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If there is a single maintenance activity that offers the biggest benefit to your car's appearance, it's keeping your car clean through regular washing.  Washing your vehicle weekly is the best way to remove surface contaminants before they do serious damage to your vehicle’s paint finish. Washing can be a double-edged sword, though, as even the mildest soaps can remove the protection from your car's paint, causing premature oxidation.  Detergents can dull your car's finish even faster. Also, most of the swirls, or spider-webs, on your cars paint are caused by washing? It’s true! Each time you wash your car, you could be rubbing grit into the paint. Our plan is to provide you with some tips and tricks on how to wash your car without scratching it. A few carefully chosen tools and easy techniques will give you a clean long lasting finish.

Okay, before you get started you will need a few tools to help you wash a dry your car. For drying, a combination of tools may be necessary.  The sheepskin chamois has been used for centuries as a towel for drying.  This naturally soft leather is very absorbent.  All-natural chamois are still a good choice, but they are not as effective or as easy to use as modern drying towels and synthetic chamois. If you like to dry in a hurry, there are paint-safe squeegees available that will quickly remove 80% of the water from your car with just a few strokes.  Follow up with a good towel, and you're done.  If you use a paint-safe squeegee, be careful.  It only takes one small dirt particle between the blade and your car to create a scratch. And if you want to be supper fast, a professional surface air dryer and blower is the fastest and easiest way to dry cars.

Your choice of wash mitt is important, too.  You should find a wash mitt that is comfortable for you to use, but take a few things into consideration.  First, your wash mitt should hold a lot of soapy water.  The more it holds the more soapy water you can get on your car.  This is important for lubrication.  The lubrication created by soapy water is what prevents dirt from scratching the paint.  Use a wash mitt that cleans easily.  If it does not easily release dirt and grit, it's not safe.  I like wash mitt’s with a lot of fibers, like a lamb's wool mitt or a cotton-chenille-covered sponge.  Contrary to many beliefs, the natural sea sponge and the boar's hair brush are not good wash tools.

You will also need some buckets, not just one, but we recommend two. Your first bucket should be filled with water and a good quality car wash shampoo. The second bucket should be filled with plain water and will be used to rinse out the applicator, ensuring that you don’t contaminate your wash mixture with dirt. Another good tool to have for your bucket is a Grit Guard Insert. The insert extracts grit and dirt from your wash mitt, towel and any other washing utensil when you drag it across the Grit Guard. The dirt settles at the bottom of the bucket so your wash water stays clean.


Choosing the right soap is important, you’re not washing the dished, so stay away from the deterrents. Dish soap is made to strip away oils and greases, on your car it will remove waxes from your paint and remove the oils from rubber pieces. The high-quality car wash shampoos made today are very gentle on paint, plastic and rubber.  A good car wash shampoo provides lubrication to prevent scratching and conditioners to maintain a perfect shine.  We have recently started using two items from the Chemical Guys, 

Mr. Pinks super Suds Shampoo and TORQ professional Foam Cannon. These products have made washing much easier and provide a brilliant shine. Check out the video below.

Your car's wheels can dramatically enhance the appearance and performance of your automobile.  Modern wheels can also present a substantial cleaning challenge, as heated dust particles from brake pads adhere the wheel and bake into the finish.  If these dust particles are left on the wheel, a phenomenon known as galvanic corrosion sets in, this can eventually destroy your wheel’s appearance.

Most modern wheels, in particular aftermarket wheels can come painted, powder coated, chrome, have carbon fiber lips, or decal wrapped can be applied, these are virtually all painted surfaces. While durable, the wheel's finish is subject to damage from acid compounds, including acid rain, hydrocarbons and acidic cleaners.  Likewise, polished and anodized aluminum wheels, not typically protected by a clear coat, will react (dull or corrode) to both alkaline and acidic conditions.

Unfortunately, typical car wash soaps and household cleaners are not strong enough to break the bond between brake dust, road tar, road grime and the wheel.  To properly clean wheels, the car care industry has developed two groups of wheel cleaners: acid and acid-free. 

Acid-based wheel cleaners are widely used by detailers and car washes, who need to clean wheels in a hurry.  Acid-based cleaners are typically 2% solutions of oxalic, phosphoric and hydrochloric acid.  An acid cleaner has no place on any aluminum or fine after-market wheel.

Acid-free wheel cleaners are mild solutions of alkaline solvent, usually ethylene glycol, with a wetting agent.  These solutions creep under dirt and brake dust to loosen and lift.  Nonacidic cleaners usually require some surface agitation, but are safer to use and will not etch the wheel's finish.


To properly clean your tires and wheels, you will need a 3- to 5-gallon bucket, a soft tire and wheel scrub brush, a sponge or washcloth, a water hose and nozzle, car shampoo and a spray wheel cleaner.

Warning: Do not clean your wheels if they are still hot from driving.  Let them cool, or thoroughly hose them down.  Be aware that if your brakes are hot, spraying them with cold water may cause severe damage.

Here are some step-by-step tips to make cleaning easier:

  1. Clean one wheel at a time.
  2. Clean your tires and wheels first before washing the rest of the car.  This prevents the splattering of cleaners, dirt and brake dust on already cleaned panels.  Your car is also less likely to get water spots from drying while you wash your wheels.
  3. Mix a bucket of soapy water with your favorite car shampoo, using double the recommended strength.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the tire and wheel with water using a hose and spray nozzle.  If it is exposed, rinse the brake caliper to flush away loose brake dust.  Finally, rinse up into the wheel well to wash away road grime, mud and other debris. 
  5. If your tires and wheels have a heavy coating of brake dust or road grime, spray them down with your wheel cleaner.  Allow the cleaner to soak for 30 seconds (minimum) to 3 minutes (maximum).  For fine wheels, we recommend Diablo Gel Wheel & Rim Cleaner
  6. Use a tire and wheel scrub brush and your soapy water to agitate the tire and wheel surface.  Use plenty of soapy water.  The soap acts as a lubricant to gently lift dirt and grit away from your wheels.  Follow up with your sponge or washcloth to wash the remaining dirt from the tire and wheel.  If your wheels have large open areas, use the sponge to get behind these areas.  Make sure the tires are scrubbed.  Many people put layer upon layer of dressings on their tires, but never clean them.  The result is a brown or yellow discoloration.


  1. Use your wheel brush and soapy water to scrub the accessible areas of the wheel wells, too.  This small detail keeps your car looking fresh and new.  If your wheel has a lot of small nooks and crannies, use a parts cleaning brush.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the tire, wheel and wheel well.  Use plenty of water.  You need to ensure that all traces of the wheel cleaner are gone.

After washing your car, remember to completely dry your tires and wheels.


The Two-Bucket Wash System
Many auto enthusiasts and quality detailers use a two-bucket wash system.  The first bucket holds your soapy water, and the second bucket holds rinse water.  The rinse water bucket is used to rinse your wash sponge or mitt prior to dunking it in the bucket of soapy water.  This method has two practical benefits.  First and foremost, it keeps dirt and grit out of your soapy water where it could cause damage to your car.  Second, it makes the suds in your soapy water last longer, because your car wash shampoo does not have to react to dirt you're putting back into the water.  Here are some tips to make car washing easier:

  1. Make sure your car is cool.  If possible, work in the shade.  A hot surface causes the wash and rinse water to evaporate too quickly, increasing the likelihood of water spotting.  One trick is to park on a slight incline.  This allows rinse water to run off moldings, trim and recessed areas better.  Start by thoroughly wetting the car's finish with a medium spray of water to remove loose grit and surface dirt.
  2. Wash the tires and wheels first.  If you wash the car body first, the water will dry and spot your car before you can properly finish washing the tires and wheels.  Do not use the same wash water on your car's paint as you used on your tires and wheels.  Throw the dirty water out and refill your buckets.
  3. Spot treat bug, tar, sap and bird stains.  For stubborn problems on your paint and other surfaces, use an insect remover or prewash cleaner.  If the contamination has a lot of grip, use a paint-safe bug sponge.   
  4. Start washing from the top down and rinse the car often. Frequent rinsing is especially important if you are using a wash containing natural oils.  While these oils cushion the paint and minimize abrasion, they are heavier than water and can leave a film if allowed to sit on the car.  I use a final rinse of free-flowing water, allowing the water to sheet off the car.

Before drying, your car should be freshly rinsed and free of visible dirt, grease and oil.  Here's the proper way to dry your car.

First things first, you need to do a thorough rinse of the vehicle. Remove the hose nozzle from your hose, and turn the water on with medium pressure.  Rinse your car, allowing the water to flow freely over the surface (do not spray the water).  The free-flowing action will cause the water to sheet off, carrying 80% or more of the surface water with it.  Allow the car to drip dry for a minute while you get your drying tools. There are two main ways to dry a vehicle, use a professional air dryer/blower or dry the vehicle by hand.

Blow Dry

A professional surface air dryer and blower is the fastest and easiest way to dry cars, trucks, boats, RVs, motorcycles and more. Dry the entire vehicle in about 10 minutes including all those hard to reach areas that towels and chamois simply can't reach. There are a number of different types of blowers on the market. For the price, you cannot beat the JetSpeed VX6 Professional Surface Air Dryer and Blower. Or you can go big and get The Metro MasterBlaster Industrial Dryer & Blower System which has an 8.0 peak horsepower motor that blasts air at an impressive 58,500 feet per minute, now that how you dry! 


Hand Dry

Here are some tips on drying your vehicle by hand

  1. If you have a paint-safe squeegee, use it on the windows first.  Follow the squeegee with a synthetic chamois or a microfiber drying towel. 
  2. Use a clean drying towel or synthetic chamois to dry the remainder of the car.  Start at the top of the car and work down.  If you're using a large drying towel or chamois, throw it out over the flat surface areas and slowly pull it toward you across the surface of the car.  Shake and turn your drying towel frequently.  To prevent streaking, fold your chamois or towel into a square for wiping.
  3. Once the exterior is mostly dry, open the doors and wipe down the jambs, sills and seal areas.  Be sure to dry under the doors, or your sills will get wet again as soon as you close the doors. 
  4. Use a terry detailing towel to dry your tires and wheels.  Do not use your good chamois or drying towel on the tires and wheels, as it will become soiled.
  5. Open the trunk and hood, and wipe down the jambs and seals.  On the engine, use the damp towel you used to dry the tires and wheels to remove dust and light oil from the top of the engine and engine compartment surfaces. 

Regardless of how gentle your car shampoo is, or when you last waxed your car, driving and washing deplete the wax protection you've applied to your car.  For this reason, we recommend using a quick detailing spray on the car after washing.  A good detailing spray renews the "just waxed" shine and extends the life of your wax. 

After you clean your tires and wheels, you need to protect them.  Tire dressings accent the appearance of your tires and protect against cracking and fading.  Likewise, waxing your wheels protects their finish from brake dust and makes them easier to keep clean.

Your wheels should be waxed, at a minimum, each time you wax your car. 

To apply tire dressing:

  1. Use a small foam sponge, foam wax applicator or foam tire applicator to apply tire dressing (foam provides even distribution and wastes far less product than a cloth).  To avoid getting tire dressing on your car, apply the dressing to the foam applicator, not directly to the tire.  If your car spends a lot of time in the sun, we highly recommend using a product that contains UV inhibitors.  A product I really like, because it is durable and 100% dry to the touch, is Silk Shine Sprayable Dressing. 
  2. Allow dressings to penetrate into the tire before wiping off the excess dressing. 
  3. If your wheel wells have a black plastic liner, wipe the wheel well liner with dressing, too.  This simple detailing step makes a big difference.
  4. If you like your tires to be shiny, do a final wipe-down with your foam applicator.  If you prefer a satin finish, buff the tires down with a terry cloth detailing towel.

Regular washing is very important to maintaining your car's appearance.  Most people forget some of the simple, quick steps that can keep a new car looking new.  Take just a few extra minutes when you wash to wipe down the engine, door jambs and trunk.  Keeping these areas clean prevents a bigger cleanup job later.  To make your job easier and more enjoyable, invest in a few good detailing tools.  Quality wash and dry tools make a huge difference.

Auto Detailing Supplies Inc.

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