Washing your car seems like an easy-peasy (lemon squeezy) task, right?
But are you doing it the right way?
It takes more than just a bucket and a hose to get the job done.
Surely there’s no absolute right way of washing a car, but we can tell you all about the plentiful of the not-so-right ones.
Maintaining that beautiful glossy-showroom-shine can be a labor of love that involves far more intricate care than many car owners realize.
Did you know that a ‘mere’ car wash either dignifies or degrades your car’s appearance?
Not to worry, we’re here to tell you all the rights and wrongs on how to wash a car wash! Let’s get into it!
5 Common Car Wash Mistakes
1. Putting it in an automatic car wash
Let’s be real, we’ve all faced the dilemma of choosing between convenience and quality in washing our car. Sure, it’s fun to go through the tornado of water and wind, but it should definitely not be your first choice or any for that matter!
It’s like wiping your car with multiple dirty, sandy, goo-filled mops, causing more than the average deep micro-scratches!
Did you know, those swirly twisty brush things are almost NEVER cleaned or replaced? The last gloop and glop from the previous car (and the 10 other cars before it), is now shared with yours too!
But in all seriousness, over time, the continuous damage accumulates, killing your absolutely gorgeous clear coat, dulling the surface, resulting in a lackluster finish.
So, unless you’re looking forward to the one-way ticket to Swirl City, it’s a hard pass on those automated car washes!
2. Washing your car in direct sunlight
We’ve all probably done this before (at some point in our lives)- washing our car in bright sunlight. Why not right? It’s a perfectly great, clear sunny summer day. No raincloud in sight, you can spot all the dirt and flaws and your lovely reflection too. But here’s why we shouldn’t be out washing the car in the direct, blazing sunlight.
It’s the heat. Yes, too much heat is bad for your car’s exterior finish.
That can’t be right, right? How can too much heat be bad?
The direct heat, water (or worse- hard water full of minerals), and soap is a recipe for *drumrolls* waterspots on your car!
Water + soap (especially minerals) will evaporate more quickly in the heat. And if you have read any of the labels on your shampoos and washes, they will say “do not let dry” or something to that effect. Because once dried, it accelerates the oxidation process, literally enhancing the ‘je ne sais quoi’ ~ dull look.
So if you’re washing it in the direct sun, remember to either wash it in sections or keep the soaps wet!
Here’s what Max did: “I washed my black car today. It was very hot out and the car was hot. The soap dried before I could dry it off properly. When I went to dry the car, the soap had stained the paint and was difficult to remove. What do I do?”
Don’t be like Max. But here’s what Max can do- quickly rewash the area as soon as you can. The watermarks, if it hasn’t set long, shouldn’t etch into the surface. Getting a light water spot remover, like Ecoclean Jen K.O., will fix your problem easily with a spray. But the key is to prevent this from happening.
3. Using the wrong towel
What type of towel should you be using? Is there any difference?
Stuff you should toss aside or leave it for cleaning tires or undercarriages – old towels, rags, or old fabrics – swipe left! Swipe left!
A fresh microfiber towel is much more delicate and absorbent, which helps to protect your car’s finish and speed up the drying process. You’ll need at least 1x for washing and 1x for drying – (and an extra one for emergencies!).
Should you get the plushiest towels? Depends on your budget- 300gms is great but not necessary. Most microfibers work well but remember to keep them clean!
4. Using the wrong chemicals
TidePods? Dawn? Dishwash?
These are some of the 5-minute life hacks on TikTok, that work… to destroy your paint!
These soaps are often highly alkali (perfect for getting stains out of our clothes and washing grease and grime off our plates), but it’s too harsh on your paint job! It strips away all that fine-looking clear coats, finishes, waxes, and more.
Always, always use the best exterior shampoo specially formulated for cars. What are the key things to take note of?
- pH neutral – for everyday washing and a slight bit more alkali for intensive decontamination
- coating safe – for coated cars (too high alkalis damage coatings and remove its protective abilities)
- sufficient lubricants – the lubricants help to glide and prevent micro-scratches
- high dilution – avoid buying water instead of product
5. Not drying the car properly
To some, a car wash is simply washing, rinsing, and drying- done and dusted.
But it’s much more than that. It’s an art form!
Don’t leave your car out in the sun for it to dry ‘naturally’ because it’ll give your car watermarks!
They’re not a good sight for sore eyes, are they?
Which one of these mistakes have you committed? Not to worry, we’re here to tell you the right ways to properly care for your car!
Effective Ways to Wash a Car
1. Wheels first
The dirtiest part of your car is the wheels, so clean them first. Make sure to use a hose nozzle with good water pressure.
Spritz around the wheel wells and undercarriage to get rid of any dirt and grime.
Using a tire cleaner, clean the wheels. But be sure to use the right product for them! Some cleaners work best with specific types of paints and metal kinds; find out in your owner’s handbook.
Once you’re done with each of your wheels, put the mitt aside. You don’t want to use it for the rest of your car (and scratch the paint with the debris).
2. Prep and lather
Pre-rinse your car to rinse away surface dirt and give it a good coat of water.
When you’re washing your car, you’re working to get rid of all the dirt and grime off your car’s surface, revealing the clean glossy finish.
The problem arises when your dirty mitt touches the paint and imparts swirls and scratches into your gorgeous paintwork.
So the solution?
Two-bucket rule: one for cleaning solution and the other for clean water.
The purpose of this method is to remove dirt from your washing mitt as much as possible before filling it again with soap.
Start from the top, and work your way down. The most polluted area of your car is commonly found at the bottom. Working your way from the bottom to the top would risk transferring the dirt onto your car’s surface.
If you accidentally drop your mitt on the ground during the cleaning process, rinse it very thoroughly before using it again. But use a spare one if you have it (just to be extra careful!).
3. Rinse and dry
Once your car is squeaky clean, it’s time to give it a proper rinse and dry.
Rinse your car with free-flowing water. Work your way down from the top, making sure you don’t leave any soap behind.
The final step is to use a microfibre cloth to dry the vehicle. Don’t forget to wipe the door, trunk, and hood jambs.
Keep going and squeeze water from the cloth until you’ve dried all of the spots and have a water streak-free finish that sparkles!
And that, my friends, is how you clean a car.
There’s no better feeling than cruising the roads in a freshly cleaned ride!