Keeping your car clean can be time consuming and expensive. Lines at automatic car washes are long at peak times, meaning you can wait in line for an hour or more just to get your car clean. Touchless car washes don’t clean your car very well, so the money you pay to wash your car doesn’t achieve the quality results you need.
You can wash your car yourself in as little time as it takes to go through an automatic car wash. If you use high-quality materials, it may cost a little extra initially but after a few uses, they’ll have paid for themselves.
Microfiber cloths are a relatively recent addition to the marketplace for home use and have already proven to be an excellent investment when it comes to cleaning and dusting around the house, the garage, as well as cleaning your car inside and out.
So what makes microfiber so effective?
Microfiber cloths are a synthetic material made up of tiny strands. Each strand is about 1% the diameter of a human hair and can be tightly woven to create an ultra-absorbent material. The strands are made of fibers such as nylon, Kevlar, and polyester, and are extremely strong and durable, making them ideal for automotive uses. They capture and pull away dirt and dust into their fibers unlike many other natural and synthetic fabrics, which smear dust and dirt around the surface.
Part 1 of 4: Prep your car
Step 1: Select a location to wash your car. You need access to a plentiful source of water to wet your car, wash it, and rinse it when you’re done.
Find a spot that is shady if possible. Direct sun can dry the car wash soap onto your paint before you get a chance to rinse it off.
If no shady locations are available, wash smaller areas of your car at a time to prevent drying issues.
Step 2: Lift your wiper arms. To clean your windows thoroughly, lift the wiper arms uprights so you can access every part of the windshield.
Step 3: Prepare your wash supplies. Fill your bucket with water, preferably warm water but cold water will suffice.
Add car wash soap according to the instructions on the soap container.
Stir it to get the water sudsy.
Soak a microfiber wash cloth in your bucket of water while you continue prepping.
Step 4: Rinse the exterior with water to remove any loose dirt. Apply water to the whole car including all the windows and the wheels, paying special attention to areas with dirt buildup.
Part 2 of 4: Wash your car with a microfiber cloth
Step 1: Wipe each panel with your soapy microfiber cloth. Start at the top of the car and work your way down.
If there are particularly soiled panels, save them for last.
Step 2: Wash one panel completely at a time. If you are parked in direct sunlight or the temperature outside is warm, wash smaller areas at a time to make sure the soap doesn’t dry to the paint.
Step 3: Use open hand for increased surface area. Use a wide, open hand in the cloth to cover the most surface area possible in the shortest amount of time.
The dirt will get picked up in the fibers of the microfiber cloth, not just smeared around on the surface.
Clean the wiper blades and arms with the cloth. Don’t put the arms down yet.
Step 4: Rinse your microfiber cloth regularly. Whenever you wipe an area that is quite dirty, rinse your cloth in your soapy water.
Get any gritty bits that you can feel off of the cloth before continuing.
If your car is really dirty, you may need to use more than one cloth to finish the job.
Step 5: Wash your wheels last. Dirt, grime, and brake dust can build up quite a bit on your wheels. Wash them last so you aren’t contaminating your wash water with a bunch of abrasive dirt which will scratch your paint.
Step 6: Rinse your car thoroughly with clean water. Using a hose or buckets full of clean water, rinse your car from the top down.
Start with the roof and windows, rinsing until suds no longer appear in the rinse water.
Rinse each panel thoroughly. Any soap left over can cause residue or streaks on your paint when it dries.
Part 3 of 4: Dry your car with microfiber cloths
Step 1: Wipe every part of your car’s exterior with a clean microfiber cloth. Wet the cloth thoroughly with clean water and wring it out as best as you can. This is actually how microfiber cloths are most absorbent.
Wipe each panel and window individually, starting from the top.
Step 2: Keep the cloth open. Keep the cloth as open as you can while you are wiping, using an open hand to cover the most surface area.
Step 3: Wring out the cloth whenever it gets sopping wet. Just like a chamois, the cloth will be almost dry after you’ve wrung it out and at its best absorbency.
Step 4: Rinse the cloth if it get dirty. If the cloth gets soiled from any residual dirt, rinse it out thoroughly with clean water.
Do not use soapy water on this cloth or you will get streaks on your car when it dries.
Work your way down the car, saving the bottom panels and the wheels for last.
Step 5: Replace your cloth with a clean one if it gets dirty.
Step 6: Wipe again or let air dry. When you are done wiping each panel, there will be a thin film of water on it. You can let this dissipate or dry on its own, though the best finish is to wipe it again with clean, dry microfiber cloths.
Wipe each panel with a dry cloth which picks up the last remnants of water, leaving the surface streak-free and shiny.
You may need to use several microfiber cloths to finish drying your car. Do not continue the final drying step with a saturated cloth or you will get streaks.
Part 4 of 4: Spray on cleaner (no water method)
Step 1: Spray the cleaning solution onto a small area of the car.
Step 2: Wipe the solution off. Wipe in two ways - side-to-side and up and down. That way you’ll capture the most amount of grease and grime.
Step 3: Repeat the process around the car. Do Steps 1 and 2 all over the car and soon you’ll have a shiny new ride.
For those who live in drought-stricken states, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever be able to wash your own car again. Some cities have taken drastic measures to save water and have banned car washing in residential driveways to conserve water.
Waterless washing, or using microfiber cloths to cut down on water use, are some of the most eco-friendly methods for cleaning your car. A number of auto supply companies sell bottles of cleaning solution that can clean your car without the use of water and, oftentimes, the results are just as good.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Clean a Car With a Microfiber Cloth and was authored by Jason Unrau.