The Best Way To Wash A Car Without Scratching It (Car Washing Tips)

The best way to wash a car without scratching it


One sunny morning you walk towards your car pumped up to head to work because a day earlier you spent a good couple of hours giving your car a thorough and sweat-inducing bath. 

You expect to see a spick, span, glossy, and pristine-looking car. 

But as you come and open your car door you take a good look at where the sun ray shines on it and with furrowed brows ask yourself how in the world did your car get scratches!

car scratches


Yep. Your car is covered with scratches and swirl marks all over. It breaks your heart. 

Apparently, you thought a good old sponge and dishwashing detergent will give you a clean and shiny car. 

So now you ask yourself where you went wrong. 

Don’t fret. You’re not the only one who went down in damps because of this scenario. 

So this post is dedicated to washing your car without scratching it. 

We’ll talk about:

  • The main concept to keep in mind
  • The best practices when washing your car

By the end of this post, you’ll be able to apply car washing techniques you can do the next time you clean your car. 

If you’re ready to see what’s on the list, then let’s get started. 

The Main Concept To Avoid Scratches When Washing Your Car

Here’s the concept: 

Anything abrasive damages the paintwork.

Any rough object getting in touch with the surface will have a high potential of scratching it. Whether it’s a coarse cloth or the dirt sticking to the paintwork. 

So the bottom line: 

Never use abrasive material and limit the spread of dirt around the paintwork. 

With this concept in mind, here are tips you can keep in mind every time you wash your car. 

9 Car Wash Tips To Avoid Paintwork Scratches 

1. Park In The Shade

Parking in the shade will slow down the drying of soapy water so you can catch up on rinsing it before it completely dries off. 

This way, you won’t risk wiping a dry surface, a mistake causing unwanted swirls marks, and scratches. 

Recommended Reading: 12 Tips In Washing A Black Car To Minimize Scratches And Paint Fading

2. Drench The Car With Water First

Before applying a car cleaner, cover the whole exterior in water first. Doing this softens the stubborn debris or mud that dried on the surface over time. 

This step also lubricates the surface so the wiping cloths you will use can glide smoothly. 

rinse car first to avoid scratches

3. Use High-Quality Mitts And Microfiber Towels

The fine fabric of high-quality mitts and towels is gentle on the paintwork. 

If you go back to the main concept, anything abrasive scratches the car. A coarse cloth will leave unsightly streaks that will drive you closer and closer to forking out big bucks for paint correction services. 

Better to invest a little in good quality mitts and towels than spend thousands to correct the damage. 


Prevention is better than cure. 

4. Use At Least 2 Buckets With Grit Guards 

Having 2 buckets during a car wash cuts the gashes on the paintwork. One bucket is for rinsing the soiled mitt and the other for the water and car shampoo/soap.  

Rinsing the soiled mitt on the first bucket will get rid of the sediments on the mitt before you soak it up again with soapy water from the second bucket. 

This way you won’t run a mitt covered in abrasive dirt back and forth the paintwork. 

Recommended Reading: 14 Must-Haves In Your Car Detailing Kit

5. Minimize Direct Contact As Much As Possible

So how are you going to apply the car shampoo if you want to keep direct contact down? 

You can use either a foam cannon or a car cleaning gun

The foam cannon mainly spreads the car soap all over the car without touching it. But that’s it.

Whereas the car cleaning gun, sprays the soapy water on the surface and at the same time uses the airpower it comes with to dislodge stubborn dirt and grime. 

Don’t worry, it won’t embed the dirt on the paintwork. First, the dirt has been softened at the beginning, and second, you can control the air pressure to not be too strong. 

6. Don’t Wipe In Circles

Wiping the car soap or drying the surface in circular motion is a recipe for swirl marks. 

do not wipe in circles to avoid swirl marks


Always wipe in straight lines. Straight scratches are easier to fix than swirls.

If you want to be extra meticulous, wipe in single passes. Don’t go back and forth so you won’t grind the debris you just removed back on the surface. 

Recommended Reading: 3 Effective Ways To Remove Swirl Marks On Your Car

7. Start With The Wheels And Tires

If you’ve read our previous interior detailing guides, the principle taught there is to start cleaning from top moving down. 

But the wheels and tires are the exceptions to the rule. You have to start cleaning the wheels and tires first.

wash the wheels first to avoid scratches



Because the wheels and tires have the most mud and road grime. We don’t want thick coarse mud flying to the paintwork you just finished cleaning. 

Starting with the wheels first limits the spread of debris on surrounding surfaces. 

8. Wash Top Down

I already touched on this on the previous tip, not only to emphasize the wheel and tires are the exceptions. 

Washing from the top moving down to the bottom means you will be limiting how soiled the wash mitt will be while wiping on the most visible parts of the car, which is the upper part. 

The lower portion of the paintwork is where the dirt builds up so we do it last. Plus it gives this area more time to get soaked with soapy drips from the upper portion to soften the debris further. 

And don’t forget:

Don’t use the same mitt or towel you used on the wheels and tires on the paintwork. 

Our suggested order of cleaning the exterior is:

  • Roof and window
  • Doors
  • Hood and front bumper
  • Trunk and back bumper

If you live in a buggy area, clean the front bumper last. 

It’s where most of the bug splats are. You want to soften bugs and hydrate them again so they won’t leave scratch marks when you start wiping soap in them. 

Recommended Reading: How To Remove Bug Guts And Splats From Your Car

9. Apply Wax Or Ceramic Coat

Tip 9 is more of a preventive measure. 

Adding an extra layer of protection shields your clear coat from direct damage. Plus it’s easier to remove and apply wax again than it is with the clear coat. 

Recommended Reading: Top 7 Automotive Shampoos For Ceramic Coats


Using your car after washing it shouldn’t make you anxious about seeing scratches and swirl marks.  

the best way to wash a car without scratching it infographic


Keeping the main concept in mind – avoiding abrasive material and applying the steps outlined above will give you a spick, span, glossy, and pristine-looking car, minus the swirl marks and scratches. 

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