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The Wrong Way to Wash Your Car

BY: Alex Perrone
A man using a hose with a cleaning attachment to clean his car's tire.

There’s nothing quite like getting outside during the spring and summer to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. For car owners especially, getting into their vehicle and hitting the open road is one of the best ways to enjoy the warmer weather of these seasons, whether on a road trip or just a quick trip around the neighborhood. Even in the wintertime, owning a car can help make even the shortest trips more comfortable by helping you stay out of the elements. But while there are plenty of ways to enjoy your vehicle any time of the year, maintaining it might not be on your mind. 

From oil changes, tire pressure (PSI) checks and so on, each vehicle will have a recommended maintenance schedule to help you as the owner keep it running for as long as possible. But, while you should always be staying up-to-date on your car, truck or SUV’s essential maintenance needs, there is one type of maintenance that many car owners may not even realize they need to do regularly throughout the year: simply washing it.

Regular car washes can help protect your car’s paint from the dirt, grime and other contaminants that can cause corrosion and other issues such as rust, but there is more to it than just using a wash bucket with some soapy water and letting it air dry. Properly maintaining that beautiful shine on your vehicle can be a labor of love and is a far more involved process than most car owners may know. In fact, while there may be no specific “right” way to was a car, there are some ways that car owners should absolutely look to avoid doing to help ensure their vehicle is as well maintained as possible. 

So to help you in protecting your vehicle any time of the year, be sure to avoid these 13 wrong ways to wash your car.

1. Going to a Quarter Wash


Young Woman Washing Car

It’s understandable to look to save when it comes to washing your car, but that 25 cents are a riskier endeavor than you may think. Unless you know precisely what type of soup or cleaning products are available at a quarter wash, you usually end up using some random, possibly overly acidic soap. The potential chance of those dangling hoses coming loose and scratching your vehicle is also an additional risk not worth the extra bucks saved. Not to mention the foaming brushes or other cleaning supplies available to you, as the dirt, grime, and other gunk from previous car washes can still be caked on and could cause more harm than good if you’re not careful. 

The same goes for automatic car washes as well. While convenient and often having better cleaning supplies than a self-service quarter wash, they aren’t cleaned between each use. Meaning that while it may appear you’re getting a solid wash, you very well may be getting the leftover dirt and debris from other cars. Instead, a DIY hand wash or deep cleaning at home is the best way to help ensure your vehicle is getting cleaned with the right cleaning solutions and clean microfiber towels or cloths. And don’t forget to take care of your interior as well!

2. Using a Regular Sponge or Towel


When it comes to “cleaning,” chances are you may think of a sponge. But when it comes to washing your car, a sponge is a sponge, right? WRONG. Unless you are the type of vehicle owner who prefers swirl marks and scratches in your car’s paint, go ahead and use a dish sponge. When it comes to drying, your average cotton towels are neither very absorbent nor soft. In fact, they can be very abrasive and will do more damage than good. 

Instead, using items such as specifically designed wash mitts or microfiber towels can help ensure you’re getting a thorough cleaning without risking any potential damage to your car’s finish.

3. Letting Your Wash Mitt Touch Dirty Things

Yellow, green sponges and blue mitts for washing and microfiber fabric with cleaner cloth on white car

Using a special wash mitt instead of your everyday dish sponge or bathroom towel is the best way to help avoid damage to your car’s paint or finish. But, while a wash mitt is one of the best tools for you to clean your car, you have to watch how you use it. For example, if you take a break or focus on a specific part of your vehicle that requires you to take the wash mitt off, be sure to place it directly on a clean surface. If you let it sit on the ground, it could pick up tons of granules of dirt that you might miss with the naked eye that you do not want any of that coming in contact with your car. Unfortunately, a simple rinse isn’t enough either, so if you find your wash mitt on the ground or in/near a puddle of grease or something else, get another fresh one before restarting your wash. 

This also goes for rinsing off the wash mitt. Ask yourself if you would use the same spoon for spicy chili and put it straight into your bowl of ice cream? The same thought applies here as all the dirt you’ve successfully lifted off your car will wind up in the bucket if/when you rinse the wash mitt. Instead, look at utilizing two wash buckets: one for rinsing the wash mitt and one filled with clean soap and water.

4. Using the Wrong Soap


The best soaps to use on a vehicle are the kinds that sud up a lot as they can help remove dirt and grime from your car’s paint and prevent scratches, so be sure to do your due diligence to find a soap that works best for you and your vehicle. However, never use kitchen/dish soap, as it can strip away your car’s protective wax.

5. Dumping Your Dirty Wash Bucket on the Car When You’re Done

It can be tempting to take your wash buckets and dump them on your vehicle once you’re done cleaning but haven’t yet started drying, but don’t. Especially when it comes to the “rinse bucket” you may have been using, this can be somewhat counter-intuitive as it is filled with the dirt, debris, and other contaminants you’ve already cleaned off of your vehicle. After all, would you go and dump a bucket of sweat or mud on you after you shower?

6. Using Too Much Water Pressure 

It may seem like using a hose with good water pressure is the best way to really get off any stuck-on gunk and grime, but that’s not always the case. Blasting your dirty car with as much water pressure as possible is a surefire way to chip away at your car’s finish and paint, especially if there are any small chips or flakes that you might not have noticed yet.

7. Only Washing What You Can See

When it comes to washing your car, that means washing the WHOLE car. It may seem like a quick and easy fix to just wipe down your windshield or rinse off any visible dirt on the exterior, but that can lead to poor car washing habits that can lead to more troubles down the line than the few minutes of extra time you’ve saved are worth. Instead, look to thoroughly wash your car each and every time you look to clean it. This includes getting into the nooks and crevices, such as your wheel wells, that can be covered in a layer of brake dust that you might not regularly see or even think about. This will help to ensure there are no excess build-ups of contaminants that could lead to corrosion and other issues.

8. Washing in the Direct Sunlight on a Hot Day

car wash on a hot day.

Getting outside to wash your car on a sweltering and sunny day can seem like the perfect combination of doing some active vehicle maintenance while enjoying the weather, but it can actually be bad for your overall wash. For example, a hot and sunny day will heat the surfaces of your car and make the water and soap evaporate that much faster. A mix of water-and-soap combo acts as lubrication that will inevitably allow your mitt to glide across the paint without scratching it, but if things get heated and dry too quickly, all the minerals can leave streaks or water spots on your car’s paint. This means you’ll have to do even more washing to ensure everything is taken care of.

9. Washing Your Microfiber Towels/Cloths with Your Clothes

It can be easy to just throw your dirty microfiber towels or cloths in with your regular load of laundry, but you should look to avoid that whenever possible. The laundry detergents you use on your clothes have fragrances and softeners in them that could leave streaks when used on a vehicle. 

10. Spraying Cleaning Products Wildly Inside

Woman's hand with microfiber cloth polishing wheel of a car

Stay Up-to-Date On Your Car’s Maintenance with Endurance

Whether it’s the beginning of summer or the middle of winter, cleaning and washing your car regularly at any time of the year is vital. And by understanding the “wrong ways” you could be washing your vehicle, you can help ensure that it stays looking (and running) its best for years to come. 

Staying up-to-date on all your car’s other essential maintenance needs is also critical in helping you avoid any unexpected and costly breakdowns, especially if your vehicle’s original factory warranty has expired. Instead, you can look to protect your car and your wallet from expensive auto repair bills while also saving up to $3,500 on some of your vehicle’s most essential maintenance needs with the Advantage auto protection plan from Endurance. 

That’s right! You can get comprehensive breakdown protection while saving on essential services like up to three oil and filter changes, tire rotations, alignment checks, engine diagnostic exams and more, including getting help on your vehicle’s next state safety inspection. You will even have access to several special, one-time services such as a battery replacement, cooling system maintenance and more for even more coverage and savings.

Not only that, but each Endurance plan automatically comes with the peace of mind of having 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage and rental car reimbursements to help you in case you ever experience a breakdown away from home. You can even enjoy a full year of Endurance Elite Benefits, including $1,000 in total loss replacement, collision discounts, key fob replacements and up to two tire replacements or repairs. Simply purchase the Endurance plan that’s right for you, pay a small activation fee and enjoy your entire year of extra perks and savings.

Get started protecting your vehicle today by requesting a free quote, or you can learn more about how Endurance can help you by giving our award-winning customer care team a call at (800) 253-8203. By visiting the Endurance blog, you can also find even more great automotive tips, including DIY maintenance how-tos, vehicle buying guides, and more.

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