Should I Wash My Car in Winter?

close up shot of car washing

With the arrival of winter’s frosty mornings, rainy days and dark nights, keeping your car clean can seem like a tall order.

However, winter can be tough on cars, with water, road salt and dirt leaving their mark. That’s why you need to get in the habit of cleaning your car regularly in the winter months – even if going outside with a bucket and sponge is the last thing you want to do when it’s cold, dark and wet.

To help you keep your car clean this winter, we’ve put together a complete guide on cold weather car maintenance. Use the links below to get the help and advice you need to get your car looking and feeling good this winter.

Quick Links

When and How Often Should You Wash Your Car in Winter

Washing your car in winter isn’t fun and can seem like a thankless task when it’s likely to get dirty again much quicker than it would during drier times of the year. But with that said, it’s an essential job that will ensure your car continues to look and feel its best in the long term.

But how often should you be washing your car in winter? And what conditions should you take into account before heading out with a bucket and a sponge?

Check out our video guide below for some essential top tips on when and how often you should wash your car in the winter.

Winter Exterior Car Cleaning Tips

They say that prevention is better than a cure, and this goes for cars too. There’s potential for damage to your paintwork over winter months but if you protect it before the weather gets bad you won’t have as much work to do to keep it clean.

Here are some essential tips for cleaning and maintaining the exterior of your car in the winter.

Cleaning Dirt and Grit

After you’ve been caught in a shower, or driven through muddy puddles, you need to clean the dirt off as quickly as possible. If you don’t have time to do a full shampoo, the best thing to do is blast it with a hose or pressure washer just with water to rinse away the build-up.

A person cleaning the car by a garage with a high pressure washer.

If you have one, use a pressure washer or garden hose to blast salt and debris from the undercarriage and those other hard-to-reach areas, such as wheel arches, door jambs and the spaces beneath the bumpers, bonnet and boot.

We’d recommend cleaning it at least once a fortnight, and more regularly when the weather is bad. When roads are wet following a shower, the amount of dirt, debris and salt increases, and this will need to be removed ASAP to prevent it from damaging your car’s paintwork.

Tip – be careful drying your car if you haven’t shampooed it. If there are small bits of dirt or grit still on the surface, they can get trapped under a water scraper or drying cloth and cause scratches.

Washing the Wheels

Alloy wheels are exposed to the full force of muck, grime and salt in the winter. If they’re not cleaned regularly, this dirt can wear down the clear coat layer and cause oxidation, which can be difficult to remove once it’s set in.

When washing your car in the winter, it’s vital to remove as much dirt and grime from the wheels as possible. Use a pressure washer and soft-bristled alloy wheel brush to aggravate baked-on brake dust, salt and debris, being sure to clean the wheels from every side to remove all visible dirt.

Learn more about cleaning your car’s alloys with Simoniz Ultracare Alloy Wheel Cleaner.

The Importance of Wax in the Winter Months

Make sure your car has a strong layer of protective wax. It’ll keep the harmful dirt away from the paintwork, protect it from the elements and make it easier to clean. It’ll also give you that nice beading effect during a downpour.

Wax is essential for protecting your car from the worst winter road dirt and salt. By applying a good layer before the cold weather sets in, you can be confident the paintwork is protected from wear, abrasion and rust.

If you’ve never waxed your car before, it’s not difficult, and is a great way to make sure your paintwork is protected before winter hits. If you have time to spend using a proper hard wax, get a tin of Simoniz Original Wax and a microfibre cloth, and apply a thin layer to one panel at a time (ensuring it’s clean and dry beforehand). Then, before the wax dries, buff it away using a second soft cloth or chamois. The wax will last for at least six months, and between washes.

If you want faster results, our Quickshine Detailer is an easy-to-use spray-on wax – just remember to top it up regularly.

If you’re looking for more help and advice on the best way to protect your car’s paintwork, be sure to read our beginner’s guide to waxing your car. We’ve covered everything from choosing the right type of wax to covering swirl marks, so you can get great results with every application.

Winter Interior Car Cleaning Tips

There are a couple of reasons why it can be hard to keep the inside of your car clean in the winter. Firstly, you’ll probably be using your car a lot more, so dirt, marks and stains will occur more often. Then, there’s the fact that you’ll be bringing muddy shoes, wet dogs and equally soggy children into your car, which can make it really hard to keep things looking fresh and clean.

Follow our tips below to care and maintain your car this winter.

Clean the Carpets and Upholstery

Man Hoovering Seat Of Car During Car Cleaning

Over winter, your wet and muddy shoes will have brought a lot of dirt into the car. Even if you have car mats and are very careful, that dirt will work its way into the carpets, creating stains and smells.

To clean your carpets and upholstery quickly, get rid of the loose dirt with a vacuum cleaner before using Simoniz Upholstery and Carpet Cleaner. Dried on dirt like mud can be difficult to shift, so you need to use the brush head to scrub down into the fibres to lift away stains.

Our guide on how to look after car upholstery gives you all the help and advice you need to vacuum and clean soft upholstered surfaces in your car.

And, because we know how tricky it can be to clean carpet car mats, we’ve also put together a guide on removing salt stains from car mats during the winter.

Keep the Windscreen Smear-Free

Smears, dirt and fingerprints on the inside of your windows may not seem a big problem, but once the sun hits them on a winter’s morning, when the sun is low in the sky, dangerous dazzle could impact your ability to drive the car safely.

Using Simoniz Clear Vision Glass Cleaner and a soft microfibre cloth, wipe the internal and external glass gently to remove smears and grime that could cause dazzle and visibility issues.

Need more help cleaning your car’s windows and lights in time for spring? Our guide on cleaning car windows and headlights has you covered.

Tip – If you don’t have loads of time to spend cleaning your car in winter, don’t forget that our express car shine guide offers helpful tips on getting your car clean and shiny, inside and out, in just 15 minutes.

Why It’s Important to Keep Your Car Clean in the Winter

We’ve touched on some of the reasons why it’s important to clean your car in winter in the tips above, but it’s worth taking some time to understand all the potential problems dirt can cause, so you know what to look out for and what jobs you should prioritise.

Moisture Means Salt, and Salt Means Rust

On winter roads, your car will encounter things like salt, grit and rotting leaves, which can all stick to your paintwork and cause leave harmful deposits behind. This, in turn, causes the onset of rust, which will eat away at your car’s exposed metalwork if left unchecked.

Salt, dirt and moisture deposits are most harmful on your car’s undercarriage, where metal components are less protected. If rust takes hold here, you could face all sorts of mechanical issues down the road, and see the resale value of your car plummet when it comes time to trade it in or sell it on.

A close up on the damage caused by winter and salt that makes a car wing rust


It isn’t just for cosmetic and upkeep purposes that you need to keep your car clean in the winter; there’s a safety element to consider, too.

For instance, if your car’s windscreen is dirty and covered in tree sap or fallen leaves, this will result in impaired visibility — particularly when you’re driving in low winter sun. Sun dazzle is more common in winter than it is in summer, because the sun is low during peak driving hours. That’s why it’s so important to keep your windscreen clean and free from smears (we’d also recommend carrying a pair of sunglasses, just in case).

Even if you can’t be bothered to give your whole car a clean on that chilly Saturday morning, you should make sure glass surfaces are streak-free and that there’s plenty of screen wash in the reservoir. And it goes without saying that if you park your car near trees, make sure you clear the windscreen, roof and rear window of dead leaves before driving.

Not only can leaves impair your vision, they could also cause a distraction for other drivers. The same goes for snow and ice, too, though with the relatively mild winters we’re experiencing in the UK, this shouldn’t be a regular issue.

At Simoniz, we’ve been taking care of cars for decades – come rain or sun – to clean, protect and shine all year round. For more information, visit the Simoniz website.