Can You Use a Sponge To Wash Your Car?

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washing car with a sponge

Did you know that sponges aren’t recommended for washing cars anymore? It could lead to paint damage, and today, I’ll show you why you shouldn’t use a sponge to wash your car.

Key Takeaways:

  • You should never use a sponge to wash your car.
  • Spongers are abrasive and will scratch your car’s paintwork.
  • Sponges can’t trap the dirt inside. Instead, dirt stays on the top of the sponge, so you drag it all over the car, scratching the paint.
  • You should use microfiber wash mitts for washing vehicles.

I’ll also show you which products are safe for washing your vehicle so that you can get them and always wash your car thoroughly but safely and efficiently. 

Do Sponges Scratch Cars?

Yes, sponges scratch cars and should always be avoided if you want to keep your car scratch-free.

Usually, sponges will create light scratches and swirl marks on your vehicle, but I’ve seen some severe damage on cars due to the use of sponges.

Below, I’ll try to provide you with a profound explanation of why sponges are bad for cars.

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Sponge To Wash Your Car – Explanation

Here are three main reasons why you should avoid using sponges for washing your vehicle.

1. Sponges Are Abrasive

Even though commercials don’t say this, car washing sponges are still too abrasive for a car clear coat (finish). They aren’t as gentle and soft as they should be. 

You can check it with any sponge in two seconds. Just drag it over your arm, and you’ll indeed feel some abrasiveness in it.

Sponges are fantastic for dishwashing, and that’s because they’re abrasive. Otherwise, you couldn’t clean all those oily dishes with plenty of stuck specks of food. 

When it comes to car washing, every product should be as gentle as possible, and sponges aren’t. The clear coat is pretty delicate, and it’s easy to scratch. 

2. The Dirt Stays On The Sponge’s Surface

Whenever you’re washing your vehicle, there will be some dirt. You can reduce the amount of dirt on your car by pre-washing it using proven techniques, but there will always be some dirt left on the paint. 

Sponges don’t have those trapping properties that’ll trap the dirt inside. They keep the dirt on the sponge’s surface, and when you wash your car, you’re grinding that dirt back in the paint, which causes swirl marks and scratches. 

So, whatever the sponge picks, you’ll drag it all over your car. It could be tiny rocks, dust, dirt, bird poops, etc. All of them will scratch the paint if you drag them all over your car. 

3. Most Cars Have Swirl Marks Because Of Sponges

Due to improper washing techniques, many cars have swirl marks and light scratches. Mostly, it’s because of either using sponges or automatic car washes. 

If you’re still using a sponge, there is a 99.99% chance that your car has plenty of swirl marks and scratches, and it needs polishing and compounding in order to remove those paint defects. 

I was that kind of person, too. A few years back, I would wash my car using a $1 sponge from the market. I thought that all scratches appeared on my car from driving it, but I was guilty. 

Many People Still Use Sponges – Why?

Even though almost everyone knows that sponges scratch the paint, I see many people using them to wash vehicles. Not only people but professional car wash services, too. Why?

Well, most of them don’t care about their car’s paint. I can understand it at a certain level of older people who drive old and neglected vehicles. But for car washes, I can’t understand it. 

The only situation when you can use sponges worry-free is when you’re cleaning exhaust tips on your car. They’re not so delicate and the sponge won’t scratch them.

The biggest reason many people still use sponges is tradition and big markets, where you can’t find anything else but a sponge to wash your car.

It will take a few more years before every single market stops selling sponges, and that will only happen if people become more conscious of how sponges are bad for washing their cars and bikes. 

Don’t Forget To Avoid These Too!

Together with sponges, there are also other products that you should avoid if you want a safe wash for your car.

Products you shouldn’t use when washing your car:

  • brushes (except the ones made for auto detailing), 
  • cotton towels, 
  • automatic car washes, 
  • and everything else that’s not extremely soft and gentle. 

For instance, brushes are one of the worst things to wash your car with, and still, many automatic car washes have them as an option to “perfectly clean your car.” I’ve recently written a post, Can You Use a Brush To Wash Your Car, so make sure to check it out.

Also, you may think that cotton towels are gentle enough to wash your car since they’re perfect for human skin. However, the situation is entirely different. Even though cotton towels are less abrasive and softer than sponges, you should avoid them too. Check my article Cotton Towels vs. Microfiber Towels, where I explained everything. 

What To Use Instead? – Microfiber Wash Mitts

Instead of using sponges, I suggest that you use microfiber wash mitts for washing your car.

Microfiber products are gentle and soft for your car, and they also can trap the dirt inside, so you don’t drag it all over your vehicle. Furthermore, they’re better at lifting the dirt from the paint, so you won’t have to scrub the surface to clean your car. 

They’re inexpensive, and I think that everyone can and should afford them. Of course, if you care about your car. If you do, don’t forget to check all the equipment needed to wash your car thoroughly

Here’s a quick comparison table between sponges and microfiber wash mitts that I made for you. 

SpongeWash Mitt
Soft and gentle
Trap the dirt inside
Easy to clean
Scratches paint

For all of you, I wrote a thorough step-by-step guide to washing your car without causing scratches on car paint properly. Make sure to check it out. 

Why Is Clear Coat So Delicate?

clear coat scratch explanation
Car Paint Layers

You may wonder why a clear coat is so delicate and easy to scratch.

To understand that, you need to understand what a clear coat is and its purpose:

  • The clear coat is the top layer of car paint. Its job is to protect the paint underneath and give your car a glossy look. 
  • The main goal of clear coat protection is to protect the paint from harmful UV rays and other external elements such as bird poops, rain, heat, cold, etc. 

Because it should adapt to cold and hot weather and other situations, such as light car accidents, a clear coat must be softer and flexible. That way, it can slightly adapt to various conditions without cracking. 

Because of that, a clear coat isn’t so resistant to physical damage, such as scratching it with a sponge or hitting it with a rock. When you understand it, it’s undeniable that you should never use a sponge, brush, or cotton towel to wash your car. 

If you’d like to know more about car scratches, check my article explaining three main types of car scratches and ways to fix them. There, you’ll realize how expensive those swirl marks and scratches can be to fix. 


Can I use a dish sponge to wash my car?

Kitchen sponges are even worse than car washing sponges. They’re more abrasive, so you should avoid them as much as possible.

Can sponges cause scratches on car windows?

Yes, sponges aren’t safe for washing car windows either. My father-in-law washed his windshield using a sponge, and now it’s so scratched that he can barely see when driving at night.

How much money does microfiber wash mitts cost?

Mostly, microfiber wash mitts will cost anywhere between $5 and $15, depending on the brand and quality. I don’t think that’s expensive for anyone.

How long does microfiber wash mitts last?

If you wash it correctly, a microfiber wash mitt should last anywhere between 200-400 washes. Make sure to avoid these seven mistakes when washing microfiber products. That way, you’ll extend their lifetime.

Do clean sponges cause scratches, too?

Yes, even a clean sponge will scratch your paint’s finish. As I already said, sponges are abrasive and will always cause some scratches on your car.


I hope that I gave you a good enough explanation of why you should avoid sponges and why you should choose microfiber wash mitts instead. 

In fact, if you go to any reputable car detailing company, you won’t be able to buy sponges anymore. They all sell microfiber products nowadays. Sponges can only be bought in standard markets that don’t give a f*** about your car’s paint. That’s more than enough to understand that sponges shouldn’t be used for washing your car.

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