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Whether you’re an experienced car detailer or a complete novice, car cleaning mistakes can happen. We don’t blame you; it’s easy to overlook some of the most common car washing errors if you’re not paying attention or don’t know what you’re doing. Check out these seven car cleaning mistakes that you should avoid, as they may hurt your car’s paint in the long run.

Mistake #1: Leaving wax on the car for too long

A can of carnauba wax
A can of carnauba wax | Getty Images

A common mistake that people make when waxing a car is leaving the wax on for too long. According to Hagerty, it’s best to follow the instructions on the wax container to get optimal results. Different waxes call for different instructions. For example, the Chemical Guys Butter Wax must be buffed off immediately, while other waxes need a few minutes to work their magic. Also, it could be best to wax your car panel by panel instead of covering the whole car with wax and then wiping it down.

Mistake #2: Using too many cleaning products on your car

A bucket of cleaning products
A bucket of cleaning products | Getty Images

Less is more when it comes to cleaning your car. That means not using too much wax or properly diluting a concentrated product (like window cleaner or engine degreaser). Don’t go crazy with the cleaners, as they may end up doing more harm than good.

Mistake #3: Wash the wheels last

A man cleans a wheel on a car
A man cleans a wheel on a car | Getty Images

Most car detailers and experienced washers will tell you to work from the top of the car down. That means starting with the roof and then doing the wheels last. However, the editors at Hagerty argue that starting with the wheels first — while using a separate brush — is beneficial since you might spray the brake dust and dirt onto the car’s paint surface in the process. If you clean the car’s body first, cleaning the wheels after may cause it to get dirty again.

Mistake #4: Leaving bird droppings and bugs on the car for a long time

Those bird droppings and bug splatters may be a pain to wipe off occasionally, but it’s worth doing so. Insect remains produce enzymes, and bird droppings are acidic. Over time, these nasty carcasses and droppings can ruin your car’s clearcoat, so it’s best to wash them off as soon as possible.

Mistake #5: Using one towel to do it all

A man uses a towel to clean a car
A man uses a towel to clean a car | Getty Images

It can be a pain having to use multiple towels to dry your car and clean the wheels, but it’s worth it. If you use one towel to do it all, the dirt that it collects will scratch the car’s surface. It’s best to buy different color towels for the car’s body, wheels, and interior so that you can use them accordingly and don’t get them mixed up.

Mistake #6: Washing your car with dish soap

Dish soap is made for dishes because it contains chemicals that break down and remove grease. As such, applying this type of soap to your car’s paint will strip any wax or paint sealant and eventually cause it to dull. Use car wash soap instead. It’s formulated to protect the car’s clearcoat and paint. Best of all, it’s inexpensive.

Mistake #7: Using a Magic Eraser to clean your car’s interior

The Magic Eraser is great for cleaning dirt and grime from your bathroom surfaces, but the melamine foam that it’s made from is not for car interiors. The abrasive material can strip away the oils from the interior plastics and leather seats, so it’s best to keep this cleaning product in the bathroom.

Avoid these car cleaning mistakes

It doesn’t matter if you have cleaned hundreds of cars or never cleaned one in your life; you could make one of these mistakes. Don’t worry; it happens. But it’s best to recognize what they are and avoid them as much as possible.