Why Is Your Car Still Dirty After Washing It? TOP 10 Reasons

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car dirty after washing it, illustration

It happened to all of us at some point. Just after washing your car, you realize that it’s not as clean as you’d expect. In this post, I’ll show you why that might be happening and how to make sure that your car is completely clean whenever you wash it.

1. Using a Pressure Washer Only

Using only a pressure washer and plain water to wash the car is a big mistake. Even though I don’t see too many people doing it, someone probably does.

You can’t wash your car by using only water and a pressure washer. The water itself doesn’t have those cleaning agents that’ll lift the dirt from the car’s paint. 

Also, there’s no lubrication if you don’t use a dedicated car wash shampoo, and you could even cause some swirl marks and scratches by washing your car using a pressure washer only. 

When washing vehicles, after the initial pre-rinse with a pressure washer, you should always follow it by snow foam, contact wash, or by using contactless wash products. That way, you’ll get a clean and shiny car.

2. Water And Other Chemicals Dried On The Car’s Paint

If you’re washing your car in direct sunlight, water, car shampoo, or some other chemicals will likely dry on the car’s paint, making it dirty again.

That’s why you should always try to wash your car in the shade or the garage. If you don’t have a garage, you can also consider buying an auto detailing canopy, which will hide your car from the sun.

Even if you’re not working in direct sunlight, some chemicals and water may still dry on the paint if you wait too long or wash too slowly.

Another possible cause is that you don’t dry the car after washing it, and all the water that sits on the vehicle will dry, causing water spots, which are very hard to remove afterward. 

3. Using Low-Quality Car Shampoos

Going to the first supermarket and buying the cheapest car shampoo ever existed isn’t the smartest choice. Extremely cheap car shampoos don’t have excellent cleaning properties, and they also don’t provide enough lubrication for the dirt to quickly come off.

Plenty of auto detailing products may be expensive, but car wash soaps aren’t one of those. They’re usually pretty cheap and give you an excellent bang for your buck. 

One of the best car shampoos I’ve ever used is Meguiar's Gold Class Car Shampoo, and I recommend it to everyone. 

To make it clear, being more expensive doesn’t always mean better. That’s why I always recommend some fantastic products, but still in the “normal” price range. 

4. Improper Drying Of The Car

Improper drying of the car is another reason why your car might be dirty just after you wash it.

There are two best ways to dry your car after washing it:

  1. By using a drying microfiber towel
  2. By using an air blower

If you decide to use an air blower, don’t use the one from the garden. It could be dirty. To dry the car, always use the clean air blower, and don’t use it for any other purpose other than car detailing.

Both methods give excellent results. So, whichever you choose to dry your car, it’ll be good enough. The most important thing is to avoid drying your car by driving it or using obsolete products, such as deerskin. 

TIP: Side mirrors tend to keep plenty of water in them, which later when you drive, spread over the car. Always make sure to dry side mirrors and all other apertures thoroughly.

5. You Don’t Use Microfiber Wash Mitt

If you don’t use microfiber wash mitt or similar microfiber products for washing cars, there’s a big chance that your car will still be dirty after you wash it.

Microfiber wash mitts are one of the best inventions in the past 20 years. They’re fantastic products that make each car wash much easier and safer than using obsolete sponges. 

Avoid using sponges or similar products when washing your car. They’re not suitable for lifting the dirt from your vehicle, and they’re also dangerous for the car’s paint since they can easily scratch it. 

Wash mitts have excellent cleaning properties since they successfully trap all the dirt from your car and prevent that dirt from scratching the car’s paint again.

Microfiber wash mitts are products that will last you long, and you shouldn’t buy the cheapest one. It would be best if you always bought proven high-quality wash mitts that are soft and gentle enough for the car’s finish. 

6. Using One Bucket Only

When you use only one car wash bucket, the water in it will get dirty very quickly. If you wash the car like that, you will not be able to wash it well, and after your hard work, it will still be dirty.

I always recommend a 3-bucket method to wash cars. That’s the safest and the best way to clean any vehicle. Using that method, you’ll always work with a clean wash mitt and get fantastic washing results. 

Also, inside your buckets, you should use grit guards too. Grit guards trap all the dirt from your wash mitt, not letting it soak in the wash mitt again. You just put them at the bottom of your buckets, and you’re safe to go.

Related: Best Car Wash Buckets

7. Washing At Self-Service Car Washes

Self-service car washes use recycled water. That way, they reduce water consumption a lot. That’s great for them, but not for you washing your vehicle. 

Recycled water is often still dirty, and you can’t get a flawless car look. Try to avoid them and wash your car at home, where you have clean water. 

Another thing about self-service car washes is that they often use cheap chemicals to increase their revenue. Because of that, you won’t be able to clean all the dirt from your vehicle. 

8. You’re Using Dirty Wash Mitts and Drying Towels

You should wash all microfiber products after you use them to wash the car. That way, they’ll be clean next time you decide to rewash your car.

When you wash and dry your vehicle, microfiber cloths will be dirty, and you shouldn’t use them on another car. Even if it’s obvious, I still see too many people not washing their microfiber products very often.

Wash mitts and drying towels may still look clean, but they’re full of chemicals and dirt. Once they come in contact with water, they’ll release all the dirt and old chemicals, making your car dirty again. 

9. Washing In The Rain

Washing in the rain isn’t an intelligent decision. You just can’t fight the dirty rains we have nowadays. If you’re able, postpone the car wash until there’s nice weather again.

Rains are full of dust and dirt particles because of smog and pollution. If you live near some industry, there’s a big chance of having acid rains in your area. Acid rains may cause defects in the car’s paint, and that’s why you should avoid washing in the rain. 

Also, when it’s raining, you won’t be able to apply car waxes on your car since they require dry weather to bond to the paint properly. 

10. Washing On a Windy Day

Washing a car on a windy day is one of the most common reasons cars end up dirty after washing them. When the vehicle is wet, it attracts dirt to stick to the paint.

I don’t have to explain to you that wind carries a lot of dust and dirt. Add that to your car, and you have a recipe for dirty paint.

Always try to work when it’s not too windy. Of course, you can’t wholly avoid any wind, but make sure it’s not too lofty a day. If it is, postpone your car wash for another day. 

If you have somewhere to hide from the wind, great, do it. That’s why more and more people decide to work in garages. Garages, when made and prepared for auto detailing, are outstanding. Check my unique ideas for your auto detailing garage here. 

Final Words

dirty car

I hope that I helped you with some mistakes you’re potentially making when washing your car that make the car look dirty again.

You may need some time to adapt to all the above things, but once you do, you’ll always get perfect cleaning results.

Also, don’t forget to follow my step-by-step guide for a proper car wash at home. By following it, your car will look cleaner than ever, and it should never be dirty after the wash.

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