Washing your car is not just needed to make your car look better as you drive down the road. Regular washing can help maintain the vehicle and keep its value, thus saving you money now and earning you more money later should you try to resell it.
That said, washing your car incorrectly can do more harm than good. We asked our experts how to properly wash a car. Here’s how to do it.
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Start With a Clean Base
First, make sure to move your vehicle to a proper location before washing. Never wash a hot car. The vehicle should be cool to the touch and out of direct sunlight.
Start by getting rid of any debris on your car (underneath the wiper blades is a good place to start). Clean any bug, bird droppings and tree sap stains. To do so, use denatured alcohol or a bug and tar removal product.
You can then get the vehicle good and wet to wash off any accumulated dirt. Rinse off the entire car prior to handwashing. Since you have the hose out, rinse under the vehicle as well as inside the wheel openings to wash off any accumulated dirt.
How to Properly Wash a Car
Do not use household cleaners such as hand or dish soap. These products can strip off the car’s protective wax. Instead, use a dedicated car wash soap. These products are milder and specifically designed for use on automotive paint.
When washing your car, use the two-bucket method. One bucket will have the clean, soapy water, the other is where you’ll drop the dirty water. Using only a single bucket requires you to repeatedly dip the sponge into dirty water, thus putting dirt right back on the car you’re trying to clean. Not only is it counterproductive, but the dirt could also damage the paint.
When you’re ready to begin washing, do so from top to bottom, focusing on one section at a time. Use lots of water and rinse off each section of the car as you move along. This will prevent the car from air drying. (More on that below).
PRO TIP: Wash the wheels with a special wheel-washing brush with soft bristles for the tires. This brush will enable you to get in all the nooks and crannies.
Drying the Car
Do not forget to hand dry your car. Allowing it to air dry will leave behind streaks and water marks. To properly dry the car, use a chamois or fluffy microfiber cloth.
This is a good time to use a quick detailer spray wax or paint sealant. It doesn’t replace hand waxing to help protect the paint but it is a quick and easy step.
Cleaning the Windows
Once the car is dry, it is time to clean the windows. To do so, use a high-quality window cleaner. Spray the cleaner on the windows and wipe down with paper towels. Remember to open the windows to get the top area that slides up into the door. Once the windows are clean go over them with a microfiber cloth to remove any extra cleaner spray.
PRO TIP: Use a few-weeks-old black and white newspaper to clean your windows rather than paper towels for the least amount of streaks.
Inside the car, wipe down all surfaces, dust the vents and clean the interior windows and steering wheel with a microfiber cloth. Be sure to use a cleaner that is made for car interiors, as harsh alcohol and ammonia-based sprays could cause damage. Professionals often recommend using a 50/50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water.
Cleaning seats properly depends on the type of material they are. Read our article on how to clean leather, vinyl and more. Then, vacuum and clean the mats and carpet. Don’t forget the crumbs in your center console and cup holders!
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Tell us you car wash tips and tricks in the comments below.