Perhaps one of the most accurate litmus tests for car lovers is whether he or she considers washing and waxing a pleasure or a chore. Fortunately, with the right preparation and technique, great results can be had by all.
What you need. Get together a clean bucket, a few clean and soft wash mitts or sponges and a soft brush for cleaning the wheels. Grab non-acidic wheel cleaner and car washing soap–not dishwashing liquid or any other kind of soap. Most any soap will clean the dirt off your car. Only car washing soap does so without harshly stripping the wax from the surface.
Find the right place. Car washing and waxing must be done in the shade to keep the products from prematurely drying and creating unsightly results. What’s more, the body needs to be cool to the touch, so just pulling into shade from the hot sun won’t make a difference.
Clean with clay. Clay bars and liquid paint cleaners won’t necessarily work their way into your weekly car washing regimen, but are worth considering for periodic treatment. Whichever method you choose, it’s a simple way to effectively remove surface contamination that washing might not address.
Soak before soap. With the car cool and in the shade, give it a good spray top to bottom before you take the soapy sponge to it. Dirt will loosen or fall, lessening the chance of scratches once the sponge comes into play.
Work in small areas. Speaking of top to bottom, that is the order in which you should work. Begin with the roof and head down from there. Soak, wash and rinse an area at a time. Doing this keeps water running down the car, picking up more dirt along the way.
Wheels and tires. Give the sponge or mitt a break and take a soft brush to the wheels and tires. As with the body, wheels need to be cool also. Cleaners will work far better and there won’t be a chemical reaction kicking off harmful fumes as they do with hot surfaces. Wheel finishes are fragile as well, so use a non-acidic cleaner, one wheel at a time. Though sequence is purely an option, consider cleaning them first. Doing this before the rest of the car can prevent any spattered wheel cleaner from prolonged contact on the paint.
Rinse early and often. That goes for the car, obviously, but especially goes for your sponge or wash mitt. Plunging it straight from the car back into the bucket only traps more dirt in the bucket, sort of like taking a shower versus a bath. Rinsing more often minimizes the dirt you redistribute onto your car.
Drying. Do it right away so you don’t get water spots all over the car you just washed. There are a multitude of drying products from towels to soft rubber squeegees, available in all price ranges.
Waxing. A couple generations ago, waxing was more literal, applied straight from the metal can onto the car. Today’s paint jobs can be as complex as the cars that wear them, so a traditional paste wax could compromise the finish. Fortunately, up-to-date liquid waxes and treatments are available and perform effectively. Some come in a spray bottle for instant results, while others simplify further and are blended with the car wash soap. When shopping, consider your car’s finish and purchase accordingly. A quick periodic waxing between semi-annual buffing and polishing can extend the protection and shine.