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Keep that body clean with the right car wash

You spent a fortune on your vehicle, so why wouldn’t you want it to always look its very best? Proper washing and drying techniques will help you maintain your car’s showroom shine.

Smiling woman washing car

You can do more harm than good if your car washing techniques are bad, according to the car care experts at The dreadful scratches and marks you notice on your car’s paint may very well be the result of your own handiwork.

Remove scratches

Before washing, remove those light, annoying scratches. By sanding, compounding and polishing your vehicle’s clear coat, the 3M Scratch Removal System is ideal for small defects. The easy-to-use system improves the paint’s appearance and repairs for light key scratches, swirl marks and light oxidation. (3M Auto, $28)

Wash often… and skip the dish detergent

Organic contaminants, such as insect residue and bird droppings break down your car’s clear coat polish. Without the protection of the clear coat, your vehicle is susceptible to discoloration, corrosion and other damages. Weekly washings remove these bio-hazards before they can do too much damage.

It’s tempting to use a squirt of dish soap to wash your car, but it can actually strip the wax that protects your car from fading. Instead, opt for a lubricating car wash that is intended to remove contaminants… not protective coatings.

24 Karats Car Polish is a unique product that lets you wash and wax your car in one step. The concentrated wax — just one tablespoon per gallon — makes a nice, sudsy solution that easily removes road film, tar, bird poop and bug guts. (, $19)

Use a soft touch

Ideally, you want a tool that will effectively remove dirt and grime without harming the car’s paint. The soft plush of a Sheepskin Wash Mitt (, $16) or the gentle fibers of a Natural Sea Sponge (, $29) attract dirt and debris away from the car’s surface so they can’t scratch the paint.

Wash wheels and tires first

Remove grime and dirt from hubcaps, wheel rims and covers with the EnviroMate Pronto P7. The portable hand-held steam cleaner sanitizes and cleans in a powerful but eco-friendly manner. (, $99)

Seek shade

Don’t wash or wax your vehicle in direct sunlight. It’s the same rule you use when washing your windows. The sun will dry cleaning agents too quickly, resulting in an unsightly, streaky finish.

Use clean water… and two buckets

You don’t want to move dirt from one area of the vehicle to another. Empty, rinse and refill your bucket after washing wheels and tires and before moving on to the rest of the car. Fill one bucket with soapy water and the other with clean water. Rinse your sponge after each swipe of the car to remove the grit and grime that can scratch. Then dip it in the soapy water and continue washing.

Wash from the top down

(After doing the tires, of course.) Rinse the entire vehicle to remove loose dirt and debris. Then begin washing the roof and work your way down. Rinse frequently as you work to make sure your car wash doesn’t dry onto the surface.

Don’t forget to dry

The only way you’ll prevent water spots is with a thorough drying. Dry the car thoroughly, but quickly. Use a microfiber drying towel or a paint-safe squeegee to remove water. Or consider a car blow dryer, like the portable Metro Vac N’Blo.

More helpful car tips

Be road trip ready
Tips for driving in the rain
Common sense advice for drivers

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