5 Must-Have Car Wash Items for Pet Owners

If you travel with a dog, cat, or other furry friend in the backseat of your car, chances are you’ve battled some pet hair in your lifetime. Nothing seems to catch on to upholstery and carpets quite like fur, and when you add things like dirt tracked in on paws or the occasional accident, things can quickly start to get messy.

That’s why we recommend that pet owners carry a few regular washing supplies in their vehicle. Although nothing will clean your car like a deep car wash and professional detail, you can spot clean on the road to keep things looking great for longer.

  1. Grooming Wipes: Animal-friendly grooming wipes look (and function) a lot like baby wipes, in that they allow you to quickly and easily clear away dirt and debris from your pet’s paws, face, and other parts. However, because they’re designed for animals, they’re non-toxic and hypoallergenic. A quick wipe-down after a day at the dog park is great for preventative cleaning.
  2. Seat Covers: One quick and easy way to keep your interiors looking great is to protect the seats with pet-friendly covers that can be slipped off and washed separately from the car. Whether you spray them down at the car wash or put them into the laundry, this is an ideal way to increase the longevity and resale value of your vehicle.
  3. Rubber Gloves: If space is an issue, keep a pair of rubber gloves in the glovebox or under a seat. (The yellow kind used for washing dishes works best.) Tapping into the power of static electricity, you can put the gloves on and run your hands over the upholstery in one uniform direction. Most of the hair will adhere to the glove, which you can then rinse clean and re-use.
  4. Baking Soda or Charcoal Air Cleaner: Pets can be very sensitive to smells, which means cleaning the air with chemicals, scented air fresheners, or even vinegar could upset their little noses. If you need to remove animal smells from the car, an open box of baking soda or crumbled charcoal in a bowl both work well to naturally filter the air. Carrying a small bag of either of these items is great when you want to freshen the air in a pinch.
  5. Animal Restraint: Taking your pet to the car wash is perfectly acceptable (and can be fun!), but safety is always important. That’s why you should always use some kind of pet restraint that will keep your pooch in the car. Whether you crate your animal, use an animal harness, put up a safety net for travel, or leash them, choose an option that limits their movement through the car. This will not only be safer, but also keep their hair and messes restricted to one area.

Long-Term Effects of Skipping the Car Wash

There’s no denying that in this day and age, no one seems to have quite enough time to get everything on their to-do list done. We get it—we really do. With kids to chauffer around, meals to plan and cook, and a job to get to, the last thing you want to worry about is washing your car.

However, like taking your children to the dentist or getting your oil changed every six months, there’s more to washing your car than just keeping it looking good. In fact, regular washing can help you pay less on automotive repairs over the life of your car (and keep you from having to spend hours at the shop). Although skipping the car wash once or twice won’t damage your vehicle, ignoring build-up over the long-term could find you saddled with these common problems.

Exterior Car Problems

  • Dirt build-up can act like sandpaper, rubbing away at your paint and exposing the metal underneath.
  • Dirt that builds up and then washes off in the rain can etch away at your paint job.
  • Bird droppings, sap, and pollen act negatively on your paint job even faster.
  • Once the paint is scraped away, even in micro patches, rust can form. This can cause rust bubbles to form under the paint and will eventually eat away at the metal, causing holes and other major body damages.
  • Corrosion build-up underneath the car and in the engine (which happens in areas where salt and chemicals are used to clear the road) can destroy expensive parts.
  • Not washing your car means you might miss things like cracked headlights or other minor broken parts that will grow worse over time.

Interior Car Problems

  • A dirty interior can become a breeding ground for germs, mold, mildew, and other disease-causing agents.
  • Clogged air vents and smoke damages can negatively impact your breathing health.
  • Dirt and rocks on the floor mats can get ground in underfoot, forcing you to eventually replace the carpets rather than clean them.

Remember, the health hazards of a dirty interior are especially important to remember when you have small kids, pets, and other people who routinely ride in your vehicle. The exterior paint- and body-damaging hazards have more to do with the longevity and resale value of your car, but breathing bad air could damage your long-term health. Both inside and out, a quick weekly wash will go a long way in ensuring that your vehicle runs well and safely for as long as you need it to.

Benefits of an Undercarriage Car Wash

No one is going to see your car’s undercarriage, so you might not care whether it sparkles and shines like the rest of your vehicle. However, a good undercarriage cleaning is still an important part of the car washing process. In fact, some experts would argue that paying attention to those dirty under-bits is actuallymoreimportant than that extra coat of wax. Here’s why.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Unless you spend a lot of time doing hands-on work on your vehicle, it’s very easy to neglect the parts you can’t see. This is especially true for the undercarriage, since it requires quite a bit of wriggling to get a good glimpse of what’s going on down there.

However, the underside of your car is the part that comes most into contact with dirt, grime, salt, chemicals, tar, and general road debris. Think about it – every time your car hits the road, it leaves small particles behind. In addition to the dirt picked up along roadways, it leaves behind brake dust, leaking fluids, rubber from the tires… Multiply this times the tens of thousands of cars driving through your city every day, and you can see where the problem comes in. All of this debris is kicked up and deposited into the undercarriage of your vehicle.

And because you probably aren’t crawling around and taking a peek at these messes, you often won’t see them even when the buildup becomes problematic.

A Good, Clean Run

One of the best reasons to regularly wash this road gunk away is to keep your car running smoothly. Caked-on road debris can create quite a few problems when it comes to your car’s temperature, since it acts as a kind of insulation that can cause overheating in your engine and transmission. This gunk can also enter parts of your engine through imperfect seals, causing buildup in areas where it can be very difficult (and costly) to remove. Anywhere air gets out is a place road debris can get in, especially if you have a lot of build-up.

Rust can also become a problem when you don’t regularly clean your undercarriage. Road salt—especially in places like Utah, where the winters can be tough—works into the metal bits of your undercarriage, making its way into cracks and causing a corrosive layer to form. Over time, this could result in excessive wear and tear, and even the breakdown of your vehicle.

Vehicle Longevity

Regular undercarriage washes can also contribute to your car’s longevity. Just as you get the oiled changed every six months and regularly change things like your windshield wipers and filters, it’s important to create a long-term maintenance schedule that includes a deep wash.

Fortunately, modern car washes make it very easy to include undercarriage washing into your routine. Most automatic washes include the undercarriage feature automatically, while drive-through washes have an undercarriage cycle and wand.

Because it’s almost impossible to crawl under your car and wash the undercarriage for yourself, it’s strongly recommended that you get a professional wash and undercarriage treatment at least once a month (more if you’re driving in the winter, since corrosion is so much worse during this time).

Automated Car Wash vs. Hand Washing

When it comes to washing your car, which is the best option? Will you get a better shine by running through the automated car wash, or do you need to hand-wash your vehicle to make it truly memorable? If hand washing is better, do you really need to do it that way every time, or can you supplement with the occasional drive-through?

The answer to these questions depends mostly on what you want to get out of your car wash. For most people, it all boils down to three important factors: time, money, and finish.

Pros and Cons of Hand Washing

The best part about washing a car by hand (whether you do it at a car wash or at home) is that you’re in control. You can take as long as you need to achieve the perfect finish and rely on products you trust to maintain your vehicle’s standards. That problem area that always seems to need an extra scrub? Take your time over them. Because you’re controlling the pace of the car wash, the amount of time you spend on your car is up to you.

Other reasons to hand wash your car include:

  • More attention to detail
  • Lower costs
  • Better product choice and selection
  • No limits on when you can wash (since you don’t have to wait for the automated car wash to be open)
  • Inside and outside cleaning options

Of course, unless you’re a professional detailer, chances are you’re going to miss a few things, especially if you don’t have all the right tools at your fingertips. In fact, if you’re using the wrong kind of materials and cleaners, you might end up doing more damage to the paint in the long run.

Other reasons to avoid hand washing your car include:

  • More time required to get it done
  • Lower level of skill than a professional wash
  • Physically demanding/taxing
  • Kids/pets/other distractions

Pros and Cons of an Automated Car Wash

When you’re in a hurry and want to get a quick, easy clean, nothing beats an automatic car wash. These facilities are convenient and easily accessible, making them ideal for a busy driver on the go. They’re also designed to get the best possible clean, taking advantage of technology to reach all those nooks and crannies in your car’s exterior.

Other advantages of an automated car wash include:

  • Step-by-step coverage of your car’s exterior
  • Thorough wash in under five minutes
  • No need to exit or park the car
  • Options in the kind of wash/level of detail you want

Because of their speed and ease, however, automatic car washes don’t always pay as much attention to detail and your specific car’s needs. This means that the finish might not be quite as perfect as you want—especially if you’re accustomed to a more DIY approach.

Other disadvantages of an automatic car wash include:

  • Occasional water spotting (unless you opt to have your car hand-dried)
  • Higher costs
  • Problem areas that may get missed
  • Long waits in high-traffic areas

Hand Wash or Automatic Wash?

For most people, the best approach is a combination of the two. By regularly washing your car by hand, you can keep up a great finish and ensure your vehicle is perfect inside and out. When you’re in a hurry or want a clean car between those deep washes, however, you can take a quick run through the automatic wash and enjoy your finish for longer.

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