Washing Your Car: 12 Things You Need To Know

In this article we take a look at 12 things you need to know about washing your car.

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What can I use to wash my car at home?

You must ensure, as a minimum, that you have: car shampoo, a microfibre drying towel, a microfibre wash mitt, a bucket and non-acidic wheel cleaner and wheel brush. If you do not have any of these items then it is strongly recommended that you do not try to wash your car as you’ll likely damage the paintwork. If, for example, it is urgent and you need to get rid of the dirty you are better off using a hose pipe / pressure washer and water only to remove the dirt from your car. Do not use a sponge, or a random cloth with some dish soap – it’s literally the worst thing you can do.

Can you use dish soap to wash a car?

To make this short and sweet, no you cannot use dish soap to wash a car. We wrote an article about this here for more detail but dish soap is not made to wash a car. Dish soap will strip the wax/sealant protective coat on your vehicle and could damage the panels so we’d recommend that you stay away from it and leave dish soap for the dishes.

What is the best soap to wash your car with? Is Dawn dish soap safe for cars?

The best soap (you mean, car shampoo!) to wash your car with can vary. Ideally, you want a shampoo that is affordable, foams and cleans well. We would highly recommend any of the following, in no particular order.

Whatever you do, please make sure that you are using a shampoo that is specifically made for cars! Dawn dish soap is not safe to use on cars so please don’t.

Can I wash my car with just water?

Yes, you can wash your car with just water. Don’t expect a particularly good result though. The only way we would recommend to wash with just water would be through the use of a hosepipe or pressure washer… not just water as in use a wash mitt in a bucket and go over the car panels. You need lubrication that comes from the car shampoo. So the moral of the story is if you’re going to rinse/pressure wash it then yes only water is ok…. but do not clean a car with just water and a wash mitt. Firstly that won’t clean the car, and secondly, it’ll likely result in scratches panels.

What can I use if I don’t have car soap? Is it OK to use shampoo to wash a car? Which hair shampoo is best for car wash? Can you use laundry detergent to wash a car?

Nothing. You wait until you do have dedicated car soap/shampoo. Our recommendation is to simply rinse/pressure wash off with water. Anything else, you must have car shampoo it is as simple as that. As we’ve mentioned above. Hair shampoo, or laundry detergent is definitely something you want to avoid for washing a car. Take a look at the recommendations below.

Should I wash a car with hot or cold water? Does washing with hot water make a difference?

Hot water or warm water makes it easier to wash a car for a couple of reasons. One, it allows dirt to soften easier making it easier to clean and less likely to scratch. Two, it will make it easier for dirt to come off of the wash mitt when you dip it back into the warm bucket and three your hands will be warm whilst doing it. Is it a major deal breaker if you can’t use hot/warm water? No. If you can, then do it but if you can’t it doesn’t make that much of a difference that you’ll need to re-arrange when you can wash your car.

What is the best time of day to wash your car? Can I wash a car in the Sun?

Any time between morning and mid-afternoon. You will want to make sure that your car is in the shade at whatever time of day you decide to do it. So depending on your facilities whether you have a garage, or are washing it on the street just make sure that you’ve got shade as this will reduce the chance of the sun prematurely drying which leads to water streaks and water spots which are an absolute headache and completely avoidable.