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Top tips for cleaning your car

Top tips for cleaning your car

There’s a lot to be said for taking the time to clean your car, losing yourself in the process of washing, buffing and polishing your motor. And if you follow our tips, you’ll also have a pro-quality result. 

Get kitted out – car wash equipment you need

As with any job, you need some basic tools to get it done properly. A sponge and a bucket of water will do the trick, but if you want your car to really shine, you’ll need to upgrade.

First, while a sponge is fine, soft, microfibre cloths are what the pros now use. They help to wash, rinse and dry the car without risking scratching the bodywork. You’ll need separate washing and drying cloths.

A specialist car shampoo is also a must. Do some quick online research to find one that has good reviews. Don’t use a household detergent, though: it will strip off any wax on the paintwork.

Another useful piece of equipment is a grit guard for the bottom of your bucket: it means that your cloth or sponge won’t pick up any grit you’ve washed off and rub it into the paintwork.

A bug and tar removal spray is also good for stuck-on spots.

You’ll also need a specialist car glass cleaner: household products contain ammonia, which can damage the car’s upholstery.

You should be able to find a whole host of handy products in your local auto shop or online.

Finally, pick up a car wax. You don’t have to go all Karate Kid every time you wash the car, but if you do it three or four times a year, it will help protect your car’s paintwork.

Pick your moment - the best time to wash your car

The first thing to do is choose the right time to wash your car. Don’t do it in hot weather, because water evaporates quickly and forms a residue before you’re able to wipe it off.

Start inside – cleaning the interior of your car

Start by cleaning the interior, chucking all your rubbish from the ash trays, door pockets, etc. Then take out your carpet mats, give them a once-over with a vacuum cleaner, then hoover the rest of the cabin. Don’t forget to clean your car seats, a quick vacuum will get rid of any bits of dirt. 

Time to wash your car

If your car is particularly dirty, wash down the car with just some plain water, to get the worst of the dirt off. This will reduce the risk of rubbing dirt or grit into the paintwork.

Start the washing process with the roof, then work your way down the car, washing the sides, then the front and back of the car. This gives the washing solution more time to soak into the dirtiest, grimiest areas of the car near the bottom.

Remember to change your water a few times. If the water is starting to look murky, ditch it and start again with a fresh bucketful.

Any really stubborn dirt – especially bird droppings or insects stuck to the bodywork – needs more than elbow grease to shift. Use your bug and tar removal product.

One final tip. When washing your car, remember open the doors, boot and bonnet, cleaning inside them, because these are prime spots for dirt and water to collect.

Dry the paintwork

Don’t let the car air dry after you’ve washed it: you’ll just get water marks on the surface that are unsightly and undo all your hard work. The most effective method is to wipe the surfaces with a long, figure-of-eight action, starting again at the top of the car and working your way down.

The best way to clean car windows

Leave the glass until last because the windows tend to pick up dirt and grime from washing the car’s bodywork.

Wind down the windows so you can clean the top edges: if you don’t, they’ll carry a strip of grime, even though the rest of the car is spotless.

One tip is to dry the exterior glass in one direction and the interior in another (horizontal and vertical for instance). This means that if you’re left with a streak, you know where it is.

Wax on, wax off

You only have to wax your car a handful of times a year, but if that seems too much effort, you can always use a shampoo that contains wax. 

Once you’ve washed and dried your car, apply the wax, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply the wax in straight lines – don’t buff it in a circular motion – then leave it to dry before polishing it off. A trusty microfibre cloth is again what you need for this.

Professional car valeters often wax the car twice to get a better shine. You can test the quality of the shine by placing a ruler perpendicular (90 degrees) to the surface and see how many numbers you can read off in the reflection. The more you can see, the better the shine.

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