Friendly Car Care Tips

With a historic drought hitting the Southwest, many Americans are being asked to do their part to conserve water. There are restrictions and potential fines for watering lawns, hosing down driveways and yes, even washing your car. Fortunately, there are some water-wise ways to maintain your vehicle’s appearance and value in these tough conditions.

The Basics of No-Water Cleaning
One way to maintain your car’s finish while conserving water is to actually start with a good detail job. A smooth glossy surface will make it more difficult for contaminants to adhere. The detailing process will vary according to your needs, but the basic steps will include a wash, using a clay bar to remove surface contaminants, polishing with a compound to get a deeper clean and a wax application to protect the finish. The time, money or effort that goes into detailing may pay dividends if you’re able to keep the car out of the elements.

A Light Dusting
Despite your best efforts, your car will get dirty. Fortunately, in drought-affected areas it’s less likely to get coated by a layer of overnight dew. More likely than not, it will get a very light coating of dust. As long as conditions and surfaces are dry, products such as the California Car Duster will dispatch that dust easily. The paraffin-infused strands of brand-new car dusters have a tendency to leave some streaks, but after some use that will subside. Use only very light pressure on the surface, only a little more than the weight of the duster itself. That will minimize the chances of scratching.

Liquid Damage Control
The trickier part of maintaining a clean car is dealing with liquids that hit its surface. According to Mike Pennington from car-care product maker Meguiar’s, the biggest offenders are bird droppings and eggs. Both will eventually eat through the protective layers of your car’s finish and damage the paint. You should remove eggs and droppings immediately. Water spots are less urgent, but the process for cleaning them up is similar.

Towel Dry
It’s also important to use a quality microfiber towel. Microfiber fabrics feature a very light construction that traps particles deep within the weave. The typical cotton terrycloth towel will keep contaminants closer to its surface and has a tendency to leave light scratches in its wake. Microfiber towels are also much more absorbent, which makes clean-up quick and effortless. They’ll also remain effective for a long time if given proper care. Microfiber towels should only be washed with other microfiber products. Mixing in other materials like cotton will drastically reduce a microfiber towel’s effectiveness.

A Deeper Cleaning
For those who are more militant about water conservation, Meguiar’s also makes Rinse-Free Express Wash and Wax, a product that eliminates the need to rinse off your car after washing. This concentrate is mixed in with the wash bucket water and is intended for moderately dirty cars. It was developed for on-location car care professionals with limited access to water and can be purchased online, though you might not easily find it in the usual car parts and accessories stores.

The Dirty Details
At the very least, using a combination of these techniques will extend the time between conventional car washes. It’s very important to follow the product directions: Failing to do so could harm your car’s surfaces. With some care and effort, though, you can do your part to combat the drought and maintain the appearance and value of your car.