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You might think that it doesn’t really matter how you wash your car, as long as you get it clean. Well actually, using the wrong products or accessories can damage your paintwork, making it look dull and scratched. Taking that extra bit of time to do the job properly will keep your car looking as good as new – not only making it look better as you drive, but also potentially making it easier to sell.

Here, we’ll highlight nine of the most common car cleaning mistakes made by unsuspecting motorists, and provide some top tips on how to maintain your car’s showroom shine.

9 Ways You’re Cleaning Your Car All Wrong

1. Using Washing Up Liquid

It sounds like such a plausible argument: “If it cleans my dishes, it must be able to clean my car”. The fact is washing up liquid contains all kinds of harsh chemicals that are capable of wreaking havoc on your paintwork. Instead of using dish soap, choose a car shampoo that’s been specially developed to remove stubborn dirt and grime while being gentle on your paintwork.

2. Using the Wrong Cloths

When it comes to cleaning your car, don’t reach for your regular dishcloth or sponge. Cloths of this kind aren’t designed for use on cars, and they could cause lasting imperfections like fine scratches and swirls. Instead, invest in a microfibre wash mitt to gently remove grime and absorb excess surface moisture.

3. Working in Direct Sunlight

Working in the shade

Washing your car in direct sunlight or when it’s still hot is never a good idea, however tempting it might be. As you apply shampoo, polish and wax to your paintwork, it’ll dry faster than you can wash or buff it off – resulting in smears, water spots or leftover residue. The solution? Park in the shade and wait for the car to cool down before applying any cleaning products.

4. Removing Missed Patches with a Drying Cloth

It happens to the best of us: you rinse your car, only to find you’ve missed a bit. But, instead of reaching for the cleaning cloth (the recommended solution), you attack the spot with your drying cloth – a big no-no. By rubbing a mucky mark with a dry cloth, you’ll effectively work the dirt into the paint, or at the very least cause a stubborn swirl mark. Remember – never clean your car with a dry cloth.

5. Applying Products Directly to the Paintwork

As many car cleaning products require diluting prior to use, we’d hope few motorists would ever make this mistake. But as they say, stranger things have happened. To avoid over-applying products to your car – particularly polish and wax – always apply to a cloth first.

6. Using Only One Bucket

Once you’ve dipped your sponge in-and-out of the suds a dozen times, your once-clean water will be chock-a-block with dirt and debris. Continue using the same water, and you’ll transfer the grime back to your paintwork – not good. If possible, always use two buckets (one for rinsing and one for washing) or failing that, change your wash water regularly.

7. Cleaning the Wheels Last

Washing the wheels

For some reason, motorists have a tendency to wash their car wheels last – why? As the one part of the car to come in contact with the road, tyres and rims are often the dirtiest part of the car. If you leave them ‘til last, you risk splashing the dirt onto your shiny paintwork, and you’ll be back at square one. Take our advice and wash your wheels first – but remember to change the water afterwards so you don’t spread dirt onto your car

8. Waxing One Too Many Times

While the importance of wax cannot be stressed enough, there’s little point in over-applying the stuff. Generally, 1-2 coats of wax is ample to keep your paint protected from harmful dirt and deposits; any more than that, and you risk over-buffing and removing earlier coats.

9. Using the Wrong Type of Towel

Although it’s not always necessary to towel dry your motor, if you’re going to do it, at least use the right towel. Unless you want to scratch the paintwork, never use a standard household towel, or a chamois for that matter. Instead, use a dry microfibre cloth to quickly remove excess moisture.

For more top car cleaning tips, or to browse our range of reliable car valeting products, visit the Simoniz homepage.

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: barkDave S,