Keeping your car clean is one of the simplest ways you can maintain your car.
As the cliché goes, a clean car is a happy car. While many owners opt to take their vehicles to various car wash services, some perfectionists, and many dollar-conscious drivers, prefer to do it at home. Whatever your motive is, washing your car at home is a great way to save a few bucks and to maintain that show-car shine.
What you’ll need:
- Car wash soap – Avoid using dish soap to wash your car as its harsh chemicals may be harmful to the rubberized sections of your car and may even strip away your vehicle’s wax coat.
- Wash mitt/sponge – Ideally, a wash mitt made of sheepskin or microfiber cloth is recommended because they are specifically designed to pick up and hold dirt. Sponges are acceptable as well.
- Wheel & Tire cleaner – While you can safely use car wash soap to clean your wheels, a dedicated wheel and tire cleaner is more effective as they are specifically formulated to remove brake dust and the metal shavings from brake rotors that settle on wheels.
- Two buckets – In one you’ll have the soap and water mix, while in the second you’ll have plain water. The water-filled bucket is to rinse out any dirt residue on your wash mitt/sponge. If you only use one bucket, you’re depositing all the dirty into the soapy water, picking it up again when you dip your wash mitt into the bucket and then depositing back on the car as you wash.
- Drying cloth – Absorbent towels should be used to dry the car to avoid water spots forming if left to air dry.
- Bug/Sap Remover – If needed, you can use bug and sap remover to pre-treat stains from bugs and tree sap before you begin washing your car. In the absence of bug/sap remover, you can use undiluted car wash soap.
- Soft bristle brush – This is used to clean the wheels by gently agitating any deposits of brake dust or grime.
- Microfiber towels – Use these to completely dry the vehicle after using the drying cloth.
Steps to a Squeaky Clean Car:
- Park your vehicle in a shaded area and make sure it is cool to the touch. Washing in direct sunlight will cause the car to dry faster and may result in unsightly water spots. Ensure that all windows are rolled all the way up.
- Start by washing your wheels. This way you can avoid getting dirt and grime from the wheels from splashing on already-clean body panels. Hose down the wheels and then spray on the wheel and tire clean. Allow this to settle for about 20-30 seconds before firmly scrubbing the wheel with a soft bristle brush to agitate the brake dust, making sure to get in between the spokes. Rinse away the soap and grime. Make sure to finish one wheel before moving on to the next so that soap doesn’t dry on the first wheel while you make your way around to the other three.
- Rinse down the car starting from the roof and working your way down. Doing this removes all the surface dust and dirt and avoids having to pick up such particles with your wash mitt.
- Dip you wash mitt in the bucket containing soapy water and start washing one panel at a time, starting from the roof. Scrub firmly but gently so that you can get all the dirt out without scratching your paint. After washing each panel, rinse the wash mitt in the bucket containing clear water then dip it back in the soapy water and move onto the next panel.
- After you’ve cleaned every panel of your car, give it another quick go-over with the soapy water so that you can ensure that no part of the car has gone dry with the soap water and left water spots. Use the same technique as before: go panel by panel from top to bottom, rinsing the wash mitt in the clear water bucket before dipping it in soapy water for the next panel.
- Rinse the vehicle from top to bottom using low pressure water, keeping the hose close to the body of the car. This will allow the water to flow smoothly down the car and gets rids of all the soap suds, while whatever water is left off will bead together, simplifying the drying process. Don’t forget to rinse the wheels again as well since soapy water may have dripped onto them as you washed the body of your car.
- Dry the vehicle using an absorbent drying cloth. Simply lay the cloth on the surface of the vehicle and drag it across. The cloth should pick up most of the water without scratching the paint.
- If necessary, use microfiber towels to remove any excess water left on the car. Remember to wipe down the inside of the doors, trunk and hood where water may have trickled in. Finally, using a separate towel, wipe down the wheels.
How often should you wash your car?
Well that’s entirely up to you. At the very least, washing your car once every two to three weeks is desirable but if you live in a particularly dusty or dirty area, you’d be better off washing more often.
Nonetheless, here’s my recommendation: if your car looks dirty, wash it.
What tips do you have?