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10 Car Wash Dos and Don’ts


A sparkling clean car isn’t just for show. Keeping a vehicle in good cosmetic condition can increase its lifespan and resale value. Take advantage of these pro tips for cleaning your ride – whether you take it to a car wash or do it the old-fashioned way.

dirty white car

1. Don't go too long between washes. Experts recommend washing every one to three weeks and waxing every season, depending on weather, local driving conditions and vehicle usage.

2. Do hand-wash your car or take it to someone who will. If you use an automated car wash, choose one with cloth brushes that are less likely to scratch the paint.

3. Don't wash your car in direct sunlight or when the finish is hot. High temperatures cause liquids to dry quickly, leaving spots and mineral deposits on the paint.

bucket of car cleaning supplies

4. Do gather supplies before you start, including a bucket, sponges or mitts, and soft brushes. You’ll also want towels, chamois cloths, squeegees, or blowers for drying, plus any necessary cleaners and protectants.

5. Don't use dishwashing detergent or household glass cleaners that contain ammonia. Because of the harsh chemicals in these products, you may strip away wax or damage paint, rubber components, and window tinting.

6. Do start by cleaning the wheels and tires, then wash and rinse one section of the body at a time, working from the top down. Use back and forth motions.

7. Don't reuse wheel and tire cleaning tools on the vehicle exterior. They have likely picked up dirt that can cause scratches.

Man cleaning his car seat

8. Do read your owner’s manual for instructions on how to care for your car’s carpet, upholstery and trim. Test cleaners before use in small, out-of-the-way places such as a door jamb or under a seat to make sure they don’t cause discoloration or other damage.

9. Don't forget out-of-sight areas like door and trunk jambs. Pop the hood and remove leaves and debris from the base of the windshield. If you live in a dusty or muddy climate, or where chemicals are used to melt ice and snow, wash the underbody to remove deposits.

10. Do use detailing brushes and a vacuum to clean dust and dirt from heating and air-conditioning vents.