One of the things we got to hear over the years as massive car enthusiasts is that cleaning a car at home is a super-simple endeavor. But, well, we don’t quite agree. Believe us, we tried, and this is far from the hassle-free experience you might think it is. Why? Because, in our humble opinion, a variety of things can go wrong.
You can damage your paint in a variety of ways, you can leave stains, we’ve even seen cases of damaged electronics due to water leakage. In addition to this, it can be quite problematic if you accidentally pour some water inside, as the first thing that will come to your mind is: does my car warranty cover this type of a problem? Usually, if the issue happened due to a flood or a natural disaster, under the certain types of insurance it’ll be covered, but if it’s due to human error, the insurance company might not fund that.
So over the course of this article, we’ll go over some of the things to avoid while washing your car by yourself at home. We hope that the myriad complexities will lead you to do the right thing and opt for a professional car wash instead. Let’s dive right into it!
The Necessary Equipment
If there is a particular reason for a deep wash of your car, such as removing spray paint from the wheels, you are probably aware of the fact that you’ll need some special equipment to truly do it right — another reason why going to a carwash is far simpler.
However, what people don’t realize is the fact that even a regular washing of your car actually takes some special items. For instance, you can’t use any old rag, washcloth, or the cloth you use for drying your dishes. Sure, all of these may seem soft when you touch them — but when it comes to delicate paint finishes, they may simply be too abrasive. And it will be too late when you already notice the hairline scratches that you’ve caused. In fact, washing your car improperly may even degrade and dull the finish of your car over a prolonged amount of time.
Instead, we recommend finding a wash mitt that was manufactured using sheepskin, a soft sponge material, or microfiber. These are not abrasive and they’re quite soft — they will also pull in enough suds to successfully lubricate the surface of your car while you wash it.
Once you approach the washing of your car, you will also realize that the usual cleaning supplies that you use in your home just won’t do it. Sure, if you’re not careful, you may just take some dish soap and use that. However, that kind of soap is manufactured with one thing in mind: destroying grease and breaking it down. As a result, it may also dry out your car’s plastic and destroy the wax.
Instead, we recommend going to shampoos and car wash soaps that are specifically made for this process. Such products are far milder than the soap you have in your household, and it’s designed specifically to work without damaging your car’s paint. If there are accumulations of dirt or grease around your car, there are stronger cleaning products that are made for your car as well.
You will also need a specific wheel cleaner in order to achieve the maximum level of shine. However, you will also need to buy one that’s compatible with your particular type of finish — such as paint, clear-coat, chrome, etc.
When Should You Wash?
It’s not just about thinking of all the required equipment in order to properly wash your car. If you want to do it on your own, you also need to think about when you’re going to do it. For instance, if the car has been left out in the sun for some time during the summer, you don’t want to wash it right away. A steaming-hot surface will easily result in the water and soap evaporating immediately — which means you’ll have a dingy finish and water spots.
Instead, you’ll have to wash your car when it’s not in direct sunlight, or in the shade if you can. This can be difficult in the summer, making washing your car at home even more of a hassle. On the other hand, you don’t want to wash the car on days that are windy either. Said wind will easily cause you to scratch your own car without noticing it — small pieces of sand and other particles may be brought onto the surface of the car just as you start wiping it.
The Right Technique
When you begin washing your car by yourself, you also have to think about the proper technique of doing so; something that wouldn’t be that much of a problem if you were doing it at a carwash. For example, you need to remember to clean the car from top to bottom — literally.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most obviously, the dirt, soap, and water will start running down to the bottom no matter what you do, so going the other way would just mean double work. But also, there’s the fact that the lower part of your car contains the most dirt due to the grime from the road and hardened mud. If you begin cleaning from the bottom, the particles of dirt will just be brought up — potentially scratching your paint as well.
Also, we recommend cleaning the car piece by piece. Go section by section, and rinse and wash each part before you proceed to the next one. That will prevent the soap from drying up without giving you enough time to perform the rinsing.
As you can see, washing your car at home is far more complicated than you might have expected. Considering that, we definitely recommend not doing it by yourself — you’ll save a lot of time and effort that way. We hope that this guide was useful to you and that you’ve learned something new today about cleaning your own car at home. Make sure you are staying safe and have a good one, guys!