Detailing FAIL

Washing with Windex

car cleaning products | car care products

You know those days that you just hate being inside and do everything in your power to get out? For me, that was last Tuesday. While that has nothing to do with car care, if it weren’t for such beautiful weather, I wouldn’t have spotted this detailing disaster. So I took a left out of my house, crossed the street and ducked down the next East/West I could find as I was heading Downtown. I turn the corner only to be greeted by a little man washing his car with nothing but Windex and gas station paper towels. Not the good paper towels – I’m talking about that rough garbage that you wouldn’t even blow your nose in. The fact remains that even if you are using a microfiber towel, it’s never okay to wash or detail your paint with Windex.

But what about “all purpose” Windex?

Absolutely not. The main ingredients in Windex, according to SC Johnson, are basically caustic chemicals that are geared toward trapping, lifting, and holding on to dirt/grime. The problem here isn’t necessarily in the cleaners (although harsh is never good on a delicate painted surface – yes, your car can be too clean), but rather in the carriers (alcohol and glycol). Alcohol, for one, evaporates fairly quickly -one of the main reasons Windex uses it for cleaning glass. Glycol, a sugary substance used in odor eliminators, anti-freeze and much more, is generally known for its ability to ensure even distribution of all the ingredients. If there’s glycol, typically there’s a lot of elements that are being used – more is not always better when it comes to cleaning. Bottom line, check the ingredients on your products and do NOT use windex to clean any other surface on your car other than windows. Even for your glass surfaces, Windex is a bit overkill and can attract dust and oil.

When it comes to paint, leather, vinyl, upholstery, and basically any surface on your car other than glass, trust the car care experts and not the glass experts. (The good) Car cleaning products are (or should be) formulated for the preservation of vehicle surfaces, not just to strip off everything it can. In many cases, the chemical balance of cleaning products is either acidic or basic depending on its formulation – in any instance, you might want to consider grabbing a pH neutralizer – this will combat any residual/caustic chemicals left on the surface after cleaning. Read more about neutralizing and the benefits of doing so.

Got a funny story about a detailing fail? Share it with us in the comments!

  • Steve Elliott

    Windex works great on car paint.

  • Maybaby Person

    so me and my mom went outside to get in the car and when we opened the car doors, we noticed brown splashes all over the inside of the car. apparently, she had left a diet coke in the car by accident and the temperatures had dropped well below freezing. we realized that it was the diet coke that had exploded all over her car and so we went to clean it. my little brother came out to help us and we told him to start with using windex on the windows. so he god inside the car and outside with the windex he ends up getting it on the car itself, and has started cleaning he car with it on the outside. my mom explained to him (well more like yelled at him) never to do that. so he took a wet towel and started cleaning in. with the temperatures still below freezing and the salt all over the car, he ended up just scratching the whole outside of the car with the salt and towel. never clean the outside of your car with windex and then try to fix it when the temperatures are in the 20’s. (farhenheight).

    • PaddyMac

      Sounds to me like Windex had nothing to do with the problem.

  • Brandon Deriso

    Seems like you gave no real detail on why Windex is bad except “omg, chemicals maybe!?”.

    • Hi Brandon! I do agree the blog was a little vague on the actual negative effects of the chemicals found in Windex. Let’s get more specific: most Windex products contain ammonia. This can cause streaking on windows and may also eat away at whatever tint you may have. That is why we advise against using Windex.