10 Ways You’ve Been Washing Your Car All Wrong
So you want to keep your ride clean, but have you been doing it right? Have you ever wondered why it you can't get that first day shine anymore and it progressively gets harder and harder to keep your car clean? Well then, let's see if you've been doing it all wrong!
Figure 1 - Avoid questionable car washes
Mistake No.1 - Sending Your Car to Questionable Car Washes
You might think this is a cheap and easy solution to keeping your car clean, just by driving it to that roadside "snow" wash (or whatever) and coming back to pick it up after 15 minutes. It might be cheap, but you may not have noticed the additional fine scratches on your paint after each wash, until they've accumulated and dulled your once shiny paintwork. What about the grime that appears on your windscreen or the oily tire dressing slinging all over your wheel arch right after you drive away?
Questionable car washes may not have the best car wash practices and seldom use quality products to wash your car. Dirty towels and hasty washing jobs inflict fine scratches on your car whilst low quality products perform poorly and may even leave you car in an undesirable state (e.g. oil residues, patchy application, etc.). Always observe how a car is being washed before you commit - not all hand washes are gentle and not all automatic washers are harsh, and you may be better off washing the car yourself.
Mistake No.2 - Washing Your Car in Direct Sunlight or When Your Car is Hot
So perhaps you've made the wise decision to wash your car yourself, this will save you money and leaves you very much in control. However, one very common mistake that people do is to wash their car in the sun (or right after driving it). This is bad for both your health (no further elaboration required) and your car, especially in Malaysian climate and weather. When you wash your car in the heat with car wash liquids/detergents, hot car panels evaporate water quickly, leaving behind chemicals and salt that will stain your car with stubborn water spots even before you can rinse them off.
At the end of your effort, you'll be left with dull and lackluster results. You may even attempt to rub off the water spots, which can be made up of hard salt particles, consequently inflicting scratches onto your paint.
Figure 2 - Avoid washing your car in the sun or you'll get water spots and stains
Figure 3 - Always dry your car after washing
Mistake No.3 - Not Drying Your Car after Washing
As mentioned in mistake no. 2, allowing water to evaporate off your car will result in water spots, even if you use clean tap water. This is because tap water contains dissolved solids that will be left behind once the water evaporates. Gently drying your car with a soft and clean microfiber towel after washing is essential to leave your car in its cleanest state after washing.
So in the same way, unless your car is totally caked with mud, try to resist just hosing your car and leaving it to dry. Doing so will most definitely leave you with a multitude of water spots that may even be more difficult to remove than the little dust or dirt that was on your car.
Mistake No.4 - Washing and Drying Your Car with an Old Rag (or T-Shirt, "Good Morning" Towel, etc.)
The number one source of fine scratches that slowly accumulate into swirls and "cobwebs" on your car is from washing your car. Using clean, soft and plush wash mitts and cloth for washing and drying your car respectively can significantly reduce the amount of fine scratches that you put on your car during washing. In this day and age, the most cost effective and suitable material is microfiber. Using old rags that are rough and probably contaminated with minute particles will almost certainly cause damage to that fine finish of your car's paintwork.
Using a plush microfiber wash mitt for washing reduces pressure, absorbs plenty of lubricating car wash liquid and allows dirt particles to move between the fibers of the mitt and away from your paintwork. In contrast, a thin piece of cloth absorbs little car wash liquid and will also push dirt particles across your paintwork, causing scratches. For drying, a soft microfiber cloth's high absorbency ensures safe and effective drying.
Want a professional tip? Buy the softest <1 inch wide paint brush you can find at the hardware store and use it to reach and wash the emblems, and every nook and cranny on your car.
Figure 4 - Microfiber is an excellent and cost effective material for washing and drying your car
Figure 5 - Always use a neutral car wash
Mistake No.5 - Using Low Quality Car Wash Liquids or Household Detergents
While there is no need to overspend on expensive car wash liquids, there are significant differences between safe, neutral car wash liquids like Sensha Body Clean and low quality car wash liquids or household detergents (*gasp*). These detergents are seldom pH neutral and may be too strong, which is harsh on your clear coat and strips your car's protective layers of coatings, waxes or sealants, exposing your paintwork to the elements.
So if you want to keep these protective layers on your car or if you want your next layer of coating to adhere well to your car, choose a high quality neutral car wash liquid that is suitable for all exterior surfaces, like Sensha Body Clean, each time you wash your car.
Mistake No.6 - Not Keeping Your Microfiber Wash Mitt and Cloths Clean
Since your microfiber wash mitts and cloths are in direct contact with your car during washing or drying, it is most important to keep them clean. Particles of dirt that have been picked up from previous washing or by dropping them on the ground can deeply scratch your car.
A good practice would be to wash the microfiber mitts and cloth with clean water and detergent for clothes (the simpler the better) after every use. Also, inspect the fibers of your wash mitts and cloths to find and remove debris that may be trapped in them before use and after every rinse. This applies to sponge applicators too!
Figure 6 - Keep your microfibers clean
Figure 7 - Resist rubbing on stains
Mistake No.7 - Rubbing on Stains During Washing
So as you're washing your car, you come across a stubborn spot or stain like bird poop or water spots. What do you do? A common mistake is to rub on the stain and hoping it comes off - it may or may not, but you can be certain that subjecting your paintwork with too much pressure will result in damage. Be extra careful on a black car as scratches will appear much more obviously if you do this.
Instead, always use safe chemicals to help you, starting from the least aggressive to most aggressive. Start with a slightly stronger cleaner, like Sensha Scale Clean, which comes with gentle microscopic beads and chelating agents to soften the stain. If this doesn't work, try a polishing compound like Sensha Scratch Cut by hand, which contains solvents and mild abrasives. If it still does work, try claying with Sensha Clean Clay or machine polishing.
Mistake No.8 - Not Conserving Water
Now this one does not actually harm your car. However, you should try to use as little water as possible when you wash your car since clean water is a limited and important resource. Have a simple plan and rinse your car in a deliberate manner, and turn off the hose once you're done rinsing - this prevents wastage. If done well, washing your car should take not much more than 25 liters of water.
Figure 8 - Conserve water
Mistake No.9 - Not Protecting the Paintwork
Paintwork protection is a must to keep your car's paint lasting as long as possible, by keeping contaminants off your car and preventing damage from UV rays and acid rain. Furthermore, except for hard glass/nano coatings like Sensha Crystal Glow, waxes or sealants can't last forever especially after multiple washes and you should take the time to top up the protection every now and then. Also, a well protected surface is much easier to clean, making your car wash sessions more enjoyable and less of a chore.
If you don't wish to spend too much time with this step, you can opt for quick and easy spray coatings like Sensha Fine Crystal - designed to be easily applied on cleaned wet body work, it protects your paintwork instantly and saves you time (and is surprisingly economical)!
Figure 9: Clear Coat Contamination and Deterioration
Figure 10: Paintwork Protection
Figure 11 - After washing just rinse with clean water, don't do anything counter productive
Mistake No.10 - Dumping the Bucket of Used Wash Liquid (with all the dirt from your car) over the Car
Now this is totally unnecessary, counter productive and frankly, mind boggling. You've washed your car, picking up grime, dust and dirt off your vehicle and unavoidably depositing some of them into your wash bucket, which is actually quite okay if you have a grit guard and your car isn't caked with mud and dirt. But to throw all that back onto your car after washing does not make it any cleaner but actually makes it dirtier.
Just move on to rinse your car with clean water and save the used water in your bucket to flush your toilet instead, this will help you save both water and effort (to clean your car again!).
The tips above should help you get great results when you wash your car and prevent damage to your car's paintwork due to cleaning. Protected and undamaged paintwork is also much easier to clean henceforth, making car washing a breeze and even fun!
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Now you might be wondering why you should buy Sensha products from procarcoatings.com? The answer is always around performance, value and support.
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