We all need to wash our cars from time to time. Maybe you have a slicked up sports car and maybe you have an SUV for a family of five, maybe it’s a real gas guzzler and maybe it’s a tiny eco-friendly-mobile, but whatever kind of car you have, it will get dirty. You don’t want to drive a dirty car around, and you can bet your neighbours, coworkers, dates, or anyone else who has to encounter that filthy odious automobile will be all that happy with its unclean state, so cleaning your car is a must.
But how can and should you go about doing it? The initial instinct may be to simply spray it with soap and water and give it a good scrub down, but the best car washing methods are more nuanced than that. So, how can you best go about cleaning your car, what should you avoid, and what else should you keep in mind about the washing and drying process to ensure your car comes out squeaky clean?
1. Do: Use the Right Type of Cloth
One of the most common mistakes people make when cleaning their car is using the wrong type of cloth – or not knowing that there are wrong types to begin with. It can be tempting to think that one type is the same as another.
Unfortunately, this simply is not the case. For one thing, the wrong kind of cloth can leave behind all manner of streaks and splotches, which not only make it look like you haven’t washed your car, but arguably make it look even worse. You certainly don’t want your car window to emerge with these unsightly streaks after you’re finished, which is why it is so important to choose materials that are soft enough not to leave scratches or streaks behind.
2. Don’t: Rely on Brute Force Alone
This is in stark contrast to the old refrain we have heard about cleaning time and again, that you simply have to “put some elbow grease into it” and force things. That could not be further from the truth. When you “force it” while cleaning car windows, you increase your chances of causing scratches. Even if you think it is absurd that a comparatively-soft rag could leave a scratch, a roughened ragged rag can still leave behind those aforementioned streaks and splotches, defeating the whole point of cleaning your car in the first place.
As such, you want to use force sparingly.
Then, there’s the fact that rags and paper towels especially aren’t very absorbent. The whole idea of cleaning is that you spritz the surface with water and the cleaning agent and then absorb it and the contaminants up into your cleaning tool, be it a cloth, a squeegee, or what have you. Paper towels may be acceptable for this purpose when dealing with spillages inside, but they are exceptionally poor at doing so with car surfaces.
You should, thus, leave those paper towels for indoor spills.
3. Do: Use Chamois or Microfiber Cloth
Both of these options are especially good for dealing with surfaces such as your windscreen or detailing that requires a more delicate touch.
Microfiber can come in a wide range of different sizes, so no matter how big your car is or the surface you wish to clean, chances are good you can find a microfiber cloth that fits. They are quite absorbent, and chamois even more so.
Microfiber is pretty easy to use, too. You simply go over the wet surfaces with the cloth as you would a paper towel, only with a far softer and more absorbent surface, and voila.
This is especially nice for those who have neither the time nor patience to learn any special “cleaning techniques,” which are sometimes recommended for sensitive surfaces. With microfiber cloth, it’s practically impossible to mess up, you just clean the mess up! One point of advice – if you have a large microfiber cloth, it may be easier to keep things under control and give you a smoother clean if you fold it once or twice. This can also give you a bit more thickness.
What about the chamois? This is another ultra-soft surface, so you don’t have to worry about streaks and scratches. A chamois is typically made of animal leather, which is in turn often a blend of goat or sheep skin blended with polyvinyl alcohol or something similar. If you’ve had sheepskin clothing, you know how incredibly soft and satisfying they are, so that’s a definite plus, but is it really cleaning material? Well, it can be in a properly made chamois, which is thick and absorbent enough to pick up water and particulates without streaking your vehicle.
Finally, chamois actually often work a bit better when damp than dry, as this helps them cling to the surface in question and move across it smoothly.
4. Don’t: Forced Air Dry or Sun Dry it
A final few tidbits on what not to do when cleaning your car.
The surfaces are sensitive, so you don’t want to “force” anything, as stated – including the drying process. Taking a blow dryer or anything else to try and “force” your car to dry sooner will simply lead to beads of water sticking in place as ugly streaks. It could also cause particles to stick in place as well.
You also want to be careful about sun drying. The slow evaporation process involved once again just tends to leave you with streaks and a less clean car than you might imagine.
Cleaning your car should not be a struggle, and it does not have to be. By making use of the soft and affordable options mentioned here, especially microfiber cloths and chamois, you can clean it easily. What’s more, by affording paper towels and forced drying, you can avoid unsightly streaks.
In doing so, you can come away from the car cleaning process with a car that is truly as squeaky clean as you would hope and deserve.