How Not to Wash Your Car

The soaps and cleaners that are used at drive through car washes may actually be too acidic for your vehicle to handle.

We are all guilty of washing our cars with one bucket or bowl with whatever soap we have laying around the house. And some of us are guilty of taking our cars through the drive through car wash. I’m going to tell you to stop doing both, as you are actually causing harm to the finish of your car. Now let me start off by saying, I am guilty of both, before I was a detailer I used a single bucket with whatever soap I could find because I just didn’t care enough, and all of that changed once I started working for a big detail company, which I will leave nameless.

The reason while I am telling you to stop taking your car to the drive through car wash is for a few reasons. First, the brushes and bristles do not get washed with every car that passes by. This means whatever dirt those brushes took off from the previous vehicle gets placed on your vehicle causing scratching, marring, and other damage. Second, the soaps they use may very well damage the finishes on your vehicle. I cannot tell you how many times people have come to me figure out why their paint, metal, and plastics on their car got discolored. The soaps and cleaners that are used at drive through car washes may actually be too acidic for your vehicle to handle. A client once came to me to see if there was anything that could be done to fix the stains that he received on his anodized brake calipers. Unfortunately they would have to be refinished in order to retrieve the same look again, and this sort of problem continues to happen on a daily basis. Third, if you take your car to a ”premium” car wash service establishment, where a group of guys come in and spray down your vehicle with detail sprays, spray waxes, and variety of other protects, gloss enhancers, dressing and conditioners, you will notice that they use very little towels, and in fact you will see them use the same towel on your paint and windows on your interior panels or vice versa. Any self-respecting detailer will use at least 15 towels to clean a car, depending on size and soilage. So be wary as this can causing marring as well, or discoloring on your interior work.

Now, for those of us who are guilty of only using one bucket to wash our cars along with whatever soap we can get our hand on, here is the issue. By only using one bucket, all the dirt that gets scrubbed off with your mitt or sponge gets trapped in your wash bucket, that very same dirty gets placed back on your paint causing scratches. This is why it is very important to use a minimum of 2 buckets to wash your car, one for your wash bucket with soap, and the second with pure water to rinse off your mitt or sponge to knock off all the collected dirt and grime, and preferable with a grit guard; which is a plastic screen that aids in scrubbing the mitt or sponge and trapping dirt at the bottom of the bucket so not to contaminate your mitt or sponge. Second, do not use whatever soap you have laying around as they might be too strong for the finishes of your car to handle. If you use dish soap, most likely it is acidic, which can eat into your clear coat, remove the protectant on your windshield and glass, discolor your plastics to that nasty looking white trim, and even possibly discolor and damage your metal work. This is why it is always recommended to use ph. balanced car soap, as they have the appropriate cleaners in them that will not damage your paint, plastics, glass, and metal. Often times they have gloss enhancers that give off a waxed appearance.

To wrap up this article, simply invest about $60-$75 on two buckets, a grit guard, microfiber mitt, a quality ph. balanced soap, a wheel brush, a stack of microfiber towels, a wax, and tire shine for your exterior rubber, plastics, and vinyl. This will set you off with about 10-16 washes and protect your vehicle from further damage. Till next time everyone, happy detailing.

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How Not to Wash Your Car