There is a lot that can be said about a clean car. If you are anything like me, you enjoy a clean car and when you drive it, you feel more noticed. Did you know that some car washing supplies can cause damage to your car?
Lets look at what can cause damage and what damage that might be. First, the actual soap. Have you ever used, or regularly use dish soap to wash your car? A lot of people do. I have myself, but only in special cases. Dish soap as a car wash agent is very corrosive. Dish soap is designed to be that way, so it can remove that thick grease from your dishes … but that also translates to very strong chemicals that eat through the protective waxes and sealants you spend so much time applying to your car. The special case I use it in is only if I want to remove the wax layer, which is when you are looking to polish the car, you want to remove that wax layer only at that time. Dish soap also dries out the rubber trim on your car, is very hard on the plastic too … so just don't use it. Use only a car wash soap, it is far less corrosive and won't damage your finish. The only alternative I would use is a baby shampoo, the plain old cheap baby shampoo, it is filled with wax (no tears) and actually fairly safe on your car.
Next is the actual rag, sponge, or whatever you use if you wash it by hand. The only wash mit you should be using is a micro fiber cloth or mit. The sponges, towels, brushes, etc, will all carry the dirt and grit on the surface and often cause more fine scratches as you wash it. Micro fiber traps the dirt inside the fiber and pulls it away from the surface. Much safer on your paint.
Drying you car also requires a good micro fiber cloth. The old Chamois is just not the best thing anymore. I think micro fiber drying towels do a far better job too.
Car Washing Tips
There are good ways and bad ways to wash a car. The best is to do it by hand with the proper micro fiber wash mit or micro fiber covered sponge and using the 2 bucket method. This is method to wash your car is simple, 2 buckets. One has your hot water and soap mixture and the second has plain hot water with no soap. The second bucket is you rinse bucket. You do it like this, start with the soap, get as much water and soap into your mit as you can, wash the car from top down only, in layers really. Then after each section, rinse the mit in the rinse bucket, this removes any large particles and dirt that you just washed off the car. Then go to your soap bucket and use the clean soapy water with your now cleaned mit and wash the next section. This helps to prevent your wash water from getting too dirty and keeps any dirt of grit off your wash mit as well. Then rinse each section off with your water hose as you go along, never let the soap solution dry directly on the paint, it will leave a very clear water stain that you will just have to wash off again. Dry the car as soon as you are done.
Other things you need to consider is the wheels and wheel wells: It is a great idea to actually wash them first. You can use a wheel brush for the rubber and rims, but make sure it is designed to be a wheel brush and not any old brush you can find around the house. Completely wash the wheels wells, rubber and rims, then change your water and go ahead and wash the rest of the car as described above.
Other things that damage your finish: Any automated car wash that has any sort of brush … This will ruin your paint, trust me. Those brushes are NOT micro fiber, they are a heavy grade material designed to last a long time, which means they are not soft enough for your paint. They will leave your paint faded and scratched and it will take you many hours to fix it by hand polishing all those scratches out. Or it might cost you a few hundred dollars to have someone else detail it for you. Also, for the manual wash bays, never use the brushes in them either, those are usually made of a plastic and also scratch your paint … you may only use them on your rims and tires … nothing else.
Proper car care and washing does take a little time and the proper tools, but it will extend the life and value of your car for many many years. In the long term, simple things you do now to prevent damage will keep your car and it's finish looking great.
If you already have the scratches from previous washing techniques, then it can easily be corrected by polishing it yourself or taking your vehicle to a professional auto detailer to take care of it for you.