Aside from running five or more miles every evening, one of my avenues of stress relief is to hand-wash my vehicle. Over the years it has become a Sunday ritual when the erratic Kansas weather cooperates. Between the habitual nature of my car washing and the fact most of the vehicles I’ve owned have been black, I’ve learned a few things to pass along.
I’m far from a professional detailer (I lack the patience for that), so these should be considered tips for the car guys that just want to keep their car clean without damaging the paint by hand washing it incorrectly.
- Always use two buckets. I often see folks washing their car in the driveway with only one bucket; one with soapy water in it. While this seems like a plausible, efficient way of getting things clean, it isn’t the best way. It is always best to have a soap and rinse bucket (and be sure to label them). I rinse my rag out after washing each panel on the car in my rinse bucket prior to putting it back in the soap bucket to avoid dirt getting in the good stuff.
- Don’t use dish soap. Most people use dish soap (or none at all) when hand-washing their vehicle. Dish soap isn’t going to hurt the paint on your vehicle, but the high levels of alkaline in soaps such as Dawn will eat off any polish and/or wax on the paint finish. IF you are going to polish or wax the paint after washing, using dish soap is advised so you have a clean paint surface to work with.
- Stick with cotton. Everyone always wants to buy fancy mitts or drying cloths to wash their vehicles and none of that is necessary. The best material both to wash and dry is simply a 100% cotton towel (high quality cotton – not the cheap stuff). Cotton is still the softest option and the one that will reduce the possibility of dust and surface scratches.
- Avoid the sun and wind. This tip is probably common sense, but don’t ever attempt to hand-wash a vehicle in direct sunlight or in high winds. Both environmental circumstances just cause the paint to dry quick and spot. I’m putting this tip here because I’ve been bit by this more than a few times with my black vehicles.
- Start high and work low. Unless you drive on dirt roads all the time, chances are the thickest dirt is on the bottom half of your vehicle. The rocker panels and lower fascias typically bear the brunt of dirt, therefore they should be the last to get wiped with the soapy rag. So always start at the top of the panel and work down, that way the thickest dirt is only getting rubbed off on the smallest possible section of the paint. I wash one sheet metal panel at a time to keep surface area minimal and manageable.
So, those are my quick tips for car washing this summer. Please feel free to comment and share your tips and favorite products.