The Best — and Worst — Way to Wash a Car

| December 21, 2012

car wash by hand The truck’s so dirty you can’t tell the color, so you squirt some dish soap into a bucket of water and head outside to wash it. Stop right there! Dish soap is to paint like sandpaper is to your skin. Do your car a favor and learn how to wash it properly, and then head to the auto parts store (you’ll find it on DexKnows) for some proper carwash materials.

Why Wash It?

First off, you want to be able to see out your windows. It’s a safety issue. Second, you don’t want to get dirty climbing in and out, and the lift gates on SUVs can get especially grimy. Third, looking after the paint maintains the car’s value, and that can be worth serious money when you sell it.

How It’s Done

There are two approaches: Take it to a carwash or handwash it. The carwash may be a better environmental option because the water gets recycled, but it probably won’t be as thorough as your hands. If you insist on going to a carwash, try to find the high-pressure touchless type — at least then you won’t risk abrasive brushes damaging your paint.

If you decide to handwash, start by parking your vehicle in the shade and making sure the paint is cool to the touch. This helps avoid water spots that are caused by water drying on the surface.

Find two clean buckets and mix up the wash solution in one. Never use dish soap because it can strip the wax protection from the paint. Always use a quality car shampoo like Mothers California Gold or Meguiar’s Gold Class and make sure to use the right dilution. A grit guard at the bottom of the bucket will help make sure you don’t mark the paint work. Fill the second bucket with clean water. You’ll use that to rinse out the quality wash mitt you bought at the same time as the shampoo.

Now, screw a spray nozzle onto your hose pipe and rinse the vehicle with clean water to remove any loose material. Then dip your mitt in the soapy water and away you go!

Start at the top and work down because the lower areas are usually dirtier. Just let the mitt glide over the surface. There’s no need to press hard. Remember to rinse the mitt in the clean water, and whatever you do, don’t let it touch the ground! If that happens, it will almost certainly pick up paint-scratching grit.

Work briskly so the water doesn’t dry, but be sure to push the mitt in to all the awkward corners. When it comes to wheels, there are two schools of thought: Clean them first, so any splashes on the paint are removed when you wash the paint, or do them last and avoid transferring grime from the wheels to the paint. You decide.

When you’ve been over every panel, take the nozzle off the hose and rinse away the soap with clean water. Let the water run off in sheets, and then dry with microfiber or terrycloth drying towels, starting with the glass. When you’ve done the paint, don’t forget to open the doors and clean all around the jams. Then stand back and enjoy the result.

Clean Is Good

A clean car reflects well on its owner and retains its value better, too. Find an auto parts store on the DexKnows website, buy the materials you need and treat your ride to a thorough handwash.

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Category: Auto Maintenance, Autos

About the Author ()

After twenty years in the automobile industry the craft of wordsmith called. Putting down the wrench, Nigel picked up a keyboard on which to express his passion for all things automotive.