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Do It Yourself - cleaning and tidying up the interior of your own car

It should be no rocket science – water, shampoo, sponge and off you go. But washing the exterior of your car means following certain rules, too. Otherwise you can damage the paint and… waste your time.

Please, make sure you know exactly what to do before cleaning your car!

Though, professional car washes are generally available which provide a wide range of detailing services. Many people still prefer to wash their car themselves, as they enjoy it.

However, a number of stereotypes have emerged in recent decades regarding car washing. One of them is the lingering belief that a car body can be washed using an ordinary sponge and just about any household detergent, such as soap, shampoo or washing-up liquid.

Shops offer many car care products, so it is difficult to  come to a decision which is the most suitable for our needs?

Please find some of our suggestions listed below.

Step one – right place and accessories

 

Washing a car should be done only in a place permitted by local regulations.

You will need the right accessories to hand-wash your car:

  1. Two plastic buckets about 10 litres each: one with diluted detergent, the other with clean water for rinsing. It is best to use a bucket with a plastic separator at the bottom (you can see it in the left photo below) to stops particles of sand and dirt from going on the squeegee after rinsing.
  2. Microfibre squeegee: you should not use a regular sponge, which may collect sand in its pores and scratch the varnish. Using a sponge can cause circular scratches called “swirls” to appear on the varnish. We should also never use a kitchen scourer, which can be very aggressive to your varnish.

  1. Car shampoo: preferably with a wax content. Washing-up liquid is formulated for different cleaning purposes which could cause damage, loss of original shine and fading over time. Car shampoo is especially formulated for cleaning and long term protection of your car paintwork.
  2. Soft clean microfibre cloth, eliminate the risk of scratching your paintwork. They can be washed and reused many times. You can also use soft cleaning and polishing wipes, made especially for fast and easy cleaning.

 

Step two – rinsing

Pre-rinsing is also important because it helps to remove some of the dirt from the car body and prepares it for washing. How should we do it properly? Start by rinsing the car, starting from the roof, not forgetting to carefully rinse off dirt, such as mud from hard-to-reach places, roof gutters or window trims. Then, it is important to rinse the dust off the wheel arch and doorstep areas, especially if you haven’t washed your car in a while (or after winter).

The bodywork dries quickly in strong winds, and using a microfiber squeegee and detergent on barely moist panels can make scratching damage to the paint more likely.

Caution! When using a high-pressure washer please follow the written instructions to avoid damaging your car. Care should be taken when cleaning wheels, removing insect residue or stubborn dirt. Varnish is easily damaged when the cleaning nozzle is used too close.

Step three – Initial preparation

Before we move to basic washing, it is a good idea to make our work easier and prepare the car body for washing. During the summer season, it is a challenge to effectively remove insect residue that crashes into the front of our car.

It goes more easily if you splash large amounts of water over the body to soak the insect remains. To get rid of them once and for all, however, you will need special cleaning products. These eliminate the risk of damaging the varnish with excessive water pressure or aggressive rubbing with a sponge. When choosing a cleaning product, please pay attention to whether it is safe for headlights.

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Another product useful in preparing the car body for washing is a spray for removing tar and asphalt and resins. It is mainly the owners of light coloured cars who have to deal with black dots on the wheel arches, doorsteps and doors that are practically impossible to wash off with a regular squeegee and shampoo, and rubbing them hard can only cause scratching. For this reason, a special product should be used.These places are often difficult to access, it is very convenient to use a product equipped with  a nozzle which can work at every  angle.

Caution! If the stains are hard to remove, you can use a special kind of clay bar to clean dirt off the paint. Form a piece of clay in your fingers. For better slip rinse the paint with water and shampoo or spray with the products mentioned before and gently rub until the stains are removed.

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Now it is time for your wheels.  A good idea is to use a product approved by wheel manufacturers, that confirms cleaning efficiency and safety for your painted wheels After rinsing, but before the main wash, you should spray the wheels and wash the car body in the meantime – this will give the product time to clean more efficiently

Step four – active foam

When washing the exterior of a car by hand, we don’t need to rely only on a hose, buckets of shampoo and water, and a microfiber squeegee. Using a high-pressure washer combined with active foam will make the process of body rinsing a little easier.

Active foam should be applied to the car body before the main car wash – either using a high-pressure cleaner or a hand foamer to make  later basic washing easier. It is a good idea to spray active foam on both your car body and wheels. Its dilution may be chosen depending on how much dirt we need to remove but 1:10 is pretty standard, especially when using warm water (please check the dilution table written on the product label).

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Active foam will help get rid of residue that has accumulated on the car for months or years. In hard-to-reach places, such as window and lamp frames, and around logos, it can also be applied with a soft bristle brush.

Active foam is also useful for cleaning internal profiles visible after opening doors, hoods and boot lids or heavily soiled plastics, such as car pedals; in such cases, it is advisable to apply the foam by hand using a brush.

After spraying the body with foam, wait a few minutes and rinse the body. Do not allow the foam to dry out. Foaming and basic washing must always be done in the shade.

Step five – Fundamental wash: shampoo and squeegee

 

Now’s the time for the most important part. When washing your car using two buckets, soak the cloth in a bucket with diluted shampoo and start from the roof of the car, using circular movements (otherwise, we can spread the dirt from the wheels and doorsteps and scratch the paint).

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We need a shady place for washing, and the car paint must be cool; sunlight and a heated surface accelerates the process of drying the water-shampoo mixture, which will cause smudges.

Clean the windshield carefully of insect residue, but before that, remember to put up the wipers if possible. On many new cars, they are hidden beneath the edge of the hood and must be set to the service position beforehand (follow the instructions given by the car manufacturer. Do not try to lift the wipers by force).

Rinse the squeegee regularly and thoroughly in the bucket of clean water after successive steps: first after washing the roof, then the windows, and then the rest of the car body. Next we should wash the bumpers, rinse the cloth again and move on to the wheels and tyres. The tyres are particularly demanding, because of the shape and the amount of dirt, it is best to equip yourself with a dedicated wheel cleaning brush.

You can also use a microfibre cloth wrapped around your finger when cleaning spoked wheels. Make sure to carefully clean the area where the rim meets the tyre and also the bolt holes.

 

Step six – wiping down the car

After washing, the car body should be wiped. The best way to do this is to use soft clean cotton cloths, which are the gentlest on the paint. Before that, it is a good idea to open all the doors and the boot lid. Wipe your car in the same order you washed it, that is, starting with the roof, then moving on to the windows and mirrors, and then to the lower part of the body. Several cloths are usually needed, especially because water droplets will come out of many nooks and crannies.

By the way, it is a good idea to wipe off the profiles visible after opening the doors, hoods and  boot lids (e.g. door posts), including the inner sides of these components.

Step seven – additional procedures

When cleaning, it is a good idea to clean the wiper blades with a paper towel moistened with glass cleaner or dedicated wipes. This will extend their life and increase comfort and safety when driving in wet conditions.

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If you still have time, you can take care of a few more details. First – wash the windows and mirrors with a dedicated glass cleaner and  squeegee (the windows should preferably be cleaned from the inside as well). This will get rid of any remaining dirt and stains. Also, cleaning the windows from the inside not only improves visibility, but often eliminates the problem of fogging. Caution – when cleaning the windows from the inside, use applying on a soft clean cotton cloth, not directly on the glass – otherwise you will spray the interior parts of your car.

Second, it’s a good idea to do maintenance on the unpainted plastic and shine up the tyres. This little step will make the exterior look much cleaner, while also protecting the plastic parts from fading and the tyres from sidewall cracking. There is a wide range of products available: spray, foam or gel. For bumper maintenance, it is best to apply using a soft clean cotton cloth rather than directly on the plastic – this way there is no risk of spraying the surrounding parts.

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For windshield cleaning, the so-called “invisible wiper” is an interesting choice – it forms a water-repellent surface coating. It really works! Once applied, an invisible wiper will last for several thousand kilometres, reducing the need to use wipers, as well as improving comfort and driving safety. And that’s not all: in summer it reduces insect residue adhesion while also have anti-frost effect in winter.

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And if after washing and wiping the car body you can still see smudges and you do not plan to wax, you might want to consider a quick glossing solution – wax wipes or wax/foam (then you will need an extra cloth). This waxing solution takes 10-15 minutes to apply and while it is inferior to paste or liquid wax in terms of protection time, it forms a smooth and shiny coating.

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Car wash 1 – washing a car at a self-service car wash

A self-service car wash is an easy and quick way to refresh you car. Remember that this type of washing will not remove stubborn and accumulated dirt. To see this for yourself, just run your finger over the bodywork of a car after washing.

Still, self-service car washes are a good way to refresh your car with minimum risk of scratching your car paint.  They work well especially for car cleaning in-between waxing: dirt runs easily off wax-protected surfaces.

However, when washing a car at a car wash, you need to remember a few basic rules:

– do not use brushes or other equipment which is available at such car washes – people usually use them to wash heavily soiled wheels and doorsteps or entire off-road vehicles; sand and dirt accumulated on the bristles may scratch the paint of your car

– it is best to start with a basic washing programme followed by rinsing with demineralised water; there is no point in using active foam or wax, which usually work less efficiently at car washes than manually applied products (this applies especially to wax, which “disappears” from the car body after 1-2 rainfalls)

– The nozzle should be guided vertically or horizontally, in long strokes, like a vacuum cleaner tip; be careful not to bring it too close to the varnish, because it can damage the coating, especially if it is cracked or has clear coat losses

Car wash 2 – washing a car at an automatic car wash

If you don’t have time, space or possibility to wash a car yourself – by hand or at a self-service car wash – preferring instead machines to do it for you, you should go to an automatic car wash. Choose the  one, where the brushes are changed regularly. Keep in mind, however, that washing the car body this way is neither precise nor safe for the paint – over the years it will lead many slight scratches and may accelerate fading causing paint dullness.

After using a car wash wax program in an automatic car wash, you should use dedicated cleaning wipes on the windows and mirrors to remove wax from them. If not, unsightly white spots will remain on glass surfaces, reducing visibility.

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Car wash 1 – washing a car at a self-service car wash

A self-service car wash is an easy and quick way to refresh you car. Remember that this type of washing will not remove stubborn and accumulated dirt. To see this for yourself, just run your finger over the bodywork of a car after washing.

Still, self-service car washes are a good way to refresh your car with minimum risk of scratching your car paint.  They work well especially for car cleaning in-between waxing: dirt runs easily off wax-protected surfaces.

However, when washing a car at a car wash, you need to remember a few basic rules:

– do not use brushes or other equipment which is available at such car washes – people usually use them to wash heavily soiled wheels and doorsteps or entire off-road vehicles; sand and dirt accumulated on the bristles may scratch the paint of your car

– it is best to start with a basic washing programme followed by rinsing with demineralised water; there is no point in using active foam or wax, which usually work less efficiently at car washes than manually applied products (this applies especially to wax, which “disappears” from the car body after 1-2 rainfalls)

– The nozzle should be guided vertically or horizontally, in long strokes, like a vacuum cleaner tip; be careful not to bring it too close to the varnish, because it can damage the coating, especially if it is cracked or has clear coat losses

Car wash 2 – washing a car at an automatic car wash

 

If you don’t have time, space or possibility to wash a car yourself – by hand or at a self-service car wash – preferring instead machines to do it for you, you should go to an automatic car wash. Choose the  one, where the brushes are changed regularly. Keep in mind, however, that washing the car body this way is neither precise nor safe for the paint – over the years it will lead many slight scratches and may accelerate fading causing paint dullness.

After using a car wash wax program in an automatic car wash, you should use dedicated cleaning wipes on the windows and mirrors to remove wax from them. If not, unsightly white spots will remain on glass surfaces, reducing visibility.

Car wash 3 – washing a car at a hand car wash

When you want to have a carefully washed car, but can’t do it yourself, a manual car wash is your go-to option. If you decide on a manual car wash, it is best to check on the Internet for their customer comments and satisfaction reviews. Including: skills, lack of paint damage, reliability, honesty and the most important – cleanliness. You can always ask a car wash attendant or owner for more detailed information.

Keep in mind that unprofessional washing (with improper equipment or chemicals) can degrade your car paint over time, which might require later correction. On the other hand, a well-looked after car keeps its value longer making it easier to find a potential future buyer. And it simply looks great, not only for you.