There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of a job well done. Of course you can pay for a car wash, but why not tackle the job yourself and show your four-wheeled baby that extra TLC? Here are 6 tips for getting the best results for a car wash right in your own driveway.
Timing Is Everything
You’ve probably heard the best place to wash your car is in the shade, right? It turns out that has more to do with heat than light. If you time your wash correctly, you can take advantage of sunlight without incurring the heat penalty.
What is the heat penalty? It comes in three parts:
- Car care products, unlike household cleaners, are not developed to interact with a hot surface. You won’t be getting the optimal performance from your detailing supplies if you apply them to a hot car.
- Soap will dry on a hot surface before you can rinse it off, leaving clouding and streaks.
- Similarly, water will evaporate off a hot car before you can properly dry it, leaving water spots.
You don’t want to let heat undo all your hard work. Choosing a shady or roofed spot to wash your car is ideal. You should also wait at least half an hour after driving a car before washing it so that it has time to completely cool.
Believe it or not, an optimal time to wash your car outdoors is first thing in the morning. Why? The air is cool, the car is cool, and the sun is low. The low angle of the sun’s rays throws long shadows, making dirt and debris on your car much easier to see. If you’re not the early-bird type, you can still catch long shadows late in the afternoon – just be sure it’s not too hot outside, or you’ll still want to move your car into the shade.
Let Gravity Do the Work, Part I
What part of your car gets dirtiest? The part closest to the road. The bottom half of body panels and the bumpers are always going to need more attention than the roof. So cut down on elbow grease by starting with the roof.
As you initially rinse the car to remove large debris, right away the water running down will start working on those trouble spots. As you spray the car one section at a time, always point the hose nozzle at a downward angle. You’ll find that by the time you get to those pesky bumpers, a lot of the work has been done for you.
You can use our HYDRA BEAD™ hi-gloss drying aid after rinsing. It has a unique formula that sheds water for faster drying action and is especially helpful if you live in an area with hard water.
The Right Stuff
Unlike household cleaning, where soap is soap and you can use your dish detergent to scrub your toilet, car detailing requires specific products. Why is this so important? Because household cleaners can remove the wax finish you so carefully applied to your car or even damage your ceramic finish. Those same ingredients that get the last stubborn food residue off your dishes will strip the wax off your car.
Even if you don’t finish your car wash with a hand wax, modern auto paint includes a clear coat layer that can be damaged by harsh household degreasers and chemicals. Don’t risk it.
Let Gravity Do the Work, Part II
Once you’re done giving a thorough first rinse, soap the roof. Again, starting there means that all the soapy runoff will begin loosening the dirt on the lower half of the car.
Make sure you’re using a high quality car wash soap, like our SUD’Z AND SHINE™. It has a deep cleaning formula that gets out the worst road grime and special rinsing agents that help leave a spot free finish.
Let gravity clean your roof for you, too. The weight of a thoroughly sudsy wash mitt is enough to give a great clean. You don’t need to rub or press down. Just lay the mitt on the roof and move it back and forth in big, gentle swipes.
A super soft and thick synthetic pile wash mitt holds lots of suds and water.
Now run clean water over the roof and, once again, let gravity take a first pass on those trouble spots at the bottom of the car. Repeat a section at a time – big swipes, no rubbing – and you’ll find that by the time you get to the dirtiest parts of the car they will require much less elbow grease.
Use 2 Buckets
One full of clean water, one full of a soap mixture. Rinse your wash mitt or brush frequently in the clean water after soaping your dirty car. Then do a quick dunk back into the soap bucket to pick up more suds. You want to rinse often so you aren’t dragging dirt across your paint job.
You can of course spray your wash mitt off with a hose, but a bucket is a real time-saver.
Remember the finishing touches. Even a small effort can have big results. Don’t let smudges on the inside of your windows detract from the hard work you did on the outside of the glass. Give them a thorough cleaning with a high quality glass cleaner.
Our CRYSTAL CLEAR™ glass cleaner cuts through the toughest dirt, grease and grime with ease and its non-detergent formula never streaks when used as directed.
Use a quality microfiber towel or chamois to dry your car. Avoid shop rags – the cheap fabric and rough material can scratch your paint job. A car wash with a built-in drying aid, like our SUD’Z AND SHINE™, will save a lot of effort.
A 100% cotton terry towel is the perfect drying and detailing towel. Its soft nap and banded edges help prevent swirl marks on your finish with proper use and care. Keep plenty on hand for everyday use.
For cars with a clear-coat finish, traditional waxing is not necessary, but a protective sealant will help maintain that showroom finish.
Our professional paint sealant POLY GUARD™ is easy to use with long-lasting benefits. With just one application, POLY GUARD™ extends the life of vehicle finishes against harmful UV rays, weathering and environmental damage.
Pay some extra attention to your tires. Applying a good tire shine will not only protect and condition the rubber, an eye-catching set of tires really gives your car that wow! factor.
Our SUPER SPRAY SATIN™ is loaded with silicone glossifiers that replenish the original beauty and shine to any rubber, vinyl, leather or plastic surface. Use it on all your weather seals to prevent drying and cracking too.