8 Car Cleaning Myths Debunked

Ford GTX1

Car cleaning may seem like a whole different world to you, but have no fear. We’re here to educate, assist, and help you through getting and keeping your car as close to new as possible. We’ve provided 8 of the most common myths that car wash & detail shop customers believe to be true and have debunked them for your entertainment. Read on to learn the truth about keeping your car as clean as the day you bought it.

Myth #1: I need to take my car to a detail shop to get properly cleaned.

When most people think about car cleaning they think about car washing. This may be common, but what most drivers don’t realize is that your car can be cleaned right in your garage. With the right detail tools and car care products, any auto detailing job can be easy, fun, and affordable. In many scenarios, there are detailing kits that will provide you with everything you’ll need (including instructions) to spiff up your car inside and out, plus you should be able to use the kit more than once. While professional detailing may cost an arm and a leg, detailing kits give you the value of multiple cleanings for a fraction of the price.

Myth #2: Dishwashing detergent is safe to use for washing my car.

This is a popular one. As you may have experienced, too much dishwashing soap will dry out your hands, and there is a similar reaction when washing your car with such soaps. Because dishwashing soap acts as a powerful degreaser (to remove buildup and gunk from dishes), it essentially does the same thing for your car. While removing dirt and debris, detergent will also strip any polymers or wax coatings that are on the car, leaving your surface vulnerable and unprotected. Did I mention the dishwashing soap will kill your grass if your wash comes in contact with it?

Myth #3: Washing my car is the same as cleaning my car.

The truth here lies within the products and their uses. A car wash consists of a car wash soap, a few accessories (mitt/brush), and water. These products combine to remove loose surface contaminants, but are they cleaning? The answer is no; cleaning your car is closer to detailing. Cleaning consists of removing stains, blemishes (such as swirl marks), and bonded material that won’t safely come off in an ordinary wash. I like to think of it like this: when washing your car you’re invested, but you’re really letting the products do their job; cleaning or detailing, on the other hand, requires a little bit more effort and investment in the overall beauty of your car and insists on a little elbow grease.

Myth #4: A shiny car is a clean car.

The important thing here is to think about the paint. Washing your car will remove loose debris and such, but it’s important to think about the finer debris and surface contaminants that latch onto the surface of your car. While driving, your car picks up microscopic debris that will not come off with a regular washing. This debris is the cause of most clear coat scratching and can harm your paint without you noticing. A clay bar will remove such contaminants, leaving your surface smooth, clear, and ready to be buffed, waxed, or washed.

Myth #5: Waxing my car will remove swirl marks.

Swirl marks in your paint can only be removed by getting under them. A car wax will simply fill in minor surface scratches during application, minimizing the scratches’ reflection of light, thus making them less visible. As many find out, 2-3 months down the road their wax wears off and the swirls are back. Many times car washes and detailing centers will receive the blame, but the real culprit is the idea that waxing removes swirls. In order to properly handle surface scratching, like swirl marks, polishing is required. This means that you will need to level the paint surface in order to remove minor imperfections or as most professionals call it, paintwork correction.

Myth #6: One wax a year will protect my car’s paint.

This one’s way off. Typical carnauba car wax will last 2-3 months depending on your environment. Factors such as rain, snow, road salt, and humidity all effect the longevity of your car wax. Although a carnauba wax won’t last a year, there are paint sealants that last significantly longer than the average carnauba wax. For example, this paint sealant lasts over 6 months depending on environment and can be waxed over with carnauba for extended protection and a deeper shine. Typically, you want to wax your car seasonally with a premium carnauba wax and seal your car with a quality paint sealant twice a year.

Myth #7: Clay bars should only be used by professionals.

Claying your car is easy to do and can be done almost anywhere, even your garage. When using a clay bar, you’re essentially removing bonded contaminants (sap, tar, etc.) from your car’s paint. By claying you’ll successfully clear your surface of microscopic debris and properly prepare your car for waxing, buffing, and polishing. All you need is a surface lubricant or clay spray, a clay bar, and a microfiber towel and you’re ready to clay!

Myth #8: I’m clean.. my leather doesn’t need care.

I don’t care how clean your car’s leather is kept, you still need to condition. Cracking, fading, and dehydration occurs often and silently. After a while, even the cleanest of seats will start to lose their luster and start to lose elasticity. Conditioning your leather with a quality leather conditioner provides the surface with the nutrients it needs to promote a longer life for your seats, dash, and anything else leather in your car.

Got questions or other mythological car cleaning beliefs that you’d like a second opinion on? Ask Dr. Beasley’s and your question will be inserted into our monthly mailbag!