The Top 5 Mistakes You're Making Washing Your Car

Jun 23rd 2019

From the car wash products you use to where you wash your car, refining your approach to washing your car can make a big difference. If your last car washing session wasn’t ideal, you may have been making some common but easily avoidable blunders. You can improve the look of your vehicle while saving time, money, and effort by avoiding these car washing errors.

1. Washing Your Car in the Sun

Whenever possible, wash your car on a cloudy day, or better yet, indoors. While washing in the sun may seem like a good idea in theory, in practice you’re going to have a tough time. The sun dries water and cleaning materials fast, so you may need to reapply them more frequently, which is a waste of time and car wash products.

Besides making your job more difficult, washing your car in direct sunlight causes soap and water to evaporate, leaving unsightly spots, streaks, and drip marks that are difficult to remove. In some cases, this can even damage your vehicle’s finish permanently.

If you live in a hot, sunny area, it may not be possible to avoid washing your car in the sun. However, there are precautionary steps you can take to reduce the possibility of blemishes and damage.

The most obvious way to avoid problems is to wash your vehicle early in the morning or in the evening. If you must wash your car while it’s sunny out, make sure you use car wash products appropriate for the job. Use a high-quality, mild shampoo with a neutral pH, and try to find a wax-friendly formula that uses primarily natural ingredients.

When washing in the sun, wash in small increments, rather than washing the entire car at once. That way you wash the car’s body before the water and shampoo have time to dry. As you might assume, this method takes significantly longer than traditional washing, so it’s not ideal for companies that need to wash entire fleets of vehicles.

The best approach for businesses and organizations that need to wash multiple vehicles is to invest in a dedicated car wash system and car wash products for large-scale washing. These days, car wash equipment is more affordable than you may realize, and the long-term results are well worth the initial investment.

2. Using the Wrong Cleaning Materials

Not all cleaning products are suitable for washing vehicles. In fact, using the wrong supplies— dishwashing detergent, for example—can actually permanently damage your car. Many degreasers and other kitchen and household cleaning products aren’t pH balanced for cars, so they can remove the body’s wax coating, leaving your vehicle susceptible to damage.

Avoid dish soaps, detergents, and any cleaning products that contain ammonia or other harsh chemicals. Instead, use dedicated car wash products that are designed specifically for washing vehicles. While it may cost a little bit more, you’re going to get better results, and you can proceed with confidence knowing you’re not accidentally damaging your car.

Besides choosing the right liquids, you also need to pay attention to the material you’re using to wash your car. When it comes down to it, a soft microfiber towel is the only option as far as car wash products go. Dish sponges, paper towels, and old T-shirts are popular materials, but they don’t trap dirt the same way as microfiber towels, which can lead to scratching.

It’s also wise to have plenty of microfiber towels on hand. If you drop one, don’t use it again. If you absolutely have to keep using a towel that’s been on the ground, make sure you rinse it out thoroughly to get rid of any debris that could scratch the finish.

Even if you don’t drop it, using the same towel for the whole wash is not ideal because it’s going to accrue dirt that can eventually scratch the car. Rinse regularly, use new buckets and fresh water when necessary, and switch to a new towel frequently.

3. Cleaning Improperly

Even if your car is in the shade and you’re using the right car wash products, you can still damage your car if you’re not washing it correctly. It’s a common myth that swirling motions are the best approach, but swirls provide more opportunities for scratches from various angles. Instead, wash in one direct line, ideally from front to back.

Another common error is washing the tires last. While washing the car from top to bottom is fine, you should always start by washing your wheels and tires. This is because your tires are generally the dirtiest part of the vehicle, so when you rinse the vehicle at the end, it’s easy for dirt and debris to spray on your newly washed car, possibly damaging the finish.

Finally, make sure you keep your car wash products on hand while you’re drying the car. If you’re drying it manually with a towel, never use the drying towel to remove any dirt you missed during the washing. While it may be tempting to just brush the dirt off as you go, a dry towel and dirt can easily cause scratches. Keep your washing supplies accessible, just in case.

4. Polishing/Waxing Wrong

After you wash your car, some polish or wax can really give it that extra final touch that makes your vehicle pop. However, some commonly overlooked errors can cause issues. First of all, never pour car wash products such as wax or polish directly onto the vehicle’s surface. Pour them onto your towel and apply them that way. This prevents streaking.

Over-waxing is another common error. While too much wax isn’t usually going to cause any actual damage, you’re wasting time, energy, and wax if you’re applying more than two coats. The first coat is the foundation, and then the second coat fills in any spots you may have overlooked the first time around. A third coat is simply spreading the wax around.

It should go without saying that you should never polish or wax your car unless it’s been thoroughly cleaned first. Even if your vehicle looks clean enough, it’s not. Even the best car wash products won’t stop microscopic dirt and debris from causing damage if you’re actively rubbing it into the finish. Polish your newly washed vehicle slowly, focusing on one small area at a time.

The Commercial Side of Things

Sometimes, though, life gets in the way and taking the time to wash your car by hand just isn’t going to happen. We’ve all been there when driving through our nearest local car wash is just the easiest option. Automated car washes such as these are maintained and aided by companies like N/S Corporation. N/S Corporation offers large-scale solutions as well as a huge selection of replacement parts and car wash products for the automatic drive-throughs you visit in a hurry. They’ve installed and maintained hundreds of cutting-edge transit washing systems and continue to be the global leader in the vehicle washing industry -- next time you sit through your automated wash, just think of where all those pieces came from!

It’s clear that how you wash your car matters. Even a minor error can have lasting consequences. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is using poor-quality components and supplies. Browse our blog now for other tips, tricks, and stories about the carwash industry.