Proper Washing & Drying Technique

Are you washing your car, or just damaging the paint?

90% of swirl marks that disfigure your vehicle are caused by improper washing technique. Thorough weekly washes and careful hand-drying can be the best care you can give your vehicle. Bad techniques will cause nasty swirls and scratches in the paint requiring compounding or polishing at the very least. You can eliminate these problems and save yourself extra work by following a few simple tips when washing and drying your vehicle. Compounding is to be the last resort to resolve scratches and paint defects.

Weekly washing is best because some contaminants quickly do serious long term damage to paint if they are allowed to remain. Two such organic chemicals are bug remains and bird droppings. These environmental hazards contain complex proteins that adhere to the surface and organic acids that penetrate and break down the surface, eating into your clear coat if not removed promptly. Weak spots in the clear coat make your vehicle susceptible to corrosion and discoloration.

Another problem contaminant is brake dust. It contains metal shavings from the rotors and adhesives used in the production of brake pads. Try to picture the dirty plume of brake dust and roadway chemicals that travels along with a moving vehicle. This fog of chemicals shower the lower portion of your vehicle with a clinging, nearly invisible mist. Brake dust itself, is highly corrosive and very sticky. Washing your vehicle weekly will remove these contaminants before permanent damage sets into your paint.


Wash Tools

First Never wash in direct sunlight. Pick a shady spot. Second it’s very important to choose tools that are gentle on the paint, yet still effective at removing contamination. As a rule of thumb, sponges & mitts that are plush or have a deep nap are better than flat weave towels or dense sponges. Remember to dunk the sponge or mitt regularly into the bucket that will enable dirt & debris accumulated to drop out. The natural fibers themselves will not scratch the paint and they will essentially pull contamination into the sponge’s openings, away from the paint. Always use the softer side of the sponge for washing. A new sponge/mitt/microfbre cloth should be always rinsed before first application, this allows all the unwanted factory contaminants such as fibres, dust etc to be cleared.

 Another option is a Sheepskin Wash Mitt. Sheepskin is extremely soft and plush. The fibres are gentle on the paint while the nap is deep enough to accommodate loose dirt and sand so they do not rub against the vehicle. Because wool is natural, it does not last as long as a Microfiber mitt.However, for luxurious softness, you can’t beat the texture of wool.

Micro-Chenile Mitts are another option. Microfiber’s combination of polyester and polyamide make it capable of scrubbing the paint without scratching or swirling. It traps dirt and grit within the fibers rather than leaving them on the surface of your vehicle. Be sure to rinse the mitt frequently to release these particles, on a personal note, I have found these mitts to be most difficult to clean properly.

Proper Washing

  1. Wash the wheels and tires first. If you splash wheel cleaners or dirt onto your vehicle, you can simply wash it off as you wash your vehicle. Use a cleaner that is safe for all wheels. Agitate with a wheel brush to clean wheels without scratching. Wash each wheel and tire one at a time and rinse thoroughly before moving on to the next one.
  2. Now you’re ready to wash. Let’s start with clean water and a freshly rinsed container and your preferred cleaning material be it a wash mitt or sponge.It’s important to use a car wash that is rich in lubricants. The purpose of the car wash is to remove contaminants and lubricate them so they do not scratch the paint as they slide off the vehicle. Dish detergents are not ideal because they remove protective coatings. .
  3. How do you prevent swirl marks? Use two buckets. Fill one bucket with soapy water and fill the other with clean water. Each time you’re ready to reload your Sponge with soapy water, dip it in the clean water first, to rinse out the grit and contamination you’ve just removed from your vehicle. Then dip it in the soapy water and continue washing.An even better option is the Grit Guard. This plastic grid sits in the bottom of a 5-gallon wash bucket and stabilizes the water. Contamination and particles settle to the bottom of the bucket and the clean wash water remains at the top.
  4. Always rinse your vehicle thoroughly before you begin washing in order to remove loose debris. Then begin washing at the top of the vehicle. Wash down the vehicle as opposed to front to back. Remember that the lower panels are dirtiest. You want to clean the windows and the upper panels before cleaning the lower half of the vehicle so that you don’t transfer grit to the top half of the vehicle. Rinse and reload your sponge/mitt often to prevent cross-contamination. Rinse your vehicle frequently as you work, especially in hot weather For stubborn spots, like bugs or tar, use a dedicated bug remover and tar remover. For contaminants stuck on paint, you can also use a clay bar to gently remove sticky contaminants without scratching. To soften the sponge, soak it in warm water for 2 minutes. Always use it with soapy water to lubricate the sponge.
  5. When rinsing, you don’t have to blast your car clean with the water hose. Free - flowing water (no nozzle) will allow the water to sheet off of your vehicle for a more thorough rinsing.



Never skip drying! Drying your vehicle after washing is necessary to prevent water spots. Water spots are caused by mineral deposits that etch the outline of a drop of water into your vehicle’s paint. All water has minerals, whether it’s from the hose or the sky. As the water evaporates, the minerals remain on the surface and they will eventually, invariably create water spots.

 You can dry your vehicle in a variety of ways, but you want to make sure you do it quickly. The fastest way to remove excess water is with a California Jelly Blade. This is a “paint-safe” squeegee that pull 80% of the water off the surface of your vehicle. They are made of soft, medical-grade silicone so they will not scratch your paint or glass. Use the blade on the windows first, since water spots are most noticeable there.

If you use a California Jelly Blade you may still need to use a towel to wipe away drips from around windows and mirrors. A very absorbent microfibre is a must, usually a weave texture is desirable as it increases the surface area so the towel can absorb more water.

Happy washing and keep HER clean!!!