Fix-It Chick: How to wash a car

Washing a car may sound like child’s play, but here are a few pointers to help avoid telltale signs of a novice wash job.

  1. Start with a good-quality car wash mitt. Unlike old T-shirts, towels and rags, mitts hold lots of water and help pull dirt away from the car surface, reducing the risk of scratches and swirl marks.
  2. Dish soap is for dishes, not for cars. Dish soap will strip the vehicle’s wax finish and dry out rubber seals and plastic moldings. Splurge a little and buy a good quality car wash shampoo.
  3. Use a garden hose with a gentle spray or a free flow nozzle. High pressure nozzles tend to embed dirt into the car’s surface.
  4. Fill two 5-gallon buckets — one with just water and the other with a water/shampoo mixture. Use the bucket of clean water to rinse the car wash mitt between scrubbings.
  5. Wash the car in a shady spot on a day with little or no wind. Begin by washing the wheel wells and tires before proceeding to the vehicle body.
  6. Wet the entire surface of the car with a gentle spray to remove any loose dirt or grime.
  7. Start at the top of the car and work your way down to the bottom. Squeeze a full load of soapy water from the car wash mitt onto the area to be washed. Allow the suds to set for a minute before gently wiping them up in a straight sweeping motion. Overlap strokes to avoid streak marks.
  8. Rinse the mitt after the first pass and repeat the process as necessary, applying more pressure on the second and third scrubbing.
  9. Once an area is clean, rinse the soapy residue away with a free-flowing garden hose. Allow water to sheet off the surface with the full flow of the hose to reduce both water spots and drying time.
  10. Continue washing the vehicle in sections, working around the car several times. Rinse regularly and make sure all surfaces remain wet throughout the process.
  11. When finished, dry the car with microfiber towels or chamois. Wipe gently, in straight lines to avoid scratches. Wring towels out as they become soaked and use a secondary dry towel to pick up any remaining droplets.