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How to properly wash your car

4585 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  kartelan02
I know a lot of us wash our cars on a regular basis. But most of people don't know that they are doing more damage to their car by improperly washing it. Here's a step by step guide on properly washing your car.

Many of us enjoy the benefits of a freshly hand washed car. However, without proper knowledge you may be doing more harm than good. Washing a car improperly will induce micro-marring known as Swirls or Spider-Webbing.
The cause of this damage is due to foreign particles trapped in your washing materials. This can happen several ways such as:

  • Improper storage of materials when not in use.
  • Improper materials such as using Dishsoap*, old T-Shirts, etc.
  • Improper washing techniques which lead to further damage in the drying stage.

The following materials are recommended for proper washing.

  • Two regular Wash bucket’s or a single grit trap bucket.
  • Either 100% Sheepskin Wash Mitt, Wash Sponge, or a Sponge Wash Mitt.
  • Sponge, or Terry Towel for wheels.
  • Quality Car Wash Soap.


1. When washing a car try to do it in an atmosphere where the paint surface is not hot to the touch. Shade or garages are the best atmosphere. Overly high temperature cause’s the water and soaps to evaporate too quickly not giving them a chance to remove the necessary particles.

2. Start by thoroughly spraying the entire vehicle with a nozzled hose, or pressure washer. Pay particular attention to heavily soiled areas, trying to remove as much dirt as possible in this stage. If possible work from top to bottom in a downward angle.

3. Use a soap specifically designed for washing automotive paints. These soaps have special oils and lubricants in them specially designed to lift and remove foreign particles. These soaps are also very low on the PH scale and will not strip previous waxes.

4. Start by washing the wheels, this will eliminate any brake dust or harsh wheel cleaners from contacting a freshly washed panel.

5. By using two buckets you greatly reduce the possibility of tracking dirt into your wash mitt. Your soapy water will also stay much cleaner. Simply fill one bucket with your soap/water mixture and the other bucket with just water. After every application of Soap/Water dip and shake the wash mitt in the water bucket. This will loosen and clean the wash mitt BEFORE applying more soap/water to the mitt. The soap solution will stay much cleaner and the majority or dirt will stay in the water bucket. You can also use special Grit Guard bucket insert. These insersts provides a screen or false floor in the bottom where loose particles fall beneath. This makes it impossible to come in contact with these particle when re-entering the wash bucket for more soap. You can also use a foam gun to cover the vehicle in suds.

6. Scrub the vehicle from top to bottom, try to follow the contours of the vehicle or any distinct body lines. By doing this mishaps are much less noticeable. By washing in a circular motion any mishaps will be at all angles and much more noticeable. Rinse often! After every application of soap rinse the vehicle before going back for more soap.

7. After you are finished washing, do a final rinse on the entire vehicle. For the final rinse remove the hose nozzle. Start from top to bottom and with the flowing water inches away from the surface sheet off any remaining or misses debris/soap. This sheeting rinse will pull materials down and leave much less water on the surface. There will be little water beading with this technique making it much easier and quicker to dry.

*NOTE: Using dishsoap regularly to wash a vehicle will strip your protecting waxes. The high acidity will also dry out any plastic/rubber trim over time. However, there is a certain time you DO want to use a dishsoap! There are times you would like to strip off your current waxes and try a new product; dishsoap will remove these waxes and leave your paint surface bare, ready for another wax application or polish. Dishsoap will not remove synthetic waxes such as Klasse.
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Two things I learned from somewhere else will help those of us with dark colored cars and continually fighting swirl marks.

1) Whatever you use to wash/wipe the car (cloths, wash mitt, etc.), let them dry after use and then stick them in a plastic bag to prevent contamination. If you store them near your bench grinder, you're not likely to be too happy with your next wash.

Do the same for your drying materials... chamois, water blade etc,

2) If you get some new terrycloth towels for drying the car, these need to be washed several times before use. Virtually all of them have been sprayed with styrene to keep them "looking new" until they are sold.

nice write up. very helpful to know how to do it properly. all this time i though i was doing it right. guess i was wrong.
I still much prefer to take it to the detailers and have them do it all for me. the basic wash I can do at a car was as well. I live in a condo so running a hose from my window is a little prohibitive.
i bring it to the detailers for big jobs. but i normally try to wash the car myself at coin operated car washes. helps me save money that way.
Hey Everyone, I'm new to the Regal Forums. I just purchased my RL1 during the holidays. I live in Michigan and as you can imagine the car has gotten pretty dirty from the snow, slush, winter. What is the best way to wash my Regal during the winter? I don't want to damage the paint/body by doing it the wrong way. Obviously hand washing it in my driveway isn't an option. Is the best to take it to one of those do-it-yourself coin wash systems?

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated, trying to get her washed soon!

- Raj
Just read through the entire thread, swirl marks are a deadly problem....

The way i find it best to do at a coin-op as quick and best as possible.
is by using the high pressure rinse to rinse all dirt everything off, and as much dirt as possible off!

At that point I'll use soap and spray the car 2-3 times in the soap and let it sit for a little bit, and then start by cleaning it with a wool clothe while trying to keep it wet and spraying the wool glove as much as possible.

Once the car is clean and scrubbed, i take another layer of the high pressure rinse to spray everything off, then run it again, after with the wax option.

At which point i just switch over to chamois and dry the car as much as possible, then quick detail the car with a hand polish or spray on detailer, to protect the paint.
How do you deal with white spots after washing with hard water? I use a clay bar according to the instructions How to remove water spots from car | Water spots removal , and also tried some popular detergents to remove divorces, they also say a bite with water helps. Share your experience.
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