Drying car with towel

Surprising Car Washing Dos And Don’ts

The best rationale for keeping your car clean? It may sound superficial, but: “the better it looks, the more value you’re going to get out of your vehicle,” says Jennifer Olvera, director of creative and marketing at Chemical Guys, a car-detailing company based in Los Angeles. In fact, all things being equal between two used cars, the one that’s clean and well maintained will command the best price, she says.

Here are Olvera’s six dos and don’ts for making that new-car look last longer.

Don’t Use Just Any Old T-Shirt, Towel Or Rag

Old tees and tattered towels are easy to come by, but they’re not as soft as microfiber cloths, which are easier on your car’s finish. For a gentler wash, try a microfiber chenille noodle mitt. To dry the car, Olvera suggests using either a plush microfiber towel or a waffle-weave towel. For a fast, streak-free finish, use two waffle-weave towels and wipe off as much glass cleaner as you can with the first towel, then buff away any last drops or streaks with the second.

Do Use Two Buckets

Another way to keep your car’s paint job looking flawless longer: Avoid rubbing it repeatedly with dirt and debris when you wash it. Try the two-bucket method: Fill up one bucket with soapy water and another with just water. Wet your wash mitt in the first. Then, after you suds up your car, dip the mitt into the rinse bucket to clear off grime before you soap it up again. “It’s a way to make sure everything that could be on your mitt is off, reducing any chance of scratching,” Olvera says.

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Do Brush & Vacuum The Floor Mats

Your vacuum can’t catch all of the dirt or dog hair that’s stuck on your interior’s carpet. Take a stiff brush to it first to loosen dust and caked-on mud. “Most vacuums are pretty strong,” Olvera says, “but this will make sure that anything captured in those fibers in your carpet comes out.”

Don’t Use A Circular Motion

“The moment you start doing circles, you risk introducing superfine scratches that are hard to fix,” says Olvera. Instead, for each step in the car-washing process, move your mitt or towel in straight lines or a Z-pattern. An accidental scratch in a straight line will be easier to touch up.

Do Clean & Protect Your Seats

“A lot of people forget to maintain their leather seats,” Olvera says. Even getting in and out of the car will eventually lead to cracking if you’re not conditioning it regularly. Depending on how much time your car spends in the sun, you should clean leather seats and moisturize with a leather conditioner every month to every six months. For cloth seats, regularly apply a fabric guard. If a spill happens, it’ll be easier to wipe up since the liquid won’t penetrate. (“Do this with your carpets, as well,” she says.) To address stains, spray a non-foaming all-purpose cleaner directly on the seat and scrub with a horsehair brush, then pat with a microfiber towel to dry.

Do Wear Car-Friendly Clothes When You Wash It

Zip-up hoodies, belt buckles and bracelets can hurt your paint job. Before you get started, consider what you have on—or invest in a microfiber apron (yes, they exist!) to wear while you do this chore. While it may seem overzealous to put on a car-washing outfit, Olvera says that even buttons can scratch paint.

Another important way to protect your car: the right auto insurance. Get a quote from GEICO and make sure your vehicle is covered for whatever comes your way.

Next article: Accidents happen. Find out what to do if you’re involved in a crash or a fender bender so you’re prepared.

By Catherine Strawn

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    Leave a comment

  1. Bill Ivie says,

    I backed into a standing metal fence post…It left a big scratch on my Solara bumper.
    Tried a really fine sandpaper and waxed…Big scratch still there…Is there a way to eliminate the scratch short of replacing the bumper?

  2. Rhodesia says,

    As a woman who cleans her own car, the car cleaning tips are very helpful. I didn’t know you should not clean your car in circular motion.I do use micro fiber cloths and I do use a brush to clean my carpets and rugs.I wish I knew to scotch guard my seats and carpet after I purchased my car 3 years ago. I couldn’t get out all of the smoked oyster oil I spilled on my seat 3 months ago, So now I will have to invest in some front bucket seat covers.

  3. Catherine Johnson says,

    I just purchased a beautiful pearl white automobile and I’m finding as I drive it little black specks are getting on it what can I use to remove the black specks?

  4. Catherine Johnson says,

    Thank you …..The information that you gave concerning the maintenance of your car was excellent thank you keep up the good work. Blessings

  5. Darrell E. Smith says,

    Washing in circles is just fine….as long as you keep a good coat of wax on your paint. Making sure to blast your car thoroughly with the hose(or pressure washer) before hand washing. This will remove any debris that might scratch the paint….or if you are “dry washing”….make sure the dust the car completely with a 100% cotton “car duster” before beginning.

  6. Rangel Montero says,

    If you wash your car in the buff please make sure it is not too hot. Rubbing privates against a hot car is something you will learn not to do again very quick. Wear a cotton. Soft undeware or a bottom sports bra for women.

  7. Joyce M.James says,

    Thanks for the tips. Never thought about some if them. Will be using them on my car (especially the coth).

  8. Joanne C. Raggio says,

    Have always washed my own cars. but many of your tips on car washing are valuable to know! Any tips on how to keep headlight covers from pitting?

    • Darrell E. Smith says,

      Go to a local “tint shop” and ask for 3M’s “Scotch Guard Pro” protective film to be put on your headlight lenses. This will stop all pitting. You may need to replace the film every 5 years of so if you drive on gravel roads or the interstate often(close behind other vehicles).

  9. linda estes says,

    what kind of spray can I use on my back bumper the red is discoloring I need to fix this please

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