also important to rinse with an indirect spray instead of a jet blast of water.

6. DO: Use a microfiber drying towel

Household towels made of cotton or polyester are simply too abrasive to be safely used on your car’s paint. A microfiber drying towel is softer and more absorbent, which will protect your finish and get the drying job done much faster.

Make sure to take the necessary precautions so your car wash leaves your ride shining — not scratched or spotted.


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