When you dropped your car off at the auto body shop, you couldn’t wait to see its new paint job. Perhaps you asked the auto body pros to fix those unsightly scratches on the hood and the doors. Maybe you requested a full paint makeover so your favorite ride will bear your favorite colors. Whatever the situation, your excitement was hard to ignore.
The paint technicians quickly completed the requested service, and you loved the outcome. But on the drive home, you started worrying about all those sources of grime that can quickly gunk up your new paint job.
If that worry sounds familiar, put it to rest. You can’t keep bird droppings, tree sap, winter road salt, or even dirty rain from contacting the beautiful paint on your car, but you can wash your car regularly and properly, as described below.
Wash on a Regular Schedule
How often you should wash your car depends on where you park it and how often you drive it. If you drive your car daily and park it in a covered spot at night, give it a good washing every two to three weeks.
By contrast, if you park your primary vehicle in a lot or on the road at night, you’ll probably need to clean it every 7 to 10 days. And if the car gets driven only occasionally, it likely needs to be washed less often-about every two or three months. Wash With the Proper Supplies
A car wash is only as effective as the supplies you use. Purchase or gather the following before you begin the cleaning process:
- At least three buckets
- A hose connected to a water source, or plenty of water
- A tire and wheel degreaser
- A bristle brush
- Soft sponges or a microfiber wash mitt
- Several microfiber cloths
- A carwash solution
- Several thick, soft microfiber towels
- A large squeegee with a rubber blade
- An ammonia-free glass cleaner
- Polymer car wax
- A poly foam wax applicator
Don’t skimp on quality when you choose what to wash with, especially when it comes to the cleaning solutions you use. Dishwashing detergent and a household window cleaner contain chemicals that strip away the protective layers on your paint and the glass. You can find car-friendly washing supplies at an auto parts store or in the automotive aisle of a superstore.
Wash Using This Step-by-Step Process Approved by Pros
With your supplies at your side, you’re ready to actually wash your car. Follow the steps below to ensure you perform an effective and car-safe wash.
- Park your car in a cool, shade-covered spot. You want it to be out of the sun so the minerals in the water don’t leave spots. The car will also stay cooler to the touch in this location.
- Begin with the tires and wheels. Fill one bucket with water. This bucket is exclusively for the tires. Spray the degreaser onto the tire, and scrub the tires with the bristle brush. Rinse the tire, and dry it with a microfiber towel. Complete this process on each tire, one by one. If desired, you can wax your tires as well.
- Fill the other two buckets with water. Put carwash solution in one bucket. The other bucket is your rinse bucket.
- Get the entire car wet. Use your wash mitt or your sponges to wash the car, working from the top down. Dip the mitt or sponge into the wash solution first, and then scrub it across the car in circular motions.
- As you scrub, look for stubborn grime, like sap or bird droppings. If your vigorous scrubbing doesn’t remove these stains, apply a small amount of liquid paint cleaner to a microfiber cloth and rub it on the affected area.
- Each time you remove the cleaning device to rinse it, dip it into the rinse bucket, and squeeze it out thoroughly. Then dip it back into the wash bucket before returning it to the car. Repeat steps four, five, and six until you’ve scrubbed the entire car.
- Rinse off the car with your hose or several fresh buckets of water. Make sure all the soap is off the car surface before you proceed to drying.
- Dry the car with your microfiber towels. When the towel becomes damp to the touch, pick up a new towel. You can also use your rubber squeegee to gently scrape away water. This method prevents mineral spots from appearing on the paint.
- Clean the windshield and the windows one at a time. Spray the surface with your auto glass cleaner. Then buff the surface with a microfiber cloth. Don’t touch the windows with your hands; your skin has oils that can transfer to the glass and create streaks or spots on the windows.
- A completely dry car is ready for wax. Apply the thinnest coat of wax possible with a foam wax applicator. Use a microfiber towel to buff the wax coat. Let the wax cure for several hours (check your wax’s instructions) before applying the second, final coat, which should also be very thin.
- You only need to apply a fresh coat of wax at the start of every season-spring, summer, fall, and winter. In between those applications, just use a spray wax and a microfiber cloth to touch up this protective coat.
That’s it. You now know how to wash your vehicle like a pro. Next time you get out the bucket and suds, wash your car according to the instructions above so your new paint job will retain its just-out-of-the-shop gleam.