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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.
Materials
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.
Procedure

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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thats a pretty good writeup. that should help me keep my car shinning like its brand new. post more writeups when you have time.
 

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Thanks for posting this up. Now I know what to do when I wash my car. I never thought It was this complicated. I always just used regular liquid soap and a hose.
 

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Actually, since you bring it up, this is one of my biggest worries about getting my new Fiat. I am afraid of what the prep people will do with power tools. I just wonder what sort of training they get.
 

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Excellent writeup. I would add, if I may, that using a detail spray to mist the car down before drying tends to do two things:

1) It helps prevent water spots
2) It keeps the car's surface "lubricated" during drying so one has less of a chance of introducing swirls/spiderwebbing into the finish

And of course, use the best quality drying towel you can find.

I do have one question. Since these cars are all new, how long should someone wait before using a machine polisher? I know new paint needs time to set or cure. Would that apply here as well?
 

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I do have one question. Since these cars are all new, how long should someone wait before using a machine polisher? I know new paint needs time to set or cure. Would that apply here as well?
I personally would not use a machine polisher but some people who have skills might want to.

My question is basically the same thouhg: How long before adding some wax to the paint? Is wax even necessary with all of the clear coats they put on modern cars? What kind?
 

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You are right, lots of people do not take the proper care when they wash their car, and it is because of this they themselves create the scratches and swirl marks.

Let me just add a few of my trade secrets...

WASHING
I do not use the above listed items to wash my car, I feel it is too hard to get them fully clean and over time they are nothing but a trap for tiny particles, the kind of particles that create and breed scratches and swirl marks.
What I do is every spring I go into JoAnn's Fabrics and buy a yard of pure white non-piling polar fleece. I cut this up into 9" squares and use them to wash the car, constantly turning to keep the dirt stuck in the rag away from the car. When I'm done washing the car, I throw the piece of polar fleece away. This way, every time I wash the car I'm using a 100% clean piece, and I never have to be concerned about my rag or mitt carrying tiny scratch-making particles.

DRYING
The less you touch the car, the less chance you have of scratching it. I long ago gave up using some type of rag to dry off the vehicle. I use a leaf blower! The leaf blower is dedicated to this task, it is never used in the yard for its intended purpose. The leaf blower blows the water right off a good wax job, and it gets all the water out of places you could never reach with a rag. I'm always amazed, it looks like a cup of water hides behind the badges on my S2000.
 

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Actually, since you bring it up, this is one of my biggest worries about getting my new Fiat. I am afraid of what the prep people will do with power tools. I just wonder what sort of training they get.
Tell them to simply wash the car, and nothing more
Once they make a mess, you can't go back to a non-mess very easily
 

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One additional area to wash regularly is the indercarriage. Dust and dirt accumulated under the car will retain moisture, and winter ice-melting applications such as mag chloride will collect on frame rails and in every bend and flange in the body works. Flushing with clear water is the best process; if you do it before the mag chloride road scum is dry you can remove most of it.
 

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One additional area to wash regularly is the indercarriage. Dust and dirt accumulated under the car will retain moisture, and winter ice-melting applications such as mag chloride will collect on frame rails and in every bend and flange in the body works. Flushing with clear water is the best process; if you do it before the mag chloride road scum is dry you can remove most of it.
And contrary to what CDOT and others claim, mag chloride does indeed harm cars - including pitting to chrome wheels. :( I agree it is not as harmful as salt but definitely not benign.
 

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Here's what I do to dry it.

I wash it.

Then I drive fast on highway to my next thing I gotta get done and all the water-drops fall off.
Bwahaha - this is also my favorite method. :)
 

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The only proper way to wash your car, is to have someone else do it.


Rick Case Fiat --- Lifetime free car washes
Oh ya, the kid working in the back who never washes the mitt that keeps falling on the floor and puts the pressure hose 3 inches away from the panels. Been there and never again do I let a dealer wash my car, even after service.
 

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Oh ya, the kid working in the back who never washes the mitt that keeps falling on the floor and puts the pressure hose 3 inches away from the panels. Been there and never again do I let a dealer wash my car, even after service.

Maybe you need a better dealer. I've watched them wash the car. They do a better job then I could, and I'm not sweating
 

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I've watched them wash the car.
LOL, Standing over their shoulder while they're working works in any industry. For example "This is the best burger joint" Until you find out they rub the hamburger bun in their armpit when you're not hawk eying them.

Naw, I'll do it myself, it's a small car.
 

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This is the first car I've had that I actually enjoy washing, probably because it's so small. I can reach across the top easily enough and the whole thing takes maybe 30 minutes to wash and dry.

I try and wash it once a week, but it works out more to once every two weeks. I tend to get lazy and alternate an inside cleaning with and outside wash.
 
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