As easy as it is to shell out a few bucks at an automated car wash, the damage to your car over time will have you second-guessing your choices. Those scrubbing machines hold the buildup of grime and grit from hundreds of cars, leaving your car scratched and lackluster.
Unfortunately, washing your car at home can create the same dull soap splotches, scratches, and swirl marks into your car’s paint.
A downloadable infographic is available below. Take these tips with you on your next car washing extravaganza!
Looking to get a professional-looking shine done by hand? Here are 7 tips that will have you washing your car like a pro:
Stay out of the sun
Direct sunlight heats the car’s metal body, causing water and soap to evaporate quickly. This leaves behind soap residue and splotches that will require another wash. This rule applies to waxing and sealing, too. The hot sun bakes the product onto the car, which is hard to remove and damaging over time.
Get your cleaning supplies right
Car washing is intended to keep your car paint nice and clean. However, using improper tools is a huge mistake many people make. Microfiber is the best option for clothes and sponges because dirt rinses off the sponge rather than being trapped inside.
Sponges are very porous, meaning they cling to grit that will scratch your paint. To avoid this, there are microfiber sponges that have high water and low dirt retention. The Urban Transit Wash Mitt shampoos cars like a dream with plus chenille that rinses free of grit.
Chamois towels are too flat and absorbent to compete with microfiber. While they do not retain grit as a regular sponge does, the flatness drags dirt across the car with every wipe.
Ditch the dish soap when it comes down to the wash. While it may work well for removing grime, it is too powerful against car paint and strips the protective layer from the vehicle. Use a soft-cloth car wash soap or something recommended by your local auto store.
To reduce dirt buildup in your washing water, use two buckets for cleaning and rinsing. If you want to keep it simple, you can also have one bucket with a grit trap.
The five-gallon bucket on this Rolling Carwash Stool features a grit trap that keeps dirt from reattaching to your sponge. Urban Transit’s stool is the perfect all-in-one option for DIY car washers. If you have an eye for detail, the stool also saves your back from hunching while you go over every nook and cranny.
Start with wheels and rinse afterward
Car wheels are notoriously the dirtiest part of the car. Giving them a good scrub with specialty tire soap removes tar that gentle car soap cannot combat. Once you’ve rinsed the tires, that overspray can be rinsed off before you begin washing.
Once your wheels are clean, give your car a rinse-down to remove any existing dirt and tire overspray. This is an extra step that decreases the likelihood of scrubbing grit into your paint job. Another tip is to make sure your towels, sponges, and brushes do not touch the ground and bring dirt up with them.
Wash from the top down
Use gravity to your advantage! After doing an initial rinse, suds up the roof and work downward. This ensures that dirt won’t reenter spots you have already worked hard at cleaning.
Touch up and scratches
Once the car is washed, it is the perfect time to touch up any paint chips. Your local auto store will have touch-up kits for common car colors. Nail polish is a cheap alternative for those with unique car colors with an eye for color-matching.
Wax or seal after you wash
Now that dirt has been removed from the car, it is the perfect time to create a protective layer for your car. Remember to do this in the shade and away from the sun’s heat.
Save the glass for last
Now that the body of your car is dazzling, your windows are ready for a wipe-down.
Specialty car glass cleaner is recommended since household cleaners are damaging to the protective layer and tints found on automotive glass.
Want streak-free glass? Lose the paper towels and use newspaper instead.
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