How to Wash a Car Properly

Oct 25th 2018

Every driver wants to make sure their vehicle stays in great condition. But proper vehicle care isn’t limited to performing routine mechanical maintenance; you also need to be washing it regularly, and washing it the proper way. That’s because washing your car isn’t just about giving it an impressive look: it can also help your car last longer. Before you grab a bucket of water and soap it’s important to know there are right – and many wrong – ways to wash any vehicle. This guide of how to wash a car properly looks at some of the common things you need to consider when washing your car to make sure you aren’t doing more harm than good.

Prep by Getting the Right Tools

The first thing to consider is where you are washing your vehicle. Whenever possible, choose a spot with plenty of shade. This prevents premature drying which creates water spots leading to a stain on the vehicle’s exterior. You can also avoid water spots by keeping your car wet at all times and making sure to wash your vehicle when there isn’t a breeze. And of course, make certain all windows and doors are shut; as well as the hood as you don’t want to squirt water underneath and potentially cause damage.

Once your vehicle is ready, the next step in how to wash a car properly is gathering the right supplies. Recommended items include:

  • A sponge or washing mitt made of sheepskin or microfiber
  • Brush or additional sponge for tires
  • Multiple buckets (one for soapy water and one for plain water)
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Microfiber drying towel, shammy, and/or squeegee
  • Bug and tar remover

If you really want to go all out on cleaning your vehicle, then look into getting some wax and/or polish as well. By having these essential tools, can make sure you do a thorough job that is as effective as a professional wash.

Avoid Common Soaps that Damage Paint

Soap is probably the single most important tool when it comes to washing a vehicle. Many people who choose to wash their car may be tempted to use dish soap or other common cleaner from their cabinet. But if you want to know how to wash a car properly then you should avoid these soaps. The goal of dish soap is to remove grease and caked on food, which requires it to be abrasive. That abrasiveness accelerates the oxidation process on your car’s paint job to give it a dull look. Dish soap also breaks down a car’s wax coat as well as being tough on rubber components and plastic moldings.

While you’ll want to avoid dish soap, it’s not the only household cleaner that is off limits. Laundry soap and hand soap should be avoided as well since they are not pH balanced – which results in damage to your vehicle’s paint job. For the best results you’ll want a dedicated car shampoo. These soaps contain more lubricant, which you’ll notice when you move the soap behind your fingers. The slick formula found in many car soaps is also much safer for a vehicle’s surface to ensure a great looking finish.

Focus on Giving Tires a Good Scrub First

Now that you know what supplies you need to wash a car properly, how you go about it is the next step. Always begin washing your vehicle by focusing on the wheels. This is because the wheels on any vehicle are extremely dirty and require the most scrubbing to get clean. Rinse off any debris from the wheels before you get out your brush or sponge. Using a formulated wheel cleaner, make sure you scrub rims vigorously to help break up any lingering grime. You can also use a chrome polish on them (depending on the alloy your rims are made of) to give them a stunning shine after you spray them clean with water. When you are finished cleaning the wheels then be sure to refill your buckets with fresh soap and water so you don’t transfer dirt onto the body of the vehicle.

Tips for Washing the Vehicle’s Body

Once you’ve cleaned off the rims, then it’s time to wash the main body of your vehicle. When it comes to washing a car properly, knowing how to tackle the grime on the body of your vehicle is extremely important. As you move to the main sections of your vehicle you’ll first want to rinse off any surfaces with a hose to remove as much debris as possible. This includes rinsing underneath wiper blades. After rinsing, pre-treat any stains on your vehicle from bugs or bird droppings. Applying a bug and tar removal soap directly to stains can help lift them off of surfaces.

For soaping up your vehicle, focus on one side of the car at a time by applying soap with your sponge or washing mitt. As you do, periodically rinse off the mitt in the water bucket to prevent dirt from accumulating which may damage your vehicle’s finish. It’s also important to avoid scrubbing too hard and always wash in straight lines – circular motions can create unsightly swirl marks. Once you’ve finished applying the suds, give the side of your vehicle a thorough rinse before moving on. It’s also helpful to wash your vehicle from top to bottom. Since the grimiest parts of the car are closest to the road. Saving those areas for last ensures you don’t unintentionally carry grit and grime to other parts of your vehicle

Don’t Forget to Properly Dry Your Vehicle

Washing a car properly doesn’t end with rinsing everything off. Many people don’t realize that you also need to think about the best way to dry your vehicle. Leaving your vehicle in the sun to air dry is a common mistake that many people make after they wash their vehicle. But air drying creates unsightly water spots that leave your car looking almost as bad as before you washed it.

Instead, use a car squeegee carefully over the surfaces of your car to remove excess water that has accumulated. Once that is done, gently running a microfiber towel over every part can help things dry properly. For the best results the towel should be flat and moved in straight lines – avoid circular motions that tend to just push water and residue around the surface of your car.

Give Your Vehicle the Care It Deserves

Properly washing a vehicle is one of the most misunderstood parts of auto care. Not using the right tools or supplies can result in a dull finish or even worse, unsightly scratches and damage. That is why it is so important to know how to wash a car properly if you want to take it on yourself.

For the best results and advice when it comes to proper vehicle washing, rely on the experts at N/S Wash. Not only do we have state-of-the-art facilities that can give your vehicle a sparkling appearance, but we can give you advice on how to keep your vehicle looking great between visits too with the best tips whenever you want to wash your vehicle at home. Contact us today!