If there is a single maintenance
that offers the biggest benefit to your car's
appearance, it's keeping your car clean through
regular washing. Washing is the process of removing
loose dirt and road film on the top of your car's
paint surfaces. That means more than just a good
hosing. You have to scrub it with shampoo and a
sponge or wash mitt.
Washing can be a double-edge sword, though, as even
the mildest soaps can remove the protection from
your car's paint, causing oxidation (paint
starvation). Detergents can dull your car's finish
even faster. For many years, BMW, Jaguar,
Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and many other fine
automobile makers recommended using only pure water
to wash your car.
The high-quality car wash shampoos
made today are very gentle on paint, plastic and
rubber. A good car wash shampoo provides
lubrication to prevent scratching and conditioners
to maintain the shine. Be sure to select a
quality product that's not counterproductive to your
The high-quality car wash
shampoos made today are very gentle on paint,
plastic and rubber. A good car wash shampoo
provides lubrication to prevent scratching and
conditioners to maintain the shine. Be sure to
select a quality product that's not
counterproductive to your detailing efforts.
product is Sonus
Gloss Shampoo, which restores gloss and
slickness to your paint as you wash. It also
rinses fast and clear, because it does not have a
lot of artificial suds. If you like the suds,
you'll love Meguiar's
NXT Generation Car Wash.
|As well as
a good shampoo, it takes a variety of tools
to correctly wash a car. I like using
brushes to clean hard-to-reach areas, such
as between body panels. I also like
using brushes on lower body panels, where
road grease and tar collects. Make
sure your brushes are paint safe, such as
brush from OXO.
WASH & DRY TOOLS
A towel is a towel, right?
Unfortunately, this is not correct. If you grew up
in a house like mine, Mom retired the old bath
towels to the garage for car and dog duty. What Mom
didn't realize is that most bath towels use a
backing material that contains heavy polyester
thread. The edges of the towel are stitched with
polyester thread, too. Pound for pound, polyester is
stronger than steel. This is great for long-lasting
bath towels, but it's not so good for your car's
paint. Traditional polyester and polyester blend
thread scratches automotive paint finishes. Use
paint-safe microfiber towels, such as the Sonus
Ultimate Drying Towel or the Sonus
Der Wunder Drying Towel.
Your choice of wash tools is
important, too. You should find a wash tool that is
comfortable for you to use, but take a few things
into consideration. First, your wash tool should
hold a lot of soapy water. The more it holds, the
more soapy water you can get on your car. This is
important for lubrication. The lubrication created
by soapy water is what prevents dirt from scratching
Use a wash tool that cleans
easily, too. If it does not easily release dirt and
grit, it's not safe. I like wash tools with a lot of
fibers, like a lamb's
wool mitt or a cotton-chenille-covered
sponge. Contrary to many beliefs, the natural
sea sponge and the boar's hair brush are not good
wash tools. Modern wash tools make these items
relics things of the past. A paint
safe wash brush can be used on the lower body
panels, but should not be used above the
The recent popularity of
microfiber has created a large number of microfiber
products, including microfiber wash mitts. In
my own testing I have concluded that many of the
microfiber wash mitts are not paint safe. If
the fibers have hooked or split ends, designed for
dry cleaning and dusting, the cloth will not be
free-rinsing. This means that the cloth will retain
dirt until it is heavily agitated in a washing
machine. The retained dirt particles may
scratch your paint. This microfiber
wash mitt from Sonus is paint safe and offers
easy car... just toss it in the wash.
For drying, a combination of
tools may be necessary. The sheepskin chamois has
been used for centuries as a towel for drying. This
naturally soft leather is very absorbent.
All-natural chamois are still a good choice, but
they are not as effective or as easy to use as a quality
microfiber drying towel.
If you like to dry in a
hurry, there are paint-safe
squeegees available that will quickly remove 80%
of the water from your car with just a few strokes.
Follow up with a good towel, and you're done. If you
use a paint-safe squeegee, be careful. It only takes
one small dirt particle between the blade and your
car to create a scratch.
Here are some tips to make
the tires and wheels first. If you wash
the car body first, the water will dry and spot
your car before you can finish washing the tires
and wheels. Do not use the same wash water
on your car's paint as you do your tires and
wheels. Throw it out and refill your
well maintained wheels, I use a strong car
wash solution to clean the tires and
wheels. I have a variety of brushes
and sponges in my bucket to get into all
of the nooks and crannies. If
the wheels have caked on brake dust I use
a few shots of my favorite wheel cleaner.
Once a month or so, I like to use a tire
& rubber cleaner to deep clean the
tires, removing all of the tire dressing.
- Make sure your car is
cool. If possible, work in the shade.
A hot surface causes the wash and rinse water
to evaporate too quickly, increasing the
likelihood of water spotting. One trick
is to park on a slight incline. This
allows rinse water to run off moldings, trim,
and recessed areas better. Start by
thoroughly wetting the car's finish with a
medium spray of water to remove loose grit and
I'm breaking my number one rule -- I'm
washing a car in the sun. If you
have to work in the sun, work fast and
keep the car wet by rinsing often.
This is morning sunlight and the
temperature is below 72 degrees. If
it was much warmer I would not be washing
the Boxster in the sun. You be the
wash tool I'm using is an old wool wash
mitt. I've had it for years and it
does a great job. Notice that I have
parked the car on a slight incline.
This helps to drain the water from cracks
and crevices. It also makes rinsing
Follow the shampoo manufacturer's
directions for the proper mix ratio.
Using too much shampoo is wasteful and may
leave an oily or soapy residue on the
- Use a car wash shampoo
specifically formulated for automotive use.
Look for a shampoo containing surface
conditioners. Surface conditioners act
as a lubricant, allowing sand and abrasive
grit to slide off in the rinse water without
scratching the paint. Quality car
shampoos cost a little more but are worth
every penny if you own a dark-colored car
(dark cars show every little scratch).
- I prefer a chenille
wash pad, or sheepskin
wash mitt for washing. These tools
have a large number of fine filaments that
draw dirt and grime away from the surface
being cleaned into their internal structure.
Synthetic (flat sided) sponges and wash cloths
can trap dirt, grit, and grime on the surface,
which can scratch your car's paint. If
you use a natural sea sponge, use the outer
soft side for washing, not the harder cut
side, and always rinse new sponges thoroughly
to remove any remaining sand or shell
particles. 100% cotton chenille wash
mitts and pads are also excellent as they hold
lots of soapy water and are gentle to your
- Start washing from the
top down and rinse the car often. Frequent
rinsing is especially important if you are
using a wash containing natural oils.
While these oils cushion the paint and
minimize abrasion they are heavier than water
and can leave a film if allowed to sit on the
car. I use a final rinse of free-flowing
water (nozzle off the hose) allowing the water
to sheet off the car.
- For stubborn problems on
your paint, I recommend a tar and bug remover.
the car has bugs on the grill and bumper
area, I pre-treat the bug spots with a
paint safe insect remover to safely remove
stubborn bug remains.
Before drying, your car should
be freshly rinsed and free of visible dirt, grease
and oil. Here's how:
- Using a clean waffle
weave drying towel or chamois, start at
the top of the car and work down, drawing the
towel or chamois across the surface in a
straight line. If using a natural
chamois, use the rough side to dry the car.
- Repeat wiping until the
surface is mostly dry then finish drying with
a dry microfiber towel or hand size waffle
weave towel to remove any remaining droplets
- Use a terry detailing
towel to dry your tires and wheels. Do
not use your chamois or good microfiber towels
on the tires and wheels, as it will become
- Open the doors and use
detailing towel to dry the door sills and
jambs. Wipe under the door and along the
door edge, as well.
- Open the trunk and hood
and wipe down the jams and seals. On the
engine, use your damp towel to remove dust and
light oil from the top of the engine and
engine compartment surfaces. While the
hood is open and you have a towel, check your
oil. After working in the engine
compartment, put the dirty towel in the wash
and don't use it on your car again until you
If you hate drying, as I
do, an alternate way to dry your car is with a
safe squeegee (often called a "water
blade"). The Water Blade thoroughly
removes water in a fraction of the time it takes
with a chamois. Most paint safe squeegee's
apply less friction to the paint than a terry
cloth towel. I use a paint safe squeegee on
my windows and large flat surfaces follow by a
waffle weave towel. It's very fast and easy.
Regardless of how gentle your car shampoo is, or
when you last waxed your car, driving and washing
deplete the wax or sealant protection you've
applied to your car. For this reason, I like
to use a quick
detailing spray on my car after washing.
A good detailing spray renews the just waxed shine
and extends the life of your wax or sealant.
Regular washing is very
important to maintaining your car's appearance.
Most people forget some of the simple, quick steps
that can keep a new car looking new. Take
just a few extra minutes when you wash to wipe
down the engine, door jams and trunk.
Keeping these areas clean prevents a bigger
cleanup job later. To make your job easier
and more enjoyable, invest in a few good detailing
tools. Quality wash and dry tools make a