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6 Car Cleaning Products to Master the DIY Car Wash

A person is washing the exterior of a car with a microfiber towel and gloves, important car cleaning products.

Whether you’re dealing with dust, bird droppings, pollen or everyday road grime, the right car cleaning products will make you a master of the car wash — right at home in your own driveway. After detailing the interior, don’t just use anything to clean the body and glass. Household glass cleaner and laundry detergent might seem like good options, but using auto-specific car wash products will get your car cleaner and prevent you from damaging it in the process. Here are six must-haves.

1. Automotive Glass Cleaner

Supermarket household glass cleaner might be doing your car more harm than good. True, basic glass cleaners will clean the glass, but their chemicals can ruin the dash, interior plastics, exterior paint and weather seals. It’s best to only use automotive glass cleaner to clean interior and exterior glass and mirrors — foaming varieties are nice because they don’t run.

2. Car Wash

Many folks use laundry detergent to wash their cars. It’s not only the wrong tool for the job, but it can also damage your vehicle. Laundry and dish detergents slowly eat away at your car’s paint. Auto-specific car wash will get the job done, while protecting your vehicle’s paint. It’s worth it to make the switch.

3. Towels

car wash

We’ve seen people use everything from newspapers to old bath towels to wash and dry their cars, and we’ve also seen the damage these items leave behind. What seems soft to your skin can be murder to automotive paint and glass.

Soft car-wash brushes and microfiber wash mitts are excellent for washing paint and glass without scratching it. Use microfiber and chamois towels to dry your car without leaving scratches, lint or streaks.

4. Spot Remover

Tar, bugs and bird droppings are the second-worst thing that can happen to your paint, after stone chips. Don’t go at these with your fingernail, but instead treat them with care, using a spot remover. Bug and tar remover dissolves these blemishes without destroying your paint. Whatever product you choose, be sure to follow the instructions carefully to prevent permanent paint damage.

5. Leather Cleaner

It might seem easy enough to use whatever multipurpose cleaner you have on hand to wipe down your seats and dash. However, using the wrong car cleaning products can degrade leather seats and vinyl surfaces, so it’s worth a little extra effort to use the right product. Vinyl and leather conditioners both clean these surfaces and restore moisture. This prevents fading and cracking and helps your upholstery last longer.

6. Polish and Wax

An oft-forgotten car wash step is polishing and waxing, and it also often confuses car owners. If your paint and clearcoat are in good shape, then car wax will maintain their brilliance. Car wax is a fine coat of wax, rubbed onto the body and buffed to a shine, and it usually lasts three to six months.

If your paint is dull, scratched or swirled, on the other hand, car polish can restore it. Car polish is a fine abrasive, which removes a minuscule layer of clearcoat. A polished surface will last over 12 months and can be waxed for additional protection and brilliance.

Your car is a big part of your life, so take care of it the right way. The right car cleaning products will get your car clean and bright without damaging the finish. Keeping your car clean not only makes it look good, but helps it last longer, preventing rust and corrosion from destroying your car.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on car cleaning products, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.


Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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