Black Car Washing

11 Common Mistakes People Make When Washing Their Cars

That shine looks great on a brand new car.  Especially a black car.  Or maybe your car was recently detailed and you want it to keep looking good for as long as possible.  

Making any of these car washing mistakes will make your paint look old and faded really quickly.

The only solution to the swirls and scratches caused by these car wash mistakes is extensive paint correction.  You can of course learn to polish your car yourself.  But prevention is much easier and cheaper than cure.

If you care about how good your car looks, these tips will help you to preserve the shine for as long as possible.  And your car will still have that brand new look after years of careful washing and drying.

Mistake 1: You Take it to an Automatic Car Wash

Professional car detailers will always tell you to avoid automatic car washes as much as possible.  Even though the swirls and scratches they cause keep them in business.

Your car will look so much better if you hand wash it using one of the safe washing techniques such as the two-bucket method.

The car wash brushes on an automatic car wash can be extremely dirty and drag all sorts of grit and dirt over your paint. 

Just a few washes and you’ll soon see it covered in swirls and scratches. Your shine will be gone.

These swirls and scratches will take a lot of time and money to buff out so that’s why I recommend that you try to wash your car yourself if you can.

The chemicals used in car washes can be extremely strong.  They will degrade any existing wax or sealant you might have on there.

Dedicated car shampoo from any of the well-known manufacturers is designed to protect your shine and will do a much better job than an automatic car wash.

Solution: Wash your car at home with the Two-Bucket Method.

Mistake 2: You Use a Brush to Wash Your Car

Lots of people use a long handle car wash brush to wash their cars or trucks.  This is fine if you don’t care that much about the shine of your vehicle.  Maybe you just want to get the mud off and that’s it.  

But if you want to keep the natural shine then washing your car with a long handle brush is a major no-no.

The problem with a brush is that it doesn’t capture dirt in its fibers.  It pushes the dirt along your paint and scratches it very badly.  

You can now get brushes with microfibre mop heads on them.  These are a lot better.  But I still don’t recommend these because you can put too much pressure on your paint and you will end up scratching it.

Solution: Use a Microfiber Car Wash Mitt.

Mistake 3.  You Wash Your Car With a Sponge

Sponges are great in the bath.  But they’re not great for washing cars.

A sponge will push dirt along your paint and cause lots of swirls and scratches.  

You might as well wash your car with sandpaper.

When you hand wash your car all you really want to do is loosen the bonded dirt so your car rinses it off.  A sponge will loosen the dirt but it can’t trap the dirt to protect your pain.

A microfiber wash mitt will trap this dirt in its fibers.  So when you rinse your dirty mitt in your rinse bucket you will allow the trapped dirt to escape.  A sponge just doesn’t do that.

Solution: Use a Microfiber Car Wash Mitt.

Mistake 4: You Let Your Car Dry Naturally

Tap water contains minerals that can damage clear coat. Water spots are not very visible on white or silver cars. But they are super obvious on dark-colored cars such as black or red.

Drying your car after you wash it is the solution to water spot stains. If you are really into detailing you can use a car air dryer or a leaf blower. These are fantastic tools and will help protect your car for years. A leaf blower may not be powerful enough and can take a long time to dry your car.

A dedicate car air dryer can filter and heat the air so it gets the job done much faster.

A large microfibre car drying towel is the most popular way. The downside is that you need to wash your towel every use to remove any dirt that could scratch your paint.

Probably the most expensive way is to use a water filter or water softener. This removes the minerals from the water so you won’t get water spots when the water evaporates.

Solution: Dry your car with a microfibre car drying towel

Mistake 5: You Dry Your Car With a Water Squeegee

It’s a good idea to dry your car after you wash it to prevent water spots.

A water squeegee seems like a good idea.  The super-soft rubber on some of these car drying squeegees might seem like a good idea.  How could something so soft scratch your paint?  But unfortunately, they do.

These squeegees were popular with auto detailers for a few years until they began to realize that they were causing scratches.  

A large microfiber towel is the best way to dry your car.  Mist on a detail spray and add some more lubrication so the towel causes even fewer scratches.  

Solution: Dry your car with a microfibre car drying towel

Mistake 6.  You Scrub Your Car

When you hand wash your car you’ll see mud and dirt that just seems to be stuck there. You’ll be tempted to use some elbow grease to remove it.   

This extra pressure will grind in the dirt and cause scratches.  

The mistake here is putting too much pressure on your mitt.  Use as little pressure as possible.  You should barely put any extra pressure on your mitt when washing the roof or the hood for example.  You should just use the weight of the wet mitt and no other pressure. 

Even if the sides and back of your car are covered in thick mud you should use just a little pressure.  And once you get used to washing your car like this it will become second nature to you.

Solution: Use Tar Remover or a Clay Bar to remove stubborn dirt without causing scratches.

Mistake 7.  You Don’t Pre Soak Your Car.

Just washing a dry and dirty car with a soapy microfibre mitt can be a mistake too. Grit and sand can stick to your paint and cause scratches when you wash it.

If you have access to a hose you should use it to soak your car first.  This will rinse off some dirt that’s not bonded on there.  It only takes a few seconds and can make a big difference to how good your car looks in the long term.

Your wash mitt should be able to losen the dirt with just a couple of light passes.

Solution: Giving your car a once-over with a hose will soften mud so that when you start to wash it with your mitt it will come off more easily.  Always remember less scrubbing means fewer scratches.

Mistake 8: You Don’t Use a Pressure Washer

Use your pressure washer if you’re lucky enough to have one.  Especially if you have a very dirty car.  A pressure washer is not essential but it definitely helps.

Most pressure washers can have a foam cannon attached to them which is perfect for washing cars.  Use it to soak your car in foam to dissolve dirt.  Then blast it away with the pressure washer.  Almost all dirt can be removed this way but some dirt will usually need to be removed with a contact wash too.

Solution: Consider getting a pressure washer to help you wash your car.

Mistake 9: You Don’t Use a Dedicated Car Shampoo

The only type of soap you should use to wash your car is a dedicated car wash shampoo of which there are many on the market.

Dish Soap or Washing up liquid has a high pH because it’s a degreaser.  It’s designed to remove grease from your pots and pans.  But it will also remove wax and sealant.  It will also degrade ceramic coatings.

Car shampoo also contains conditioners that encapsulate dirt and help it to slide over your paint.  This is yet another reason to spend money on good car shampoo.

Many car shampoos contain some ceramic ingredients that add a little shine and protection as you wash which is a nice touch.

Solution: Buy a Good Quality Car Shampoo

Mistake 10: You don’t wash your wheels first.

Wheels are the dirtiest part of your car.   Brake dust seems to cause swirls and scratches on cars like nothing else.  So it makes sense to wash your wheels and wheel wells first.

The two bucket car wash method involves dipping your wash mitt into clean rinse water. The purpose of this is to get your mitt clean before you dip it back into your soapy bucket. A clean mitt results in fewer scratches. The problem with wheels is they get your buckets extremely dirty really quickly.

I have a special set of soft brushes that are just used for wheels.  I also use a special wash mitt that can get into the hard-to-reach areas.  This saves me some time.  This mitt is for wheels and nothing else.

Once wheels are washed I get rid of the water I used and rinse out the equipment.  It’s only then that I will begin to wash the rest of my car.

I use a wheel cleaner whenever brake dust becomes bonded to wheels.  This can happen if you leave too much time between washes.

Solution: Wash your wheels first and throw away the dirty water. Then use clean water and mitts to wash the rest of your car.

Mistake 11: You Dont Use a Spray Wax

Once your car is washed it looks pretty good. But it can be made look even better by waxing it.

You don’t need to spend hours using paste wax and buffing it off every time you wash your car.

Spray wax is an ideal way to add shine and protection in only a few minutes. Some spray waxes can be sprayed on your wet car. The water helps spread out the wax and makes it. You can then dry your car with a microfibre towel.

Water is repelled by waxes which results in water beading. This will make your car easier to wash next time. It’s especially noticeable when if you use a pressure washer to wash your car. You can get a lot more dirt off without touching your paint. Which means fewer scratches over time.

Each time you apply a spray wax it adds another layer so you might find that your car looks better after a number of spray wax applications.

Solution: Use a spray wax after you wash your car.


Washing your car is easy. There are some common mistakes that are super easy to avoid and won’t cost you much time or money. Keeping your car looking good will also help its resale value and is very much worth the time and effort.

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