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Car Washing - The Do's and Don'ts

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Image Courtesy of Flickr
Aside from the aesthetic appeal of a freshly-cleaned car, keeping your car clean is the best way to protect its paint from damage that can be caused by abrasives such as dirt or other particles and substances that can be found on the highway such as oil, tire residues or paving materials. Here are a few suggestions that will help you keep your car looking its very best while protecting its paint and body from damage. As always, you should consult your owner’s manual for suggestions on the proper methods for keeping your car clean.

Never use a laundry detergent to clean your car

Laundry detergents are made primarily to dissolve organic compounds such as body oil. Thus, by their chemical nature, laundry detergents will not be effective against substances such as mud, oil, grime, or grease. Using a detergent that is specifically formulated for automobiles will result in a more thorough cleaning of your car’s surfaces.

Always use a sponge or other soft material for scrubbing 

Would you use a Brillo Pad to wash your face? Of course not, because you would wind up with a few hundred small cuts in your skin! By the same token, using a stiff brush on your car will result in damage to its pant and/or undercoating.

Always have a separate container for rinsing the sponge

The purpose of rinsing in a separate bucket is to remove any abrasive matter from the sponge or other material that you might be using. By using the same container for detergent and rinsing, you will be unable to effectively clean the sponge and will ultimately run the risk of damaging your car’s surfaces.

Always thoroughly rinse your car after washing it 

Think about it: If the detergent used to clean your car can chemically cut through dirt and other grime that has accumulated on your car, it can certainly cut through paint. You should rinse all cleaning substances from your car immediately after their use. Using a spray nozzle will help to evenly distribute rinsing water across your car.

Always hand-dry your car 

If you hand-wash your car to make sure it’s really clean, then hand-drying is the next logical step. Most residential water systems are “hard water systems,” meaning water that contains minerals and salts such as iron, copper and sodium chloride. Allowing a car to “air-dry” can allow these substances to react with your car’s paint and lead to its breakdown. Furthermore, allowing water droplets to remain on your car can trap environmental pollutants such as dust and pollen and thus effectively defeat your original purpose.