Car Washing Dos and Don’ts

Giving the car a good wash is one of the most satisfying things to do on a Sunday afternoon, or anytime really. It is especially recommended after a long hard winter when salt and snow accumulates on the paint, in cracks, and under floor mats. Although it might seem like an easy task, there are many ways to can actually cause damage to the exterior or leave streaks on a vehicle when washing it. Follow these tips to get the best spot-free shine possible.

Scratching The Paint


To avoid scratching the paint on the car while washing it, wear soft clothing that does not have any metal zippers or snaps hanging from it. Do not forget to take any jewelry off before starting as this could easily scratch the paint and even ruin the jewelry. Take off rings, necklaces, watches, belts, and anything that hangs down or could rub up against the car. There is plenty of time to look good after the car is clean.

Baby Shampoo


Baby shampoo can be used to wash a car if done correctly. Use a diluted blend to take bird droppings off the car as soon as possible even if there is not enough time to wash the rest of the car right away. Baby shampoo is gentle and breaks up the bird poop efficiently. It can be easily wiped away without chipping the paint. Be sure not to let the shampoo stay on too long or be exposed to too much sunlight, which may cause the paint color to fade.

Read Directions Carefully

Directions are there for a reason. Be sure to use them whenever using a new car product. Some might have specific instructions to help obtain the best washing results, such as leaving the product on for a certain amount of time before rising or buffing. Do not use any old cleaner on a car, especially Lysol or other household cleaning products. Look for a dedicated brand of car cleaning products and leave the dishwashing soap in the kitchen sink.

Cleaning The Rims

Apply rim cleaner to the tires before washing the rest of the car. This will allow the product time to work. Be sure to read the directions and use a gentle mist to apply it. Avoid a hard spray. Let the product sit while the rest of the car is washed. Try not to spray off the rim shine while rinsing the rest of the vehicle. Washing a car first and then doing the rims often means double cleaning as the dirt from the car will run down to the wheels.

Control The Water Spray

It is important to use the right amount of water and the correct pressure when washing a car. Too little water will not activate the soap. It will also leave a residue on the vehicle if not washed off properly. Invest in a sprayer head that has multiple settings like flat, mist, and spray. Do not just spray water at the car in a high setting thinking that the added pressure will make the dirt fall off better. This can do serious damage to the paint job.

Towel Drying Technique

Drying a car is just as important as washing it. Let the towels do the work when drying. They are designed to absorb any liquid. Start by laying a clean, dry towel flat on the vehicle and pat it down. Balling the towels up and rubbing the car will just spread more water around. Gently pull away and repeat until the car is dry. Several towels may be needed. Avoid rubbing towels so hard that the paint chips. Hard rubbing also causes streaks.

Electric Car Dryers

Electric car dryers work just like a blow dryer. They may be a worthwhile investment if towel drying is no longer possible or is intolerable. It also helps dry the cracks and crevices of the car that are hard to reach with a cloth, such as the ones around the trunk and mirrors. Never walk away from a car that has just been washed without drying it. This will almost always cause spots or streaking.

Outthink Water Traps

Water is easily trapped in cracks and crevices of the car when it is washed. Make sure to open the vehicle’s hood, trunk, and doors when drying it. Towel dry or blow dry these parts to avoid water from leaking while driving, which causes streaks. Wipe individual slats of the grille as well. It may help to stick a small towel in the side door pocket to wipe up water before it has the chance to leave streaks after the car is washed. Rolling down the windows and wiping the outside edges clean is also a good idea.

Clean The Interior

A clean exterior is only the beginning. Make sure the inside of the vehicle matches. Nothing looks worse than a clean car with a messy interior. Throw away wrappers or fast food containers and vacuum the carpets. Use leather or cloth cleaner on the seats and do not forget to dust the dashboard. Panel wipes are available and work better than home products for reconditioning the interior. Add a final touch by including an air freshener in between the seats.

Check Under The Floor Mats

Dirt is good at hiding in places that usually go unnoticed, such as under the floor mats. Before washing a car, give the interior a good cleaning by lifting the floor mats and vacuuming under there. This is a good thing to do in the spring after a long, hard winter. Also be sure to clean the trunk liner, especially if the vehicle is needed to store essential items like a laptop or groceries. Debris and other dirt can get inside and become smelly quickly. Some areas might need to be scrubbed to get them fully cleaned.
Advertisement Loading
▾ Continue Below ▾
Heather Hanks