Washing your car is almost a Zen-like experience for some people.  Ever since I was a little kid, watching my grandfather meticulously wash and wax his Lincoln town car in the driveway, when he, and my grandmother would visit each summer, I took great pride in cleaning and preparing mine, or my parents cars.  When I was old enough to own a car, I would religiously wash and detail my car, using whatever products I could find in the garage or basement my father had on-hand.  As I grew older, I began to research and investigate ways to keep my cars looking like new, and protected all year ’round.

Here are a few of the top items I discovered that most people are doing incorrectly when washing their cars and trucks.

  1. Using the wrong soap (Dish Soap) – Most people, like myself, began washing their cars, not knowing the difference between soaps, and seemingly used whatever they could find, dish soap being the most likely choice.  The differences between a dedicated car washing shampoo, and dish soap are immense.  A dedicated car soap’s purpose is to remove the dirt with as much lubrication as possible while leaving the paint’s protection or wax unharmed. Despite each being considered soap, they have slightly different, yet specific purposes in their formula much the same idea as hand soap and hair shampoo.  Dish soap, if used on a car, will completely strip off any waxes or sealants that have been applied to a car, and aren’t a “solvent/chemical resistant” product, like CQuartz, Ceramic Pro, or Opti-Coat.  If you are looking to maintain the finish on your car, and perform maintenance washes and cleanings, do not use dish soap to clean your car.
  2. Use the right sponge or mitt – When you wash your car, do you simply go out to the garage, or down to the basement, and grab the same sponge you’ve used time and time again?  As you are washing your car, do you use the same sponge to clean each and every panel, crevice and nuance of your vehicle?  If so, you are probably doing more harm to your car’s finish, than you realize.   Dirt and contaminants are being pushed along the surface during washing by that tired old sponge.  If you use the same sponge for your wheels/rims, you will be putting all that grime against the panels of your car, adding micro-scratches into the paints coating.  A proper method would be to use a dedicated wash mitt, that is designed to pick up the dirt and carry the debris in the fibers until it’s released in a clean bucket of water. A separate bucked and grip guard are used to gently release the dirt from the mitt into the separate bucket, greatly diminishing the chance of reintroducing the dirt to the paint and causing these common scratches.  Also, any tools that are used for the rims, tires, wheel wells, etc…should be kept in a separate wash bucket, and not mixed with your primary wash bucket(s).
  3. Using the same towel(s) over your entire car – As with your sponge, you most likely use the same few towels to wipe down your entire car, each time you wash your car.  Most likely, you aren’t throwing those towels into the washer after every use either.  If you are using the same towel to wipe down your body panels, as you used to wipe your rims, exhaust tips, door jams, etc….you are rubbing dirt and debris into your paint, causing scratches and marring in the finish, quickly damaging the clear coat and requiring a polish or even a compound to remove.  Fresh and clean microfiber towels should be used to clean the body panels of your car, starting from top to bottom, working your way down.  Once a towel is thoroughly soaked, use a fresh down to continue, never re-using a towel on a body panel that has been wiped down.  A better method, if you can afford it, is to have a dedicated car detailing blower, to blow the water off the car, drying it in the process, and eliminating having to have physical contact with the clear coat during the drying process.
  4. Washing & Drying under direct sunlight – Its a beautiful summer day out, the sun is high in the sky, and you want to get the car out of the garage, and give it a good wash and wax.  For many of us, we don’t have the ability to wash our cars indoors, however washing and waxing your car in direct sunlight can cause more harm than good.  Most cities have minerals and/or hard water, leaving mineral deposits on the car’s clear coat.  Under direct sunlight, the water spots will dry quickly, leaving visible mineral deposits on the car’s surface.  Rubbing a towel or waxing sponge over those deposits can work them into the clear coat, causing scratches and marring on the surface.  If you can, try to wash your car in the garage, or under an enclosure, to ensure the car is not in direct sunlight.