How not to clean your car

There are plenty of helpful guides to assist in cleaning your car, but what are the don’ts. Read on to find out the serious offences against paintwork.


You’ve probably read numerous articles packed with tips for cleaning your car, but what about the things you really shouldnít do? We thought it was about time to tackle those instead. These are the motoring misdemeanours weíve all committed at some point, but have hopefully learnt to avoid. Keen valeters, beware, the contents of this list could keep you awake at night.


The dreaded car wash


Theyíre the automotive equivalent of putting your head in a washing machine on a spin cycle to wash your hair. Spinning wheels that flail your carís paintwork into submission, batter its door mirrors and occasionally amputate a wiper and casually toss it into the gutter where the grey soapy water is recycled for the next customer. Even if youíre lucky enough to avoid damage, the results are usually questionable, with intricate wheels and crevices left untouched.


The one bucket method


Taught by relatives across the nation, this is car washing 1980ís style. All you need is one bucket (thatís also used for gardening), washing up liquid and a big yellow sponge. Give the car a rinse with a hose first, then sponge the car all over with the increasingly dirty water. Back and forth you go, merrily caressing the carís lines in a circular motion. Sadly, your hard work is rewarded with a countless number of small swirling scratches caused by sharp particles suspended in the water and held on your jumbo sponge, known affectionately in the industry as ëlove marksí.


The three-second rule


Many people adhere to the ëthree-second ruleí, whereby if you drop a tasty snack, itís perfectly edible if you pick it up within three seconds. Sadly, thereís no such rule for dropping a sponge, cloth or (even worse) your clay bar on the ground while detailing a car. As soon as any car cleaning paraphernalia touches tarmac, it should be considered contaminated with all manner of jagged rocks that will cause irreparable damage to your carís paint, and put aside. For this reason, itís also not a good idea to use a pricey new clay bar in its entirety, instead breaking off smaller chunks, so dropping one itís less ruinous.


The farmer’s jet wash


A pressure washer is a powerful tool, so while a baked on bit of brake dust or recently deceased insect may be a blight on your sparkling paintwork, you should never hold a lance mere centimetres away in an attempt to blast it away. We learnt this one first hand when attempting to remove some cow muck from a Peugeot 106ís door sill, only to remove the paint down to the metal work. No jokes about French build quality please, it was a great little car.


The air dry


This one isnít quite as perilous, but it can lead to mild or even severe frustration. Youíve fastidiously washed your car using the approved two-bucket method, carefully rinsed it off and headed inside for a congratulatory chilled beverage. So imagine your disappointment the next time you head outside to find your car covered in unsightly white water marks. Unfortunately, tap water tends to leave these mysterious deposits behind when it evaporates. The solution is a little more elbow grease, using a clean drying towel to remove the bulk of the remaining water from paintwork before heading inside. Oh, and donít forget the windows, either.


The kitchen cupboard raider


Every week, hundreds of scientists ensconced in futuristic laboratories are working on the formulas for the top car valeting products. Not only are they looking for the best cleaning performance, but serums are also rigorously tested to ensure they wonít burn, blister, stain or bleach your carís sensitive surfaces. The same canít be said for worktop cleaner, hob shine or bath cream, which can be a lot more powerful, abrasive and acidic. Raiding the kitchen cupboard can save a trip to the local automotive emporium, but fixing any resulting damage can be a lot more expensive and time consuming to boot.  


The doomed orbit


Watch some car valeting videos and you may get a hankering for an orbital polisher, to take the strain out of detailing and render your paintwork so smooth itís like driving around in a mirror with four wheels. But (yes, thereís always a but), orbital polishers are rather powerful devices. Use the wrong technique or a polishing compound thatís too aggressive, and instead of removing minor surface imperfections, you can burn through the paint altogether. Theyíre fantastic devices, but always approach paint correction with caution and a light touch. 

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