Car Wash Do's and Don'ts

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Experts agree that washing your car regularly is the best way to maintain the vehicle’s showroom appearance so that it always looks great and maintains its value. It’s important, though, to know the right way to wash your car so that you don’t inadvertently scratch or damage the finish.

Following are some do’s and don’ts from some of the leading authorities on car care – advice for keeping your car’s exterior in the best shape possible.


  • Wash your car weekly.

  • Wash off tree sap, bird droppings, dead bugs and acid rain as soon as possible.

  • Wash your car in the shade or in the morning or late afternoon when the weather is cooler.

  • Rinse the car thoroughly before starting to wash, to remove dirt and debris that could scratch.

  • Spray the car with water frequently to keep it wet.

  • Use a soft natural sponge or lamb’s-wool mitt to wash.

  • Use a cleaning product specially formulated for use on automotive paint.

  • Allow the cleaner to make the water sudsy, since suds keep the surface lubricated and less prone to scratching.

  • Keep a separate bucket of rinse water, and rinse the sponge often to ensure you don’t rub dirt particles back onto the car’s surface.

  • Take the nozzle off the hose before rinsing, or use a low-spray setting, and rinse from top to bottom to create a sheeting action.

  • Use a bug and tar remover when needed on the wheel wells and lower body (use a separate cloth).

  • Detail the wheels and tires, using a separate sponge or brush and, if mild soap and water isn’t enough to clean the brake dust and other residue, a tire and wheel cleaner labeled safe for all wheels.

  • Use soft towels or a chamois to dry your vehicle.

  • Wax your vehicle at least twice annually to protect it from rust, dust, air pollution and other hazards.


  • Leave your car covered with dirt, dead insects, bird droppings or chemicals left by acid rain and air pollution for any length of time. These materials can strip the wax and eat into the paint.

  • Wash your car in direct sunlight or when the body is still hot from driving. The heat will dry the soap and water faster, making it more difficult to wash and potentially dulling the finish.

  • Use dish detergent or other cleaners that are not specially formulated for car care. These can contain harmful additives or abrasives that strip your wax or damage your car’s finish.

  • Use a sponge that has fallen onto the ground unless you rinse it thoroughly first. Dirt will scratch the finish.

  • Wash the car all over at once. Clean it in sections, rinsing as you go so that the soap doesn’t dry on the surface.

  • Move your sponge in circles, which can create hairline scratches or “swirl marks.” Lengthwise strokes across the car’s surface are best.

  • Allow your car to air-dry. Minerals in the water are likely to leave water marks and could actually damage the paint if left sitting on the surface.


Sources: Automotive Industries Association of Canada, Consumer Reports, Motor Trend