Washing your car plays an important role in car maintenance. Regularly cleaning your car helps preserve that fresh-off-the-lot look and can also be a therapeutic process for those who wash their cars by hand, which we strongly recommend.
Although car wash machines are convenient, harsh bristles and debris can cause paint damage, plus the cost adds up quickly. Who wants to wait in a long line on a sunny day anyway?
Keeping up with these proven car washing practices will protect your car and help it maintain its value over time. Let’s get cleaning!
Best tools for washing your car at home:
Convenient Outdoor Water Access + Spray Nozzle
You’ll need to rinse your car at the beginning of the washing process and after soaping it down. Make sure that the water pressure is high enough to remove any loose debris on the car’s paint.
Car Wash Cleaner
We recommend using soap that’s specifically made for washing cars. Other types of soap such as dish detergent can damage the car’s paint. There are several types of car soaps available. You can choose a soap that’s tailored to your car’s coat, or get a general car soap that works with all types of paint.
Car Wheel Soap
Wheels tend to accumulate the most dirt and grime. There are soaps specifically formulated for this cleaning task. Make sure to choose a wheel soap that is compatible with the wheel’s finish (clear coat, chrome, etc).
Car Wash Buckets
We recommend using two buckets that can hold a few gallons of water. Use one bucket for your soap mixture and the other to clean the sponge/mitt as you’re washing the car.
Car Wash Cleaning Mitt
Car wash mitts are better at cleaning and keeping the paint safe from debris compared to typical wash clothes and sponges. Lambswool washing mitts do an excellent job of picking up dirt and grime on the car without scratching the paint.
Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Microfiber cloths are quite versatile and perfect for car washes. Many microfiber cloths are manufactured specifically with car paint in mind to maximize cleaning and minimize paint damage.
Waffle Weave Microfiber Cloth
You will need a separate set of microfiber cloths specifically for your car windows and mirrors. We do not recommend using the same cloth you used for the car’s body because any dirt or grime you picked up with that cloth may end up scratching the window glass. The waffle texture has tight, microfiber knitting and cleans glass well, limiting smears and scratches.
Synthetic Wheel Brush
You don’t want to use an abrasive brush to clean your wheels since there’s a chance you could damage the wheel’s coat. A synthetic wool brush with a plastic handle is a great option for cleaning in and around the wheels.
Using wax on your car after a thorough wash will help your car maintain that sparkle longer while adding a protective layer. Make sure to follow the instructions that come with your choice of car wax.
Sky's the Limit Car Care is another site with car washing and waxing gear. We love options!
7 best car washing practices:
1. Avoid washing your car if it’s too hot out. Excessive sun and heat can dry the soap and water in the middle of the car washing process, which can be a pain. We recommend finding a shaded area or washing the car in the early morning or evening.
2. Cleaning the wheels first is a great practice when it comes to washing cars. The wheels are generally the dirtiest part of the car and you don’t want to risk splashing the dirty soap back onto the clean paint. Plus, the wheels will get wet again when cleaning the body.
3. As stated earlier, rinsing the car’s body off with water is a must before you begin soaping up the car. Removing dirt and debris will help mitigate the chance of scratching the paint during the cleaning process.
4. Prepare two buckets of water—one for the soapy car wash solution and the other to clean off the mitt. Make sure that the soapy solution is well-lathered to provide adequate lubrication for the surface. It’s also important to wash the dirt and debris out of the mitt after cleaning each area. You don’t want to transfer dirty water and debris to another area of the car. If you’re seeing swirl marks on the car paint, then the mitt might be too dirty!
5. Wash the body of the car from top to bottom. Start with the roof of the car, then move on to the windows. Don't forget to use a window-specific cloth! Next, tackle the hood, trunk, and sides.
6. Rinse and dry. Make sure to rinse off all the soap then use a soft, clean cloth to dry off excess water to prevent water stains from forming on the paint of the car. You just worked hard cleaning it after all.
7. Maintenance and upkeep. Just like how the internals of your car require maintenance, the externals also require consistent attention. It's a good habit to wash your car every few weeks (or as much as needed). Waxing your car is also a great practice to help protect the paint and boost that shine.