How To Wash Your Car

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You can use automatic car washes and even paid car detailing services

You have several options when it comes to finding a reputable detail service. The most cost-effective choices come from local car washes, while dedicated detail companies have more options at a higher price.

Typically, detailing work is bundled into “packages,” each with a set cost. Companies usually have several package levels. The most basic detail options include an exterior wash and wax, interior vacuuming, window cleaning and surface polishing.

Personally I don’t let these companies do my cars. I value my privacy and do not like the industrial equipment used or chemicals.

If you care about your car’s exterior, you’ll avoid those quickie car washes with the big brushes that can do more harm than good and do a DIY car wash that will achieve the best results.

Most people that a wash and wax is the best way to keep their car shiny and clean. Their heart is in the right place, but there is much more to washing a car than those two things.

Evaluating the condition of your vehicle will steer you towards how it should be cleaned. A new car or one that already has a good coat of wax on it, may only need a wash and wax to maintain it, but a car with an average to neglected exterior may need to be clean and polished as well.

Before using any type of car cleaning chemical, it is important to read the label. The application for soap, wax, or detailer can vary from brand to brand and vehicle to vehicle. For example, using a chrome wheel cleaner which is extremely acidic on an aluminum wheel can ruin it. Also invest in premium microfiber clothes and keep separate piles for those used on your paint, wheels, and windows. Wash your towels and clean

Washing your car will remove loose contaminants such as dust, dirt, and mud from the exterior of your vehicle. Always use a car washing soap and not a liquid detergent or dish cleaner, which can damage the paint and strip away wax. Rinse your car first to remove larger pieces of dirt which can scratch your car when washing, and use clean mitts and drying cloths.

Do Wheels First due to the strongest chemicals used.

The most important wheel cleaning tip is to use the product that has been specifically formulated for your type of wheel. If you don’t know what type of wheels you have, then go with the least powerful version which is an acid-free pH balanced aluminum wheel cleaner as these can be used on all type of wheels.

Choose a pressure washer with a setting of 1200 — 1900 PSI. It’s safe to use for cars, so you won’t need to worry about damaging the paint on your car. Experts recommend using a pressure washer with 1.4 — 1.6 GPM. There are several different sizes of nozzles that can be used with a pressure washer.

After washing you can easily see scratches, swirls, and oxidation in your paint and feel for bonded contaminants such as overspray or tree sap that washing doesn’t remove. Just run your hand over a washed vehicle, and if you can feel little bumps, then you need to go a step further with cleaning your car.

A clay bar can be used to remove stubborn bonded contaminants. It will remove everything off the surface of your vehicle including wax and will restore smoothness to the paint. Start by kneading it into a flat wafer and use a detailer as a lubricant. Hold it in the palm of one hand and run it across the surface of your car.

To remove scratches and etching that are below the surface, you’ll need to use a compound. They can be applied by hand using applicator pads or by using a dual-action polisher, and wiped away soon after applying. A compound paint cleaner needs to be worked into the finish and can sometimes require a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th application. Some scratches are too deep and only a paint touch-up will repair them.

This step is optional and can be compared to applying lotion on your skin. Polish can be applied by hand or with a dual-action polisher, and the conditioning oils add depth of color and maximum gloss prior to waxing, especially on dark colored vehicles.

Waxing is like sunscreen for your car. It adds a layer of protection from UV rays to prevent fading, as well as anything that may land on the paint. It preserves your high gloss finish and is available in a carnauba or polymer form. Both types of wax perform the same, but a polymer wax won’t haze as it dries and can usually be wiped off soon after applying. The choice between using carnauba or polymer wax is similar to choosing synthetic or regular engine oil. Polymer is a bit more expensive but is easier to apply and some say performs better.

After you’ve done the hard work of washing, cleaning, and protecting your car, you’ll need to take steps to maintain it’s appearance. Keep a spray detailer and clean microfiber cloth in your trunk, which can come in handy for quickly removing dust, overspray, and bird droppings.

If your car is relatively clean and all of these steps seem daunting and time-consuming, a one-step cleaner wax may be the best choice for you. After washing your car, use it to clean, polishing, and protect your car in one product. It can be applied by hand or with a polisher and you’ll achieve much better results using a product like this instead of just going straight to wax after washing.

Stay away from Windex and other household glass cleaners as they contain ammonia which can damage a car’s window tint. Use an auto window cleaner for best results and wipe down twice to ensure the cleaner is removed.

Some Alternative Solutions

Use caution when choosing anything other than products designed for use on your car. That said these are some plausible options.

Household Items that Can Be Used for Cleaning Your Car:

  • Vinegar

Vinegar has lots of uses in the home and in the car. You can use it from everything from deodorizing to cleaning the windshield or upholstery. As a general rule, use 3 parts water to one part vinegar for your cleaning solution. You can also mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water in a spray bottle and spray your windshield to help keep it free of frost in the winter.

  • Dawn Dish Soap

Dawn, when mixed with a bucket of water, becomes an inexpensive car soap. If you want to increase the impact, add vinegar for tough grime on your car and tough stains on your seats or floors. Do not use on leather seats. Leather needs moisture and this mixture may be too abrasive.

  • essential oils for cleaning your car. Essential oils

If you have essential oils at home, you can create your favorite scent and make your own hanging car air freshener! This is a really fun idea to customize the scent of your car. Here is a simple tutorial of how to make your own:

How To Make 3 Naturally-Scented Air Fresheners For Cars · One Good Thing by Jillee

  • Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is great for removing stains. Dab the stain with alcohol and make sure to use a die-free cloth. Do not rub, just dab. (link to cleaning ink from seats) You can also use a solution of ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol to 1 liter of water to prevent frost from accumulating on your windshield in winter. If your windshield is already frosty, spray undiluted rubbing alcohol directly on the outside of windshield and watch the ice melt away!

  • Woolite

Woolite works as a leather cleaner! Use a mixture of 1 part Woolite to 10 parts water to clean and condition your leather seats. This post found on Pinterest has step-by-step instructions:

How to clean car leather

  • Cornstarch

Cornstarch is another household cleaning wonder that can be used when cleaning your car. To clean your car windows, use a solution of ½ cup cornstarch to 4 cups of water, spray on to your glass, wiped with a clean, die-free rag (such as a washcloth). Your windows will sparkle almost as brightly as your smile! You can also use cornstarch as a natural deodorizer on your upholstery, sprinkle on and let sit for 30 min before you vacuum. If you have a grease or oil spot on your upholstery, floorboards or mats cover it with cornstarch and let it set for 12 hours. Cornstarch will absorb the grease, then vacuum and clean.

  • Toothpaste

If your headlights are getting foggy, use toothpaste to brighten them up! Just apply toothpaste to the clear plastic casing, and scrub with a brush. Wipe the excess away.

  • Coconut Oil

Not only is coconut oil great for cooking and softening your skin and hair, it is also an excellent conditioner for leather. First wipe your leather clean with a damp (not wet) clean die-free cloth, dry. Add small amounts of coconut oil and rub into the leather gently with a clean, dry cloth. Make sure to spot test first. We at pedalsandpumps.com tested this idea and it worked great!

  • Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets

Some commercial products for cleaning your car can actually do more damage than good. Use a dryer sheet to wipe dust off of your cars dashboard instead. You can even tuck a sheet in the glove box or between the seats to help keep your car smelling as fresh as your laundry. Placing a dryer sheet in your air filter can also help keep rodents away!

  • Olive oil for cleaning your car

Olive Oil. After you have dusted your dashboard, you can add shine with a little olive oil. First make sure to spot test in a hidden area before you treat the whole area. Once you are sure that no discoloration will occur, apply a small amount olive oil to the dash and rub with a clean cloth. It will look shiny and new!

  • Cooking Spray

Cooking spray can be used to keep dirt and brake-dust off of your tires and wheels when cleaning your car. Just clean the area and spray on the cooking oil. This will make cleaning your tires easier in the future. You can also use it to remove bugs stuck to the front of your car, just spray and wipe.

  • Baking Soda

What can’t baking soda do? It deodorizes, just sprinkle it on your floor mats and vacuum away for a refresher. It is also a less abrasive cleaner. Use a paste of baking soda and water to clean dirty seat belts. Apply the paste to the nylon, gently scrub, rinse, and air dry. It is important to use non-abrasive cleaners on seatbelt material so that you do not weaken the integrity of the fabric.

More For Car Maintenance

Consumer Reports: Car Maintenance & Repair Guide – Consumer Reports

Sources:

Keywebco does have some car care supplies.

Keywebco

Roger Keyserling


How To Wash Your Car was originally published in eCom Tips on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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One Comment

  1. Now, that’s some great information! And so useful! You have included everything that I had a question about, thank you so much for sharing this. I recently bought a new car and I have been a little wary of going thru the automatic washes.

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