How to properly wash your car?


| Intro

If your goal is to maintain a glossy and fresh look to your car paint, weekly wash routine is a very important maintenance aspect. Properly wash a car is one of the most misunderstood or overlooked areas in car care, and sadly poor washing technique continues to cause damages (swirl marks, scratches) to the car paint over time. In this article, we share some simple guidelines to help you understand how you can wash and dry your car properly.

| What You Will Learn

Damages from bad wash

The picture below shows the damages from bad wash - swirl mark, paint dullness, watermarks. 

Next picture below shows a wheel rim full with irregular whitish patches, peeling, rusty, dulling. These are the signs of damaged rim's clear coat and corrosion etching into the metals - caused by using acidic cleaner on the rims!

 Misperceptions/Bad habits to avoid

Here's a list of common misperceptions/bad habits that can contribure to paint damages. Let's do a quick self-check if you have any of those,

  • Wash the car only when it is very dirty. No regular wash routine.
  • Wash only with water, no shampoo.
  • Use dishwashing detergent/laundry powder or detergent/hair shampoo/body gel/floor cleaner/toilet cleaner to wash the car.
  • Use acidic chemicals without knowing the pH value.
  • Use dishwashing sponge, recycled t-shirt and bath towel as wash tools.
  • Use same cloth all over the car.
  • Not following any wash order, sometimes I wash from top working way down; sometimes I wash from bottom way up.

How many of the above have you scored? laugh

Tips from professionals

  • Weekly wash is best. If your car is outdoor (without shed) or is on the road most of the time, then it's more exposed to various contaminants - i.e. bugs splatter and bird poos contains organic acid; brake dust and roadway chemicals are corrosive and stubborn on paint; deposit from acid-rain contains minerals. These contaminants are corrosive. The longer they remain on the surface, they will penetrate into the clear coat and form permanent damage/discolouration to the paint. A thorough weekly wash can help tp prevent/reduce any potential permanent damages.
  • Choose pH-neutral car wash shampoo. A good car wash shampoo is designed specifically to dissolve contaminants on car surfaces and yet still safe on paint and waxes/coating/ppf/wrap. Shampoo acts as lubricant between your wash tools and car paint. Without a shampoo, the chance is you're likely to cause scratches during the wash. See Recommended Car Wash Shampoos.
  • Be careful with acidic cleaners! Acidic cleaners are aggressive and corrosive. It might be able to dissolve brake dust, but at the same time can bring costly damage to the clear coat, bolts and brake calipers. For safe cleaning of brake dust and grime, always go for a safer rim cleaners which is acid-free and fully effective. See Recommended Rim Cleaners.
  • Choose plush and soft wash tools. Plush wash sponge is better than dense sponge. Soft and dense wash glove is better than flat woven cloth. See Recommended Wash Tools.
  • Clean the wheels first because the wheel rim cleaner works on dry and cold rims.
  • Use 2-bucket method and wash from top to bottom. Lower part of car is the dirtiest. If you start washing from the bottom and work its way up, you will keep transfering the debris from the lower panels to the upper panels. This will do more damaging than cleaning. Rinse and reload your wash sponge or wash glove between the clean water and shampoo water when you complete a panel. This will reduce the chance of cross-contaminations.
  • Dry your car completely. All waters contain minerals. The minerals deposit that remain on the surface will etch into the paint, leaving unsightly spots and water marks. Drying your car completely will prevent this damage. Rinse the car with free-flow water (i.e. hose without spray nozzle) then spread a highly absorbent drying towel on it and gently pat dry. Or, a car dryer or blower is also a good option. See Recommended Drying Tools.
  • Always separate the clothes used on wheel rims from the one used on car paint to avoid cross-contaminations.
  • Finishing touch after wash can add more protection and gloss to your car. Even if you already have extra protection layer, the finishing can work as maintenance to rejuvenate and make it last longer. See Recommended Finishing Touch Products.

Diagram: The ABC of how to properly wash your car

Don't worry, we have made a diagram. Just follow this ABC method and you can start washing like a Pro!

Recommended products

Click to go to the respective purchase links.

Acid-free full-effect wheel rim cleaners

pH-neutral shampoos and safe wash tools

Insect Remover and Tar Remover

Highly absorbent drying tools

Finishing products to rejuvenate the paint and exisitng protection

Do you find the information and diagram helpful? Do let us know.  =)

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