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How to Wash
and Dry Your Car

Are you washing weekly or washing weakly?

Weekly washing is best because some contaminants, such as bug remains and bird droppings, can quickly cause serious, long-term damage. These contaminants contain complex proteins that bond to the surface and organic acids that penetrate and break down the surface, eating into your clear coat if not removed promptly. Weak spots in the clear coat make your vehicle susceptible to corrosion and discoloration.

Another contaminant is brake dust. Brake dust contains metal shavings from the rotors and adhesives used in the production of brake pads. Brake dust is highly corrosive and very sticky. Try to envision a dirty plume of brake dust mixed with roadway chemicals, showering the lower portion of your vehicle with a clingy, nearly invisible mist. Washing your vehicle weekly will remove these contaminants before they have the opportunity to do unsightly and permanent damage.

Washing 101

Never wash in direct sunlight. It’s also important to choose wash tools that are gentle on the paint, yet effective at removing contamination. As a rule of thumb, sponges and mitts that are plush or have a deep nap are better than flat weave towels or dense sponges.

A sheepskin wash mitt is extremely soft and plush. The fibers are gentle on the paint while the nap is deep enough to accommodate loose dirt and sand so they do not rub against the vehicle. Because wool is natural, it does not last as long as a microfiber mitt. However, for luxurious softness, you can’t beat the texture of wool. Micro-chenille wash mitts are another paint-safe option. Microfiber’s combination of polyester and polyamide make it capable of scrubbing the paint without scratching or swirling. It traps dirt and grit within the fibers rather than leaving them on the surface of your vehicle. Be sure to rinse frequently to release the dirt, grit and particles.

Proper Washing

Wash the wheels and tires first. If you splash wheel cleaner, brake dust or dirt onto your vehicle, you can simply wash it off as you wash your vehicle. Use a cleaner that is safe for all wheels; a water-based cleaner with no corrosive chemicals. Agitate with a wheel brush to clean wheels without scratching. Wash each wheel and tire, one at a time and rinse thoroughly before moving on to the next wheel. When all four wheels have been washed and rinsed EMPTY AND RINSE ALL CLEANING MATERIALS including your brush, your mitt and your wash bucket.

Start with clean water, a freshly rinsed container and a wash mitt, sponge or microfiber cloth. It’s important to use a car wash that is rich in lubricants. The purpose of the car wash is to remove contaminants and lubricate them so they do not scratch the paint as they slide off the vehicle. Dish detergents are not ideal because they remove protective coatings.

TIP! How do you prevent swirl marks? Use two buckets. Fill one bucket with soapy water and fill the other with clean water. Each time you’re ready to reload your sponge with soapy water, dip it in the clean water first to rinse out the grit and contamination you just removed from your vehicle. Then dip it in the soapy water and continue washing.

Always rinse your vehicle thoroughly before you begin washing in order to remove loose debris. Begin washing at the top of the vehicle. Wash down the vehicle as opposed to front to back. Remember the lower panels are dirtiest. Clean the windows and the upper panels before cleaning the lower half of the vehicle.

Rinse and reload your sponge often to prevent cross-contamination. Rinse your vehicle frequently as you work, especially in hot weather.

When rinsing, you don’t have to blast your car clean with the water hose. Free-flowing water (no nozzle) will allow the water to sheet off of your vehicle for a more thorough rinsing.

Drying

Drying your vehicle after washing is necessary to prevent water spots. Water spots are caused by mineral deposits that etch the outline of a drop of water into your vehicle’s paint. All water has minerals, whether it’s from the hose or the sky. As the water evaporates, the minerals remain on the surface and they will invariably create water spots.

Start with clean water, a freshly rinsed container and a wash mitt, sponge or microfiber cloth.