Does it matter what you wash your car with?

Does it matter what you wash your car with?

For many of us having to hold onto our cars longer, maintaining the sleek outward appearance of our 4-wheel pride and joy is an absolute must.  The good news is frequent washing is in fact the best way to maintain a new-car finish but there are some definite do’s and don’ts to watch out for if you don’t want to accidentally scratch or damage your paint finish.

Richard Green, national director of the South African Motor Body Repairers Association (SAMBRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) shares some important guidelines when it comes to washing as well as some extras worth paying for if you can afford to take your car to a professional valet service.

So for starters here is a list of things to avoid

  • Don't use household cleaning agents like hand soap, dishwashing detergent, or glass cleaner on the paint. These aren't formulated for use on a car's paint and may strip off the protective wax. Avoid any gimmicky products that claim to remove marks. They more often than not will also strip the protective wax layer.
  • Don't use any wax or shine products on your tyres.  Many products advertise they add shine to tyres; remove sidewall dirt and oils that may erode the rubber over time or protect tyres to prevent cracking.  The truth however is that modern tyres have antioxidants and waxes in the tyre to protect them from the environment. Green says even if a dull appearance may occur over time, this is just the waxes migrating to the surface and that actually helps protect the tyre. Fortunately, and easy on the budget, simple soap and water is really all you need for tyres.
  • Don't wash your car when the body is hot.   Heat speeds up the drying of soap and water, making washing more difficult and increasing the chances that spots or deposits will form. This is particularly true immediately after driving your car or after it has been parked in direct sunlight for a long time.
  • Be careful how you rotate your sponge. Moving your sponge in circles when you clean your car can create light, but noticeable scratches called swirl marks. Instead, move the sponge lengthwise across the bonnet of the car and other body panels and always ensure your sponge is perfectly clean to avoid scratching the paintwork.  Also use a different sponge to clean your wheels.
  • Don't let the car air dry and don't expect a drive around the block to do an effective job. Either will leave watermarks caused by minerals in hard water. In addition, don't use an abrasive towel or other material that can leave hairline scratches in the paint.

To keep your car’s paintwork in tip top condition do:

  • Use a dedicated carwash product which is milder and specifically designed for use on automotive paint. Before applying the soap, do rinse all surfaces thoroughly with water to remove loose dirt and debris that could cause scratching. Apply the soap suds with a large, soft natural sponge or a lamb's-wool mitt. For more stubborn deposits like grease and road tar you may need a slightly stronger product but still ensure you are using a non-abrasive cloth. Wash one section at a time and wash and rinse each section before moving onto the next. Remember to work the solution into a lather to provide plenty of lubrication.
  • Do use a separate sponge to clean the wheels and tyres. Be careful to use the right cleaner and our advice, to be on the safe side is to choose a cleaner that's labelled as safe for use on all wheels.
  • Do treat your car to a seasonal waxing. Just like we all enjoy an occasional visit to the spa, treat your car to a seasonal waxing to help protect it from the elements and give it a like-new shine.  Worth noting that premium-priced car wax brands don't necessarily hold up any better than lower-priced alternatives. In fact, some moderately priced liquids have scored better in independent tests. 
  • Use a chamois (natural or synthetic) to dry your car. Again always ensure it is perfectly clean and rinsed regularly to avoid scratching.



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