Are you an evangelist of DIY car wash? Well, why can’t you be? You have got the car, a pretty decent space to wash it, and of course your hands to do all the scrubbing and washing work. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to do it right. Often, car owners make small mistakes while washing their cars which don’t give satisfactory results.
So, if you wanna wash your car right and that too yourself, hang on with us…
- Start by evaluating the condition of your car
This is a small step but it’s quite significant while starting. Just check the condition of your car and if it already has quite a good coat of wax remaining, then just a basic hand wash and waxing would be enough. However, if your car has been neglected over the course of time, then you may need to do the cleaning as well as polishing.
- Pickup the right car wash and after wash products
Many a times, car owners tend to use household cleaning agents such as laundry detergent, hand wash or dishwashing detergent. One must remember that these are general cleaning agents and are not especially formulated for using on a car’s exterior. They may dry-off the car’s protective wax or can even affect the paint. So, always pickup products especially formulated for car wash such as a good quality car shampoo.
- Pick up the right washing tools
Just as right washing products are necessary, similarly you need to pick up the right washing tools. It’s important to use tools which are gentle on the paint but they are effective at cleaning. Plunge sponge and mitts are one of the best cleaning tools for your car. The natural fibers will prevent scratches but will still clean effectively. Alternatively, you can also use micro-chenille wash mitts which are also a good option for washing. They are made from polyester and polyamide and thus help in scrubbing without scratching/swirling.
- Read the label of the products
It is very important to read the labels and instructions of any car cleaning products you use. The application may wary from product to product. There might be specific instructions to follow or avoid. That’s why it’s important that you are thorough with the label of the product.
- Start with the wheels and the tires first
It’s wise to start with the wheels and tires first. Many people wash the wheels and tires at the end after they have washed the body. However, it often leads to splashing the water over the car body. And you’ll have to rewash that area of the vehicle again. Instead, just wash the wheels and tires first and then you can wash the car body… Even if you splash the water, there is no extra work to be done as you still have to wash the car. Again, remember to use products which are friendly with the wheels/tires so that it doesn’t corrode them. Water-based wheel & tire cleaner is available in the market which is free from corrosive chemicals. It is especially formulated for coated wheels and rubber and is a safer choice.
You can use a wheel brush for better cleaning which is also scratch-free. Clean & wash one wheel & tire at a time and then move on to the next one.
- Getting started with the wash
Now, before you start washing the car, rinse all cleaning materials including the wash bucket. Start with getting fresh and clean water to wash your car. It’s better to have two buckets for water, one to keep soapy water for scrubbing and the other with clean water for rinsing. Now, first start with rinsing your car with fresh water. This helps to get the larger pieces of debris and dirt off the car which can scratch the paint while washing. Then, you can use the sponge to apply soapy water over your car. Alternatively, you can also use a special foam gun for adding cleaning foam all over the car. And then scrub the body using the mittens.
- Start with the top and windows
Next, you gotta first wash the top of the car and the windows first. Remember that the lowest panels are the dirtiest. So, if you wash them first and then move on to wash the upper panels, you’ll be most probably transferring grit to the already washed area. So, start from the top and then workout towards the lowest parts of your car. Rinse the sponge multi times to prevent cross-contamination. Once you are done with the top of the car, you can wash the windows and the aligning areas…Use soft micro-chenille mittens to prevent any scratches on the glasses. Remember to be gentle while scrubbing the glasses. Make sure the glasses are rolled up while you are doing the scrubbing on the exterior. Once done, you can rinse the windows and upper panels. Remember to rinse the sponge multiple times while scrubbing. Similarly, rinse your vehicle multiple times as you go on cleaning it (especially if it’s hot weather).
- Additionally, use a Bug and Tar sponge to get rid of dead bugs and tar.
Sometimes, your car may be left with remains of dead bugs and tar. A normal sponge may not be able to remove that. So, you’ll have to use a sponge especially for dead bugs and tar. You can easily get it from any auto-accessories shop. It helps to gently remove sticky contaminants which can’t be removed using a normal sponge. You’ll have to first soak this sponge in warm water for 3-4 minutes to soften it. Alternatively, you can also use a spot cleaner to get rid of such sticky contaminants. Such spot cleaners generally come in spray form, so you’ll have to spray it over the spot and leave for a few minutes according to the instructions. It is generally sprayed before washing and then has to be rinsed-off. However, you’ll have to re-apply wax to the sprayed area after the vehicle is dried in order to retain the moisture.
- Time for a final rinse
You have cleaned and scrubbed all parts of your car and have also given it multiple small rinses in between; then now it’s time for a final rinse. Blasting with clean water using a water-hose is not necessary. You can just use free-flowing water without the nozzle to rinse off remaining suds and debris.
- Drying is important
Washing your car doesn’t end here. You have to put some more effort in hand-drying your car. Many people think that they can leave their car to air-dry after washing. Air-drying is not a good idea as it can leave water marks after the water dries off. This happens so because all types of water contain minerals. When the water dries and evaporates, the mineral is left behind on the surface creating water marks. Therefore, you want to dry the water as quickly as possible. You can do this by quite a few ways.
Firstly, you can use a large microfiber towel to dry up almost all the water. A micro-fiber towel is super-absorbent and is very gentle on the car’s surface. You can also use a terry cloth but it’s not as absorbent as micro-fiber cloth. Also, terry cloth tends to turn hard after repeated uses which can scratch the car’s surface. So, it is not a very recommended method but you can use the cloth for just once or twice.
Another option is to use a squeegee especially made for a car’s surface. They are safe on the car’s paint and remove water quite effectively. It’s recommended to first squeeze the water from the windows and mirror as those places tend to get dry first. Then you can squeeze the water from the body of the car. However, you will still require small microfiber clothes to dry off the remaining water and leave a spot-less dry surface behind.
- Use a clay bar to remove remaining debris
Sometimes, even after powerful rinsing and drying, very tiny bits of debris are left on the car’s surface. Run your hand over the surface of your car and if you can feel little bumps, they are still left. If you are a perfectionist, you would want to get rid of each one of them. You can use a clay bar to remove those stubborn leftovers. It removes almost everything off your car surface leaving it smooth. You’ll have to start by kneading the clay bar into a flat wafer and use a detailer along with it as a lubricant. Next, you need to hold it in the palm of one hand and run it across the surface of your car. You’ll be surprised to see the amount of tiny debris collected from your car’s surface.
- Polishing the Car
This is an optional step if you want an extra gloss on your car’s surface. However, it is necessary when your car has been neglected since a long period and all its shine and moisture has been lost. It’s like a moisture + glow lotion for your car’s “skin”. You can apply it using your hands or you can use a polisher for better application.
- Finish up with waxing
To give your car a finishing touch after the wash, it’s best to wax it. Waxing acts like a sunscreen for the car’s exterior or “skin”. It protects the car’s surface from UV rays which can lead to fading or even paint damage. Waxing ensures that your car’s high gloss is maintained and it also gets added protection. There are two types of wax, polymer and carnauba. The performance of both types is similar. However, polymer ones are a bit more expensive but easier to apply according to experts.
- Wipe the windows and mirrors with glass cleaner
To give a nice finished look to the window glasses and mirrors, spray them with a glass cleaner after they have dried. Then you can wipe them with a glass cloth or small microfiber cloth for a cleaner and shinier finish on the glasses.
- Final finishing touch
Now, you need to give a final finishing touch to your car before it’s ready to drive. You can use a spray sealant or spray wax at the end to rejuvenate the gloss of the existing wax. This can be used in place of second coating of wax. Just, do a first coat of waxing and then follow it with a spray wax or spray sealant. The beauty of this product is that it goes with the polish as well as the wax and gives a more enhanced end result.
Bonus tips to follow:
- You might have hard water supply at your house. If that is the case, your car shampoo will not lather well. Hard water has high levels of magnesium and calcium which is not very good for washing and cleaning purpose. You can use an inline hose filter with a sediment filter to soften the water and get rid of the sediments.
- You can also use foam cannon instead of a foam gun. Choose the foam gun/cannon according to your needs such as less water consumption, etc.
- Never wash a hot car such as immediately after a drive or if the car was parked under sun for long. Let it cool down and then wash it.
- Before washing, work up the car shampoo into nice lather with plenty of suds to get lots of lubrication.
- Don’t move the sponge on circles. It can create light scratches called swirl marks. Instead move it lengthwise over the surface of the car.
- Don’t continue using a sponge which got dropped on the ground. It is likely to pickup minute dirt particles from the ground and cause scratches.
Those were all the practical tips to wash your like a PRO. Follow the tips religiously and calmly and you should be able to drive a car which is professionally washed at home. Some of the tips like polishing and applying spray sealant is optional but helps to improve performance. It’s up to you to use them if you are ready for the extra effort.
If you have any other questions or tips, do comment below. We would be happy to hear from you…