10 Simple Rules for Washing Your Car Like a Pro
In a COVID-19 era when cleanliness and hygiene is more important than ever, many people are discovering a DIY philosophy when it comes to keeping your car looking its best.
That’s why we decided to share some quick-and-easy tips to get a professional-looking car wash without breaking your back – or your wallet! You could save up to $150 doing the job yourself.
We’ll be mentioning some product recommendations. But don’t worry, we don’t have any affiliations with these retailers or vendors; it’s simply the best offering at the best price.
1. Steer clear of the car wash
It’s tempting to pull into that drive-thru car wash, put it in neutral and let the robot arms do the work. But car washes can be quite rough on your paint job, and power hoses can also be detrimental if the pressure is too intense. Ideally, you want to use a power hose with a wide spray pattern or a regular hose with a wide spray pattern, if possible.
2. Park in the shade
Before you begin, park your car in the shade if it’s a hot day. You don’t want blazing sunshine evaporating the water you’re using and leaving unsightly streaks on your paint. This dryness also makes the surface more prone to scratching when you’re wiping it down without any lubrication. You should never dry-wipe your paint job. And don’t forget, those chemicals you’re using to wash the car weren’t meant to be applied to hot surfaces. Maybe wait until later in the day to start your car wash rather than peak sunshine at mid-afternoon.
3. Check your car wash attire
Nobody is saying you have to wear jumpsuit overalls like they do at the mechanic’s shop, but you should always be mindful of objects on your person that could scratch the car’s surface. Remove rings, watches, and especially belt buckles. If you’re leaning against the car, doing some hardcore scrubbing on the hood, you don’t want objects like a belt buckle scratching up against the car’s paint job.
4. Work from top to bottom
A good rule of thumb when cleaning your car inside is that gravity is your friend. Start at the top and work your way down, letting the water run down the car and take the dirt with it. This is also beneficial because the lower half of the car is dirtier and you don’t want to transfer that grime via your sponge or cloth to the top.
One exception to this rule is your wheels; you may want to do your rims before you do anything else because if you do them last, it means they’ll get rinsed last and that inevitably causes splash-back on your now-dry paint job. This causes watermarks, which means you have to go over the body again, and we want to avoid having to double up on the effort.
5. Microfibre cloths & towels are ESSENTIAL
Before you fill up a bucket or turn on a tap, make sure you have a sack of soft microfibre cloths that you can launder and reuse. Forget about old t-shirts and paper towels because microfibre towels (with tags removed) are very absorbent and very safe for paint, glass, trim, and wheels. They’re nearly as cheap as paper towels and you can get a 50-pack from Amazon for around $30.
6. Avoid these kitchen essentials
Every household has at least one yellow-and-green-coloured sponge lying around somewhere; don’t use these scouring pads on your pristine body work. Protect your paint job by using softer materials like microfibre cloth. Towels are another deterrent for your paint job. If you close this webpage with one takeaway, let it be this: the only cloth you should be using is microfibre or a material with similar softness. Furthermore, dish soap may be okay for your dishes, but not for your paint job or wax coating. Steer clear of degreasers and opt for specialized car wash soap or even an all-purpose cleaner.
7. Clean your equipment
Always make sure your buckets, tools, and towels are cleaned thoroughly of any dirt or debris that may scratch your car next time. Furthermore, you should never wash your microfibre detailing towels with other clothes because they’ll collect lint and become useless.
8. Two buckets = one great wash
You might think washing a car only requires a single bucket for soap and water – wrong! You should use at least two buckets – one for rinsing and the other for soaping up. You do not want your dirty microfibre cloth entering your clean soap water until it has been rinsed of all impurities. Particles and debris get left in the rinse bucket and not on the cloth where they can potentially cause scratches to your pristine paint job.
9. Careful with interior detailing
A common mistake, according to car maintenance guru ChrisFix, when cleaning the interior of your car is to spray some type of leather and chemical cleaner directly on parts like your steering wheel, gear shift or even brake pedals. This can be dangerous because it can cause the part to become slippery. You do not want your feet slipping off the brake pedal unintentionally. When using interior cleaning chemicals, spray the chemical on a paper towel first and not directly on your car’s leather or vinyl.
5 more detailing tips
- Start at the top (steering wheel, dash, door panels, seats) and leave the carpet until last.
- Reach all nooks and crannies (trim lines, recesses, controls, and buttons) with a dull-edged screwdriver wrapped in cloth and an all-purpose cleaner.
- Use the right cleaning agent for the right upholstery (leather upholstery requires a leather-cleaning kit).
- You can reach dusty air vents with a long-bristled artist’s brush.
- Brush your carpet with a stiff brush while vacuuming to capture more dirt.
10. The right way to dry
Don’t assume any old laundry towel or t-shirt will suffice for drying your car’s paint. Use a microfibre cloth and make sure it's always slightly damp; it's worth repeating that you should never dry-wipe your paint job. Work your way from the top-down, moving the cloth in one direction to prevent scratching and streaks. No Karate Kid-style circular motions!
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