There’s nothing better than a sparkling, clean car. Unfortunately, keeping your set of wheels clean can sometimes be easier said than done.
To protect your vehicle and keep it looking its best, you need to wash it regularly. This prevents minor wear and tear from becoming noticeable, thereby maintaining your car’s value, and keeping your car looking better for longer. Provided you use the right technique and the right tools, washing your car is easy to do at home.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for how to wash your car at home.
Tip #1: Tools of the trade
To keep your car looking its best, it’s important to have the right cleaning tools. These include a hose with a variable nozzle, a soft sponge and/or car wash mitt, some car washing liquid, a wheel brush, several microfibre cloths, and at least one large microfiber towel for drying. In addition, a vacuum cleaner for the interior, rubber gloves, wheel cleaner, paper towels, and window cleaner are all useful tools to have on hand.
On the other hand, don’t use hand soap, dishwashing liquid, or anything other than proper car wash detergent to clean your car’s exterior. Car wash products are specifically designed to provide ample lubrication to prevent dislodged grit from scratching your car’s paint, and they’re gentle enough so they don’t remove existing wax.
Finally, you will need two buckets. This is extremely important. One of the biggest car washing blunders is rinsing out a dirty sponge in the clean suds bucket. When you do this, you’re not removing the dirt – you’re just putting the same grit and filth right back on the car and spreading it around. So use one bucket for your clean, sudsy water, and a second one (full of clean water) for thoroughly rinsing out that grimy sponge. Once the sponge is thoroughly rinsed, dip it back in the soapy water and continue.
Tip #2: Location, location, location
While it seems tempting to wash your car on a warm, sunny day, this is actually a common mistake. Rather, if you clean your car when it’s warm and sunny outside, it tends to dry too quickly, meaning you’re more likely to end up with spots on your paintwork and windows. As such, it is better to wash your car on an overcast day to ensure it doesn’t dry too quickly.
Additionally, it is best to park your car somewhere flat and shady, where you have plenty of room to fully open your doors.
Tip #3: Cleaning the wheels
You’ve gathered all of your cleaning equipment and found the perfect location to wash your car. Now, it’s time to get down to business. We recommend beginning by washing your wheels. This is because wheel wells, hubcaps and rubber tyres collect all sorts of abrasive gunk that you don’t want anywhere near your car paint.
While most wheels will only require soapy water and a good scrubbing, if it has been a while since you cleaned your wheels, it might be a good idea to invest in a dedicated wheel/tyre cleaning product. Water-based, non-corrosive wheel cleaners that are suitable for all types of wheels are the safest choice. Further, don’t forget to wash around the wheel nuts, as well as scrubbing the outside tires.
Tip #4: Cleaning the exterior
Your wheels are shiny and clean, now it’s time to make the rest of your car match. But before you start scrubbing, make sure you hose off the entire vehicle to remove any loose dirt or debris that might otherwise scratch the car’s surface. It’s especially important to clean off bird droppings, dead insects, and tree sap, as these can be very harmful to your vehicle’s paint.
Once the car has been thoroughly rinsed with the hose, wash it by sections, moving systematically from top to bottom in the following order: roof, then window supports and windows, then the top of the bonnet and upper panels, followed by the middle of the doors and the boot, the front bumper, lower panels, lower part of the doors, and finally the back bumper. Remember to use separate buckets as you do this, while also rising your microfibre cloth regularly (or replacing it if it gets too dirty).
When you give your vehicle a final rinse, it is best to use a hose without a nozzle, so the water flows gently down over the whole car in a sheeting action. This way, you will leave fewer spots. Water spots are faint mineral deposits left behind when water evaporates, so drying your car thoroughly is just as important as washing it correctly. Use a large microfiber towel for scratch-free drying; you could also use a silicone ‘paint-safe’ squeegee to remove most of the initial moisture. Microfibre towels are much more absorbent than chamois or terry cloth towels, and they dry more quickly.
Once your car is completely dry, you can rejuvenate the shine of your existing wax with any number of spray wax products.
Tip #5: Cleaning the windows and glass
Not only are clean mirrors, windows, and windscreens aesthetically pleasing, they’re also important for your safety. It’s hard to be a safe driver if you have to squint to see out of your windscreen and your rear-view mirror is covered in smudges. There are a few important things to remember when cleaning your windows and glass.
Firstly, standard glass and tinted glass need to be cleaned in different ways. Cleaning untinted glass is fairly straightforward – a trusty glass cleaner and paper towel combination should get the job done. As always, remember to spray the glass cleaner directly onto the paper towel, rather than onto the glass surface. That way, you avoid the spray dripping down and damaging other surfaces.
Untinted glass, on the other hand, requires soapy water and a soft microfibre cloth to avoid damaging the film.
Finally, be careful not to knock or damage electrical connectors as you’re cleaning things such as side mirrors.
Tip #6: Cleaning the interior
It’s all well and good to have a clean exterior, but if your interior is dirty, then your car probably isn’t going to be much fun to drive. As such, cleaning the interior is an integral part of cleaning your car. First things first, remove any rubbish from your car, while also removing any loose, personal items to ensure they aren’t sucked up while you vacuum. Next step (you guessed it), is vacuuming – try to get into every nook and cranny, particularly underneath the seats. Following that, it’s time to grab an electrostatic cloth and clear all of the hard surfaces of dust, crumbs, and other debris. The electrostatic cloth is also an excellent tool for cleaning air vents and other hard-to-reach areas. Finally, if you want to be really thorough, grab a small brush and soapy water and clean your pedals, remembering to place a towel down first so that your carpet doesn’t get damp.
Tip #7: Keeping your car clean
Now that your car is sparkling clean, you would probably like to keep it that way. While it is inevitable that your car will get dirty again eventually, there are a few pre-emptive actions you can take to ensure your car remains as clean as possible for as long as possible. Firstly, it’s important to consider where you park your car. Whenever possible, try to avoid parking under trees (particularly during autumn), or anywhere that birds are likely to gather, as bird droppings can be difficult and time-consuming to remove.
Additionally, try to steer clear of newly sealed gravel roads. When it comes to keeping the interior clean, common sense is key. Obviously, avoid messy food and drinks, and be sure to remove any loose debris from your shoes before getting behind the wheel.
Last but certainly not least, the most important advice for how to wash your car at home is this: wash your car more frequently than you do now. Once a fortnight (or even once a week) isn’t too much at all, especially if you drive in an area where your car gets dirty very quickly. Think of it like this: the dirtier your car gets, the harder it will be to clean next time!
However, if this all sounds like too much work for you, check out Car Wash Finder, a tool proudly brought to you by Budget Direct to help you find and review your local car wash.
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Car Insurance