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Everyone loves that new car shine, but keeping your car cleaned and maintained is easier said than done. Sure, there’s the convenient option of going to get your car washed, paying 10 bucks, and letting the machines go. But those drive-through car washes can actually damage the paint. If you want to wash your car yourself, these are the best tips and techniques to properly wash your car.

Man Washes His Classic Ford Anglia Car
Man Washes His Car | In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Use two, clearly labeled buckets for applying soap and rising

Lots of folks just dip their rag or sponge in one, sudsy bucket. While you could do this, it isn’t actually ideal. By dipping that one sponge into the same soap bucket over and over, all you’re doing is making the soap dirty. Every time you dip it in again, the gunk on your car is ending up in the solution.

Rather than double-dipping, have one bucket full of soap (high-quality car soap, not dish detergent), and one full of just water. Submerge the towel or sponge into the soapy bucket, wipe your car, and then rinse it off so it’s ready to grab fresh soap.

On a similar note, when it comes to water, pressure washing your car might be quick and easy, but it can actually damage the paint. Or rather, it’ll damage the wax that protects the paint itself, causing your car’s color to fade. I know it’s more tedious, but if you care about the color of your car then the extra time to keep it shiny and safe will be worth it. Just use buckets and soap, or in some cases, microfiber towels.

Make sure you have the right towels, and know how to use them

Road Show’s Brian Cooley recently demonstrated how to wash your car without water, though whether you’re using suds or not, the towels and techniques he uses are crucial. For starters, make sure you have microfiber towels, which can be purchased at your local car parts shop. They’re cheap and washable, so you can reuse them time and time again.

Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to use more than one sponge or towel while washing your car. If anything, that’s the better method. Using the same towel for the entire job means all you’re doing is spreading dirt and grime around. If you want that new car shine, you basically need to use a new towel with every section of the car you wash.

The technique Brian used is to fold your microfiber towel into quarters, then use a separate towel to dry. When washing a new section, you use a new quarter of the towel. And once all those quarters are used up, grab a new towel. Then there’s how you wipe it down, which is in a zig-zagged, non-crossing motion. That way you’re pushing dirt away, not rubbing it back into the area you already cleaned.

Don’t let anything of your supplies touch the ground

Man Washes His SUV in the driveway at home
Man Washes His Car With A Microfiber Towel | Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Well, the bottoms of your buckets and bottles might hit the ground. But if you’re using the same sponge or towel for the whole job, then you shouldn’t let them touch the ground. Otherwise, all you’re doing is contaminating the towel, collecting rocks and asphalt that could scratch your car.

That said, if you’re willing to use multiple microfiber cloths, you don’t have to worry about this problem. Buy a pack of 24 for $10 and, when you’re all done, throw them in the wash. If, however, you drop your only sponge, you’ll want to either 1.) grab a new one or 2.) thoroughly wash it under the kitchen sink (don’t just dunk it into the rinse bottle and hope for the best).

Other simple car washing suggestions

Man Dries His Car With A Microfiber Towel
Man Dries His Car With A Microfiber Towel | Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP via Getty Images)

Some of these are pretty standard, but we’ll go over them anyways to make sure you have the cleanest car once you’re all done washing it. First of all, you want to wash from the top down. Don’t just pick a side and go, start from the top, as that way the dirt and grime mixed into any water rushes down, and you don’t just collect that gunk as you aimlessly wash the car.

Another suggestion from NAPA is to not wash your car in direct sunlight. If the sun is beating down on your car, the water will dry faster and could leave spots in the same way glasses leave rings on wooden tables from condensation (always use a coaster).

Going along with not letting your car bake in the sun, don’t just let the car air dry either. Keep using those miracle microfiber cloths to wipe off the water, otherwise, those spots and splotches will dull the paint.

It’s a lot to try and remember, but washing your car can instill a sense of pride that you alone took care of your automobile. It’s the same reason why many people learn to change their own oil, to be one with their machine. But just make sure you’re not doing a half-baked job. Take your time, and use these tips and techniques when washing your car to ensure it keeps that new car shine.


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