15 Common Car Washing Mistakes To Avoid For A Shiny Ride

Oksana Kuznetsova/Getty

Washing your car may seem like a straightforward task. However, several common mistakes can cause harm rather than achieving that coveted sparkling shine. To keep your car in top condition, it’s essential to steer clear of these pitfalls.

Using Dish Soap


While it may seem like a convenient alternative, dish soap is too harsh for your car’s paint and can strip away protective coatings. Instead, opt for a pH-balanced car wash shampoo that is gentle on your vehicle’s finish. These specialized products are designed to lift dirt without compromising the integrity of your paint.

Washing in Direct Sunlight


Washing your automobile in direct sunlight can cause soap to dry too quickly, leaving water spots and streaks behind. To deter premature drying, choose a shady spot or wash it during cooler parts of the day. This will allow you to rinse off soap and dirt before they can adhere to the panels.

Skipping the Rinse


Failing to rinse your car exhaustively after washing can leave soap residue that destroys the paint over time. Take extra care to ensure all soap suds are completely rinsed away, especially in hard-to-reach areas like door jambs and undercarriage. A last rinse with clean water will help eliminate any lingering residue and make your car look pristine.

Using Dirty Materials

Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

Dirty sponges or towels can scratch your car’s paint, so always use clean, soft materials. Before each wash, inspect your tools for any dirt or debris and wash them thoroughly if necessary. Investing in high-quality microfiber towels and wash mitts will help to reduce the chances of scratching and ensure a smoother washing process.

Neglecting the Wheels


Your wheels accumulate a lot of grime and brake dust, so be sure to give them extra attention with a separate cleaning solution and brush. Use a specialized wheel cleaner formulated to break down stubborn brake dust and road grime without damaging the finish. Additionally, consider using a wheel brush or detailing brush to reach into tight spaces and crevices for a proper clean.

Not Washing Often Enough


Regular washing helps prevent dirt and grime from building up and damaging your car’s finish. Aim to wash your vehicle at least once every fortnight or more frequently if exposed to harsh weather conditions or heavy road debris. This will keep your mobile looking its best and protect it from corrosion and paint wear.

Using the Wrong Towel


Avoid using rough towels or cloths that can scratch the paint. Instead, opt for microfiber towels designed specifically for car washing. These towels are soft and absorbent, making them ideal for safely drying your car without leaving behind lint or scratches. Be sure to use separate towels for different parts of your car, such as one for the body and another for the wheels, to prevent cross-contamination.

Using Too Much Pressure

Alicja Warguła/Getty

High-pressure washing can force dirt particles against the paint, causing scratches. Use a gentle touch when washing your car, especially when using a pressure washer or hose nozzle. Start with low pressure and gradually increase as needed to remove stubborn dirt and grime without risking damage to the paint or clear coat.

Neglecting the Undercarriage


Dirt and salt buildup on the undercarriage can lead to rust and corrosion. Be sure to clean it well, paying particular attention to areas prone to collecting debris, such as wheel wells and suspension components. Use a pressure washer or hose with a strong stream of water to flush away dirt and salt buildup, and consider applying a rust inhibitor or undercarriage coating for added protection.

Using Incorrect Washing Technique


Washing in circular motions can create swirl marks on your car’s paint. Instead, use straight lines or a gentle back-and-forth motion to minimize the risk of scratching. Start at the top of the vehicle and work your way down, rinsing your tools regularly to deter dirt and debris from being trapped and causing damage.

Letting Soap Dry on the Surface


Always rinse soap before it can dry, as dried soap can leave residue and streaks. Use a steady stream of water to exhaustively rinse away any remaining soap suds, paying close attention to areas with intricate detailing or hard-to-reach spots. For added protection against water spots, consider using a spray-on wax or quick detailer as a final step to enhance shine and repel water.

Not Using a Grit Guard

Diego Cerro Jimenez/Getty

A grit guard in your wash bucket helps trap dirt and prevent it from transferring to your car’s body. Install a grit guard at the base of your wash bucket to create a barrier between your cleaning tools and the dirt particles that settle there. This will help minimize the risk of reintroducing dirt onto your car’s paint during washing, reducing the likelihood of scratches and swirl marks.

Washing with Hot Water


Hot water can cause soap to dry too quickly, leading to water spots. Stick to lukewarm water for the best results, as it is gentle on your car’s paint and helps to regulate temperature during the washing process. If you’re washing your car in cold weather, consider using a bucket heater or warm water from your indoor faucet to achieve the ideal temperature for washing without risking damage from extreme heat or cold.

Using Household Cleaners

Andrey Sayfutdinov/Getty

Household cleaners like window cleaner or bleach can damage your car’s paint and trim. Stick to products specifically formulated for automotive use that safely clean and protect your car’s exterior surfaces. Look for car wash shampoos, wheel cleaners, and detailing sprays that are pH-balanced and free of abrasive chemicals that can strip away wax and protective coatings.

Neglecting to Dry Properly


Air drying can create water spots on your car’s surface. Always dry your car thoroughly with a clean microfiber towel to prevent streaks and water spots. Start by gently blotting the surface to remove excess water, then use long, sweeping motions to dry each panel from top to bottom. Pay extra attention to seams, crevices, and trim pieces to ensure they are completely dry and free of water spots.

Written by Lucas M