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Car Washing Tips and Tricks

Category Auto
Washing a Blue Car
When washing your own car there are some things to keep in mind to ensure a good result. This is a guide containing car washing tips and tricks.


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By 5 found this helpful
May 20, 2015

Living in Southern California during the worst drought the U.S. has ever seen is no walk in the park. You have to get creative about how to save water - something I almost never had to worry about growing up in the rain-drenched North East.

Well, I have stopped going to car washes, but have found a faster, cheaper, and totally environmental friendly way to wash your car. The dew wash!

So here's the drill:
- make sure you have two or three of those micro fiber mitts (see above)
- get up between sunrise and before the dew has evaporated from your car's surface
- use the mitts to remove the dew and collected dirt/dust/detritus from your car.
For this third step, I do it in two stages: 1) I use one mitt (you'll need two if you have a van or a truck) to get off the majority of the dew and dirt, and then 2) I use another mitt to get off the last bits of dirt and to fully dry the vehicle.

It takes only 5-7 minutes to wash your car from top to bottom, you didn't have to fill up a bucket of suds, drag out your hose, schlep to a car wash, pay a damn dime, save for the mitts, which will last you like forever!

The only downside is that it looks like you went to the car wash a half a week ago. Well, isn't that better, anyway? Instead of dropping a whole load of cash getting your car sparkling clean, only having the consternation of seeing your car all dingy less than a week later, you get your car quite presentable even if it's not sparkling in no time at all! Plus, if you get a decal from LA Waterkeepers saying you are going dirty for the drought, you have a badge of honor that will ensure that "no one" will look askance at your less than perfect shine! A win-win-win-win!


Comment Was this helpful? 5
June 13, 20150 found this helpful

Thintie - you're on to something...

Kudos to you for having your priorities straight!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
June 16, 20150 found this helpful

Love it.

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April 15, 20106 found this helpful

When cleaning your car and the bug spots are hard to get off, just use a nylon bath scrubby ball that comes with many bath sets. They are soft and will not scratch the paint, but will work wonderfully on those greasy bug spots and black tar.

By Jan M from Appleton, WI

Comment Was this helpful? 6
April 16, 20100 found this helpful

Good thinking, just don't use it on yourself afterwards, lol! No bath scrubbies handy? Try a net onion bag, that might also work. I think they're made almost the same.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 5, 20100 found this helpful

We have used fabric softener sheets to remove tar, grease, bug spots, door handle scratch marks on our white car. Magic! Use it while the car is still wet and you see what regular washing missed.

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May 23, 20100 found this helpful

You can spray the tar, grease, and bug spots with WD-40. It will soften/dissolve the debris and you can wash it off without harming the clear coat. You should only 'scrub' your car's clear coat finish with a cotton terry cloth or microfiber cloth. That is, if you want to avoid 'spider webs' in your shine.

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June 15, 2010

"Wash" your car during a water shortage by wiping it down with a soft cloth (microfiber works well), while there is dew on it in the morning. A lot of grime comes off with the moisture.


By old dog from Cullowhee, NC

Comment Was this helpful? 3
June 16, 20100 found this helpful

CAUTION: When you rub a cloth across your car and there is grit on the car, it can cause light scratches on the surface. Better to rinse the grit off with running water.

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October 21, 20100 found this helpful

Most full service car washes use "reclaim" water or in other words they recycle their water. It actually is much better to take your car to a car wash than to wash on your driveway and waste lots of water and to rinse all of the chemicals into the storm drains.

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By 1 found this helpful
October 1, 2007

Here is a quick and easy way to wash the car. The other day I decided to wash my car windows, which were looking pretty smeary. I used a bowl of vinegar and water about 3 cups water and one of vinegar. When I was through, I wiped off the hood which was looking pretty dusty - and dried it and before I knew it,I cleaned the entire car.


I was sure it would dry with smears, etc. but it didn't. It really looked pretty good. I have a compact car, so a larger car would probably need more water and vinegar. I was really pleased with the results - no hosing down - and only took about ten minutes. I will definitely do this again.

By Joan from Chesterfield MI

Comment Was this helpful? 1
By guest (Guest Post)
October 1, 20070 found this helpful

Isn't vinegar very acidic? I would be worried about this hurting the finish on the paint, or does this sound like an extreme concern?

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By guest (Guest Post)
October 1, 20070 found this helpful

I have a black pick-up and it is very hard to keep from streaking when I wipe dry after washing it. So now after washing I let it drip dry and then I spray with a mix of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar in a spray bottle and then wipe dry. It shines like new. So far it has not damaged the paint and I have been doing this for 2 years. I wax it once a year

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October 4, 20070 found this helpful

This is great news for me - we have severe water restrictions in South Australia and are not supposed to be using water to wash cars so I will try this method using water from our rain water tank - a bucket is about all I can spare - my car hasn't been washed since 31 Dec 2006 - looks pretty grotty

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October 25, 20100 found this helpful

I can see where that would work, I have a water distiller, and we use distilled water for many things around the house, like our espresso machine, so it doesn't have to be decalcified. We also ionize it to use as a disinfectant. Much like the premise behind using colloidal silver. Anyway, the distiller boiler accumulates minerals, especially calcium, that the water leaves behind. So to get more use out of the boiler, before it wears out, I place some white vinegar in it and it dissolves the calcification. Which is the same thing that is in water and why it leaves spots. So using white vinegar would naturally prevent the water spots from appearing because it lifts the calcium spots before they dry and show up; but I hadn't thought of using it on my car, or windows, for that matter.

Amazing how we use an idea in one area and fail to use it in another related area. I always say that each and every one of us has an idea, if we just combine some of our seeming unrelated ideas or ideas we just never though of using together, that each and every one of us could create an invention that has never been thought of before. How many times have you seen something and thought, I knew that, or how to do that, but failed to act upon it because you thought that, everybody knows that until you see some idea, or some tool, or some infomercial and then you said, I thought of that but it was so simple I thought everybody knew it. We all have great ideas in our heads, but we just fail to take the action that makes them great!

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By 1 found this helpful
May 28, 2009

Here in Central Florida, we are currently under a "Level 4" watering ban which bans people from home car washing. A fine can be imposed, as a backyard car wash job can easily use from 3-5 gallons of water. We cleaned our 2006 Honda Accord using approx. 3/4 of a gallon of water, two old soft bath towels, and maybe 45 minutes of our time.

First, we cleaned out the 2 1/2 gallon garden sprayer. Then poured in 1 pint white vinegar. Next, we added 1 gallon clean tap water. Mixed everything and we were ready to go! The trick is spray a small area at a time, and after one of us wiped in circular motions, the other followed with the other towel to absorb all the moisture remaining.

We cleaned from top to bottom, well actually, as I am 5 feet tall, my husband did the entire roof! But, we cleaned windows and the whole car body. I contemplated adding a squirt of dish washing liquid to make the solution "wetter" but chose not too as I didn't know if it would require more rinsing. The plain white vinegar and water solution worked beautifully.

We did not do the wheels and tires but perhaps we will include them next time. We did not use all the solution we had made. We did not "hose off" the car with either water before using our thrifty solution nor over wet each small area as we worked. By the way, our car had a hefty accumulation of road stuff on it as it had been about a month since it had been to the car wash in town. Happy thrifty car washing!

By Hamnurse from Thonotosassa, FL

Comment Was this helpful? 1
May 31, 20090 found this helpful

I am curious about how you managed to do this since you said there is a ban on water usage of this sort.

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June 7, 20090 found this helpful

Here's an idea. When you are taking a shower set a bucket in with you and collect some of the water from there. then save the water in containers until time to wash the car or water the lawn or house plants and use that water that you collected taking a shower. the water is basically clean and should do just fine. You will be surprised by how much water you will have to use for your various needs. Peace!

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By 3 found this helpful
November 20, 2012

If you tuck your car wash sponge into a pair of old pantyhose, it will clean the car better and get more gunk off of the paint. It is safe and easy.

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April 8, 2013

When in doubt about whether a do it yourself car wash is working, look for the wet ones. Because it has been used recently, it is more than likely a working one.

Comment Was this helpful? 1

July 29, 20050 found this helpful

Tips for washing your car. Post your ideas.

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By 0 found this helpful
November 2, 2007

First of all, do not try this on any car that you care about! I had an old, old Toyota and the paint was very dull and had lost it's shine. I tried something very simple to renew the shine.

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By 0 found this helpful
January 9, 2005

I wash my car frequently in the summer months at the small car wash in my town. Sometimes when I am in town running errands and need to wash the car, I don't always want to because I may be wearing the wrong shoes. (I hate to get splatter on nice shoes). I keep a pair of old flip flops in the trunk, slip them on and wash away! Alica

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
July 7, 2009

What is a cheap way to wash a car?

By britan from Wonthaggi, Victoria, AU

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
July 8, 20090 found this helpful

We wash them at home, with a bucket and dish soap. We rinse with the hose, but keep the hose off when not in use.

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July 9, 20090 found this helpful

I read about this tip; use a tank sprayer (like for bug spraying). The fellow said he filled it with water, wet down the car, I don't think he even used soap. Used a brush or cloth that would not scratch the auto and then sprayed it clean. Very little waste. Sounds great - try it!

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July 10, 20090 found this helpful

Old fashioned type here. I use water and soap and sponges. Why not? It's kills 99% of germs, I use this idea throughout my whole house with hot water. Why not kills 99% of germs. Be frugal. Why not settle for something everyone once used. A little bit of bleach in the toilet and tough stains, and rubbing alcohol for the mirrors, a little bit in luke warm water. If your hands are sensitive I suggest using gloves.

This is how I clean. Oh, soon I'm going to start buying sponges and rags instead of paper towels. I'm cheap lately. Good for the economical times.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

July 7, 20090 found this helpful

Since it's officially spring, I thought I would share this tip with you. We like to save some money on car washes by washing our vehicles at home. It is great fun for the family to get out the hose and wash the car together.

We usually end up in a great water fight before we are finished, too! Seriously, car washes are very expensive and you can buy what you need to wash and wax your vehicles at any department store and do it yourself at home. Cheaper and lots of fun and entertainment!

By Robin


Saving on Car Washing

When I was a teenager my mom use to pay me $2.00 per car to wash and dry. I got the exercise and she got a clean car at a cheap price! (04/04/2005)

By floppy4me

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May 28, 20090 found this helpful

Instead of washing the car with the hose, buckets, or car wash and wasting so much water; fill 1/4 of a bucket with water, use a micro fibre cloth, wring out so its nearly dry. Start on the roof and work your way down. When the cloth dries out too much, dip it into the bucket and wring out well so it's nearly dry. Repeat, until you finish. If you have the cloth too wet, it makes the car muddy looking. That's why you have to have it nearly dry. I have a commodore station wagon, it works great on this car. Hopefully it works on others.

By jas69 from South Australia


Water Saving Home Car Wash

While I commend your desire to save water, I question this method of car washing. The grit contained in the cloth will leave fine scratches in the top coat of your auto's paint. Over time this will dull your finish and make for an unattractive car. If you want to save water, rinse only a small portion of your car at a time and wash and rinse before you move on to the next section. Or better yet, take your car to a carwash that recycles its water. (01/06/2009)

By readingiggits

Water Saving Home Car Wash

Summer before last, when we were having a drought and people were advised to conserve water and not wash their vehicles, I used two small buckets of water to wash our car. One was for washing and the other was for rinsing. I didn't even have to move the car off the carport. It worked quite well and was much less messy than washing the car with a hose. I called it giving my car a sponge bath. (01/06/2009)

Saving Water When Washing Your Car

I do it an easy way, I use a regular string mop and a sponge mop to wash our van with 2 buckets almost full of water,o ne with soap and one to rinse, don't take long to do this. Good luck. (02/05/2009)

By k w

Comment Was this helpful? Yes
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