How often should you clean your car? Part 1: The Outside

Summer is nearly here and many of us are making plans to enjoy every minute! If you own a car this is the time of year when you can look forward to getting out and about and enjoying visiting family, friends in many different places.

But it’s also the time of year when you can realise just how dirty your car is! The bright sunshine shows up even the smallest bit of dirt and grime. So unless you want to drive around in a filthy car this summer it’s time to do something about it.

It’s tempting to just take your car to either an automated car wash or a hand car wash/valet service. But not only does this take time out of your day it can also cost quite a lot of money. A better thing to do is to invest that money in a good set of car cleaning materials then clean your car regularly at home yourself. Once you get in the routine it need not take long: and the more often you clean it, the quicker it will take each time.

As a general rule, if you use your car daily you should aim to wash it weekly – particularly if it is parked outside overnight and you live either near the coast or an area with lots of trees. All these factors mean that your car is subject to a variety of pollutants that can cause damage if not regularly removed. Cleaning your car regularly can help to preserve its value.

The materials you need
We referred earlier to a set of car cleaning materials and this does not need to be over complicated. The main essentials are:

  • Large sponge
  • Washcloth eg microfibre
  • Car shampoo
  • Car wax (could include polish or this could be separate if you prefer)
  • Car windscreen cleaner
  • Bucket
  • Hose or pressure washer

You are then ready to follow for our Five Step car wash plan:

Five Steps to a clean car

  • Rinse thoroughly
    One of the keys to a successful car wash is to start off with a good rinse. This removes a lot of dirt which saves you time. It also prevents scratches which can happen when pieces of dirt get caught in your sponge or cloth. So rinse away! Ideally use a hose or pressure washer and work from the top down. Make sure you  rinse every part of the car, including all those difficult to reach areas such as doors, windows, wheels, grills, bumpers – and that awkward leaf-gathering gap that many cars have between the bottom of the windscreen and the start of the bonnet!
  • Shampoo well
    Use a good quality car shampoo and make sure the shampoo/water mix feels rich and smooth. Start shampooing at the top of the car with a sponge or cloth, and gradually work your way down, sweeping  gently from side to side then backwards and forwards. Rinse your sponge or cloth regularly as you go, before applying more shampoo. Remember to wash your wheels: you may want to use a special wheel cleaner for this.
  • Rinse again
    It is important to rinse off the shampoo thoroughly to avoid residue and streakiness. Again, ideally use a hose or pressure washer. If you do not have one then a watering can may suffice. Use plenty of fresh water and rinse from the top down to avoid shampoo running onto previously rinsed areas.
  • Drying
    It can be tempting not to bother drying your car after a wash but you will get a much better result if you do dry. Work from the top down. Use either a good quality chamois or a large towel, and pat rather than wipe to minimise streaking.   
  • Get the shine!
    To get your car really gleaming you need to wax it as the final stage. You can either use a one-step wax that also contains polish, or polish and wax separately. The advantage of polishing separately is that it will add depth of colour and gloss to your car prior to waxing. But either way, waxing will add a layer of protection to your paintwork and give you a high gloss finish. Add gloss to your windows by using a car window cleaner and wiping down thoroughly after use to ensure that all the cleaner is removed and doesn’t leave streaks.

If you get into good cleaning habits with your car, it will reap dividends in the long term. The car will not only look good but will also retain its value better if it is being well looked after. So it is definitely a habit worth getting into: follow the above tips on a regular basis and you will be able to enjoy going out and about this summer in your car even more!