There are a few essentials you won’t want to overlook when putting together a car washing kit. Keeping your car looking its best takes more than just wiping it down with a soapy sponge and hosing off the dirt. You’ll need products and tools that will clean and protect your paint, glass and wheels. Let’s take a look at car cleaning essentials that should be in any home car washing kit:
Choosing which soap you use on your car’s paint is a delicate balance between finding something strong enough to remove road grime, but not so powerful that it strips away any wax that is protecting your paint. This rules out basic household cleaners like dishwashing detergent, which is too harsh for cars’ finish. You should find a car cleaning product that has been specifically formulated to lift dirt from paint while preserving wax and enhancing its natural shine.
Mitt or Sponge?
How you chose to suds up your car is just as important as the soap in your bucket. While some people like to use sponges to scrub things down, small rocks and dirt particles can easily be trapped inside a sponge, which can create swirls in your paint when rubbed against your car’s finish. Instead, try adding a lambs wool wash mitt to your car washing kit. While it might be a bit pricier than a basic sponge, it’s easy to rinse, ultra-soft and holds a lot of soap and water to help work out tough spots.
Clean Your Wheels the Right Way
Your car’s wheels take a lot of abuse, as they are constantly exposed to heat and brake dust that gets baked on, layer after layer, every time you drive. Regular car wash soap usually won’t cut through what’s sticking to a dirty wheel, which means you’ll need to seek out a dedicated wheel cleaner.
Make sure that the cleaner you buy matches the finish of your wheels, as some aren’t formulated for chrome or painted rims. It’s also a good idea to wait until your car’s wheels have cooled down from driving before spraying on any cleaning product. Finally, invest in a soft bristle brush to help scrub off the worst of the brake dust.
Drying It All Together
What you use to dry your vehicle once you’ve finished cleaning it may be the last piece of the car washing kit, but it’s just as important as any other. Drying a car is essential to keeping evaporated water spots from forming on the paint post-rinse. You can choose between a quick-drying tool, like a water blade that uses a silicone strip to whisk away water without scratching the paint, or a good microfiber towel that can be easily wrung out once it’s absorbed all the water from your automobile’s finish. One word of advice: Don’t use a regular bath or house towel, as they often contain polyester fibers that can introduce blemishes into your car’s finish.
Keeping your vehicle clean will go a long way toward preserving the quality of its finish and helping it look its best years after that new car smell has faded. Washing your car yourself is a great way to spend some quality time with your car or truck, and it comes with the bonus of saving you money over the long term.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.