How to Wash a Car – Properly

It’s surprising just how many people don’t know how to wash their car. Proper car care is important not just for appearance but to maintain the value (and thus resale value) of your vehicle. Using the wrong materials to wash your car can lead to scratches, scuffs and dulling of the paintwork. Yet simple changes can make a world of difference.

We’ve written an in-depth guide on car detailing to help you get the best shine and paintwork protection, but the following is a simple guides on the what to do and what not to do.

Proper Products For Proper Care

When washing your car it’s important to use the right detergents. Many people make the mistake of using household washing up liquid to clean their car. But while these sorts of detergents are excellent for getting your dishes and glasses sparkling, they are not good for your cars paintwork

They’re tough and abrasive, meaning they’ll strip the wax and polish from the car and leave you with unprotected paintwork that’s dull and marred. Leave the washing up liquid for doing the dishes and instead purchase a quality car shampoo that’s designed to do the job with gentle cleansers and conditioners.

Throw Away That Sponge!

It’s the first mistake that many people make. Sponges are great natural materials for washing your body or cleaning the dishes, but using a sponge to wash your car is probably the worst thing you could do.

The reason is simple. Sponges collect dirt and dust particles on their surface, so as you continue to wash you’re simply rubbing debris over the surface of your car’s paintwork. At worst this leads to scratches and scars on the bodywork, at best the smallest particles result in swirl marks that look like spiders webs in the paint.

Over the years these swirl marks get worse and even the cleanest looking car can look terrible close up. But you can prevent and reduce these marks by simply changing the method you use. Ditch that sponge and opt for something better.

A lambswool mitt or other professional wash mitt can make all the difference. The thick and plush fibres in the mitt soak up the dirt and debris while you wash and keep them well away from the surface. This means that you’re no longer just moving the dirt and spreading it around – scratching the paint in the process. Regularly rinse the mitt while cleaning the car (using fresh water) and you’ll ensure your mitt is clean and safe.

1 Car, 2 Buckets

There is a car cleaning technique known as the 2 bucket method. The logic is simple. If you’re using one bucket and constantly dipping your mitt into it, the dirt and debris is in the water and by the end of the bucket, you’ll be making your mitt dirty and no better than a sponge.

The two bucket method cuts down on this risk, one bucket has the soapy water for washing, the other plain water. Wash the car one panel at a time, rinse the sponge in the plain water bucket to remove debris, then dip in the soapy bucket and wash the next panel.

If you can find a bucket with a grit guard then even better.

This washing video from Meguiars highlights the important parts.

A Cloth Fit For a King

After the washing, comes the waxing and polishing. Waxing a car is an important part of car care. You can’t see it with the human eye, but paintwork on a car is porous like human skin. Over time it fills with unseen particles that mar and dull the paintwork. Bird droppings, tea sap, exhaust fumes and soot, all of these things soak into the paint and remain there, even after washing. So it’s important to wax your car and give it a protective layer.

Applying wax and polish to the paintwork not only gives your car a good shine, but it also fills those pores and reduces the harmful effects of the surrounding environment. Waxing both protects your car and keeps it cleaner for longer.

Applying wax and polish uses similar logic to washing; use the right materials for the right job. When applying wax or polish, it’s important to bear in mind that even when paintwork looks clean it might not be perfectly spotless. So you need to be careful to use a clean cloth both when applying and buffing the wax.

Microfiber cloths are perfect for this task. They work in the same way as a lambswool mitt – tiny fibres work with capillary action and keep the dirt away from the surface of the cloth, so all that touches the paintwork is the protective wax.

Microfiber cloths are excellent because they’re soft and gentle enough to get the job done without scratching or damaging the paint. They’re better than rags or normal cloths, as long as you keep them clean and they are machine washable.

These tips will help keep your car clean and protected, maintaining its shine and its value.