A simple car wash is the easiest and most effective way to maintain your vehicle’s appearance. However, most of you are washing your car wrong! Granted, there are a hundred ways you can wash your car these days, there are also a myriad of ways you can be doing it wrong. A few key steps can be taken when washing that will drastically reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain your vehicle’s appearance. In this write-up we’ll discuss some tips and tricks that can help reduce unsightly swirls, scratches and spider-webbing that can be caused from improperly washing your car. If cared for properly, a vehicle’s painted surface can easily last 1-2 years before requiring a full-blown polishing procedure.
Rule 1 – The Two-Bucket Wash Method
It is absolutely essential that you utilize two buckets when washing your car. Let’s think for a second on how you’re currently washing. I’ll bet you’re grabbing a single bucket, filling it with soap & water, grabbing your rag, spraying the car down, then going to town; constantly dunking your dirty rag into the same wash bucket. All the while, you’re mixing your clean wash water with the dirt and grime you just removed from the car’s surface. Your wash rag/mitt becomes impregnated with dirt, in turn transferring that dirt BACK to the vehicle’s surface, and slowly but surely scratching, marring, and dulling the painted surface.
Thankfully there’s an easy and effective fix to this issue. Instead of a single bucket, we recommend using two. One bucket for your soapy wash water (wash bucket), the other should contain only water (rinse bucket). 5 gallon buckets are the best for these tasks as they allow for ample amount of water to help remove trapped dirt particles from your wash mitt.
Rule 2 – Grit Guards
Grit Guards and Washboards are relatively recent additions to the car washing tool box. A Grit Guard is an insert that is placed into the bottom of your wash and rinse buckets that aids in extracting dirt particles from your wash mitt. They allow the dirt to sink to the bottom of the bucket and provide a clean, scratch-free wash mitt every time you go back to the bucket for water.
A Washboard works in conjunction with the Grit Guard and provides a vertical surface to agitate your wash mitt against (note that a Grit Guard is needed in order to utilize the Washboard).
Rule 3 – The Soap
Choosing the correct soap to wash your car with is another critical choice that will dictate the amount of work washing your car takes. Whatever soap you choose, make sure to never use dish soap for washing your car! Dish soap contains powerful detergents that will not only strip the dirt, oil and grime from your vehicle’s paint but also any wax protection you may have applied previously.
Instead, choose a high-quality, PH-balanced soap that is designed specifically for cleaning painted surfaces. Jay Leno's Garage Vehicle Wash is PH-nuetral, and is formulated for maximum lubricity to prevent scratching or marring.
Rule 4 – The Wash Mitt
It is imperative to invest in a quality wash mitt. While there are hundreds of types of wash mitts available on the market today, one of the most recent advancements in this area is microfiber chenille mitts. These are extra-soft mitts that contain absorbent strands to help lift and trap dirt away from the paint’s sensitive surface. They’re the only wash mitts we use at the garage!
Rule 5 – The Drying Towel
Do not overlook the drying step. Most folks will simply grab an old, cotton bathroom towel to do the job. But fabrics like cotton are typically too aggressive to use on your car’s paint and can also leave behind dreaded swirls and scratches.
Instead, we recommend using a microfiber drying towel. These provide an extra-soft, super absorbent solution to aid in drying your vehicle. And the best part is, they won’t harm your car’s painted surfaces.
Thoroughly rinse the car with your hose using a strong blast of water.
Soak your wash mitt in your wash bucket, and wash from the top of the car, then work your way down – roof, windows, hood, trunk, front & rear, sides, then wheels, tires and wheel wells last (use a separate, dedicated brush to clean wheels, tires and wheel wells).
Rinse your wash mitt in the rinse bucket after each section, then soak in the wash bucket to fill the mitt with more soap and suds.
Rinse the car after each major section to help avoid soap drying on the surface.
Once each section is completely clean, you can move onto the final step, drying the car. Using very light pressure, start at the top of the car, and work your way down with your drying towel. We suggest patting the water dry, instead of dragging the towel across the surface. Depending on the size of your vehicle, it may also be necessary to periodically ring out your towel.