Wash Your Car the Right Way
Care for and protect your vehicle’s finish with these tips.
In addition to mechanical maintenance, it’s important to keep your car’s exterior clean. Regular washing can improve a vehicle’s appearance, increase its value, and extend the life of its body. Car washing may be an easy weekend task, but it isn’t without best practices. Follow these guidelines when washing your car.
Start a schedule
A buildup of bugs, bird droppings, and other dirt and debris can damage your car’s finish. Stay on top of things by washing your car once a week, or more often if it’s especially dirty.
Wash your car at home
Automated car washes are convenient, but opt for washing by hand—if you have time—to protect your car’s finish. Park your car in a shaded area and let it cool, if it’s been running. If the car is hot, the soap can dry quickly and create stains.
Use the proper materials
Wash your vehicle with a cleaner developed for auto finishes. Household cleaners, such as dish soap, can strip off the wax that protects the paint job. Wheel cleaners should be compatible with the wheels’ finish. When applying cleaners, use a soft, natural sponge or a lamb’s-wool mitt. For tough contaminants, such as sap, opt for a detailing clay bar.
Work in the correct order
First, rinse the vehicle. Next, clean the tires and wheels. Once you move to the vehicle’s body, use a new, clean sponge, and work in small sections from the top down and from the front to the back. Rinse each section before going to the next. To prevent water droplets from splashing onto windows, clean them last.
Letting the car air dry can leave watermarks. Instead blot the body with a chamois, microfiber towel, or soft terry towel.
Polish and wax the car
Polishing and waxing are different jobs. Polishing removes small imperfections and shines the surface, while wax helps protect the paint. Do both two to four times a year.