One common question I see a lot coming into my inbox is “How often should I wash my car”? I always find this one a little difficult to answer directly, as there is no cut and dry right or wrong answer to this.
In reality, there are a lot of factors that come into play when trying to advise on this topic, so I thought I would try to break them down and explain in this post, and provide some general guidelines when it comes to car washing frequency.
For the general public who tend not to give a sh*t when it comes to cleaning their cars, you can be sure they are not washing them enough. But what about people like you, who are readers of this blog and avid detailing enthusiasts? Is it possible that we could be washing our cars too much?
Speaking for myself, I love washing my car, to a point where it is bordering on obsessive. If I had my way and we lived in a perfect world I would be washing my car every day!
But as we all know, we do not live in a perfect world and we need to be practical about these kinds of things, so let us take a look at some practical advice when it comes to washing your car, which will help you determine the best wash schedule to fit your own needs, while still looking after your beloved paintwork.
How Much Washing Is Too Much?
As I mentioned above, in an ideal world I would be washing my car every single day, but would I actually do that? Absolutely not!
If you are experienced in the detailing world, you will know that every time you contact wash ( meaning you are coming in contact with the paint with a Wash Mitt ) or you are drying the car with a Microfiber Towel, you are at risk of damaging your cars paint by inflicting micro swirls or fine scratches.
You could be the most experienced detailer in the world and implement best practices such as Pre Wash using snow foam, Two Bucket Wash Method and touchless drying, but there is always that risk. I have done it myself countless times, even when taking all the precautions necessary!
I have spent far too long correcting my own cars paintwork and removing swirl marks, to risk damaging the paint again due to over-washing. It would be counter-productive, and I would be stuck in an infinite loop of Paint Correction and Washing.
As a general rule, I will always avoid washing a “Clean” car. When I say clean, I mean what would pass as clean to the general public. Obviously to me being slightly OCD when it comes to my car, I notice ANY dust or slightly unclean appearance on the paintwork, I just have to use a little self-restraint and not jump straight into a wash.
Sometimes it can be hard, but it has to be done.
How Much Washing Is Too Little?
On the other side of the coin, I feel that washing your car too little is also putting your paintwork at risk. Leaving dirt and debris build up on the surface of your car means that when it comes time to wash it, there will be more of it to remove.
The more dirt you have on your car while washing it, The higher the chance of scratching your paint when it comes to the contact wash stage.
Excessively dirty cars can require some pretty harsh chemicals to remove some of the buildup (Eg on your wheels ), which I am not a fan of using and would not recommend unless there were no other effective options available.
This is why it is best to stay on top of this kind of stuff where possible.
To keep your paintworks finish looking as best as it possibly can, you need to find a happy medium between leaving it dirty and washing it excessively. ( Easier said than done! )
So how do we find a happy medium? This will depend on several factors.
Considerations for How Often You Need to Clean Your Car
Where You Live In The World
Where you live in the world and what type of weather your car gets driven in plays a big part in how often you may need to wash your car. Personally, I live in Ireland where we get rain on an almost daily basis, which makes it incredibly difficult to keep your car relatively clean for an extended length of time.
There have been plenty of times where I have washed my car and it ends up filthy again on the same day.
Those of you who live in sunny climates where rain isn’t an issue, you may find you need to clean your car a lot less.
How often Your Car Gets Driven
If your car is your daily driver, common sense will tell you that it is far more likely to pick up dirt quicker than a car that only gets used on spirited drives at the weekend. Those of you who have a work car or van for during the week will be lucky to be able to keep their pride and joy cleaner for longer.
Those of us who use our cars every day will need to use some tips and tricks which I will mention later in this post to help preserve their finish for as long as possible.
Where Your Vehicle is Stored
Are you lucky enough to own a garage to keep your car stored away safely from the elements? Do you park your truck or car in the driveway? Do you keep your car parked on the street? Is it parked under trees or street lamps?
These are all factors that can influence how long your car stays clean for. My car is parked on a driveway and I often come out to little “surprises” the local birds and pigeons leave for me on my car.
Bird poo is terrible for your cars paintwork and can do permanent damage if left for a long period, so factors such as this one would require you to keep on top of it regularly.
How Much Does Your Cars Appearance Matter to You?
Just how anal are you about how your car looks when out and about? Speaking personally, I secretly don’t enjoy driving my car as much if it is filthy on the outside. In reality, I’m sure 99% of the other people on the road don’t even notice but it is always in the back of my mind.
This is why I always lean towards more frequent cleaning (where appropriate) when it comes to my car.
How Often Should You Wash Your Car- The Answer!
My recommendations are as follows :
Speaking as someone who lives in a rainy climate which leads to a lot of dirt buildup on my car, my prefered and often recommended routine for performing a maintenance wash is weekly.
(I often do a de-contamination wash which involves more steps but this would be overkill to be performed weekly.)
My weekly routine consists of the following :
- Vehicle pre-washed using good quality snow foam
- Wheels cleaned using non-acidic cleaner
- The vehicle is washed using a PH neutral shampoo
- Spray Sealant Or Drying Aid Applied to the paint
- The vehicle is hand dried using deep pile microfibre towels to safely dry the vehicle
- Tyres are dressed using a good quality dressing
- Exterior windows cleaned using a specific glass cleaner
For me, I have found that this is the sweet spot for keeping a relatively fresh-looking car while preserving and protecting my paint as much as possible. From my experience, a weekly wash that uses proper techniques and best practices keep me happy about the appearance of my car without running the risk of doing more damage than good.
If you are unable to wash your car at least once a week, my next recommendation would be to carry out a wash every 10-15 days. In my opinion, most people who care about their car would find the time to wash it using this schedule.
The longest time I would recommend leaving your car go unwashed is 1 month. ( Unless it is stored in a garage or not driven during that time). Most daily drivers will likely pick up a lot of dirt and contamination in 30 days, so I would recommend that you be cautious while washing and do not drag any dirt across the paint with a wash mitt.
If you are leaving your car unwashed for more than 30 consecutive days, then I don’t know what you are doing even reading this site 🙂
Tips For Keeping Your Car Cleaner Between Maintenence Washes
Although some of my readers may not be able to wash their car as much as they would like, there are some helpful tips and tricks you should implement in your own car care routine to help your cars paint look better for longer.
Use A Good Quality Ceramic Coating Or Sealant
Protect your cars paintwork by using decent Ceramic Coating or Sealant. As most of you are aware by now, these types of products are great for minimizing dirt buildup on your car. There are tons of these products on the market, most of them with brilliant hydrophobic and dust repelling properties, which means that even if you are driving through rain or dusty environments, you will notice they will have less effect on your cars appearance and your finish should stay cleaner for longer
Watch Where You Park
One very easy method to increase your overall chances of avoiding bird poo is to park away from places where birds can be found, These include
-The edge of buildings
-Trees where birds are present.
Just be a bit more vigilant when you are parking up.
Consider a Car Cover
If you are not lucky enough to own a garage and your car is kept exposed to the elements every night, you may want to consider using a specialized car cover that will keep it protected from picking up any unwanted dirt or debris while it is parked (Bird Poo, Dust etc)
Many outdoor car cover fabrics will not allow bird droppings to permeate the material and make their way to your vehicle’s paint. This is a good option if your car is parked in a vulnerable place a lot of the time.
Hopefully, some of the tips and tricks above will give you some ideas on how you can keep your car a bit cleaner between washes which will not only keep your car safer during wash time but also stop the need for you to wash your car “too much.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I recommend a weekly wash where possible. If you can’t commit to this schedule, every 10-15 days should also be perfectly fine. Find a routine that suits your specific needs and work with that.
I would be interested to hear about some of my other readers washing schedules and what you consider a good routine, so please feel free to let me know over on the DriveDetailed Forum or leave a comment below.
Until Next time,
About the Author – Darren O Hara
Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out new products.
Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.
You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork