How to Wash Your Car

Tips for the do-it-yourself car wash

Hand washing a car can be therapeutic and beneficial for both the vehicle’s appearance and the owner’s state of mind. Regular washing is also an effective way to maintain a new car finish and detect any potential issues, such as rust or loose trim. However, care should be taken to avoid scratches or damage to the finish. Here are some tips for properly washing a car.

Choosing the Right Products for Washing Your Car

  • Using household cleaning products such as hand soap, dishwashing detergent, or glass cleaner on your car’s paint can be harmful. These products are not designed for automotive use and may remove the protective wax on the paint.
  • For best results when washing your car, it’s recommended to use a specialized car-wash product that is specially formulated for use on automotive paint. These products are generally milder and safer to use than household cleaning agents. To apply the suds, use a large, soft natural sponge or a lamb’s-wool mitt. When it comes to removing stubborn deposits such as grease, rubber, and road-tar, which often accumulate around the wheel wells and along the lower edge of the body, you may need a stronger product such as a bug-and-tar remover. Be sure to use a soft, non-abrasive cloth to remove these deposits as they can quickly blacken your sponge.
  • It’s important to use a separate sponge or brush when cleaning the wheels and tires of your car, as they tend to be coated with sand, brake dust, and other debris that can damage the car’s finish. Using mild soap and water may work, but if not, a specialized wheel cleaner may be necessary. Be sure to choose a cleaner that is compatible with the type of finish (paint, clear-coat, chrome, etc.) on your wheels, as using a strong formula intended for mag wheels, for example, can damage the clear coat on today’s car wheels. To be safe, select a cleaner that is labeled as safe for use on all types of wheels.
  • Using tire dressing products, which are marketed as adding shine to tires and protecting them from harsh dirt and oils, UV light, and ozone, is not necessary. Many tire manufacturers claim that these products are not needed to preserve tires and that the shine is only cosmetic. They also claim that their tires have built-in antioxidants and waxes that protect them from the environment, and that a dull appearance over time is simply the migration of these waxes to the surface, which actually helps protect the tire. Simple soap and water is all that’s needed to clean the tires.
  • It’s recommended to apply a seasonal wax to your car to help protect it from the elements and give it a new-like shine. This will also help in preserving the paint for a longer period of time. It’s best to refer to a car wax buying guide for tips and advice on the different types of waxes available to choose the one that suits your needs.

Also read: 5 Strategies for Maximizing the Efficiency of Your Car’s Air Conditioning

What are the General Rules to Follow When Cleaning a Car?

  • It’s important to avoid washing a car when its body is hot, such as directly after driving it or after it has been parked in direct sunlight for a while. The heat dries the soap and water quickly, making the washing process more difficult and increasing the risk of spots or deposits forming.
  • When washing, avoid using circular motions with the sponge as it can create light scratches called swirl marks. Move the sponge lengthwise across the hood and other body panels. Also, do not continue using a sponge that’s dropped on the ground without thoroughly rinsing it out as it can pick up dirt particles that can scratch the paint.
  • Before washing, rinse all surfaces thoroughly with water to remove loose dirt and debris that could cause scratching. Focus on one section at a time, washing and rinsing each area completely before moving on to the next one. This ensures that you have plenty of time to rinse before the soap dries. Start at the top and work your way around the car. Use a hose without a nozzle and let the water flow over the car from top to bottom to create a sheeting action that helps minimize pooling of water.
  • When using a car-wash solution, work it into a lather with plenty of suds that provide lots of lubrication on the paint surface. Rinse the sponge often. Using a separate bucket to rinse the sponge keeps dirt from getting mixed into the sudsy wash water.

Proper Methods for Drying a Car after Washing

To effectively dry your car and avoid watermarks or scratches, avoid air drying the car and a quick drive around the block. Instead, use a chamois or soft terry towel to blot up the water. Using several towels may be necessary. Avoid using abrasive materials that can scratch the paint. To speed up the drying process, you can use a soft squeegee to remove most of the water, but ensure the rubber is pliable and that it doesn’t pick up any dirt that can cause scratches.

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