Best Way to Wash a Black Car. (No Scratches)

Black Car being Washed

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Swirl marks are the enemy of all black car owners.  These are tiny scratches caused by poor washing techniques.  With a little know-how, you can learn simple techniques to wash a black car without scratching it. And avoid those swirl marks.

You’ll notice swirl marks when a bright light reflects on your paint.  It’s as if cobwebs appear around the reflection – these are the dreaded swirl marks.

Swirls are created when washing and drying your car.  Follow these steps to prevent them from appearing in the first place.  If you are planning on doing any other detailing it’s important to get this stage right.

Washing a black car the wrong way will scratch it.  Your paint will look old and faded before you know it.  This isn’t important to everyone, but if you want your car to look new for as many years as possible it’s worth taking time to learn the proper hand-washing techniques.

Short Answer.

To wash a black car use clean microfibre wash mitts and the famous two-bucket method.  This involves using one bucket of soapy water and one bucket of clean rinse water to rinse your mitt. 

First, get everything ready.

  1. Park your car in the shade if possible.
  2. Fill two buckets of water with grit guards.
  3. Hose or pressure washer.
  4. Car shampoo. Add some car shampoo to ONE of the buckets
  5. Microfibre wash mitts.  
  6. Microfibre Drying towel.

What products do I need to wash my car?

You need to take care when washing a black car because anything can cause a scratch.  Use the softest materials you can find and put as little pressure as possible on them.  Here are the basic products you need.

The easiest thing to buy is an all-in-one kit like this from chemical guys Chemical Guys 14-Piece Arsenal Builder Car Wash Kit

For all washing products, see the recommended list of black car wash products.

STEP 1: Pre-wash.

If you don’t have a pressure washer you can use a hose to pre-rinse your car.  Try to get rid of as much mud and dirt as you can with the hose.  Get the whole car nice and wet.

If like me, you’re obsessed with preserving the shine on your paint you can pre-wash your car with foam using a pressure washer and a foam cannon.  Foam will remove lots of dirt before you even touch your car.  This will help keep swirls and scratches to a minimum.  Rinse off all of the foam after a few minutes.

Step 2. Wash Your Wheels

Use brushes and microfibre mitts that you keep just for wheels.  Use a bucket of soapy water and throw it away when the wheels and wheel wells are done. 

Once you have loosened the dirt with your brushes or microfibre mitt you can rinse it off with your hose or pressure washer.  Use a wheel cleaner if your wheels have lots of bonded black brake dust.  It will dissolve the brake dust so you can just rinse it off.

READ MORE: What’s the fastest way to wash a car?

Step 3: Hand Wash Your Car

If you don’t have a foam cannon just add some good quality shampoo to your water bucket, otherwise you can foam your car again with your hand wash shampoo.

The two-bucket method is the most straightforward method for washing a black car. Get plenty of suds from your soap bucket onto your microfibre mitt and start washing your car from top to bottom. 

As your mitt starts to get dirty, rinse in it the clean rinse bucket before dunking it back into the soap bucket.

I like to use the multi-mitt method which involves multiple microfibre wash mitts.   As soon as one mitt starts getting dirty I will grab another clean one.  No need for a rinse bucket. Go top to bottom as the bottom is usually the dirtiest.  Don’t scrub your paint as it causes scratches. All you need to do is loosen the dirt so it can be rinsed off. If any dirt is stuck on there you should use a clay bar or a tar remover.  Rinse down your car with done.

Step 4. Dry Your Car

Dry your car with a soft microfibre drying towel.  Water spots look really bad on black cars.  One of the key steps is to dry your paint once it’s washed and rinsed.  Don’t use too much pressure.  Use a spray wax or a quick detail spray to add some shine and protection.

Things NOT to do when washing a black car.

  • Don’t use dish soap.  It strips away any existing protection and discolors plastic and rubber.  
  • Don’t use a sponge.  It collects grit that will scratch your paint.
  • Don’t use a brush.  It collects grit that will scratch your paint.
  • Don’t use just one bucket because the water will get too dirty.
  • Don’t leave the car to dry naturally.
  • Don’t dry the car with a bathroom towel.
  • Don’t dry the car with a leather chamois.
  • Don’t wash your car without soap.
  • Don’t use a water squeegee to dry your car.
  • Don’t scrub your car.  This will cause swirl marks and the paint to fade too quickly.
  • Don’t try to remove tar spots without a Tar Remover.
  • Don’t wash your car under direct sunlight as it will dry too quickly.
  • Don’t clean your tires and wheels last.
  • Don’t let your mitts or towels touch the ground even when you’re finished.
  • Don’t use the same things you used to clean your wheels to wash your car.
  • Don’t forget to read the instructions for the products and tools you buy.

READ MORE: What causes new cars to lose their shine so quickly?

Q. Is a pressure washer worth it for black cars?

The more dirt you can remove from your car without touching it the better.  So to me, a pressure washer is worth it. I’ve written a detailed post here about my experiences with pressure washers.

Read More: Can a pressure washer damage car paint?

The One-Bucket Method

With this method, you use a hand sprayer. You also use one bucket of clean water with a grit guard to rinse the mitt as you do each section.  In the hand sprayer, you mix some car shampoo and water and spray the mixture onto the mitt or/and directly onto the car.  I find you end up using a lot less soap and water with this method. 

Q. Is it safe to use a waterless wash on a Black Car?

Some of these products have come a long way in recent years.  But I’m still a little nervous about using them on a very dirty car.  But I can understand the attraction of people who don’t have their own pressure washers or people who live in apartments.   

If you want to wash your car with these make sure you use enough of the product to lubricate the dirt away from the paint.  Also, grab a clean microfiber towel when it becomes dirty, and don’t rub dirt into the paint if you can avoid it.

But it’s also super convenient when you want to touch up your car when it’s not that dirty.

Here is a list of waterless wash products and tips on how to use them

TIP: Using a Waterless wash and a self-service coin wash.

If you have access to a self-service/coin wash then you should use the pressure washer available there.  But don’t use the soap or brush that might be available.  Instead, follow these steps…

  • Use the high-pressure wash to take the heavy dirt off and get the car really wet.
  • Use your own wheel brushes to clean your wheels.
  • I might use wheel cleaning spray if needed to remove iron deposits.
  • Or I might use my wheel mitt with some car shampoo solution in a spray bottle.
  • Use the pressure washer again to rinse off your wheels.
  • Starting with the roof and using multiple microfiber towels using a waterless wash such as Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All .
  • Spray on the surface of the car
  • Wipe in straight lines and in one direction
  • Flip the towel over for each wipe so that a clean side is used each time.
  • Apply tire trim.
  • Apply spray wax or quick detailer with microfiber towels to add shine and protection.

Q. How often do you need to wash a black car?

A black car should be washed every two weeks to keep it clean and protected.  

Brake dust can cause damage to wheels and paint so I like to get rid of that as much as possible. Sometimes if the weather is particularly bad I just pull the powerwasher out and give the wheels and sides of the car a quick wash  Bird droppings can also damage your paint.  

If you park in an area where tree sap or bird poo is a problem then you should wash your car weekly.  If your car is well-protected with a good sealant it should be easier to clean.

Q. How to clean bird poop off a black car.

Don’t be tempted to wipe off bird poop with a cloth.  Wiping a black car should be totally avoided.  Use something like a spray wax or spray lubricant.  Spray directly onto the poo and onto a damp microfiber towel.  Let the towel sit on the bird poo for a few minutes.  

This should lift the poop right off.  Of course, this will work best if your paint is properly sealed and protected.  When done you can also apply a sealant to the area to protect it from the next attack.

Q. How to dry a black car.

Drying a car properly is one of the secret weapons of professional car detailers.  Don’t use a rubber wiper or a chamois leather or a bath towel.  These things will drag grit and dust over the paint and scratch it.  

Use a number of microfiber towels to car dry.  The car should be as clean as possible at this stage so if your drying towels get dirty then you haven’t cleaned the car properly.  I use four large microfiber towels to dry my car.

Using a detailing spray at this stage if you don’t plan on doing any other detailing after you wash.  These can leave a fantastic shine very quickly and easily and can give some protection.  If any water has dried these sprays can help remove the dreaded water spots.

Very gently rub the towel against the wet car.  But again don’t put any pressure on it.  Use a different surface of the towel for each pass.  

I have written a new blog post on how to dry your car properly.  It’s one of the best skills you can learn to keep your car looking new for longer.

Q. How to wash a black car without causing water spots.

Water spots are caused by water drying on the paint.  A very helpful tool is a small drier.  This help blow the water out of hard-to-reach spots to help you dry the car.  With more powerful blowers you can dry the car completely which would obviously be of great benefit as you won’t be touching the surface.

Dry and clean the glass with a weave microfiber towel.  This helps protect the tinted glass.  A special glass cleaner for cars sound not contain anything damaging such as ammonia and will leave a brilliant shine.

Add some tire dressing to give that finishing touch. 

Don’t use a water squeegee to dry your car.  It’s one of the 10 common mistakes people make when washing their cars.


Washing a black car causes scratches.  But you can massively reduce them and preserve your shine if you learn these safe washing techniques.  

  • Never dry wipe a black car.  
  • Always use good quality car shampoo.
  • Use microfibre wash mitts.
  • A waxed car is easier to wash.  (spray waxes are awesome)
  • Use the two-bucket method or another safe method.
  • Dry with a microfibre drying towel.

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